By Linda Burnett and Gayle Stever
"It's been a long time...gettin' from there to here...."
We, like so many other Star Trek fans, didn't like that theme song when we first heard it. All of a sudden, we like it now after each hearing Dominic Keating sing it at two conventions. Someone in the audience in Portland told Keating that they’d like it better on the show if he (Keating) were the one singing it. While Keating modestly pooh-poohed that idea, I think we agree!
Dominic bounded onto the stage in Portland in a typical huge surge of energy. Right away he told about being in the “gents” just before the show and overhearing a couple of “Klingons.” One had said as they were leaving “If they ever translate Richard III into Klingon....well, Once More Into the Breech.” The Klingon identified himself from the audience and Keating complimented him: “I thought that was very funny.”
His next quip was “Hello Portland...it’s 78 degrees in Burbank and the surf is up...but I love you!” (It was quite rainy and dingy in Portland at the time). He kept up this high-energy banter throughout the talk. We only later found out he was exhausted and still on jet lag from his recent promotional tour to England. He had traveled with Jolene Blalock, T'Pol, the stoic Vulcan from the new show. He said he and his girlfriend (whom he had met about a year ago while working on his previous acting job) had had the trip of a lifetime and were treated like royalty by Sky TV who were promoting the premiere of Enterprise in the UK.
Referring to Blalock, Keating remarked "She was wearing more than a few feathers this time (alluding to her Maxim magazine spread), but it was colder."
This is Dominic's fourth convention appearance, and he's already very good at it, very smooth, and very funny.
He started right out by “spoiling” on the upcoming ‘Silent Enemy.”
“...You get to look at a bit more of Malcolm Reed for the first time. It’s quite a good episode for me. The writers decided that although we didn’t know much about Reed and wanted to look a bit more at him, let’s not give it all away at once. So the episode is about me but you don’t know much about me by the end of it. It’s kind of strange. It’s my birthday in the episode and Hoshi is employed (aside: I’m not telling you how old I am so you can forget that...Malcolm’s age or mine...Malcolm’s a lot older than me) to try and find out something personal about Mr. Reed and there’s some funny stuff. There’s a lovely scene in the mess hall when she tries to get through to Malcolm and he totally misunderstands here intentions. Oh man...you’re going to be squirming in your seats for that one!”
He recounted how his mother had rung him up the day after the premiere in England the previous week and had asked, “Who are the pimply ones?” the Suliban. “She didn’t get that part at all.” Then he continued in a high-pitched imitation of his mother: “’They’re not from Earth, are they?’ She’ll never get the show....I’ll be talking to you guys five years from now and my mum will never get this show!”
"How did I get the job? I met Rick Berman in a gay bar," he joked. He was obviously very proud to be on Star Trek, and very grateful to have a regular job. "I got what every actor wants to hear (when his agent called with the news) - series regular!" (He then recounted the previously reported tale of how he had met Berman two years earlier while auditioning for Voyager...)
He laughingly referred to the decon scene in Broken Bow and, after joking about Tucker in that scene, said “He’s coming tomorrow and you can ask him all about that...tell him I said so!” A little later (during a demonstration of something) he quipped, “You think I’m bad with props, wait ‘til Connor Trineer gets here. He broke the first three phase pistols in the first ten days. Ask him about that!” Then later a young lady asked Keating if this was his first convention and he said “No that’s Connor....He’s taller but not quite as good looking....I’m the convention Queen....This is my fourth convention. I love them. The first one I was really nervous. To ask an actor to put a mike in their hand without a script and ‘be yourself.’ That takes years of therapy! So it was very nerve wracking. I am enjoying it more now. Once I got to meet you guys and ‘feel the love’....God, if they could hear me in England now they’d be throwing tomatoes!”
He's also really excited about the work he just completed but which hasn't aired. "There's a great episode coming up called 'Shuttlepod One' Connor and I are very proud of. We did a scene in--it might be 'Silent Enemy'--and Brannon saw that and wrote this. We're marooned with a very limited air supply and a ticking clock. Rick came by and he's a nice guy, but not particularly demonstrative (“If you don’t get a call you’ve done well!”). He took Connor and me aside and said 'Of all the shows I've produced, this is the one I'm most proud of.' I think it's quite different, like an off-Broadway play. It's a damn good piece. I don’t think you’re going to have seen something like this on Star Trek before."
Is he interested in directing? "I'm certainly interested. LeVar Burton has become a good chum since I've been on the show, and he's directed a few episodes. And I've met Robbie (McNeil) and Roxann (Dawson). As an actor, I've never taken much interest before. I've noticed in the last few months, my mind has gone over to that side. 'Ohhh, you're going to do it like that, are you? I wouldn't do it like that.'"
Who's the easiest to work with? "They're all wonderful. They really are all fabulous. I was talking about this with Linda the other day. Sometimes it's not very nice coming to work when someone isn't happy. There's this sort of simpatico between us. I love going to work. We have so much fun."
He shared that the Ferengi are in the next episode that Ethan Phillips is playing one of them. He had come by the set the previous week.
What's the toughest thing he's done so far? "Those EV suits - tough! I've done a 16-hour day in that suit when Anthony and I are on the comet. Not just the suit but we're wired, and Anthony, he can talk! He’s just one long stream of consciousness! He’s probably my best friend on the show...I love Anthony. We just get along so well and thankfully so because it’s a long day. And these suits are heavy. I mean I’m pretty fit, but the helmets are 20 pounds, the backpacks 40 pounds."
Someone asked if he wanted to go into space. “I get scared getting on a commercial airliner! I have a quiet moment as we take off where I connect with a higher power and I have a quiet moment when we touch down where I really connect with a higher power. ‘It’s not just me, God, it’s all the other people you don’t want to kill, OK? I can understand why if it were me alone it could all go wrong but the pilot’s got a family....’”
Did you watch Star Trek when you were younger? "I nagged my father rotten to get a color T.V. Spock's shirt was blue. It never dawned on me that Spock's shirt was blue." And then asked about Dr. Who he said, “Oh yeah....It was scary....I grew up on Dr. Who from behind the sofa!”
The shooting schedule? "Be careful what you wish for. I don't get a lot of free time now. My golf was great. I just read about golf now. It's good. I feel blessed."
And fame? "I was a bit of a T.V. star in England. I've taken the chance to come to America, taken a chance to come to Hollywood. L.A.'s a cold town. I'm deadly excited about being on this show. They've given me great challenges as an actor. Hopefully, I've risen to the occasion. I'm cognizant of enjoying every moment."
As I headed back to the airport after the convention, I talked with the only other occupant of the shuttle bus. I asked her how she liked Connor Trinneer. "I didn't recognize him at all! He came out in a different haircut, different clothes. And he even sounds different."
Connor took the stage late on Sunday afternoon, and you could hear the murmur from the capacity crowd. He did indeed look different. He announced immediately that he was from Walla Walla, not too far from Portland, and that he had brought his family to his first convention.
“I played football and ran track at Kelso High and then played football at PLU. Being an actor wasn't part of the plan," he announced. But he added with a smirk, "But then I found out that being a pro football player wasn't either." He attended drama school in Kansas City, Missouri, and got his master’s degree, so he’s classically trained. Then he “did a bunch of theatre in New York and some little tiny soap opera stuff that I hope y’all never see. Then I moved to LA and here I stand.” (He was seated at the time and the audience pointed that out). “Y'all are so literal!”
We had heard from Dominic that Connor had broken a few props while filming the pilot. He replied to that: "There were two prototypes of the phase pistols. I broke 'em both in about 8 minutes.” Audience member: “Dominic said three.” Connor: He wasn’t even there! (laughter) I was doing my own stunt, and then I fell on 'em. I didn't know they were that expensive. But Dominic has broken some stuff, too. (“Like what?”) Let’s see what’s Dominic broken? I don’t know...a bunch of things....”
He recounted one early fun event. "Paramount had a big party for the foreign investors. [We all] had too much to drink. At the end of the evening the caterers were packing up, and I’ve catered enough events to know where that stuff was going. Paramount had paid for it. It wasn't like I was stealing any. I was taking what was rightfully ours. I grabbed a couple of bottles and passed them down to others and afterwards I ended up with them all back. Go to work the next day and on the way home I get a call....I'm supposed to call Rick Berman. I’m like...I just got a great job and I got fired. As it turned out, he's changing my name from Spike to Trip. I already had one knee on the ground, convinced I was fired. I thought about telling him about it but then I thought maybe I’d wait....”
How did he prepare for being pregnant? "How do you prepare for that? I wasn’t prepared but I was really intrigued and why not? I'm an actor. It’s fake; it’s not real. They wrote it pretty well. It was a lot of fun to do. How often does that scenario play out?”
Previous experience? "Club Med commercial. That’s the first job I ever got. This one commercial has done so much for me. I did this for Europe and Asia. It was just a spot of me going to work with my own quirky sensibility or whatever. The guy who directed it was a famous director. I didn't know what I was doing, this guy who didn't have any credits. Nobody here ever saw it. But a lot of people called up and say ‘We want that guy.’ Well ‘that guy’ didn’t have any credits at all. No movies...done some great plays! So I did that and then went to LA and got an agent by showing that commercial. And, for this job, the extra tape I submitted was that commercial. So that one little thing has done so much....”
The Captain’s dog? “The old adage, never act with animals or children. They steal everything. They steal every scene they’re in. And I’m glad the dog’s not mine.”
Your favorite episode? "I liked the pregnant one. That was good. I also liked the shuttlepod one I did with Dominic. They've said some really nice things to us about how it turned out. He's a good actor so it's really easy to work with somebody like that. Strange New World is my favorite one. Why? When I watched it the show went by really quick...versus some that don’t (much laughter to that).”
The next question started with “Dominic said...” at which point Connor says “What the hell did Dominic say about me? Next time I’m going first!”
Next Connor’s mom asked him a question about Greg Brady and it came out that when Connor was a child he was a big Brady Bunch fan and had gone through a phase where he hated his own name and wanted to be called Greg. “So I feel strongly about Greg Brady.”
Did you watch Star Trek before? "I watched all the original ones as a child. I've never been one to just sit around, and I’ve never really had a show I felt connected to. I've watched more Star Trek since I got the job than I had in the last 10 years. And that’s a good thing because there’s some awesome stuff there that I never gave a chance to. The things I’ve seen I’ve really enjoyed. I think I saw all the movies before. The last one I saw was First Contact. When I got the show, I just hoped I didn't have any prosthetics. Aces all the way around!”
“How old am I? 32. March 19, 1969. Dominic wouldn’t tell you? Good....it’s the only thing he didn’t tell you!”
Who do you like on the show? "It's our first year. Everybody is really nice. Everybody works really hard. Everybody is prepared when they come to work. Scott Bakula sets the tone for all that. He's real professional, he likes to have fun, likes to laugh."
How did you prepare for the fame the show would bring? "I haven't. Nobody can tell you what to expect. There’s no class you can take. No one can tell you what your experience is going to be like. Thus far, it's been wonderful. Everyone I’ve encountered has been really nice. I hope that continues. I value my privacy a lot, but, look, man, you toss your hat in the ring and somebody picks it up, you’ve tossed your hat in the ring. The potential is just the way it is. I love this so much, dealing with this is no big deal."
“My favorite beer? Budweiser. What’s your favorite beer?”
Any theatre projects during hiatus? "No. I'd like to go back and keep my chops warm. I think I just want to go to Europe, go to Peru. But if someone asks me to do a great movie, I’ll do it!"
Are there any pranksters on the set? “You’re not allowed to touch a lot of things, like if you’re not doing anything. You’re not supposed to play with a lot of stuff. Or actually I should say I’m not allowed to play with a lot of stuff (laughter). To this point we don’t have a lot of pranks that have occurred. They just make fun of me dropping things.“ How is it working with T'Pol? "That bitch." (laughter) "She's a sweetheart. She's great. She has what I think is the hardest part on the show, to keep that part interesting will continue to be difficult. She works her butt off, and she’s a very nice person.”
Do you know any of the former Star Trek people and do you want to direct? "Yes and yes. Roxann Dawson. LeVar Burton has done two episodes. I definitely want to. Gosh, it's like having film school for free. If I get out of there directing a few episodes...."
What do you like to do when you're not filming? "I like to read. I like music. I like to be outside a lot. I like cars. I have a '58 Skylark Custom. I like muscle cars. When I got the job I bought a Porsche. And a truck."
Would you sing us a song? "No!" (Audience member: “Dominic did...” Connor: “Dominic’s a brilliant performer....”)
Do you have the freedom to change anything you don't like? "It's my butt up there. If I don't think something's working, I'll skip them (the director) and call Brannon Braga. Of course, you can't let your ego get in the way. But before we’ve ever gotten to the scene, I’ve probably made a phone call. Is it true to the story, is it important? Have you heard, suddenly, I'm from the Florida Keys? I'm not doing the Florida Keys accent at all so we’ve had to have some conversations about that because the good folks in the Bible belt don’t believe a word I’m saying now! Any time you feel strongly about something, you call and see what you can get done. And if you can’t, tough luck."
Are the actors a lot like the characters they portray? "No! Dominic's a lot more out there. Jolene is nothing like her character. She is the polar opposite. She's the goofiest woman. Totally a goofball. You've probably seen her in the magazines. I've only seen her a couple of times (in civilian clothes), but not like that," he laughed.
Would you want to play any other part on Enterprise? "That's the only part I could play. If I was to read for any other part, I wouldn't get it." Connor talked about technobabble, and how difficult it was for him. "It's hard, it doesn't make any sense. I can learn a three-page scene in five minutes unless I have that to say. The technobabble is the hardest thing about learning lines. Otherwise it’s pretty easy to learn lines.
What about character development of Trip? "I think he's on a pretty good track. They keep trying to dumb him down. Which is a mistake. He's the Chief of Engineering. I think they need to give him a situation where he leads people out."
What other jobs have you done? "I roofed for summers. I worked in crappy places. I catered a lot in New York. Came home in debt after a summer of working. A lot of service-oriented stuff."
Who makes the most? "The dog does. You should see his trailer."
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