Straight Talk with Voyager’s Garrett Wang, Part 2
Yesterday, in part one of our exclusive interview with Garrett Wang, the actor spoke with typical candor about his time playing Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager. Today, in the second half of our conversation, Wang talks more about his Trek experience, reveals that he and the boys of Voyager still get together for dinner on a regular basis, and fills us in on what he’s doing these days.
What were your thoughts on the Voyager finale, both in general and specifically in terms of how it closed out Harry’s storyline?
Wang: I think the first hour of the finale was fantastic, very exciting, well written, good pacing. Everything was great about the first hour, but then the second hour it just seemed like it tied up all of the loose ends very quickly. So, the second half of the finale I was not happy about, and I especially didn’t like the fact that we ended the series in Earth’s orbit. We don’t even step foot on Earth. Hello! After seven years, I think the fans wanted to see us actually step foot on terra firma. If I was running Star Trek: Voyager, what I would have done is keep the first hour exactly the way it was and, the second hour, I would have taken the same kind of pacing as the first hour and then ended it with a caption on screen saying, “To be continued at a theater near you.” Then I would have done a two-hour feature film. That would have been the way I would have done it.
What would you like to think Harry is doing now?
Wang: I would like to think that Harry reconnected with his original girlfriend Libby back in San Francisco, got married and has twin boys named Gabriel and Kenner. Continuing my fantasy world, Harry is promoted from ensign to captain by Admiral Paris. The unprecedented multi-level promotion by the admiral would be based on Harry's seven-year record on Voyager and also for befriending and looking out for his son Tom, whom he could never show affection to but loved dearly. Captain Kim spends nine months commanding his own vessel, the USS Janeway, the newest Enigma class starship, and three months at home guest lecturing on the wonders of the Delta Quadrant. Kim has picked up golf as his newest hobby, and is always excited to play a round at the closest holodeck.
Building on that, fans have asked us to start asking the actors if they've read the Trek books and followed what happened to their respective characters. So, have you read any Voyager novels and, if so, what did you make of Harry's subsequent evolution?
Wang: I understand that many fans have fulfilled their hunger for Voyager by reading the novels. Unfortunately, I haven't read any of them. I know that Robbie McNeill used to read Voyager novels to his kids when they were young as bedtime stories. I am interested in how they developed Harry throughout the novels and plan on reading them in the near future.
You were really a kid when you started on Voyager. How do you feel you grew up -- as a person -- on the show, and how did that carry over once the show ended?
Wang: I was young, 25, when Voyager started, but not the youngest. Jennifer Lien held that distinction at the tender age of 19. One positive thing regarding maturation that happened from being on the show was the elimination of the racial chip on my shoulder. Eight years in Memphis, TN, being the target of daily racial epithets, made me overly sensitive to the stares and looks of strangers. In college, I had developed an almost militant attitude in that I would respond to prolonged looks by strangers with a defiant scowl or a combative, "What are you staring at?!" I strived to be the complete opposite of the quiet, non-confrontational Asian. Well, once Voyager started, I quickly realized that the majority of the staring was by strangers who recognized me from the show and not active members of some white supremacist group. My time on Voyager also taught me the important lesson of being punctual. The several times I was tardy to work were met by great resistance from the producers. During the third season, they actually threatened to fire me if I didn't get my act together. Thank goodness I did, ha-ha!
Who from the old days, cast and/or crew, are you still in touch with?
Wang: I'm happy to say I still keep up with all the men of Voyager. We have been meeting for dinner at the same restaurant every three to six months since Voyager stopped filming. It's great because we get to reminisce about the old days and catch up on current news. Lots of laughter at dinner. The ladies of Voyager, on the other hand, not so much. It's usually at a random convention appearance that I will run into Kate (Mulgrew), Jeri (Ryan) or Jennifer. Unfortunately, I have only had email correspondence with Roxann (Dawson). Also, I used to meet a couple of the crew guys for golf, but that's fallen by the wayside now.
Some of your costumes from Voyager sold at auction not too long ago. Were you tempted to buy any, or had you seen enough of them for one lifetime?
Wang: Yeah, I knew about the Star Trek Christie's auction. Was I tempted to buy one? Heck no! After seven years of blood, sweat and tears working on Voyager, they should have given me one of the 20 some odd Kim uniforms they had in wardrobe. I should’ve followed Kate's lead and taken my uniform home on the final day of shooting. It always amazes me how many people think that I actually wear my costume on stage at convention appearances. I am definitely relieved that I don't have to wear it anymore since it pulled in all the wrong places whenever I sat down. If I find out in the future that I can't have kids because of a low sperm count, I'm calling a lawyer.
What are you doing these days? IMDB has you down as appearing in two films, Acts of Violence, as well as Rock Jocks, the latter of which also features Robert Picardo.
Wang: Those are accurate. I actually stopped auditioning for acting roles in 2005. That’s the last time I actually, officially went on an audition. I haven’t had an agent or manager since then, and that’s of my own volition. I kind of took a break from Hollywood and got out of town, literally. I’m living in Vegas now, since 2008. But I stopped acting mainly because I got jaded with the industry. You would think that after putting in seven years as a regular that certain doors would be open to you. But once you’re done with your show, you’re pretty much back at square one, auditioning once again. Auditions were really few and far between mainly because of the onslaught of reality TV programming. There were just a couple of reality shows when we started on Voyager, like Cops on Fox and The Real World on MTV. Now, over 50 percent of shows are reality. So, if you think about that, over half the jobs that used to be there for actors have vanished, completely evaporated. Plus, the other phenomenon is that all the people you grew up watching in feature films found out they could no longer make a living in features, they’re now doing TV. The big stars started to get $20 to $25 million, so everybody else got scale. So they all fled to TV. It started with John Lithgow. He took off and did 3rd Rock from the Sun, and the list goes on. Holly Hunter. Charlie Sheen, even. So now the roles available are even less.
Anyway, I was really jaded and left Hollywood, and everything I’ve done since has been favors for friends. When I did Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, it was Tim Russ who called me up and said, “Would you like to do this role in an independent Star Trek film I’m directing.” I told him immediately, “No, absolutely not.” He said, “You’ll be playing a character completely opposite from Harry Kim.” I told him immediately, “I’m in. Count me in.” Acts of Violence is from a friend of my sister’s. He produces and stars in his own films, and he called me up to see if I’d come play a cameo in his movie. Leelee Sobieski is the female lead. The lead producer and star is named Il Lim, who’s a Korean-American and a martial arts instructor. The movie is sort of a revenge film. A group of robbers end up taking Leelee’s character hostage, bad things happen, and I’m one of the robbers. She dies and the lead character goes after each and every single person who was in on the robbery, and tries to take each of us out in horrific ways.
Rock Jocks is another film where some friends called up and said, “Would you like to be a part of it?” The basic story is about these science geeks who serve the United States of America by manning these satellites that are in Earth’s orbit. The satellites have lasers on them and these guys’ whole job is to disintegrate incoming asteroids or at least deflect them from hitting Earth. I play the captain of one of the crews of the Rock Jocks. And Bob Picardo plays a security guard in a very, very funny scene. If I’d read the script early enough I would have pushed to have Bob and I as the two security guards playing off each other. But they’d already cast somebody else as the other security guard. It’s an interesting film and I had a good time doing it.
Anything else going on?
Wang: My day really consists of playing golf, being a partner in a tee-shirt company called Cosmic City Tees and planning for the different conventions I’ve been going to. I’ve been taking a much more active role in the conventions. I’m now the first sci-fi actor in history to actually be behind the scenes. Traditionally, actors come in, go on stage, do their thing, sign autographs and go home. The conventions I’m really involved in are TrekExpo, FedCon and DragonCon. TrekExpo is this weekend in Tulsa, OK, and I’m the master of the ceremonies for that. I go in three or four days early and leave the day after the convention ends. FedCon is the largest European convention, held in Germany every year. I was the emcee this year and they want me back for infinity. DragonCon is in Atlanta, Labor Day weekend of every year. Last year was my first year and this September will be my second year as the Star Trek programming director. My duties at DragonCon are the greatest. Not only am I emceeing all the major panels, but I’m also scheduling the panels and suggesting which actors to bring in. I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off at that convention, but I love it.
I love these conventions. I love going to these cons because I’m already a sci-fi fan, and also because I get a chance to give the fans out there who don’t know me in real life a little taste of who I am, who I am as Garrett Wang, as opposed to Harry Kim. The main difference is that Garrett Wang is showman, a host, a moderator, a standup comic all rolled into one when he’s on stage, and Ensign Kim is pretty straight-laced. So it’s great that people can see more of who I am.
To read part one of our interview with Garrett Wang, click HERE. And for news and information about Wang, visit his official site at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Garrett-Wang-Fan-Page/162595097087050