Catching Up With Trek Director Cliff Bole, Part 2
Yesterday, in part one of our interview with veteran Star Trek director Cliff Bole, he discussed how he became associated with the franchise, looked back at his work on TNG and mused about having an alien race – the Bolians – named after him. Today, in the second half of our conversation, Bole discusses his episodes of DS9 and Voyager, and fills us in on what he’s been up to since he completed his last Trek adventure.
You directed seven episodes of DS9. Your first one was “Dramatis Personae,” the 18th episode of the first season. Why did you get such a late start on directing DS9?
Bole: Mr. Piller and I were not in sync. He thought I was a studio man and not creative, and I’d keep telling him, “Go back and look at ‘The Best of Both Worlds.’” He said, “Well, you don’t work late.” I said, “I do my best not to because I don’t want to burn out the crew or my actors and, by the way, I know what I’m doing and I come in prepared.” I was trained as a script clerk and an assistant. I’m a set rat, and have been on sets my whole life. When I was a kid I lived in the San Fernando Valley, and on Saturdays we’d go sneak onto all the back lots, roll around and watch what they were doing. So all that added up to I was very, very prepared. I’d had a couple of directors that I’d worked with over the years that I admired – John Huston and people like that – and I picked up a lot of experience. Michael Piller thought just because I wasn’t there for 14 and 15 hours a day that I was ducking creativity.
You obviously proved something to him because you returned for another half-dozen episodes…
Bole: Yeah. So, it was a fight. I mean, God bless him. I didn’t know for quite a while that he had passed on. But we had our lunches; let’s put it that way.
Bole: We went back to the Trill homeworld in “Equilibrium.” We had a marvelous production designer, Herman Zimmerman. He’s an excellent, talented guy who does a lot with a little. Terry Farrell gave a very good performance. She always asked for me, which I always appreciated. “Defiant” was the one with Jonathan Frakes playing Riker’s brother. Nothing stands out as out of the ordinary about doing that show, except working with Frakes again, and he brought a little joy to the set. I’d worked with Avery (Brooks) on Spencer for Hire and I knew Avery very well. He’s a very dark, difficult guy to work with, but I’d broken that ice back in Boston (on location, shooting Spencer for Hire). And I didn’t come in cold on DS9. I’d been reading the scripts and paying attention to what was going on.
Your last episode of DS9 was “Facets.” What do you remember of that one?
Bole: It’s not fair of me to make a comment on it because… Deep Space Nine is a little foggier for me because it wasn’t as cheerful for me as working on TNG. TNG was, as far as I’m concerned, the biggest joy and ensemble I’ve ever worked with.
You directed 10 Voyager episodes. Who brought you back into the fold for Voyager?
Bole: Rick (Berman).
How different an experience was Voyager versus TNG or DS9?
Bole: Voyager was more towards the fun ensemble (of TNG). It was a great group of people and they had a lot of fun doing it. When that’s going on, your job as a director is half done. You come in with a plan and you’re dealing with people that are upbeat and smiling. It was stepping back into a lighter day compared to Deep Space Nine.
How did you get on with Kate Mulgrew?
Bole: She’s a fun gal. She’s very opinionated, and I love that in an actor. I love when they bring something to the table. Tim Russ was excellent.
“The Q and the Grey” was one of your most well-regarded Voyager episodes…
Bole: I liked that one, too. That was a fun one, working with (John) de Lancie again. And there was a great singer we had, who guest starred in that episode. I’m trying to remember his name. He lived down here, where I am, and we met quite a few times.
Bole: Yes, he was a famous singer in MGM films. He did Paint Your Wagon. He had a very, very small role in “The Q and the Grey,” which was a Civil War story, and he was a Southern general or a colonel. He’d been a very famous headliner at MGM.
Your last episode of Voyager was your last-ever Star Trek episode, and it was a biggie, “Dark Frontier,” which was a feature-length production. What do you remember of directing the first half of that? And why did you not do more Voyager and then not return for Enterprise?
Bole: I didn’t know when I did that episode that it would be my last Star Trek, but I had moved on a little in the business and I guess I felt that it was coming to an end. I didn’t expect to do Enterprise because I was working elsewhere. So it just came to an end. But I was very happy with “Dark Frontier.” Kate was very good. Susanna Thompson nailed it (as the Borg Queen). Jeri (Ryan) is a very talented lady. She showed it on Voyager and she’s shown it since. So that was the last one, but Star Trek (directing TNG, DS9 and Voyager) was the greatest part of my career from the standpoint of getting up and saying, “Man, I really want to go to work.”
What are you doing these days?
Bole: I did a Supernatural a few years ago. I’ve been asked to do some other things, but I spent 16 years in Vancouver and I don’t want to go back there. It’s too draining, especially in the winter time. It’s just too tough to do 14-, 15-hours days sitting in the rain. It’s just no fun. I’m doing stuff that I really can’t talk about. I’ve been working for the Army and I did quite a lot of work for them because I had a very high military clearance when I was in the Army. So I’ve done some work for them. Locally, I’ve helped companies build up their commercial abilities and be able to compete with Hollywood, and I’m doing that because I have a pending show for National Geographic. So I’m going to try to do that down here, in Palm Springs, instead of going to Hollywood. That’s what I’m doing.
To read part one of our interview with Cliff Bole, click HERE.