Star Trek Week continues today on OTF, with a super fun interview with Robert Picardo, a veteran of stage and screen that you geek folk know best as The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager. We sat down with Bob and he brought us up to speed on his life and passions!
Open the Fridge: Having done so much television and having worked with so many people, what are you impressed by these days?
Robert Picardo: That's a great question. I would say of the new shows last season, "Homeland" was my favorite. Starting with Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, and Damian Lewis; it's an amazing cast. Great writing. And that is my favorite show of last season. Beyond that, I'm really enjoying "Newsroom", starring Jeff Daniels, who was my understudy in my first Broadway show. He's an extraordinary talent. I love his character in [Newsroom]. The cast, across the board, is excellent. Aaron Sorkin's wirting is extraordinary. Those are my two favorite present shows. I've also been catching up on shows that I missed from when "Voyager" was running and when it was off the air, when I was furiously trying to get another job. I just watched the first four seasons, and I'm just now on season 5, of "24." Great show. One of my good buddies, who's here this weekend, Gregory Itzin, was on, when he played President Logan. Great performance. That's what I've been watching lately.
OTF: A lot of your work seems to involve a lot of great literature, having just done your projects on "Scrooge" and "Jekyll and Hyde."
RP: I am very proud of "Jekyll and Hyde." It's the first book-on-tape that I've done that's not a "Star Trek" book. They let me pick it. It's one of the great horror novels. Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" is a great saga, but it's kind of a dull novel, if you'll excuse me. "Jekyll and Hyde" is entirely the opposite. It reads at a thrilling pace. It's also very short. It's a novella. I had a delightful time recording it and getting to play all the characters. It has a great music score, so it's like you're listening to a whole radio performance. I'm very proud of it.
OTF: Have you thought of doing any period work?
RP: I don't know. I'm a big John Dunn fan. Maybe I could... Y'know, I think it's unlikely for me to play John Dunn in his older years when he was Dean of the Church, but it's possible. He had such a great life. He went from being a horny teenager and writing great poems about being a horny teenager, all the way up to writing great sacred poems. He had a good, full life.
OTF: Let's talk about your legacy with Star Trek. Were you a Trek fan when you started?
RP: I get asked this question all the time and I have to tell the truth, which is that I was not. I think I watched "Lost in Space." When I first got out of Yale, I roomed with two philosophy majors. They were friends of mine from Yale and they were huge "Star Trek" fans. They would sit in our apartment in New York and watch "Star Trek", and I would walk through the living room and make fun of them. What I'm trying to say is, if you guys are out there now, you had the last laugh on me. I became a "Star Trek" fan when I was cast on "Voyager" and they gave me about a dozen episodes of "The Next Generation" to watch and I went, "This is so good. This is so much better than I remember that old one being." But since then, I have developed an appreciation for the Original Series too, now that I've gotten past the uniforms that look like ski pajamas and the sets that look a little phoney. But "Next Gen" is what made me a fan.
OTF: On the subject of charity, in conjunction with "Star Trek", if you could donate a million dollars to any scientific or medical cause, what would it be?
RP: I would probably have to do the Planetary Society because I have a long association with them. I was at Planetfest last weekend, hosted by Bill Nye, the Science Guy. He’s the executive director and a very dear friend of mine. I believe in the Planetary Society’s work. We have some very exciting projects, including the solar sail project. If you are at all interested in space, then please go to www.planetary.org. Check out the new website of the Planetary Society. It’s very user friendly. You’ll see some great images, hear about some great projects we’ve done and have planned, and also they fight to keep government resources aimed toward space science and space travel. There are so many good causes that deserve our charity dollars, but as far as a non-profit goes, I believe very deeply in the Planetary Society. I encourage all of your readers and listeners to go to the website and to consider joining, or, even better, give a youth membership to a friend, a niece, a nephew, a young person, someone 7, 8, 9, or 10 years old. There’s a special section in each Planetary Magazine that you get as a subscriber many times a year, that Bill Nye has designed just to get young people interested in science and space. If you want to give a great gift that will pay off for the rest of their lives, join them up with the Planetary Society.
OTF: In the vein of science, we at Open the Fridge love “The Big Bang Theory”, and we were wondering when you will appear on it.
RP: I have visited and met [Bill] Prady, the showrunner, and he’s expressed interest in me for the future. I guess they just have to work their way down the "Star Trek" barrel until they scrape on the top of my head. I suggested to him that Jim Parson’s character sprains his ankle and goes to the doctor and he sees the actor who played the Holographic Doctor on "Star Trek", who is supposed to be a hologram, and invulnerable to things going wrong, has had some sort of a surgery and is in a cast, and [Sheldon] can’t reconcile that I wasn’t an immortal and invulnerable, and that I wasn’t a hologram, for that matter. When I told that to [Bill Prady], he said, “Well, what about this?” and he pitched a much better idea to me, so my goal was just to get him thinking. But I would love to be on the show. I‘m a big fan of the show as are my daughters. Hopefully I will show up on “Big Bang.”
Bob will also be part of our special interview podcast – we'll have the rest of this great interview up shortly, and you can hear Bob talk about which characters influenced him most, how he's helping out a local charity, and his most memorable guest role as of late (he's been all over television recently, so he's got some great anecdotes!). Stay tuned for more Star Trek love and interviews this week!