Robert Beltran tells it like it is; always has, still does and always will, even if, on occasion doing so has landed him in hot water or made him seem unappreciative. Fans of Star Trek: Voyager know of what we speak. Beltran spent seven seasons portraying Chakotay on the series, but the character never quite gelled and its potential went only partially unrealized. Beltran very publicly aired his complaints and, at times, fans and industry observers thought he just might get himself booted from the show. Beltran – and Chakotay – stuck around, however, until the very end, right down the out-of-nowhere relationship between Chakotay and Seven of Nine. StarTrek.com recently caught up with Beltran for a typically honest and informative interview in which he discussed what went right and wrong with Chakotay and chatted about current events, which include new fatherhood, upcoming film and stage opportunities, and an appearance at Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention next month in Las Vegas. Below is part one of our interview, and tune in to StarTrek.com again tomorrow for part two.
Back when you landed the role of Chakotay, what were you expecting? What were you hoping for in terms of the character and his evolution?
Let’s break some of that down. For you, what worked best about the character? Then, let’s talk about what didn’t work…
You were always honest and open at the time about your displeasure with how Chakotay was utilized on the show. When you raised your concerns, did the powers that be listen?
How did you being so vocal affect you and your work? How did it impact your interactions with your fellow actors and the crew?
Beltran: I don’t know what the effect was. I’m just kind of a blunt person and, because I have brain, I can see problems and so I’m vocal about them. I think a lot of the actors were feeling the same way, but for me it was like, “OK, you can fire me if you want to. Go ahead, and I’ll leave.” That gave me a certain amount of freedom. I was single at the time. I didn’t have to worry about a family like everybody else on the show, except maybe Garrett. I felt like I was telling the truth, and if people can’t take the truth, that’s fine with me, but I’m not going to be stifled by the prospect of being fired.
The odd thing is we remember seeing you on the set and off the set, joking around with your co-stars, riding in the golf car with Jeri Ryan…
Beltran: See, I never pissed off anybody on the set. None of the actors ever got mad at me and said, “Hey, you should shut it.” It was always kind of an inside joke. So it didn’t affect my relationship with anybody, not even Rick Berman or Brannon Braga, and they were quite aware of what I was saying. It was one of things that I didn’t understand, either. I was being blunt. I was being honest and truthful, as far as I could see the truth, and I think they understood that. I think the series was safe. It was going to go seven years with or without me, and they decided to stay with me because, in the long run, I don’t think what I said made very much difference, except to a very, very small percentage of fans who maybe didn’t like what I said. There’s a small percentage of fans who hold Star Trek and the Star Trek franchise sacrosanct, like it’s their god. It’s a very small minority, but what I said didn’t make any difference to the vast majority of the audience.
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two of our exclusive interview with Robert Beltran.