Thursday, 30 April 2015

FCD: Five Minutes with Garrett

Here it is - our 300th post!

A couple of weeks ago we trekked off to First Contact Day run by the fantastic Wil Ross, David Limburg and a team of dedicated miracle workers.

I also managed to grab a five minute chat with the one and only Garrett Wang just before he headed off for the evening.

The consummate professional, Garrett had captivated an audience of some 200+ Star Trek fans with a brilliant 45 minute talk and Q&A which was undoubtedly one of the top highlights of the Saturday.

But what could we ask Garrett? Well, we gathered from his talk that he was enjoying himself (although there could have been some sunshine) over the weekend but I wanted to find out a bit more and seeing as how I'm currently running through the early seasons of Voyager, what better place to start than there. How did he feel about being effectively sidelined for most of those first two seasons?

"I felt underused and that I was the victim of a nine-person ensemble cast....there wasn't a lot of character development. It led me to be in a bit of a state of depression for the first few years. Now when you're depressed one thing happens, you sleep longer than you normally need to sleep because you want to keep sleeping - you don't want to wake up to reality."

"I was late to work maybe two or three times; I came very close to being fired from Voyager because I was was because I was depressed. I was so on top of the world when I got the role because my momentum was moving - I turned down three projects to do Voyager. I was supposed to be in the Mortal Kombat movie playing Lu Kang's younger brother in the opening scene."

I went from being the toast of the town to being someone who was getting 1.2 episodes per season. When you sit there and say "Shields down to 30%" you're not really exercising your acting muscles. So that's where it all came from."

It seems that people in the rumour mill tend to suggest Garrett was doing drugs or partying but the truth was, as revealed, very different.

Garrett noted that Caretaker was all Ensign Kim and his assumption was that the character would be a major part of every single episode.

"But then they started focusing on all the other characters and it all kind of built up on me. By season three I was super bombed-out. I wasn't focused and I felt I had a lot more to give and I wasn't able to stretch my wings. I felt the character needed more humour, the character should have been more human, there should have been more emotion in the characters - but that was negated by Rick Berman. He asked the actors to downplay the human roles in order for the aliens to look real."

Garrett explained that it was desired for the actors playing the human roles to be more wooden, more militaristic and if they did try and do something else they were informed they would be sent a memo requesting them to reshoot the relevant scene.

"Because you put in too much emotion." recalled Garrett, "I had two notices like that in season one and I reshot two scenes and I learned my lesson. I shut up and I was a good company man."

Garrett said how Kate Mulgrew had to reshoot 30 to 40 scenes in season one such as where the character had been crying; "You don't see Janeway cry in season one because they wouldn't allow it! So the show would have been even more amazing if you let the actors just act."

Personally I've found Voyager much better on this rewatch (OK - aside from Threshold) and the Kim character does evolve as the series moves along. Garrett's best moments certainly come when he's given that wing-spread opportunity in episodes such as Emanations, The Thaw and The Chute to name one from each of the first three years. I still have Scorpion to hit which almost looked like Harry was going to go the way of the dodo for season four after being infected by CGI baddies Species 8472. As we all know, it would be Jennifer Lien's Kes that took the hit to make way for Seven of Nine.

Of all the cast I find Kim one of the most fascinating to watch as while he may not get a lot of time, when he does, the ensign gets to shine. 

"That's because as time moves on I got more episodes that could revolve around me," said Garrett, "and I got the 100th episode - that was the best - which was the signature episode of Voyager."

Hey, he's not quite eternally the ensign anyway, making that brief rise to captain in the alternative future of Endgame and perhaps that was another payoff for Wang in that he finally got at least one extra pip in some way.

Brannon Braga, as Garrett continued, wrote him the number one episode - period - hands down. It was Voyager's City on the Edge of Forever according to the series producer. 

And there's no question Timeless is one of the show's best - and I'm very much looking forward to seeing it again after a fair few years (couple of seasons to go yet...) but from memory even when he wasn't in the limelight, Harry was better fed with material in the later years, being much more an integral part of the cast than just telling us what percentage of the shields were left.

"After that it went along the lines of the Doctor, Seven, Janeway show," said Garrett, "and I didn't care because I'd already gotten the best episode so I was like that's fine if you want to focus on those guys! 

Thanks to Brannon Braga and Rick Berman for that! [Timeless]."

Was Kim served better in later years? There's some space below to add your thoughts! Thanks to Garrett Wang for his time and to Wil, David and the First Contact Day team for hosting the event.

If you'd like to know more about First Contact Day 2016 there is some info available HERE

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