Today, in the second half of our extensive interview with John Billingsley, the former Enterprise star answers more of your questions. He even responded to a couple in character as Dr. Phlox, and revealed once and for all what Tribbles taste like. The answer? Read on.
If you had an opportunity to play Dr. Phlox again in some Star Trek project, how open would you be to doing so?
I’d be delighted. But is there any chance that one could make a wager on the odds of it happening? I’d bet my house it won’t happen, but if it did, sure, I’d want to be involved. I enjoyed playing Phlox.
The Enterprise finale was very controversial because it basically wrapped the entire series into a Next Generation holodeck sequence. What were your thoughts on how that was handled?
There are obviously mixed feelings among the fans about the legacies of Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, but they were largely responsible for shepherding the franchise through many, many years of shows that people loved and kept watching. So they deserve a lot of credit. I think for them, the idea that they were going to be saying goodbye to Star Trek had a tremendous emotional weight. So they felt, and I can understand this, that they wanted to write the last episode of Enterprise. Having said that, the last season had so much of (writer and executive producer) Manny Coto’s fingerprints on it that I think one of the things fans felt was a tonal and almost spiritual disconnect between the nature of the scripts throughout the fourth season and the final script. It was as if suddenly somebody from another cosmos dropped in and wrote the script, above and beyond the fact that the Enterprise’s story was swallowed up by the framing device. I think people had just gotten used to Manny’s voice. I missed it in the final episode. Frankly, it should have been a two-parter. Our storyline needed to wind up…
I’m all over the map on this one because I have a lot of different feelings about it. My problem with the final episode, ultimately, was that by jumping ahead however many years we jumped ahead, it was as if anything we did in the third and fourth seasons had no real weight. It seemed like the third and fourth seasons were being dismissed, which I’m sure was not the intention, but that was one of the things that bothered me.
OK, a few people had some fun questions and others had questions for Dr. Phlox. You ready?
As ready as I can be.
What do Tribbles taste like?
How many wives does Dr. Phlox have now?
Three. Three is what we’re allotted.
Is there any known cure for Orion venereal disease?
(Cracks up). Bananas.
Dr. Phlox, did you know your forehead looks like a wrinkly bum?
I did, but those are fightin’ words on Denobula, baby!
Are Denobulans related to Cardassians?
I don’t know. This is John talking now. It was never discussed. What I want to know is what happened to the Denobulans? There are no Denobulans in the future, apparently. I think we were an inbred species and I guess we eventually went the way of most inbred societies.
The last two questions are back to you, not Dr. Phlox. First, what are you working on now?
I just finished an episode of Leverage up in Portland. I worked with a wonderful director named Arvin Brown, who used to be artistic director of the Long Wharf Theatre in Connecticut. I’ve done several episodics with him. I did a Closer with him. He’s a doll of a guy. Very nice cast. Fun episode. It’s called “The Rashomon Affair.” And then I start working soon on an episode of Outlaw, which is the new Jimmy Smits series. I play a cranky judge with a bad comb-over. This is how you know you’re becoming an older male in Hollywood. Instead of being the addled perp or the fire-eating district attorney, you’re the crusty old judge.
And I’ve shot a couple of indie films, one of which is called Sironia. I think it’s a lovely film and I hope it sees the light of day. It’s about a disaffected folk singer – played by Wes Cunningham, who is actually a folk singer -- who bails on L.A. and tries to resettle with his young, pregnant wife in Sironia, Texas, which is essentially Waco renamed. And it’s about his difficult time acclimating to a less driven lifestyle. I play a homeless person who is salvaged and brought in to be a short-order cook at the restaurant our hero manages. The story is very loosely based on Wes’s life. This is his first acting job and I thought he did a terrific job. Tony Hale is in it and so is Amy Acker, from Angel. The other film is Losing Control. It’s a cast of unknowns, but a charming script about a woman (Miranda Kent) who is a research scientist, and she attempts to apply the rules of science to her love life. She wants proof that the guy she meets is the one. It’s a romantic comedy, and I play the villain.
In your career so far, what are your favorite roles, aside from Phlox?
I had a long stage career, and probably the best thing I’ve ever done or the thing I’ve enjoyed the most was working on Chekhov, particularly a production of The Seagull I did with a woman named Robin Smith. She was a teacher and a colleague of mine at a school I worked at, and she directed that production of The Seagull. It was a marvelous opportunity for me. I played Treplyov, who is a troubled young wannabe poet with mother issues and is at the heart of The Seagull. On the other end of the spectrum, I loved my episodes of Cold Case. I played a horrible, psychotic killer for a couple of episodes. And I loved working with Denzel Washington in Out of Time. Carl Franklin, who I’d done another film with, was very open to letting me improvise a bit, which was nice, since it was a comedy. And Denzel, when the cameras were rolling, was very open and accommodating to my improvisational riffs. So those are the ones that pop into my head.