StarTrek.com then sat down next to Pierpoint to conduct an extensive interview, one that was interrupted several times as Pierpoint happily interacted with fans. It made sense that his table was busy. After all, he played Voval in the Next Generation episode “Liaisons,” Captain Sanders in the Deep Space Nine hour “For the Uniform” and Kortar in Voyager’s “Barge of the Dead,” And on Enterprise he played Shiraht in “Rogue Planet” and recurred across four episodes as the Section 31 operative Harris. Pierpoint, during our chat, addressed his Trek work and his other big sci-fi credit (Alien Nation), spoke animatedly about his new book, The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole, and touched on additional points as well. Below is part one of our conversation and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow for part two.
You started to talk about your take on conventions. Please elaborate…
PIERPOINT: I don’t do very many of them. It’s been a few years. I really enjoy it when the fans come up to me because they’re pretty much older now. Alien Nation was the big sci-fi hit for me, and those fans are now progressing through life. Maybe their kids have seen the DVDs, and they always want to connect. I’ve also done all the Star Treks, or the modern-day shows. I did five characters on four shows, and Star Trek is great to be a part of. It’s an ongoing institution. It started for me in the 60s, when I used to watch it then. I remember watching it in college, in black and white, on a tiny 9-inch screen. My roommate said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if you got on a show like that?” At that time I wasn’t even an actor. Just weird the way it’s worked out.
How different are the Alien Nation and Star Trek fan bases?
PIERPOINT: Alien Nation never became a culture. Star Trek is a culture. Alien Nation didn’t run that long, so not everyone was dressing up people do as the characters from Star Trek. So, a lot of Trek fans are Trekkies, but Alien Nation fans, they say, “Oh, I loved that show. It was such a smart show.” It’s a different tribe, but from what I’ve seen, Alien Nation fans tend to be Star Trek fans, while Star Trek fans liked Alien Nation but are hardcore about Trek. I’m finding that out here at this convention.
You were on all four modern-day Star Trek shows. Did you realize by the time you got around to Enterprise that you were in some rarified air? There’s only a handful of actors who can say they did all four shows…
PIERPOINT: I didn’t know that. It’s funny because, during the cast of each show, I was seen for a lot of important roles that just didn’t work out.
PIERPOINT: I remember being auditioned for Riker on Next Generation. I remember being auditioned for Avery Brooks’ role and Kate Mulgrew’s role. Then they’d say, “Well, we’re going ethnic” or “Well, we’re going female for this.” And I’d go, “Damn, I missed the captain again!” So I just felt it was an honor to have them call and say, “How do you feel like doing a Klingon or doing this or that?” And it was always a pleasure. The smell of makeup at four o’clock in the morning? All good.
How did the first one, “Liaisons,” come about?
PIERPOINT: I went in and they said, “Read for one of the ambassador,” but I thought it was the ambassador of war, or violence, whatever it was. And they had me read the ambassador of love. Somehow I ended up with that. I think it was an audition. Then I read it and I said, “Wait a minute, I turn into a woman? How is that going to happen? Oh, I see, Barbara Williams is going to play me as a woman.” I thought, “This is getting kind of out there,” but, remember, by this time I’d already had a baby on TV, so I was up for anything. It had one of the searching, philosophical stories that people love about Star Trek, and as an actor, it’s the searching part that’s fun.
That was very different from doing Kortar on Voyager, where I was the captain of the barge on the River of the Dead. There, as the actor, you want to control everything and you have ALL of the answers. And you will inflict those answers on anybody who is in your way. It’s a very different philosophy, a very different character.
You played Captain Sanders in DS9’s “For the Uniform.” At least you got to play a captain…
PIERPOINT: Exactly. I think that was a gift that they gave me for not being the captain. I think they just threw me that one. It was cool to play the captain of a starship. Then it was interesting to think that if your ship wasn’t the one that was shot down you might still be circling in space somewhere, right? So you could have the demeanor, but the authority and the sense of humor are essential, I think. That’s a la James Kirk. Those are the best because then you’ve got a guy who’s always trying to figure something out, who’s really, really smart, but has a side to him that’s also really human. So I would have liked to have explored that had I not had my ship shot out from under me.
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two of our interview with Eric Pierpoint.