Paris Themmen: From Willy Wonka To Voyager
Paris Themmen earned his place in pop culture history back in 1971, when he portrayed Mike Teevee in the classic movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. He didn’t act much after that, yet there he is – just for a few moments, and with no dialogue – playing a Qomar fan in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Virtuoso.” Intrigued by Themmen’s unlikely Voyager appearance, StarTrek.com tracked him down for an interview during a recent appearance at Chiller Theatre, an autograph show in New Jersey. Themmen graciously agreed to chat, recounting how the opportunity came about and what the experience was like, and filling us in on what he’s up to these days.
Were you at all a Star Trek fan?
THEMMEN: Absolutely. I’m not pandering; I absolutely was a fan of The Original Series. I’m 53, so I was about 8 or 9 years old when the show was on, and then they played the hell out of it in reruns for a long time. I’ve seen, certainly, every episode of TOS about three times. I got about as far as The Next Generation. That was really good and Patrick Stewart was amazing. I’ve seen all the films and I’m hip to the even-numbered film thing. I was not as much into Voyager or Deep Space Nine or Enterprise. Eventually, it sort of wore on for me, but very much through TOS and TNG, I was a solid fan.
How did you hook up with Voyager?
THEMMEN: There’s a guy that I know, whose name is Andrew Hill Newman. He’s an actor who did like 1,000 performances as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, in New York. He’s a buddy of mine. Andy later became the producer of Celebrity Poker Showdown. He had some sort of connection to Star Trek (he’d played Jaret Otel in the Voyager episode “Prime Factors”) and he called me up and said, “Do you want to come in and be in a Star Trek?” I said “Sure.” But Andy’s a guy who knows everybody. He was Matthew Perry’s writing partner in Hollywood. I think he knew the makeup guy on Star Trek, or something like that. So I went in.
What do you remember of the experience?
THEMMEN: The episode was about a planet of people who were fans of the holo-doc, played by Bob Picardo. When people think of me, they think of me as Mike Teevee. Obviously, I had hair then. Now that I’m an adult, I don’t have a lot of hair. I’m a bald guy. Bob Picardo is a bald guy. And I look passably like Bob Picardo. So I went in, spent a couple of hours in the makeup chair. They gave me a little prosthesis here on my brow, just above my eyebrows, kind of like a Klingon but very much less… just a few little bumps. It was me and a couple of other guys, and they credited us as “Fawning Fans” of the Doctor, who sang, which is why the episode was called “Virtuoso.” Honestly, I was really jazzed about it, just to be in the Star Trek universe.
One other thing about doing Voyager… I finished getting my makeup done and got out of my chair and finished my scene, and I found my way on to the Voyager (bridge) set. I had access to walk around. It was all dark. I went and sat in the captain’s chair. I swiveled it left and right and pointed to imaginary things, which I’m sure so many people would love to do. So it was cool just to move in the same waters as all those guys.
How amazed are you when people recognize you from your appearance on Star Trek?
THEMMEN: I’d be totally amazed, but nobody pegs me from Star Trek. I do some conventions and autographs shows like the one we’re at now, and I have photos of myself from Willy Wonka and Star Trek. People do ask me to sign the Star Trek photos, but I don’t think they come to my table because I was on Star Trek. They come to my table because I was in Willy Wonka and then they see the photo. What happens is, number one, there are a lot of completists who want anybody who’s been on Star Trek. And, number two, it’s a cool crossover that Mike Teevee was in the Trek universe. I’m actually amazed that people recognize me from Willy Wonka, just because I’m 53 and look nothing like Mike Teevee. The people who do that tend to be people with photographic memories, or they’ve seen the film a bunch of times or they’ve seen me in additional footage. The ones that are interesting are visual artists, because they can see the structure of my face and figure out that it’s me, but older.
What are you up to these days?
THEMMEN: You know how people pose for fan-celebrity photos at conventions and autograph shows? I’m the owner of a business that takes those photos, and we’re doing that here today at Chiller.