Robert Duncan McNeill- Lieutenant Tom Paris
by Joe Nazzaro

With nine characters to develop in the first season of Star Trek: Voyager, it seems almost inevitable that a few would be somewhat slighted for a short time. That's now beginning to change, according to Robert Duncan McNeill, who plays the brash Starfleet Lieutenant Tom Paris.

"One of the things they're going to try to do is build some more inter-personal relationships for Paris," notes McNeill. "What [series co-creatorj Jeri Taylor said to me when they created this show, was they were most worried about the Doctor, Neelix and Kes. They felt they didn't know what they were going to do with those three characters, and put a lot of effort into figuring them out for the first season. They ended up with some wonderful characters, and great stories that really established those characters very strongly and clearly. Because they were so concerned about them, I think they did neglect some of the other characters, like Paris, Chakotay, even Harry Kim, so they tried to make up for that in the second season."

Later episodes of the second season show a bit more of Paris trying to break out of the rigid Starfleet rules and regulations. "One idea we've agreed on and you're probably going to see very soon, is Paris having a conversation with the captain, where he says, 'Look, for a long time now, I've been a good guy and I've been playing by your rules, and I don't think I'm doing my best that way. Ithink what you need to do is give me a little space to be myseif, and I think I'll do a better job for you.' That's the sort of thing we're going to see more of. I think the captain is going to start to give him a little more room to be himself and to stretch out and take some risks. I don't mind a beautiful alien story every now and then, but I want to see more than that."

Star Trek: Voyager is actually McNeill's second foray into the Star Trek Universe. He originally appeared as arrogant cadet Nick Locarno in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The First Duty, which he recalls as one of his more enjoyable acting experiences.

"I think the four of us who did that episode probably could have, if circumstances had been different, been very close friends. We got to be very close during those two weeks we worked together, and then people went on to pursue other things. I went to Jamaica right after that for the movie Going To Extremes, and was busy moving out of the country, so I didn't really stay in touch with those people as much as I could have or wanted to. lt was a great group, the same way I feel this whole cast of Star Trek:Voyager is now."

And McNeill is doing his best to keep that group happy. Frequently branded the actor most likely to crack up his fellow actors before a take, he's tried from the beginning to make the Star Trek: Voyager set an enjoyable place to be.

"During the first couple of weeks, I'd come on the set singing show tunes and silly things, and trying to get everybody to enjoy the work. One night, Marvin Rush, our cinematographer, and I were walking to our cars together, and he sort of thanked me for that. He said, 'I really think it's important for everybody to have a good time. You have to take the work seriously but not take yourself seriously in the work,' and from the beginning, that's really what I tried to do. When it comes down to the work, you've really got to focus, but we're here too many hours to takes ourselves seriously!" 

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