Back in late 2007, when we received word that Amanda Tapping would not be reprising her role as Colonel Samantha Carter on Stargate: Atlantis, the production was faced with the task of choosing a new commander for the Atlantis expedition. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that difficult given that Paul and I immediately agreed on the short list of candidates: “Picardo, Bob. That is all.” I picked up the phone and gave Bob a call, asked him how he’d like to join the show as a regular. He was surprised yet delighted at the prospect of coming aboard. “Uh, can I get back to you on Monday?”he asked me. “I need to run this by Linda.” Well, Bob’s lovely wife Linda thankfully gave him her blessing and so it was that Robert Picardo joined the cast of Stargate: Atlantis.
It’s interesting that, in season 5, Bob stepped into a position vacated by Amanda Tapping given that, whenever I do interviews, I often draw parallels between the two. They are both incredibly kind, professional, delightful to work with, and gifted actors who always elevate the performances of anyone they share a scene with.
As production on the show’s fifth and final season wrapped, I asked Bob whether he might be interested in doing a little fan Q&A for the blog. He was kind enough to say yes and, after shooting his last scene, dropped by my office to answer some of your questions which I dutifully transcribed and now present to you as part of this special Robert Picardo Guest Blog Entry…
Jason writes: “What was it like to work with Andy Dick on Voyager?”
RP: Andy dick was pretty wild to be around. The first day we met he said “Hey – Picardo. That’s so close to Captain Picard. Do you get teased a lot about that?” And I said “Wait a minute. You’re name is Andy Dick and you’re going to make fun of mine?”
I was actually concerned that when it aired that episode, T.V. Guide might do a close-up box about the episode with some unfortunate quotes like “Picardo and Dick Inseperable!” or “Picardo Handles Dick Adroitly“ or “Picardo Obviously Loves Dick“. But none of that happened.
Jason also writes: “If given a choice, would you prefer the Atlantis uniform or a suit and tie to wear when portraying Woolsey?”
RP: I definitely would have preferred Woolsey to stay in a business suit. However, I understand that it was very important for his identification with the team to be in a base uniform. I just wish that it didn’t look so much like a jogging suit.
Sylvia writes: “Please share description of a couple of scenes with the cast that stand out as memorable to you personally.”
RP: I liked my scene with Joe at the end of The Seed wherein Woolsey recognizes the necessity of casting aside the rule book. I thought that was the beginning of his real education as a leader. I also enjoyed the comic moments I was given to play particularly in the upcoming episode Remnants.
Laura writes: “Do you have any thoughts/comments about the closure of Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas?”
RP: I do think it was unwise of whomever purchased the Vegas Hilton to decide to close this attraction only a few moments before the Star Trek franchise if about to be revitalized by the new J.J. Abrams film. I am especially delighted to report that we reference Star Trek: The Experience in an upcoming Stargate: Atlantis episode set in Vegas. Dr. Mckay’s character points out that there’s only one place an alien could easily get a job in Vegas and that’s in Star Trek :The Experience. He of course gets a droll response from Richard Woolsey who happens to look more than little like that Doctor character from Star Trek.
Astrid writes: “What more character development would you have liked or would like to see happen to Woolsey?”
RP: I had hoped for a character arc with Ronon because I thought we were so marvelously mismatched: Ronon barely speaks and Woolsey can’t seem to shut up. I thought it would be fun if he agreed to Woolsey’s secret request to be trained in hand to hand combat and weapons. My thought was that Ronon would agree to wok with Woolsey with the caveat that he never open his mouth while they were training.
Amyfo writes: “The first thing I remember seeing you in was The Wonder Years. What was that like?”
RP: Even at the time I sensed The Wonder Years would be an iconic television show. People have enjoyed it so much in reruns. I also think that the writing was extraordinarily good. I think the scene where my character, Coach Cutlip, teaches sex education may be the funniest piece of film I’ve ever been involved in.
Amyfo also writes: “You’ve had guest roles on so many different great shows throughout your career. Any favorites?”
RP: I enjoyed playing Satan on Seven Days. Perhaps I’ll get to play Satan again even though Seven Days is long gone.
TM writes: “Would you do another book related to a character you played? It’d be pretty cool a Woosley’s guide to command or something.”
RP: I think its unlikely. The Hologram’s Handbook was fun to do because it was a satire of a self help book (which always annoy me). The basic conceit was that if you were an advanced Artificial Intelligence smarter than everyone else in the room, how do you get along with stupid people?
Glenda writes: “Now that SGA is canelled, will you be doing more convention appearances or will you be taking on more acting roles? What are your up in coming projects?”
RP: I will be doing two movies: a scifi creature flick called The Awakened and a horror movie with Joe Dante called The Hole. I also will be performing with The Dallas Symphony Orchestra in an evening of Star Trek movie music co-hosted by John Delancie. And I’m still doing post production on the first horror movie that I star in, Sensored. Check out the website, www.sensoredthemovie.com. I also have upcoming appearances in Bournemouth England, Bonn Germnay, and Sydney and Brisbane, Australia as well as a number of domestic ones.
Nicole Gustas writes: “Why did they drop the whole “naming the doctor” thing on Voyager?”
RP: To begin with, the reason that became a recurring joke is probably my fault. The show had not yet premiered and we were shooting episode 5, I believe, and I had a big scene where I confessed to Kes that I would like to have a name like any other crewmember I asked Rick Berman, our Exec Producer if they intended to list me as Dr. Zimmerman in the opening credits (as my character was listed as Dr. Zimmerman in all of the scripts thus far and in the series bible). He said “Of course.” and I said “Well, if we’re going a storyline where I’m hoping to get a name, doesn’t this kill the suspense?” And he agreed and they changed my title credit to The Doctor. They enjoyed playing the character who couldn’t decide on his own name for a number of years. I think the whole notion of an indecisive computer program is rather amusing. But like any joke that’s played too often, it can get tiresome. So they basically dropped it except for a parting reference to it in our finale.
Nicole Gustas also writes: Why are you so awesome, Robert Picardo? Doyou try to make potentially a#@hole characters equivocal, or is that just a special talent you have?
RP: I enjoy playing characters that are initially disliked but need to be reassessed as you discover more about them – their motivation, their beliefs, their quirks. I think that we too frequently judge people on an initial impression in life and I think it’s gratifying when you discover that this initial impression was wrong and you grow to like someone all the more (perhaps because of guilt or perhaps just sheer delight in the perverse). I think that I have brought additional conflict to the Atlantis palate. It is difficult to serve a leader that you don’t particularly like or have complete confidence in and I think the journey of Richard Woolsey becoming a leader impacted on those who were obligated to follow him. I also appreciate that there have been some nice comic moments with Woolsey accommodating himself to his new environment and responsibilities.
Patricia Lee writes: “I am looking forward to seeing the horror movie SENSORED. The behind the scenes on the website are great and the trailer is shocking and scary:
1. What was it like filming such a deep physiological thriller?”
RP: What made the character appealing to me is that he was pretty ineffectual in his own life but could create an absolutely terrifying version of himself in nightmarish images that he implanted in the people he was manipulating. It’s basically an “evil twin” challenge for an actor but in a more unusual context. Yes, I am very creepy in the creepy scenes. My teenage children will hopefully treat me with much more respect once they’ve seen the movie.
Arctic Goddess writes: “I enjoyed your character in China Beach. He was one of your best. But then, the doctor on Voyager was also very intriguing. You were wonderful at demonstrating his frustration when his little world of sickbay was ignored by the rest of the crew. Of all the characters you have played, which was your favorite and which one the most difficult to portray?”
RP: I would say that China Beach was the most difficult because of the emotional demands of many of the episodes. We were doing a series about a very unpopular war that had devastated a number of lives, especially among those who lost family members in the war and those who never fully assimilated back into society once they returned. We felt a tremendous responsibility had been given us in doing the show, that perhaps in some small way we could contribute to the healing of these old wounds. And I’m very proud of the work we did and impressive company of actors that I was honored to be a part of.
Rebecca T. writes: “Do you like to cook? If you do then, what is your favourite food item/meal to cook?”
RP: I love to cook! And I make many different dishes and many kinds of food, but if I had to pick a favorite it’s one of the simplest things I make with only a few pure ingredients. And that is my fresh spinach pizza and home made crust.
Neb writes: “When will we get to hear you sing in Atlantis!?”
RP: I don’t think Woolsey‘s CAN sing – which is a shame as the giant staircase in the Atlantis control room would be perfect for a musical number. I’d like to see Woolsey do A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody.