And now for part two of our unusual wife-and-husband double header, as we follow our Mariette Hartley interview from yesterday with a conversation today with her husband, Jerry Sroka. The actor – who’s appeared in many stage productions as well as a number of films and television shows – made his mark on Star Trek back in 1996, when he portrayed Laxeth in the Voyager episode “Investigations.” Laxeth was a Talaxian and an old pal/sparring partner of Neelix. StarTrek.com spoke with Sroka about his Voyager experience, his marriage to Hartley and his current projects.
What did you know about Star Trek in general and Voyager specifically before doing your episode?
Sroka: I knew that, early on, they had a lot of bouncing rocks. I knew there was a Captain Kirk. I knew the main characters because I’d watched maybe two of the early shows. That’s about all I know. And I knew nothing about Voyager.
How did you land the role of Laxeth?
Sroka: It was an audition. They all sit up on what looks like the bridge of the Enterprise, the people you’re auditioning for: the producers, directors, writers, who else… I don’t know. They’re above you at the end of the room in this semi-circle, sitting there at desks. It’s very odd. Like most jobs that I get, I had a really good time. I fooled around a lot until it was time to read the dialogue. Listen, I was surprised as anyone when they called to say I got it. It was a quick call. They got back the same day and said, “OK, you got it.”
Did the makeup get in your way or help you escape into the character?
Sroka: It helped me escape into the character. It was incredible. I showed up at 4 in the morning. I drove up and gave them my name and license. They said, “Yes…” I said, “I’m here for Star Trek.” They said, “Which one?” I said, “I don’t know. Is there more than one?” They said, “Yeah, there are three (two series and a movie).” I said, “Oh God, I’m really sorry. I know I’m doing Star Trek.” They had to go through the shows to find me on the list. They finally found me and they were quite exasperated how this jerk didn’t know what show he was doing. Once I got in, they took me right to makeup. That was around 4:45 in the morning, and it was a four-and-a-half makeup process. That was absolutely astonishing for me. I’d never done anything like it. I’d done other thing that required old-age makeup, but this was amazing. You know how the dentist used to blow air in your mouth? They had these little blowers and they blew the makeup on there. It sounds like, “How long can that take?” And the answer is four and a half hours. Obviously, I was in front of a mirror. These guys really knew what they were doing. They’d say, “You want some more coffee? Have it now, before your face sets, because you’ll have to wait a little bit.” But it was remarkable and a great learning experience. And they had such attention to detail. I have such respect for those people and what they do. They originally told me it’d be a three-hour makeup, and when we went into the fourth hour, he kept saying, “We’re almost done.” When I finally got up from the chair… I made sure I got a picture.
If you talk to Ethan Phillips about his makeup experience, the novelty wore off real quick…
Sroka: Exactly. Exactly. For me, it was just a treat. It was all new. But I can imagine being there five days in a row or a couple of week or months or years like some of the people on the show. You’re in that chair and you have to stay awake, or kind of awake. So I could imagine it’d get very tedious.
What intrigued you about Laxeth?
Sroka: The paycheck. When I got to the set, they said, “Just do what you’re doing. You have no latitude because you’re on the viewscreen. You’ve got to look straight ahead. You can’t move. You really couldn’t do a heck of a lot with it. The funny thing was I was at a Star Trek convention with Mariette, and she’s signing stuff. A woman came over to Mariette with a book, and Mariette signed it. I said, “Can I take a look?” And I looked under my name, and there I was. I said, “This is me. Would you like me to sign it?” She said, “Oh, yes.” I said, “Well, I’m $150 for my signature.” And she said, “Oh,… maybe not.” And I said, “The reason for that is no one knows I did the show and no else will have this autograph.” She said, “Yeah, but I can’t afford that.” I said, “I’m kidding. Let me sign that for you.” And I did.
You had no interaction with Ethan Phillips, right?
Sroka: Right. It’s amazing how that works.
Did you ever see the finished episode?
Sroka: I did. It was fun. My kids called and said, “You looked just like Grandma!” I said, “Thank you so much for your input. Now I know what’s in store for me down the road.”
You and Mariette have been married for six years, so you weren’t together when you did Voyager. And you both have children from previous relationships. Have you ever sat down as a blended family and watched “All Our Yesterdays” and “Investigations” back to back?
Sroka: No, we haven’t. Boy, that’s a cute idea. I am actually catching up on my wife’s work. Last night on our playlist, on the DVR, she said, “Why is that up there?” And it was Gunsmoke. She wanted to know why it recorded Gunsmoke. What happened is that I’d put her name in and anything with her in it will now record. So we watched it and there she is. She comes on and she’s all of 24, 25 years old. I had seen her Star Trek episode, but I’m really still catching up. You’ve probably been to IMDB and IMDB-ed her, and it’s amazing. It’s such an amazing body of work. But, really, we’re playing catch-up with everything. When we got back to L.A. from Vegas after the big Star Trek convention there, we watched Star Trek (2009), the one with Chris Pine. I enjoyed that. But we’re always playing catch-up.
You’ve been acting for a long time. What would you describe as some of your personal highlights?
Sroka: Probably… Godspell. It’s opening on Broadway again soon, but I did it for nine months in Boston, then I did the film version, and then I did it in New York. So it was probably Godspell. I’m occasionally recognized for a Seinfeld episode I did. The show is on every day, somewhere.
What do you have coming up?
Sroka: I just did a show for Disney that’s called Shake It Up. I did a week on that. I played an agent. I did an episode of Shameless. I have a movie that’s being considered. It’s about senior softball. The producer is in Seattle and he’s very excited. He’s beginning to raise some money. I’ve written it and I’m on the fourth or fifth revision. So that’s great, and I hope that happens. And I’m working on something else that I started before that, which is a comedy for Mariette and myself. It’s about being our age and meeting. It’s basically our story, how we met, how we dated – or didn’t date – and how we finally got together. Hopefully, it’ll be funny.
To read the interview with Sroka's wife, Mariette Hartley, click HERE.