I have a special treat for you today. The one and only Tim Russ has agreed to do a brief interview with me.
Vulcanologists will of course be most familiar with Tim Russ as Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager but he also played three separate characters on Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: DS9 and in Star Trek: Generations. His history with Star Trek goes even farther back to 1986-1987 when he auditioned for the role of Geordi LaForge.
Since Voyager ended in 2001, Tim has continued to provide the voice of Tuvok in Star Trek video games and in 2007 he directed and starred in the fan film, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. Outside of Star Trek, Tim has become highly recognizable from his stints on Samantha Who? and iCarly. In addition, Tim has released four EP albums and his songs are now available on iTunes. Keep an eye out for more new songs on iTunes as well.
Recently, Tim has been directing and starring in a web series called Bloomers. He'll shortly appear in a new film called Rampart and he's looking at several new directing projects between now and the spring.
It may surprise you to know that Tim's favourite Voyager episodes are not Tuvok or Vulcan-centric. "I liked the "Distant Origin" episode which dealt with evolution--many of the sciences are interests of mine." Another favourite is "Living Witness", an episode he directed that deals with revisionist history. "I think history is profoundly important to examine and learn from."
Like Leonard Nimoy with Spock, Tim brought many of his own ideas to the character of Tuvok. I asked Tim if he and the writers had ever discussed backstory elements for Tuvok that hadn't appeared on screen and he replied "No. The few ideas I talked with them about eventually became episodes in one fashion or another."
When Voyager premiered in 1995 there was some sexist and racist discourse about having a female captain and an African-American Vulcan on the series. Tim admits, "Well, it's part of the fabric of this country." But he's quick to point out that he never had any negative experiences with fans. "It seems counter to the typical Trek fan who tend to be above all that."
Tim is perhaps the studio-Trek actor with the most fan film experience, having directed the short film Roddenberry on Patrol and directed and starred in Of Gods and Men. I asked him about the differences between working on studio versus fan films. "Well, the budgets obviously are bigger for the network's shows. For the cost of shooting one episode of Voyager, you could shoot an entire low budget feature, or two. That makes a difference in production value and options for shooting."
Though Tim has no present plans to return to the fan film world he notes that he "will entertain any project that comes across my desk."
Finally, I asked Tim about whether or not he would be interested in playing Tuvok again if the opportunity presented itself. He said, "The timeline has to be correct to play Tuvok in a feature, but otherwise, I would certainly play the character again if asked to." (Hear that J.J.?). On the subject of the new J.J. Abrams Trek and the destruction of Vulcan, Tim has little to say except that "We blew up Vulcan in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men long before J.J. did." It seems as though the universe has it in for our poor planet Vulcan.
I'd like to thank Tim Russ for taking the time to answer my questions. Be sure to keep an eye on his website for updates on his projects and appearances.