Robert Duncan McNeil, best known for the role of Tom Paris in Star Trek Voyager, moved on from his leading Trek role into a succesful career as a director and producer and talked with StarTrek.com backstage at last years Destination Star Trek in Germany about that transition.
StarTrek.com: Is it true that you asked Rick Berman about directing Voyager while you were shooting the pilot?
Robert Duncan McNeill: Yes. My memory is that literally on day one of the pilot, we — Rick, Garrett Wang, Brannon Braga, and I — were walking away from the sound stage and I said to Rick, "You know, I've been observing directors for a few years now, on different shows, but every show I get on seems to get canceled before we complete a full season. So, I haven't had a chance to direct on anything up until now. I've been shadowing and observing, and you guys have had a history of letting actors direct. So, I'm just letting you know..."
And he said?
RDM: "Yeah, we'll see. In a couple of years. Let’s get the show going, and we'll see." I was like, "No, no, I want to direct first season, because I've been on shows that got canceled. As much as I believe this will run a long time, whatever it takes, I want try to direct as soon as possible. Will you let me know what I need to do?"
I think that first day he thought it was just a lot of talk. But I kept speaking to him. I talked to Frakes and other people who’d done it. I started spending time in editing and screenings, particularly screenings when Rick was in the room. I wanted to hear what he liked, what he didn't, how he thought, how things could’ve been directed better... All of that.
Which Trek directors did you shadow?
RDM: Les Landau. Jonathan [Frakes]. Rick Kolbe. Because I'd been shadowing directors and I'd been on the set a long time, I felt like where I was learning the most was in the editing room, going to post, sitting in production meetings, listening to how all the department budgets worked. Things like that.