Robert Picardo: Hello! Thanks for logging on. I look forward to chatting with you regarding my post-Voyager experiences.
Q: I imagine that auditioning and getting a role on Star Trek is rather unusual in the acting community (the fans, the longevity of the show, the history and legacy of Star Trek). How did you decide to audition for the show and what did you know about Star Trek prior to accepting the role as the Doctor?
RP: Well, my agent sent me the "Caretaker" script. I was in final rehearsals for a play at the time, and had very little time to read pilot scripts. So I read the audition scene for the Doctor role that described the character as a computer program that was colorless and humorless and thought to myself, "That doesn't sound like much fun for seven years." But an actress friend of mine recommended that I read the part of Neelix, which seemed like a much more interesting role. I did that, and was liked well enough by the producers to be tested for Neelix. When I didn't get the part, the producers shocked me by asking me to reconsider the Doctor. Usually in TV, when you have tested for one role, they simply throw you into the ash can and move on to another actor. There was strong interest in me for the Doctor because of something they saw and heard in my being and voice, that enabled me to see myself in the role. But I'm sure my Bones-like ad-lib of, "I'm a doctor, not a nightlight" also helped win me the part.
Q: How did you feel about your character's relationship with Seven of Nine?
RP: I loved playing scenes with Jeri (Ryan). She has a great sense of humor about her bombshell qualities, and I really liked the way our characters related. I was, however, disappointed when she threw me over for Commander Chakotay in the home stretch.
Q: Do you really like opera?????
RP: I am not knowledgeable about opera, but I do enjoy listening to the great arias. I don't know many "whole" operas that well.
Q: Did you choose your character's name in the series finale?
RP: No, I did not. But I was pleased with it. My father's name was Joe, as well as my brother's and most of my uncles' — it is the most common male name in my family. In fact, when I was born and my mother told my dad what she wanted to name me, he said, "Who the hell is Robert?" I suppose I could have been the other Joe. (laughs)
Q: Which charity were you playing for in The Weakest Link? Why?
RP: The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I have been raising money through my fan club, CARPE, and at personal appearances for them for about seven years. Also, through special arrangements with Paramount, my brand-new CD of "The Hologram's Handbook" (which includes singing you don't hear in the book!) also benefits the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I did lose The Weakest Link by one vowel ... but LeVar Burton is a worthy victor.
Q: Mr. Picardo, if you could, would you ever venture into outer space?
RP: I'm afraid to get on a motorcycle, so that probably is unlikely. Unless I can be beamed to an extraterrestrial location and then back before dinner.
Q: Congratulations on starring in a musical beginning this month. You have a great voice, both singing and speaking. Would you entertain the notion of recording more Voyager audio books in the future?
RP: Yes, certainly. Um, since you mentioned "A Class Act," which I'm starring in at the Pasadena Playhouse, let me say that I am having the time of my life. It's the story of the man who wrote those wonderful lyrics for "A Chorus Line." He was a brilliant, phobic, funny and utterly impossible personality. That's who I play. The music is great, and I sing fifteen songs — twice as much as I sang in seven years of Voyager — in each performance. I truly believe any fan of the Doctor and/or Robert Picardo would get a huge charge out of seeing the play.
Q: Your character has already been in "First Contact," is there a chance we might see an emergency medical hologram in another Trek movie?
RP: I think there's a good chance, but it won't be the very next one. And hopefully, it's an EMH Mark-1. That way, it can be me. (laughs)
Q: Do you know if "A Class Act" is going to tour? Because if it ever comes to the UK, I'd love to see it!!
RP: Um ... I don't ... I think it's unlikely that I'll be able to tour. There are talks of going to Japan at this point, but I don't think I will go.
Q: Mr. Picardo do you watch Enterprise?
RP: I have seen several episodes, but I don't have the opportunity to watch any television show religiously. I think that the show is growing beautifully and the characters are defining themselves with each new episode. It takes every new Star Trek series at least two seasons to develop its unique voice. And they are absolutely ahead of schedule.
Q: What was it like having a action figure of yourself?
RP: A great opportunity to play with myself in public.
Q: Do you still have contact with the Voyager cast?
RP: Absolutely. Ethan Phillips is coming to opening night of "A Class Act," this coming Mother's Day. Tim Russ, Kate Mulgrew, Roxann Dawson and Robbie McNeill have all said they're going to come to see the show. I, of course, see them at appearances, but many of us socialize together as well. As an aside, I saw Kate as Katharine Hepburn at Hartford Stage in "Tea at Five," and she was extraordinary.
Q: Your character developed a great deal over Voyager's lifespan — did you have any input in that?
RP: I think that Brannon Braga's impression of me hiding in the bushes outside the writings office hoping to jump whichever one exited indicates that I did have a certain amount of influence on the writing staff. I made many, many suggestions, usually about ideas for the Doctor's other interests (opera) and unique relationships (the Doctor/Seven social appropriateness lessons) more than actual story suggestions. I did also receive the first writing credit of any cast member of the various series for my "I never sang for my father" Doctor and his programmer story ["Life Line"].
Q: Mr. Picardo, are you a tenor or baritone? Do you like jazz?
RP: I enjoy jazz, but am not terribly knowledgeable about it. I am a high baritone, or lyric baritone.
Q: What made you think to write "The Hologram's Handbook?"
RP: Working on the two-part "Flesh and Blood" episode, I was explaining to guest star Jeff Yagher (a close friend of mine), what holograms can and can't do in the Star Trek world. He quipped, "You ought to write a book," and we did, together. I wrote it, he did all the illustrations. The book is carefully designed to be the perfect toilet reader. It sits on any commode, and can be completed in approximately ten visits to the restroom. I want to see one on every Star Trek fan's commode by 2003.
Q: What was the most unusual thing a fan did when he/she met you in person?
RP: Showed me their tattoo of Voyager. Which was docked near the ...
Q: Are you going to be at any conventions this summer?
RP: Yes. I think it's all on my Web site (www.robertpicardo.com), but yes, I 'm doing a number of appearances for Slanted Fedora beginning in August. I also apologize to fans in Cleveland for the recent cancellation I had to make, my first ever, for professional conflict, because my musical rehearsals were so utterly exhausting and I was too panicked to miss two rehearsals for the convention.
Q: Does Roxann Dawson still hold that grudge against you for voting her off The Weakest Link?
RP: No. Roxann and I are very dear friends, and as far as I know, she holds no grudges against me whatsoever. Correction: she had a small grudge that she had to hear about my play from someone else, and let me know in a phone message.
Q: Did you get to keep your Voyager costume? If you did, what do you do with it? Thanks.
RP: I did not, but I did get to keep my back-up boots. They are a treasured souvenir of the show. Also, producer Merri Howard let me keep the Doctor's smoking jacket after I explained to her that I had a smoking jacket that I had worn in my China Beach series. So now I have smoking jackets from the past and the future.
Q: Mr. Picardo, what were you doing on September 11th?
RP: I had arrived home the day before from a weekend in Las Vegas, and was with my family getting my older daughter ready for her first day of school when the news broke. I had the TV on by about 6:35 a.m., Pacific Time. It was a numbing and devastating moment for all of us.
Q: Have you heard anything about a Voyager movie in the works?
RP: We always hear rumors, but nothing from any credible source.
Q: Do you have pets? If yes, what are the names? Greetings from Germany!
RP: Hello back to Germany. I have many pets: seven cats (four indoors: Ed, Emily, Gracey, Katie — I hate Katie — three outdoors: Wally, Christopher and Frank), two parrots, an African Grey (Elizabeth), and a Yellow-Naped Amazon, one turtle (Sparkie), and giant desert tortoise (my favorite, Tilly).
Q: Do your children aspire to be actors?
RP: My younger daughter wants to be a director or producer. My older daughter wants to be a visual effects director. I'm thinking either one could help me get jobs in the future.
Q: Do you like performing in front of a live audience or filming more?
RP: I love both of them, but after eight years of being off the legitimate stage, it is an utter joy to be doing this show. It is exhilarating, terrifying, and ultimately the most rewarding for your actor's soul to do stage work. I blame my current state of utter exhaustion (during the days, never on stage at night) to the "You've got to listen to your gypsy soul" speech Kate Mulgrew made to me after I saw her in "Tea At Five." It's her fault that my feet hurt right now — did I mention I dance several times? I want to start a foundation for the dance-challenged. (laughs) I will be the first poster boy. (laughs)
Q: On Voyager, there were several episodes that featured your amazing singing voice. I especially liked the doctor's interpretation of "La Donna e Mobile" in "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy." I was wondering, of all the songs performed on Voyager, which was your favorite?
RP: I would say either that, or "O Soave Fanciulla" — it's a famous aria from "La Boheme." There's a song in "A Class Act," which is my favorite song I've ever performed, called "Paris Through the Window."
Q: Mr. Picardo, do you think of your character as more of a Trek doctor, like Bashir or Bones, or more of a Trek "human wannabe," like Data or Seven?
RP: I think I'm more of a Trek doctor. The Doctor always had a streak of disdain for "biologicals" that I don't think Data has (although Seven certainly has). I think the Doctor was very much defined by his program directive to preserve life, and the most important thing to him was his identity as a medical provider. But he also liked cute girls, once he had had his program upgraded to anatomically correct status. (laughs)
Q: What is it like to be part of the Star Trek community?
RP: It's a nice feeling of continuity that you have done a body of work as an actor that is thoroughly appreciated and continues to be enjoyed by a very loyal group of fans.
Q: Mr. Picardo — what hobbies or interests do you have outside of acting?
RP: Regular exercise, walking, cooking, traveling, reading, and cigars once every two weeks — but not while I'm singing this much.
Q: Mr. Picardo, where do you like to travel?
RP: I like to visit any place I haven't been before, but I especially enjoy going to Italy, where all of my ancestors are from. I've had the pleasure of going to Italy about eight or nine times during my life. I'm back there at least that many more.
Q: Do you have any special blooper memories?
RP: I think the first time I dropped something on the set and tore the crotch of my uniform up to my neck, I realized it's unwise to drop anything while wearing a Starfleet uniform. I understand Frank Sinatra had someone following him around picking up anything he dropped, and, to my knowledge, he never appeared in a Star Trek uniform. I don't know what that means. Maybe you do.
Q: Were you embarrassed when Captain Janeway put your hand on her rear in "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy?"
RP: Only that I enjoyed it. Much. (laughs) It was a rare thrill to have my hand on the seat of power.
Q: I bought your book about life as a hologram — it was GREAT. Any other writing aspirations?
RP: I certainly enjoyed writing the book. I have had preliminary talks with Margaret Clark, my wonderful editor at Pocket Books, about writing another one, but thus far nothing has been firmed up. Also, Ethan Phillips and I have discussed collaborating on a project once I have finished performances of "A Class Act."
Q: What part of Italy are your ancestors from?
RP: My father's family is from Naples, my mother's from a small town — Bomba, Abruzzo. My mother's family name is Santarone and my relatives in Naples are named Picardi. My father chanced one vowel for reasons never disclosed to me. Perhaps he knew I'd lose The Weakest Link by one vowel.
Q: Having been a physician on television, do you feel you're more equipped to "spring into action" in the event of a real-life medical crisis?
RP: I have offered all of the female cast members complimentary gynecological exams ... just kidding. I'm very fast with a band-aid.
Q: Mr. Picardo, what makes you laugh?
RP: My children. My wife. My dancing skills. (laughs) David Hyde Pierce and Kelsey Grammer. Ethan Phillips. And certain pieces of my personal wardrobe.
Q: How was it working with the cast of "Ally McBeal?"
RP: It was a brief experience, but I remember it as being very pleasant. Calista Flockhart was very kind to me, as were Gil Bellows and Peter MacNicol. The hours were very long, but I was certainly used to that from my outer space experiences. Also, the director, Allan Arkush, is a dream to work with.
Q: What would you suggest to someone who wants a career in performance?
RP: Check your fly before you go onstage — just kidding. Make sure that you follow this word of advice: if there is anything, anything else you can do and be happy, do that first. But if this is the only thing you find joy in, then you probably want it enough to survive doing it.
Q: I heard that the cast of Voyager were sometimes practical jokers, what was the best prank you pulled on someone, or was pulled on you?
RP: My favorite prank on-set that I was ever a part of was actually on China Beach." In a very dramatic scene, Dana Delany plunged her hand into the open chest of a patient and massaged his heart to keep him alive. However, a prop guy was hiding under the gurney that held the dummy body of the patient, and when Dana grabbed the heart, it grabbed her and tried to pull her in. (laughs) That was the funniest on-set prank I've ever been part of.
Q: I recently saw you appear in a Frasier episode. I think you were only in one scene, but it was very funny, I was laughing pretty hard. What was it like to work with Kelsey Grammer? Will you be appearing in future episodes?"
RP: I was delighted when they offered me that part, even though it was only one scene. I would love to be on the show again. Kelsey is, without question, the premier television comic actor working today, and it is a sheer delight and honor to work with him and with his brilliant co-stars on that show.
Q: Acting, singing, writing — these are all amazing to me because I can't do any of them. Out of all the things you do with your life, what brings you the most joy?
RP: Having my two children see me onstage for the first time (not counting Star Trek conventions) has been the deepest joy I've felt regarding my career as an actor. The fact that my 13-year-old daughter, who is utterly mortified when I sing in the car with her, was so delighted to see me singing onstage and so proud of me, as was my younger daughter, was my greatest thrill I felt as an actor. This joy will be nearly equaled when the thousands of loyal Star Trek fans line up at the box office to see me in this production.
Q: Mr. Picardo, thank you ... for everything.
Q: Bye, Robert, love you.
Q: Thank you so much for chatting with us! You are the best!
Q: Thank you for coming! You are the best!
Q: Thank you, Robert!!
RP: Thank you to all of you.
Q: Thanks ever so much, Mr. Picardo!
Q: Thank you very much! You are the best! Keep doing what you do! *HUG*
Q: Thanks, Bob!!
Q: I just wanted to say, Robert Picardo, you played the Doctor splendidly, and give my regards to the Voyager cast members. I just love that show, and was sad to see it come to an end.
Q: Keep doing well, Mr. Picardo!
Q: Thank you, it was fun and funny ... cassiopia
Q: You rule, Robert!
Q: Group hug for Robert.