After playing Tom Paris for seven seasons on Star Trek: Voyager, Robert Duncan McNeill has spent his time primarily behind the camera. He has dozens of producing and directing credits to his name from the last two decades, including recently helming an episode of The Orville. In the latest installment of the official Star Trek site’s profiles of Trek actors-turned-directors, McNeill talks about his experiences directing for Voyager and Enterprise, but he also explains why he won’t be directing for the latest Star Trek show, or at least for now.
Hoping for opportunity to direct, applauds Discovery for seeking more diversity
When asked if he would be interested in directing for Star Trek: Discovery, McNeill revealed he had a meeting with a producer from the show to talk about exactly that:
I wanted to direct Discovery. I met with their producing director. I didn’t know the show that well, but I met with him on their last hiatus to talk about season two. I also produce now. So, I hire a lot of directors. The last few years, there’s been a seismic shift in terms of the priorities toward female and diverse directors. That reality now has meant that what used to be normal, which was a lot of white guys, to be quite honest, has changed. Some shows are mostly women directing. I think Jessica Jones, last year, had all female directors. Handmaid’s Tale. A woman may direct the next Star Trek movie. Most importantly, it’s a wonderful thing that’s happening. I’m proud that on other shows I’ve produced — The Gifted, The Arrangement, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce — I’ve brought in female directors. But, to answer your question, Discovery does a limited number of episodes and a priority there is to get female and diverse directors, so there are fewer opportunities for people like me, which is a great thing. But, yeah, if the opportunity arose to direct Discovery and I fit what they needed and it fit my schedule, I’d love to do it.
This is not the first time McNeill has talked about directing Discovery. At Star Trek Las Vegas last summer, he revealed that he was in discussions to direct an episode for the first season, but he wasn’t available to fit the show into his schedule at the time. Maybe the planets will align for McNeill if there is a third season.
Diversity for Disco’s director chair
Diversity and female empowerment has been a much-touted element for Star Trek: Discovery. There is also a lot of diversity behind the camera, with a number of women and people of color in the writer’s room and heading up various departments, including costumes and production design. However, as noted by McNeill, white men continue to dominate the industry when it comes to directing. Discovery’s first season had some diversity with directors, with three out of thirteen being non-white men: Hanelle Culpepper, Lee Rose and Olatunde Osunsanmi. For comparison, two of the directors for the first season of The Orville were not white men.
A complete list of directors for the second season of Discovery isn’t yet known, but McNeill’s comments indicate producers are hoping to show even more diversity. It is reasonable to assume that Osunsanmi, who is also an executive producer and was recently named as the Toronto on-set producer/director, will helm at least one episode. Hanelle Culpepper is also expected to return.
Other season one directors known to be returning are Doug Aarniokoski and Jonathan Frakes (who will actually direct two episodes). And executive producer and co-creator Alex Kurtzman directed the season premiere. That leaves about half the season to add more diversity behind the camera for Discovery’s second season.
What about Dawson?
If the producers of Star Trek: Discovery want more diversity behind the camera and someone with a lot of experience, they would do well to consider McNeill’s former Voyager co-star Roxann Dawson. Since leaving Trek she has had even more experience helming TV shows than McNeill. Some of her more recent jobs have been for high-profile and well-regarded series such as FX’s The Americans, HBO’s The Deuce, and Netflix’s House of Cards. Dawson wrapped filming on her first feature film (Breakthrough) in May, although post-production may keep her schedule too busy to return to TV before Discovery wraps season two in November.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.