I can think of no better way to introduce this actor and his character than in the actor’s own words: “The man, the myth, the methane. . . . He was a Dick. Maybe he was a Dick that meant well. Then we had a Dick with a conscience.” Ladies and gentlemen, Robert Picardo.
For some reason much or my notes are terribly out of context. The above quote comes from Robert’s own description of his character’s progression when we see him in episodes of Stargate SG-1, from his first appearance in ‘Heroes Part 2’ to the fan favorite ‘The Shroud’. I’ll do my best to make sense of all of this for you.
Robert started taking questions very quickly. For those who are unfamiliar with Robert’s previous life as a holographic doctor on StarTrek: Voyageur, Robert was able to make use of his singing voice in that role on many occasions. A fan asked why Robert did not get to sing while on Atlantis. Regarding his fellow cast members, Robert laughed and said, “I wanted to sing A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody and have then all come down the stairs. I think that that might have been too close. I mean, let’s face it. You’ve already taken an actor from one scifi franchise and stuck him into another one. I don’t think you want to repeat too much of the same stuff. I suggested that I was a hologram but they thought that was too much. So I think it was better that we didn’t try to mine too much of the same territory, but I appreciate your interest.”
We learned that it was Robert’s idea that Woolsey be seen relaxing in a suit and tie when off duty in “Because I think that’s funny. They said, ‘ok’ and they wrote that in.”
As an actor, how do you juggle work and family? It’s a great question. Obviously when you’re married and you have children that you’re putting through private school and college and all that, you have to always balance the practical side of your need to support your family with your creative impulses and desires. The bargain that I made is that I like to try and find at least one thing every year that is a big creative challenge. Usually it’s doing a small play in California, but it need not be that, it can be something else. This past year I’ve had fun with the Acme Comedy Theater, as I talked last night [See Cabaret and Cocktails], performing with them, doing some stuff for their website, which is all done in spare time and literally just for fun. But to have a creative outlet that you normally wouldn’t get in your regular working career. So that’s the deal that I try to make with myself. Looking back on my career, the times that I was really afraid of playing a role – and this has happened more on stage than on film or television – the stage experiences that come in my mind as like breakthrough experiences for me as an actor were always roles that I was drawn to them, I understood a major emotional hook or a major part of the character that I understood right away. But then there were big parts of it that I was afraid of, and I knew I had to do the part. So there have been at least five times in my career in major theater roles were I was scared going and doing it. It could be a musical. The first time I did the lead in a musical after StarTrek ended, where I had to sing 16 songs on stage and dance and do all sorts of things that I hadn’t done in 25 years, that was scary as . . . shhh (censoring himself for the children present). I know it’s a family crowd. But I was really really scared. But It was fun for my children. My children grew up with me on StarTrek so that, when they saw me do a musical and sing and dance and do all these things they’d never seen me do, they really thought that daddy was a one trick pony. Daddy wore a space suit and went like this, (lets his face drop a little and says in an almost monotone voice) ‘Please state the nature of the medical emergency’. To have dad singing and mixing it up, and making out with three different girls on stage, they were like, ‘whoa! I guess anybody can really do anything!’”
Hmm, I’m not sure where this topic came from, but I’m glad I wrote it down! “That same episode where I was carrying the baby in the hallway, I have my first major briefing room scene. No, actually my second, because this is episode three. (Fishing for the episode name) The first episode that Woolsey was featured as the commander was the one with ah (makes a gesture with his hand like something is crawling on him, and someone shouts out “The Seed!”) ‘The Seed’! Thank you! This was ‘Broken Ties’. So after I conduct my briefing room scene, everyone leaves and I can’t get the door to work. And it’s so perfectly crystallized, this guys predicament. He’s the new leader, and he’s fine in the briefing room, but he doesn’t know how anything works. He’s still a fish out of water and I thought that was a very cute scene. They cut it a little short. As long as they’re running the camera, and they’ve given me an objective as an actor, I did at least 90 seconds of I-can’t-get-out-the-door behavior. I literally tried everything, and then I went to the crack in the door and went, ‘(calmly, quietly) Hello?’ Which Joe loved, and it made it through every cut, and was finally taken out at the end. But it was this sort of lame kind of castrated, ‘hello?’ It really really was funny, but I guess it was a little too silly.” Maybe it will be among the two segments of deleted scenes that will be on the season 5 DVDs! Unless they consider it to be a blooper and they aren’t giving us any bloopers again. We shall see!
By the way, Robert was handed a real baby in that episode. He said he wasn’t really afraid because he has raised two kids of his own.
A fan asked about the episode ‘Remnants’, and Robert went, “you mean the one with the woman who turned out not to be a woman? I don’t mean it in that way! I mean she turned out to be an artificial intelligence, not a drag queen. Though they have pretty much the same results I guess, vise a vi Woolsey’s interests. But that was great fun to do that because you got to see that he was lonely and that he didn’t feel kind of entitled to ah . . . Once she started flirting with him he was a little confused by it and didn’t know how to react. But then he sort of tries to step up to the plate. And I just thought there were a lot of cute moments in that. My pet moment, my favorite thing was the director let me add some gags. When I’m in the room with this woman, the artificial intelligence, and only I can see her and only I can hear her, and she says things that I respond too but then I have to cover up my response for the sake of the other person watching. Remember that? There was one moment that I sold them on, where I’m talking to . . . arrrr . . . (clearly struggling for the name until someone shouts, “Shen Xiaoyi”) Tamlyn Tomita, yeah, another great person to work with. But as she is standing up to me, telling me I’m going to be fired, so I’m angry with her, but then this other women who at that point I don’t know what she is except that she’s cute and I have the hots for her, keeps talking in the corner of the room. So one moment when she’s saying something I went, “(voice high and tight, with a hand flying up) PLEASE! (calmly smiling, trying to cover it,) sit down.’ (Laughs) Which I thought was just about over the top, but pretty darn funny. You can always tell when you do something and you make the other actors laugh in the scene, you know you’re on the right track. Unless they’re laughing like, ‘boy I can’t believe he’s that stupid!’”
Another fan asked about the transition of leadership from Sam Carter to Richard Woolsey that kind of pops up out of nowhere at the end of ‘Search and Rescue’. “I was not a very gracious transition guy there when she came home, which bothered me but I think they wanted the fans to be shocked in a way, as she was. I know the truth behind it, that Amanda [Tapping] was going off to star in and produce her own TV series, so she was fine! (Laughs) But I think it made sense in the context of the series that because Atlantis was a science expedition and it had been founded with a civilian commander, they wanted to have a civilian commander. That’s what distinguished the two Stargate series, right? In the beginning, SG-1 was really a military show, and then Atlantis was a science based show with a military support group, but it had a civilian leader. I thought that was part of the point of it, for the same season that Neal Armstrong put his foot on the moon first instead of Buzz Aldren because Neal was a civilian astronaut, not military. It’s the image thing, right? So I think it made sense in the context of the show, and I was scared as an actor because Amanda is so wildly popular. Taking over for her I thought you guys would be ah . . . not welcoming, maybe. But you know what? In retrospect I was scared, when I started playing the Doctor [on Voyageur] I thought, ‘this character is the Data of Voyageur’ and Data was so wildly popular. ‘Will I be constantly compared to Brent Spiner?’ That never really happened because we were so different that even though we were reusing a lot of the same kind of story lines, a lot of entitlement issue stories that we did with artificial intelligence, that the same stories we did with Data with the Doctor, I think that we were such different characters that the audience accepted it. Either that or they had nothing else to do. “
Now I have a bunch of notes that are really out of context. I think I was trying to conserve my writing hand for the next guest.
Someone asked – and I’m not sure if this is exactly how they put it but it’s what I wrote – “How is it to play a pain in the butt?” Robert answered, “I like to play flawed characters. The Doctor got to be arrogant, cranky, and cowardly. It’s more fun than playing only positive qualities.” You have to admit, he’s good at helping you to like an unlikeable character!
When he was on China Beach, Robert said he had to wear a taupe. “I was afraid my daughter would think that all men come home and hang up their hair.”
Robert said he was on Chuck – whether it’s an upcoming episode or it has already aired, I don’t know. Roberts said he gets shot in the legs and dies, but he really likes the show!
Robert is also on Castle – which I’m fairly sure has not aired yet since I like to watch that show. He was requested specifically by Nathan Fillion, the star of Castle, and he gets to play a forensic pathologist. The role is potentially reoccurring! Long live the Doctor!
He was just on Person Unknown, which he told us is not in North America yet.
Robert laughed about the season 5 cast photo, where everyone is walking away from the gate with tons of water splashing around everywhere. “The women look great, the men look great . . . and then there’s me.” Apparently one such poster or banner was auctioned once, probably with several cast signatures on it, and it went for $700!
Finally, the infamous prank question came up. Robert said that he is not the best prank puller. All he does is change his lines during rehearsal to make jokes. He cited one instance on Voyageur when he was doing a scene with Jolene Blalock who played Seven Of Nine. In this instance the line was supposed to be something like, “your biometrics are something of a mystery to me”. Robert told us, “In rehearsal I said, “your body is something of a miracle to me.”
With that, Robert signed the stage banners and left. From the perspective of a Stargate fan and a StarTrek Voyager fan, it was a real treat to see him in person. For those who couldn’t see him in person, we have posted a news video tribute to this outstanding actor at the top of this report!
Next, how many times can a man go on a suicide mission and come back alive? Is that a trick question? I don’t know! Try asking Joe Flanigan!