"It’s changed everything – I feel as though I’ve been somehow rerouted electrically, in my brain or in my heart."
As he talks about the life-enhancing effects of becoming a father, Connor Trinneer smiles and glances wistfully into space, clearly wishing he could be transported home to his baby son, Jasper. Trinneer is visiting the UK for an appearance at the London Expo and talks to Carole Gordon about fatherhood, the controversial finale of ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’, and the ethical dilemmas raised by the character he plays in ‘Stargate: Atlantis’.
Star Trek has generated a huge fan-base since the Starship Enterprise boldly went where no man had gone before with Captain James T Kirk in command. The fifth incarnation of the franchise, ‘Enterprise’, under the command of Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) also featured Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker III, the Chief Engineer played by Connor Trinneer. The character quickly became a fan favourite and Trinneer is grateful that the four seasons of the show gave him the opportunity to produce what he considers to be his best work so far.
"You get ninety-eight episodes, you get some good ones and some bad ones," he says. "I think that I had the fortune of having some really good stories come my way and with a good story, you are able to flex your acting muscles a little bit more. That’s also just a matter of confidence, I think; once you get used to the crew and everybody and your environment, that allows you to be freer to hit some home runs. And I felt like I hit a few."
For Trinneer, the best aspect of the character was that he was very human.
"He was allowed to be fallible, he was allowed to be passionate about what he was working on or committed to and I found him to be such a dimensional character. He had a sense of humour, he had a sense of authority, and having those strong character traits, makes any situation a lot of fun to play."
In an early episode in season one, ‘Unexpected’, Trip becomes pregnant, giving Trinneer the honour of being the first actor to play a Star Trek male pregnancy. But it didn’t faze him in the least.
"I thought it was great fun," he says with a smile. "It was our third episode and we were all so new and it was such a well-done script. I had some ideas of my own of things that we added to it – uncontrollable crying seemingly out of nowhere, flashes of anger for no particular reason. You know, two of the first three episodes were about the character and so I was really able to jump off the cliff and see how I landed. And I felt pretty good about the start."
‘Enterprise’ may have got off to a good start for the cast and the characters, but ended after four seasons, when ratings failed to meet the expectations of the network. The final, controversial, episode, ‘These are the Voyages’ focuses on the decommissioning of the first Enterprise at the end of its mission and the signing of the Federation Charter. The story is told through the characters of Will Riker and Deanna Troi, observing the starship’s final eventful journey via a holodeck recreation on board the ‘Next Generation’ Enterprise. Is Trinneer disappointed with the way the show – and his character – ended?
"I can’t say I was disappointed at how Trip ended. I really took it as a compliment that half of that episode centred around the death of my character. Whether I was making lemonade out of lemons, I don’t know," he says with a rueful smile, "but I took it as a compliment."
Trinneer pauses and looks thoughtful before continuing.
"How the show ended? It’s a difficult proposition to sew up a series and I think that what they were ultimately trying to do was to find the link or to create the link between other series in the franchise. Having said that, the way in which it happened really felt like it took the thunder out from underneath us and I felt ripped off. We had been doing this for four years, we are already cancelled, why don’t you let us put it to bed? I love Jonathan [Frakes – "Will Riker"] and Marina [Sirtis – "Deanna Troi"] – awesome people, I laugh with them all the time – but they were in an uncomfortable position. It was unfortunate, but you move on."
There has been much discussion of why the ratings for this outing of the popular franchise fell so badly and failed to recover. Trinneer wonders whether the network promoted the show as well as they might have.
"I think that one of the reasons it was cancelled was because the ratings were poor. Now I guess the promotion and the ratings can go hand in hand, but I don’t think that they pushed for the new audience that they felt the show needed to have to keep it around."
Since Enterprise boldly went into television history, Trinneer has made an impression on the fans of another spin-off show, ‘Stargate: Atlantis’, playing Michael, a genetically-engineered part-human, part-Wraith, who will return for two episodes of season three. Trinneer finds the character and the story intriguing, particularly how Michael challenges the ethics of the Atlantis team.
"He says, ‘You did this to me. You did this to me to make me more human. You did this; what does this say about you in a society or a group in a time of war.’ But yeah, the intriguing part of the story is pretty timely – what’s your responsibility to yourself in conflict and what’s your responsibility to your enemy? If you consider yourself a civilised society, is it a moral, ethical issue to refabricate somebody’s essence or DNA or whatever and make them non-violent?"
Another role where Trinneer plays the bad guy is his recent appearance in an episode of Navy NCIS. His character, James, kidnaps the Director of NCIS as ransom for his brother who is in custody.
"I did enjoy that," he says. "I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to play the kidnapper, the thief. Really, he was a bad guy but the situation he found himself in, he was really acting out of desperately wanting to get his brother back. But that was cool to play somebody who had the potential for real violence and wasn’t afraid to use it."
Trinneer’s acting heroes vary. He is currently watching old Gary Cooper and Cary Grant movies, such as ‘His Girl Friday’, and recently discovered Fredric March, who appeared in the original version of the movie ‘A Star is Born’ in 1937. But he also numbers contemporary stars among his heroes.
"I think we’ve all got our Italian period where we think that De Niro and Pacino and all that crew are – and they are – at the top of the profession. One of the negative parts of this business is that it can put you in some positions that pay you a ton of money but really don’t bring out the best in you. So, yeah, I love the profession too, because you get to constantly be impressed and amazed by people."
But Trinneer doesn’t hanker after roles on any particular TV shows.
"I think there are shows that I admire and I like the work that people do, but it’s not a given that if a show has success, that it is what I consider a good project, or a good piece of work or good television. So really, you look for stuff that’s of quality."
He discovered that quality in ‘Stargate: Atlantis’, even though after ‘Enterprise’ he was intending to move away from the science fiction genre.
"I found the character of Michael on the break-downs and called my agent and said, ‘Can I get an audition for this?’ I had said, ‘I don’t want to do sci-fi just out of the gate, I want to explore the things that I haven’t done for a long time.’ But I thought this character was fascinating and it turned out that I was right. I’m really happy that I had the chance to do it."
Having completed filming on ‘Stargate: Atlantis’, Trinneer’s immediate plans include a number of conventions during the summer and "hitting the pavement" looking for projects. But, above all, he is valuing the time he has with his son, who was born in October 2005. Trinneer’s family travelled with him to Vancouver when he was shooting ‘Atlantis’, but they have stayed at home during his present trip across the Atlantic.
"I think after they are a year old or so, you can start doing stuff like that or if they are very very young, you can travel with them. Some babies will sleep anywhere." A dramatic pause, and then Trinneer laughs.
"Ours doesn’t! He sleeps, but he hates <b>going</b> to sleep!"
Trinneer says he always wanted to be a father – and his baby son constantly astounds him.
"It’s the most amazing thing that I’ve ever done and am continuing to do. The most amazing things happen to me on a daily basis with this little boy and it’s changed everything. It’s changed my outlook on how I see myself – you really do wind up looking through their eyes. And you really do feel as though you would stop a train for them. I’ve never wanted something so much for somebody in my life – and that’s his happiness. I’m constantly shocked and amazed by the whole thing."
© Carole Gordon 2006
Connor Trinneer: http://www.connortrinneer.com/
London Expo: http://www.londonexpo.com/