Fans of Enterprise know John Billingsley as the inimitable Dr. Phlox. His wife, Bonita Friedericy played a Borg in the second season classic "Regeneration." We talked to this talented pair a few weeks after production for the second season had been completed.
Were you excited when John was cast on Enterprise?
Bonita: He was very excited when he got the job because I don't think you were expecting to know that very day. You did only go to producers once and there was no one else there, just him.
John: There's no denying I was excited. I did know enough about Star Trek to know that the shows ran 7 years and that we would be able to go out and have a nice dinner at least that night. Which we did.
Bonita: So he bummed someone's cell phone and called me.
John: Dominic's. Dominic and I went in together when we went into the Network. Dominic is always on the phone. Dominic should just have that phone stapled to his ear. I wrested it away from him long enough to call my wife.
How were you cast on Enterprise?
Bonita: Well, as I pointed out to John earlier, I slept with an actor to get the part on the show and that was really all there was to it.
John: Which actor?
Bonita: Um. I'll talk to you about it later.
John: Aw man.
Bonita: He's really nice though. Really great. They're really helpful on that show.
No it's funny, I'd kind of been piddling around pretending to not really be an actor because I didn't want to infringe on my husband's land and it's also...you know you run into people from the show, producers and so on, at parties and so forth. I ended up getting an audition through my agent and I was very nervous. I made John work with me a little bit. I wanted to do a good job so I wouldn't shame my husband so they could never talk to me at parties. So I went in and I was very nervous and I had just me David Livingstone the director who didn't know that I was married to John and a casting assistant who didn't know I was married to John and they liked me. The way they run their casting for guest star parts they have a lot of actors in the hallway and you go in and if they think you're right for it they ask you to stay. So eventually it gets weeded down and there's just a few people there. Then all of a sudden Rick and Brannon start walking down the hall and they walk right by me and it's like "Oh my god, now I have to do it in front of Rick and Brannon," Apparently they knew I was John's wife and they didn't want to make me nervous and I have met them before but they pretended they had never met me before. So I walked in and I didn't know what to do so I kind of went "Hi guys" and they both just sat there and looked at me. So then I did my little piece and I was scared to death and I ran home and then I got to do the part.
John: Why you were scared to death I don't know because she works more than anyone I know.
Bonita: I just have nerve issues.
Was the Borg Make-up more elaborate than the Dr. Phlox Make up?
Bonita: It was much harder on me but I just...actually it was longer than you. I had to have a few layers. They were having a hard time getting back into the whole Borg thing because they haven't had Borgs for quite a while and I think they didn't expect necessarily that the Borg would ever come back so everyone was trying to remember. I ended up wearing Roxann Dawson's little Borg suit and everyone was looking at it going "there's a place for a tube here, does anyone know what you put there? There's velcro here on the shoulder, what did they use the velcro for?" They'd say "Bob'll know, Bob worked on them before, we'll have to ask him all these questions." I think with the Borg make-up they were getting back into it too.
John: She looked hot, I'll tell you that. She's one hot looking Borg. It's true.
Bonita: My husband the alien-lover. But its funny because the make-up is beautiful. I didn't realize that. They do a bottom coat of something called K-Pax or something that just makes your skin heavy and smooth. Then they take an airbrush and they do like six different colors. So they airbrush all these lines on your face. It's just gorgeous. Then they put a coat of white over the top of that. It's a really intense mixture. It took about three and a half hours.
John: I was partially Borgafied in that episode so we had pictures taken that may become our Christmas card this year.
Bonita: Well you had make-up on make-up.
John: "Merry Christmas from the Borg-ingsleys."
Bonita: I hadn't heard about the Borg-ingsleys.
John: That was right off the top of my head.
Bonita: Very clever.
John: Right off the top of my head.
Bonita: But he said it was interesting to have make-up on top of make-up. But you didn't get the eye-piece did you?
John: No I didn't get the eyepiece. There was great consternation that the Borg makeup had either gone too far or hadn't gone far enough. It actually slowed down shooting for several hours.
Bonita: He had some very dramatic moments in that episode.
John: Very dramatic moments. Including a scene where I put myself in the radiation chamber and sort of doused myself with horrible radiation.
Bonita: You're so heroic.
John: Yes I'm very heroic.
Bonita: And the director, whom I love, said as I'm being doused with radiation and the camera is above me, David said "well maybe you could keep your eyes open." and I said "Well maybe if I want to be blinded, but Okay, I'll do that, sure!" So there is a shot of me just with my eyes open going "AAAAAAAAAAH!!"
Bonita: You see that's much more dramatic.
John: It is more dramatic.
Bonita: Dramatic license.
John: Spock was blinded.
What Did you Learn about Star Trek to Prepare for the Role?
Bonita: My friend Bruce said something that I thought was really, really important. And that was that one of the reasons he had gotten so attached to Star Trek was that when he was very young, like six or seven years old, he felt that he didn't fit in. The one thing that made him feel that he belonged was watching Star Trek because it's very much about people accepting other people.
The other thing with the Borg episode I did go to Bruce because I thought I should research how a Borg walks and talks although later Louie the Borg was instrumental in teaching me how a Borg walks and talks. He's very good at that except that Borgs don't talk.
John: Louie is my stand-in who has also appeared as just about every alien under the sun.
Bonita: He's very good.
John: Yes he's very good.
Bonita: Bruce recommended that I watch First Contact which I had not seen and it turns out that I was the only one of the reseachers, which is what we were playing, who had watched First Contact which is what the director had hoped everyone would watch.
John: Bonnie is the littlest Borg.
Bonita: I'm the baby Borg.
John: When she and Louie round the hallway she wanted to walk hand in hand as if she was being mentored.
Bonita: Well he's like a foot taller than me...
John: Bonnie is, I think, the smallest Borg we've ever seen. Borgs tend to be pretty big, pretty tall...ergo. The smallest Borg - the littlest Borg. Which I think will be my new Star Trek novel.
"The Littlest Borg,"
How Did You Meet?
John: You start
John: Because you have such an elaborate story here to tell.
Bonita: Shut up!
John: It's True
Bonita: Ok...I met him. I saw John in a play. He was in "Great Expectations" at a Noise Within playing the role of Herbert Pocket which is my favorite role in the book anyway and John was the best thing in the show and I went up afterwards to tell him so and - I do now know that it was probably not with nefarious intentions - but he was rivited on a blond woman across the courtway and had no time for my compliments. So I kind of went "well fine" and wandered off and uh...
John: Like many of Bonnie's Stories I can't remember it well enough to actually deny so I just...
Bonita: See I know but it's the part where I say he was the best thing in show and you can't negate that part without negating the whole thing so...
John: Yes well.
Bonita: So then we met at a few casting workshops but he was very shy because he was...
John: Shy. I'm a shy guy.
Bonita: Shy. And...
John: But the real breakthough was at a commericial audition where they kept us waiting forever and ever and ever. We bumped into each other and started talking and I thought bonnie was just so incredibly wonderful and charming that I asked her out and...
Bonita: See now I don't remember this part either but I'm not going to negate it.
John: Sure you do. I asked you for your phone number and I said "Don't think of it as a date if that freaks you out, think of it..
Bonita: See I had gone on a lengthy dissertation about how I did not like dating at the time and he had a date that night...
John: Yes I did. I went and broke it off with that girl like that night. I said "That's it baby, I found a better piece of....uh." I didn't really put it like that.
Bonita: The woman of my dreams?
John: You are the woman of my dreams.
Bonita: I just sometimes feed him a little bit of information and...
John: You are the woman of my dreams.
Bonita: Well you're the man of my life.
John: She allows me to be unkempt which is one of the things I love about her. I apologize to the fans. I didn't shave today because I'm on hiatus.
Bonita: I think it looks sexy.
John: It's my Brad Pitt look.
Do you Celebrate Birthdays on the Set?
John: I am disgruntled that I have my birthday during hiatus, I have a May birthday, because...
Bonita: May 20th to be exact.
John: Please no gifts, no elaborate flower arrangements, no chocolates none of that stuff...
Bonita: No bottles of expensive wine.
John: No bottles of expensive French Champagne, extra dry... none of that stuff.
They actually do a wonderful job. Scott really sets the tone he's such a gentleman and such a wonderful guy he goes out of his way to know everything about everybodys personal life (not in a bad way!) so he's always ready to celebrate people's birthdays. Suzanne Diaz Westmore who is in the Makeup trailer also -- she won the crewperson of the year award--
Bonita: She's really great
John: She makes sure that on anybodys birthday there's a cake and a singalong and...it gets tiresome after a while really. You'd be surprised the number of birthdays people have. I think people just trot out their birthday when it isn't even their birthday.
Bonita: This is all just bitterness because his birthday doesn't land within the season.
John: I know this one guy whose had like six birthdays already in two years.
How did you lose weight?
John: Well there's nothing like having a gun to your head. I had high cholesterol.
Bonita: I did not put the gun to his head.
John: There's actually a great Stephen King story called "Quitters Inc" which people should go out and find. One of his best...
I had a high cholestoral count, it runs in the family, so the doctor said "look you have to stop screwing around you have to lose a few pounds." I didn't do anything special. It's all just common sense stuff. I started drinking skim milk. I stopped eating eggs. Cereal in the morning with a little banana. 4 or 5 small meals. Cut down on portion size and did a ton of aerobic exercize which I still do about an hour every day.
Bonita: It just kind of melted off you.
John: It took a few months. I lost about thirty pounds.
Bonita: I think it is helpful not to have stuff in the house too. And trying to learn to cook.
John: We cook a little bit more and we don't go out to eat as much and when we do we tend to bring home food in doggy bags. I've asked Bonnie to slap my hand when she sees it encrouching on her plate.
Bonita: Oh. Did you?
John: I did it very sota voce so you wouldn't hear me out of fear that you would actually follow through. But I did ask yes...
Bonita: Well that's a new tidbit of information. I can get that metal pan...
John: No metal pan. Just a simple hand slap thank you very much and no spearing with a fork either.
Bonita: yeah but that's so fun.
What Does Your Trailer Look Like?
John: I have the most spartan trailer of all the cast. Actually Jolene's trailer is something to be seen and someday you all should take a tour or Jolene's trailer and put it on film. She's got every surface covered with beautiful images and pictures of space. She's a method person, she wants to be surrounded by space. Me? I've just got a bunch of old magazines and video tapes. Clean video tapes. Not like Conner Trinneer.
No wait cut that! Don't put that in!
That's what I live for. Getting all the other actors in hot water. I haven't said anything about Hoshi yet. What can I say about Hoshi.
Bonita: I'm sure you'll come up with something but she has no vices sweetheart.
John: Sure she does.
Bonita: Dominic on the other hand...
John: Dominic! That's a whole hour long special. "The vices of Dominic Keating."
Bonita: Well we should mention that he took his bed out of his trailer and put in a workout area...
John: He put in a workout bench and he keeps the door open so you're always walking by and seeing Dominic half naked grunting and straining and lifting and sweating. While on the phone. Shut the door Dominic for heaven sakes.
Bonita: It's the very same cell phone that John stole from him that day he got cast.
John: See it's all tied together from the beginning of the interview all the way to the end.
Bonita: That's what I'm here for. To create the mobius strip of an interview...