Richard Herd is many things to many people: Captain Sheridan on T.J. Hooker, Visitor Supreme Commander John on V, the Chairman in Trancers, Mr. Wilhelm on Seinfeld, Dr. Backer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Admiral Noyce on SeaQuest 2032. Of course, to Star Trek fans, the veteran character is the Klingon L’Kor from the The Next Generation two-parter “Birthright” and Admiral Owen Paris, Tom’s estranged father, from four episodes of Voyager. “Birthright, Part 1” debuted the week of February 22, 1993, and StarTrek.com figured the 20th anniversary of its premiere was the ideal time to catch up with Herd. Given that Herd is a chatty conversationalist and that he’s celebrating his 60th anniversary in the business, we’ve spread the conversation over two parts. Part one ran yesterday, and read on below for part two.
What do you remember of “Pathfinder,” “Inside Man,” “Author, Author” and “Endgame,” your visits to Voyager?
Herd: Everybody was a professional, and they were professionals who enjoyed what they did. Everything had to be perfect. You couldn’t change a word or drop a T or an I. That’s the way it was on Star Trek. When we weren’t shooting, we enjoyed each other’s company and when we were working, again, it was working with excellence.
Did you do your first episode knowing that you might be back for more?
Herd: Yes. They told me that Admiral Paris might be recurring. I did the final one (“Endgame”), plus three.
What elements of Admiral Paris did you most enjoy playing?
Herd: What intrigued me about it was that he was a father like many, many other fathers who had a run-in with their son. He was in command. He was an admiral and had to deal with people every single day and had to make life-or-death decisions as a younger man himself. He wasn’t home all the time, so he wasn’t around his son, as happens to many military people or people who run corporations. It’s happening now with guys in Afghanistan who aren’t around while their kids are growing up. Some of these guys are taking two or three tours of duty. So, Admiral Paris didn’t really have an opportunity to raise his son, spend time with his son, and that affected Tom. And there was trouble with the son.
Finally, the most wonderful thing was, at the end, you could sense that they had forgiven each other and that there would be a relationship after Tom landed. And as one of the books says, there would be a marriage and grandchildren. My only frustration with Voyager is I was hoping, at the end, in the very last episode, when I finally had a chance to see my son, that we’d have had a few sentences. I was hoping to say, “It’s been so long” or “Welcome home, son.” But we never had that opportunity to talk, just to stare at each other. When I was looking at him, all I was doing was looking at a piece of masking tape on the wall that they could match with Robbie’s eyeline. But it worked.
Over the years, you’ve appeared at many conventions and autograph shows. How much do you appreciate meeting and greeting the fans?
Herd: I meet people at these events. I see a lot of my friends who are also signing or on the stage. I get to know some of the fans who have come by over the years and they know things about my career that I don’t even remember myself. They’ll remind me of things. We’ll spend time together. A lot of them bring me things that they’ve lifted off a DVD they have. I had done Tales from the Crypt, and somebody brought me a photograph from that. I did Gleaming the Cube with Christian Slater, and someone brought me a photo from that. People have brought me things from Trancers. Somebody brought me a few shots from something that I did with Klaus Kinski. I bring photos from Star Trek and V and SeaQuest and some of the movies I’ve done. I’m also an artist, and I’ll often bring some of my art, which people look at and talk with me about and sometimes buy. I spend time with the fans and I enjoy it, otherwise I wouldn’t go because, at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. It exhausts you, but it’s worth it. I’m doing a show in April called Monsterpalooza and I’ll be doing Creation’s big Star Trek convention in Vegas in August.
You’ve also been a part of the Enterprise Blues Band with Vaughn Armstrong, Ron B. Moore and Casey Biggs…
Herd: Oh, that’s been fun. I’m going to see Vaughn tomorrow, actually. Ron won several Emmys for his special effects. Ethan Phillips is in New York now doing a play, but when he’s around, he’ll play the sax with the group. We haven’t had a lot of bookings lately, and I’d like to do more because I just love the music and I love the rehearsals. It’s been a lot of fun with Vaughn and Casey and Ron and Steven Rankin and Bill Jones. We’ve done two CDs that people purchase once in a while.
As you mentioned, you’re at 60 years and counting as an actor. What do people most often recognize you for when they meet you?
Herd: It can be anything and it doesn’t depend on age anymore because everything is in reruns. When the SCI FI Channel (now Syfy) came on, there were people watching V who weren’t even born when the show originally was on the air. Seinfeld is in syndication and I take Seinfeld pictures with me to autograph shows because people ask for shots of me from the show. People just love Seinfeld, especially in New York. Seinfeld is a big New York thing. New York people generally say “Hi” and keep going. Out here in L.A., you get in more of a close-up situation, like in a market, and people are mostly complimentary. Some people know some of my body of work in motion pictures and films. It’s usually for V or Seinfeld or Voyager, but once in a while I’ll get someone who remembers me from F.I.S.T. or The China Syndrome. It’s always an individual thing.
We saw you not too long ago in several episodes of Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. Are you still doing that, and what else are you working on?
Herd: I played Betty’s boyfriend on The Golden Girls a couple of times and then I played her husband on three episodes of Everwood, and I did 10 episodes of Off Their Rockers their first season. For some reason, they didn’t have the wisdom to pick me up for a second season. I had a good time, though. I enjoyed myself. Right now, there’s a pilot that’s in the works, but I can’t talk about it. I still do a lot of radio, professional radio. I do voiceovers. And I paint. I have a career now as an artist and I have gallery showings. So there’s always something to do, and I keep occupied. I have to tell you, I’m very, very grateful. I only wish that the young actors today had the opportunities to learn their craft as I did as a young actor. I had New York and summer stock and road shows. More Broadway shows and off-Broadway shows were being done in the 50s and 60s, and you got to gain a sense of craft.
Actors today, a lot of them have no craft, haven’t studied, and they should have no expectation of being employed unless they take it seriously and are obsessed. But even the ones that do have craft and have studied, they just don’t have the opportunities of a training ground, and we’ve lost about 50 percent of the work, so they don’t have as many opportunities to gain employment. So I feel very, very fortunate and I’m very grateful for my career. I’ve worked with a lot of the best people in theater, motion pictures and on television, and on radio. So I’ve been very fortunate.
Click HERE to read part one of our StarTrek.com interview with Richard Herd. And click HERE to visit Herd’s official site.
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