Robert Picardo remembers exactly where he was on January 16, 1995. Ask him about it, and he’ll tell you. Ask him, really, about anything, and he’s happy to chat. Picardo, for those who may not know, is one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, a pro as an actor, a chatty, witty conversationalist, and a master at connecting with his fans on a personal level. But we digress. As we set about making our StarTrek.com schedule recently, it dawned on us that the anniversary of “Caretaker,” the Star Trek: Voyager two-hour pilot, was coming up fast. And we figured it was time to check in with Picardo. We knew he’d have some fun, fond memories of the experience – of the episode’s making, of the premiere. And guess what? We were right. We also kept him talking about his slate of new projects, and he obliged. So, below, please check out part two of our exclusive conversation.
You and the Voyager boys usually have a dinner once or twice a year. Didn’t last year’s get-together actually occur on January 16?
Picardo: Yes, it did. We have our dinner at the Palm (in Los Angeles), and last year I made the reservation on the 16th without realizing that it was our exact anniversary. Everybody made it except Tim Russ, who was recording something, and we talked to him on the phone from the table. And Garrett (Wang) actually tweeted a picture of us around the table. We’ll do that again later this month, have our usual dinner, but this time we’ll be missing Ethan Phillips, who’s back in New York City doing stage work. Once in a while it’s all of us, but it usually seems like we’re missing one person, and it’s usually a different missing person each year. But I love it. It’s fun that we all stay in touch. I talk to the guys pretty regularly, and I talk to Kate (Mulgrew) pretty regularly.
Do you have that with any other cast from any other show or film you’ve worked on?
Picardo: No. Frankly, part of it with Voyager comes from the fact that we see so much of each other during our personal appearances that we’ve maintained the friendships. We have scheduled reunions, in a way, especially with the big show in Vegas every year. It seems that a chunk of us are in Vegas every year, and a couple of us are usually together at other events around the world during the year. So that’s already there, though getting together for dinner is definitely a choice, a social event. We go out of our way to do it, and it’s fun. I’m not in regular contact with Robert Beltran, for example, so it’s great to know I’ll see him at these dinners. I talk to Garrett all the time, but we don’t see each other all that much. So, it’s really important that we do these dinners. Everyone feels like, if they’re in town, they show up.
Shifting away from Star Trek, what are you working on these days?
Picardo: I’ve been a recurring character on The Mentalist. The episode I shot recently will be on in a couple of weeks. I’ve been doing some indie films. Something I did called The Legends of Nathiah came out this past fall. I just wrote liner notes for the box set of China Beach, which will be coming out next spring for the 25th anniversary of its premiere. We just had a reunion with the cast and all the creative people. It was very fun to see all those people again. The producer, John Young, asked me and Dana Delany and Bill Broyles to each tackle a season or seasons. So I’ve written the season-three liner notes. That’s the only full season we ever had, I noticed. So they gave me the biggest homework assignment. I was happy to review some of that work and to see how well it stands up was a joy. Plus, I loved seeing some of my cast mates at the big party that Warner Bros. staged for us, so that they would have something new to film for the extras. Also, they took some of my home video from the last couple of shooting days of China Beach. I’d bought a home video camera because my older daughter, who’s now 23, had just been born. So I’d taken that to set and filmed our last day shooting at Indian Dunes. So a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff, which otherwise doesn’t exist, will be my personal home movies, interviewing Dana and a bunch of people at our wonderful Army base location.
Are you doing any pilots?
Picardo: My old friend and Voyager cast mate Robbie McNeill was working on developing a pilot that I was going to do with him this month. But I literally just got a text from him saying that it’s been called off. What else? I’m doing a project with my old friend Linda Purl, whom I adore. She and I did Beyond Therapy soon after I came out here to L.A. from New York, and that was one of my favorite theater experiences ever. She and I are reuniting. We’re doing a reading of Same Time, Next Year as a benefit for the Mammoth Lakes theater (Jan. 18-19). So I’ve been rehearsing with her the past few days, and it’s just a joy to work with her again. I’m auditioning for things. I just auditioned for a Broadway show, actually. That’s my goal this year, to spend at least six months, probably the second half of the year, in New York. I know that Ethan Phillips decided to go back to New York and chase stage work, and he’s enjoying the hell out of it. So I think I might also appreciate the circular experience of ending up where I started.
IMDB lists what sounds like a few indie features and TV guest shots…
Picardo: Infiltrators was a fun part for me. It’s like a low-budget Da Vinci Code about stolen religious treasures that have been smuggled out of Nazi Germany. Some of them have disappeared, and I play a minister who can handle a gun. I did a guest star on Happy Endings. I played a judge on The Client List. That’s one of those things where they say, “If the trial goes forward, you’ll be a recurring character.” So I said OK. The Client List episode hasn’t aired yet, and I think Happy Endings is airing soon (EDITOR’S NOTE: It airs tonight). I must be busier than I thought. I should probably take a look at my IMDB page before I do any interviews.
Any last thoughts you want to share with the fans before we let you hang up?
Picardo: Jeri Ryan turned me on to tweeting last year, last spring. So one of my New Year’s resolutions is to tweet more. So please mention that I’ll be a better tweeter. I’m @robertpicardo.
Click HERE to read part one of our interview with Robert Picardo.
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