Star Trek Monthly #94, July 2002
Tim Russ is still getting used to that creature called Life After Star Trek. It's a simultaneously strange, amorphous and cuddly creature. Russ is without steady work, but he's working pretty steadily. He misses his old friends, but is making new ones. He's taking on new adventures and hoping that his fans come along for the ride.
"I'm spending a lot more time with my daughter and working on other projects of my own," Russ says. "I am currently auditioning for and occasionally working on episodic shows as a guest actor. I am also, at present, directing four-camera shows for a local cable/internet television show and observing on Enterprise for a [directorial] slot next season. I'm also performing semi-regularly at the Kibbitz Room at Cantor's on Fairfax in Los Angeles on Saturday nights. But I don't have any immediate recording plans."
To put all that into a bit more perspective, Russ guest-starred in a recent episode (entitled The Real Thing) of the cable television series Any Day Now. The cable/internet show that he's been directing is entitled Heartbreak Café and it airs in the Los Angeles area, where Russ still lives. The music he performs at the Kibbitz Room is the same style of rhythm and blues, rock and adult contemporary music - some of it covers and some of it Russ originals - that appeared on the three albums (among the Kushangaza, which means "amazing") Russ released during Star Trek: Voyager's run, and that he's played at many of his convention appearances over the past three years.
Other recent endeavors that Russ neglected to mention include a gig as the dramatic reading voice of the audionovel Star Trek: The Genesis Wave Book III and some work teaching a seminar on auditioning and cold reading at Saddleback College in California.
"It's only been a year or so since the show's been down, but it feels like it was ages ago."
So, does Russ find himself longing for Star Trek: Voyager, the stoic Vulcan Tuvok and the cast and crew with whom he worked for seven long years? "I miss the people I worked with on the set the most because we spent quite a bit of time together over the seven years," Russ notes. "I don't miss the early morning calls and the unpredictable schedule. It's only been a year or so since the show's been down, but it feels like it was ages ago."
Some longtime Star Trek fans rank ST:VOY right up there with the best of the Star trek canon and others consider it the weak link in the franchise, a show that never quite found its footing or set itself enough apart from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Given a year's distance to reflect, Russ offers an assessment of the series that's short and sweet. "I think Voyager was very successful as far as a Star Trek series can be," he notes. "It was popular among the fans, and it had a very simple but compelling concept."
Russ spent his Star Trek stint sporting pointy ears as he brought to life the first full-time Vulcan since Leonard Nimoy portrayed Spock on Star Trek: The Original Series. The creators and writers of Star Trek: Voyager elected to present Tuvok as a full Vulcan - another first - and the character's Vulcan-ness was very much on view in such episodes as Meld, Alter Ego, In the Flesh, Rise, The Gift, Gravity, Riddles and Repression. That presented a unique challenge for Russ and the audience alike. He was rigid, sometimes hard to warm to and always spouting the logical answer; at the same time, he obviously cared for and was loyal to a fault to the likes of Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson), Kes (Jennifer Lien) and Neelix (Ethan Phillips). One need only consider his little dance step tribute to Neelix in Homestead to realize that for all his Vulcan logic, a heart indeed beat steadily in Tuvok's chest.
"I think the fans gained a deeper insight into the Vulcan experience and discovered a lot more about their cultural background as a result of watching Tuvok in action for the run of the show."
And, to be sure, Tuvok never failed to remain a voice of reason during a crisis. "I always enjoyed confounding the human characters and/or commenting on the human condition," Russ says. "Everybody likes to watch the Vulcan just to see what he'll do or say in any given situation. I think the fans gained a deeper insight into the Vulcan experience and discovered a lot more about their cultural background as a result of watching Tuvok in action for the run of the show."
And, of course, the two-hour series finale, Endgame, gave us a Tuvok gone hyper-emotional - he'd become stark-raving mad, at least in one possible future, a future likely altered by the time-tripping actions of Captain Janeway and Admiral Janeway. "I thought writing Tuvok that way for the finale was great," the actor enthuses. "It was unexpected and worked very well within the storyline."
And now for some quick questions and answers based on the queries that Star Trek fans regularly toss Russ' way when they meet him on the street or engage him at a convention: What were you most surprised to have discovered about Tuvok over the seven years, something that perhaps differed from your initial thinking about the character? "I was surprised that he was in love at a very young age," Russ says. "As a result he had to learn how to deal with his emotions."
What do you think of as unfinished business? What didn't you ever get the chance to explore about Tuvok before the show faded to black last year? "I would have liked to have played him in a situation in which he would have had to resort to taking a human approach to solve a particular problem once every other method of logic had been exhausted," the actor explains. "His early exploration of violence in Meld I felt was unfinished. He never found an answer to the question 'Why?'"
How often do you see or speak to your former cast mates? "I don't see or talk to them very often at all," says Russ, who does catch up with them at joint convention appearances. "I occasionally get together socially with Ethan Phillips."
Have your eyebrows grown back yet? "In the beginning, I actually trimmed the outsides of them," Russ replies. "After a while I did not trim them at all."
And finally, for the moment, there's the biggest question and answer of all for those who love Star Trek: Voyager and Tuvok. Does the actor think that he's played Tuvok for the last tunes? "Probably not," Tim Russ says. "Probably not."
Tim's Tops: Where to find Tim Russ at his best in Star Trek:
Star Trek: The Next Generation:
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
Star Trek: Voyager:
Star Trek Generations