Friday, May 25, 2007

Garrett Wang criticizes Rick Berman

In 2004, published a lenghty interview with Garrett Wang, Star Trek: Voyager's Ensign Harry Kim.

Read the full interview here.

A few highlights for discussion:

KA: Aside from a strong camaraderie amongst the cast, you’ve been a bit outspoken regarding Rick Berman’s treatment of the show…

GW: Yeah… (laughing) Much to my detriment, actually, yes. That’s what happens when you sit there and you tell it like it is to people who have power; they don’t like it. I’m the only person who’s ever publicly spoken about anything regarding Rick Berman in a negative way. This is a free country. You’re entitled to your criticisms and I think my criticisms were valid. I think most people, other actors or people who work on the show, if you pulled them off on an aside and said “Okay, there’s no Rick around. Let me ask you, what do you think of what I said?” I think 99% of them would say “I agree with you that he didn’t take the risks he could have.” That’s all I said and it was in reference to the fact that the man came in, took over from Gene Roddenberry, plugged in a formula and kept that same formula for “Next Generation,” every episode of “Deep Space Nine,” every episode of “Voyager” and after a while, you’re talking about 21 years worth of episodes. Man, you better start changing your formula a little bit just to keep it fresh.

Look at TV today. Look how edgy it is. Look at something like “The Shield.” Look at “Nip/Tuck.” Some of these shows are just going above and beyond what anybody’s ever seen. That’s all I said to Rick, who is somebody used to nobody saying anything negative about him publicly. I’m sure he saw this and was like “Okay, fine. Alright. You wanna do that? You want to play hardball? I’ll show you what hardball is.” The result of that is I’m the first actor in the history of “Star Trek” to be refused a directing job.

KA: You’re kidding?

GW: Believe me, I asked in Season 5, Season 6, Season 7… “No, no, no.” And all not from him. It was always through messages. He would never talk to me and say “no” to my face. His comment was “What am I running, a director’s school here?” And the sad part of the whole situation is, of all the actors who have directed, none of them have been as much of a fan of science fiction as I have been. Most of those actors directed because they wanted their DGA card, they wanted to move on to bigger and better things, or they wanted a career in directing. For me, I wanted to direct “Voyager.” I wanted to put my stamp on “Voyager.” I wanted to make “Voyager” better. Everything I wanted to do was about directing science fiction, specifically directing “Star Trek” and that’s what kills me. He basically turned down the one person who would have given him, in my estimation, the best first-directed (for an actor) episode ever and I was standing by my guns on that.

At the time that everybody wanted to direct, I didn’t ask because it was such a stampede. It was Tim Russ, Roxanne, Robbie McNeill — Robbie had already been set to direct an episode by this time — and Bob Picardo…all butting heads and elbowing each other to get in to direct at the same time. I remember they were observing Les Landau directing “The Chute.” All three of them were cramming in there and I said to myself “That’s fine. They can do their thing because when they direct during Season 4, that’s when I’m going to start observing and Season 5 is when I’m going to direct.” That was my game plan and it’s going to be known that Garrett Wang directed the best first-directed episode of “Star Trek” ever. That was what I was aspiring to. I was going to kick some major booty, but, of course, those plans got derailed.

At this point, it’s been three years since the end of the show. I’m more matter-of-fact about this information. Usually I get really riled up when I talk about it, but I’m starting to look at stuff, like the five years of fighting with my parents, and realizing how it actually ended up helping me. My not becoming a fan of “Next Generation” helped me in my “Voyager” audition and I think somehow, some way, shape or form, it hasn’t manifested itself yet, but Rick Berman saying “no” to me is somehow to push me in some other direction also...

KA: Well, I think I came up with a theory as to what Rick Berman’s problem might have been with you. I think he was jealous that, in 1997, you were chosen as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in People Magazine and he wasn’t. How did you find out about that?

GW: It was very weird. The only hook that people were interested in during the first couple of seasons was the first woman captain, so Janeway got the brunt of every single interview or major magazine piece. Everything was her…all about her. Bob Picardo would be utilized once in a while because people consider him the breakout character on the show. But, I remember how ridiculous it was. The day I fired my third publicist was just after I found out that both Kate Mulgrew and Bob Picardo were guests on Jon Stewart’s first talk show on MTV. And I said “What the hell? Why aren’t Jennifer Lien and myself on that. Why would they have Kate and Bob? Who’s going to be watching MTV going ‘Yeah, I want to watch my uncle and my aunt’?” So at that point, I thought “This is ridiculous. I’m wasting my money on a publicist.”

Maybe three of four days later, I get a call from somebody at UPN’s publicity department going “Garrett, they want you for People Magazine. They want you for the 50 Most Beautiful People. How did you do this?” I had no idea. I didn’t even have a publicist anymore and it just happened. And then I got another call. “E-Channel wants to do the 20 Coolest Bachelors and you’ve been picked as one of the 20.” It was sort of like the week where I got 5 commercials, only this time I got two major pieces of publicity.

I dug a little further and found out that somebody had been in the audience when I was on stage at a Starcon event in Denver, Colorado. There were probably about 3,000 people there, so it was a pretty big turnout. Everyone could see what was going on and I remember that was probably one of my best stage presentations ever. Everything flowed into everything else and there were funny things that happened along the way. For instance, I was wearing an Armani suit on stage and I hadn’t zipped up my zipper. People had been waving at me and my girlfriend was in the audience, so she had seen it, and they were trying to get my attention. I finally talked to somebody about 20 minutes into it and they told me “You have to zip up your zipper.” I’m like “Oh, my God.” (laughing) And, of course, I didn’t hide it. I told the audience everything and they just started cracking up, but even mishaps like that just fed into everything.

When I got off stage, Armin Shimerman was sitting there because he was going on after me, and he told me “Oh, my God. You were unbelievable! How am I going to follow that? You blew them away.” It turns out that somebody in that audience had some connection with People Magazine and called their people at People and said “Listen, there’s this kid…why not him?” And boom, it happened. In the history of Trek, it’s just me and Patrick Stewart. You know, that’s pretty good company to be in who have made the 50 Most Beautiful People.

Related Article: In Defense of Rick Berman