Finding something worth celebrating can be a difficult task in these uncertain times, but honoring Star Trek: Voyager’s 25th anniversary offers fans a welcome distraction from the tragic circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis. The situation currently prevents us from gathering together in-person, but Stars In The House aims to solve that issue by assembling Voyager’s cast for a live virtual reunion on Tuesday, May 26th at 8 PM ET on Stars In The House’s YouTube channel and website.
Hosted by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, the panel will feature Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, Roxann Dawson, Robert Beltran, Robert Duncan McNeill, Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, and Garrett Wang answering questions and reminiscing over their journey through the Delta Quadrant. In true Star Trek fashion, the actors who crewed U.S.S. Voyager are participating in this virtual event to benefit a worthy cause. During the livestream, viewers will be encouraged to donate to The Actors Fund, a national human services organization that supports performing arts professionals who are in need of assistance.
Robert Picardo, known for portraying Voyager’s invaluable Emergency Medical Hologram for seven years, was kind enough to discuss the upcoming reunion with StarTrek.com.
StarTrek.com: Thanks for your time, Robert. How did the concept of organizing a virtual reunion for Voyager’s 25th anniversary on Stars In The House come together?
Robert Picardo: Dana Delaney, my old friend and former China Beach co-star, reached out to me after she did a fundraising appearance on Stars In The House for Desperate Housewives. Basically, it’s an online livestream reunion of classic television casts. During that time, people can make contributions to The Actors Fund and ask us questions. Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley ran our China Beach panel so well, and I loved the purpose they were doing it for. I asked James if he would be interested in having the Star Trek: Voyager cast, and he was very positive about that.
I first reached out to Kate Mulgrew, who is a dear friend and someone who I talk to all the time. Once she was on board, I emailed the rest of the cast. They all got back to me immediately and expressed that they felt this was a great cause and wanted to do it. This is a fundraising effort for The Actors Fund, which services actors both onstage and on-screen. There are so many industries that are operating at far-reduced capacities, but theatre has been hit even worse than restaurants. There’s no take-out business for theatre, at least not that I can think of [laughs].
Since it’s our 25th anniversary, we were scheduled to be all over the place this year. Some of the events may still happen, I don’t know. A certain number of them have already been cancelled or postponed, of course. This will be the first time this year when we as a cast will all be together and talking about the show. I’m hoping that, even though it is a difficult time for everyone, that people will consider making at least a small donation according to their means. I’ve certainly donated to The Actors Fund and been inspired by the actors who are stepping forward and doing these shows with James and Seth.
The world is experiencing a significant level of economic adversity right now. Can you explain why performers are particularly susceptible to the current downturn?
RP: If people don’t have an actor in their family or group of friends, they may be under the impression that all actors are successful. In other words, they assume the actors that they see in television shows and movies are all well off. Those actors may well be financially set if they have been successful in film or television. What people might not know is that only a tiny percentage of Screen Actors Guild members make enough money to live on as an actor.
The entertainment industry has been very good to my Voyager colleagues and I, and I’m very grateful for the fact that I could focus on being an actor my whole life. But many, many actors constantly go back-and-forth between getting paid to do what they love and then having second or third jobs. Broadway actors may make a good living while they’re working and doing eight shows per week, but theaters are basically shut down indefinitely at this point. Depending on a performer’s age, it might not have been possible for them to put together savings that will see them through many months of unemployment while the theater is down.
What makes The Actors Fund stand out to you as such a vital cause?
RP: I would say that there are just a lot of people in the performing arts who are in very stressful circumstances right now. Luckily, I’ve never needed to request any aid from the fund. However, I know many successful actors who reached out to The Actors Fund at earlier times in their careers and received some much-needed help, such as when they didn’t have enough money to pay their next month’s rent. It is a very venerated and respected charity, and we’re in an unprecedented situation. It’s not just Stars In The House, there are so many online efforts by performers who are encouraging fans to donate to first responders and all sorts of tremendous causes. I applaud their efforts as well.
What role has Star Trek played in your cast’s desire to assist others?
RP: One of the great things about being a Star Trek emeritus is that we all get to see each other regularly through our personal appearances. We get to know the other casts too, from The Next Generation to Discovery. I’ve met Anson Mount and Ethan Peck from the newly-announced Strange New Worlds. We’ve all become an extended family through the franchise, and it is a great feeling. Star Trek brings us so many amazing opportunities, not the least of which is to say to our very loyal and generous fan base that a particular charity is important to us. In more recent years, my main focus for fundraising and advocacy has been with the Planetary Society. Each of our cast members has particular charities and nonprofits that they support.
Now as a group, we’re hoping that Star Trek fans will have a look at The Actors Fund and consider making a donation to tide over that community of people who are out of work indefinitely and may well have been making a marginal living in order to support their passion for the performing arts. The actors you love in movies or Broadway shows had to get started at some point. The usual cliche is that they probably waited tables, which is actually what I did. I was an Italian waiter when I was in school. Many actors keep that second or third job throughout their entire career, and now their performance opportunities and additional sources of income might both be shut down.
In addition to raising money for those in need, what other aspect of the event are you looking forward to the most?
RP: It’s a great group of actors and I’m proud to be among them. I’m looking forward to seeing all of their faces, albeit in their Brady Bunch boxes [laughs], it’ll be great to see everybody at the same time. You can always tell who has a ring light at home by who looks the best [laughs]. We hope that you’ll all be able to join us for the panel on May 26th at 8 PM Eastern.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.