Robert Beltran and Garrett Wang – Interview

We had a fantastic opportunity to speak to Garrett Wang and Robert Beltran together. Both Robert and Garrett are often said to be outspoken for their criticisms of Voyager, but we feel that their criticisms weren’t without some justification. A change of staff and direction mid way through its run was noticeable and although there seemed to be a bit of an increase in pace, some of the characters seemed to be left by the wayside upon the arrival of a certain Borg. The end result being that some opportunities were missed. Resistance seemingly was indeed, futile.

We wanted to only briefly touch upon their roles in Star Trek Voyager since they’ve faced almost every conceivable question on the subject already, and to find out a little bit more about what they’re up to now. We already knew that Garrett deserves his reputation as being an incredibly nice and friendly guy from our last interview, but Robert was an unknown quantity for us. What we now know about Robert is that he has a wicked sense of humour.

Last time we met, Garrett, I pronounced your surname wrong, I’m still sorry for that!

Robert – Oh my god, don’t ever pronounce it as Wang, he’ll cut your throat for that! He carries a knife right here (points to his waist). Will you guys be ok with our American accents?

Garrett – (Laughs)

Well, Abz had an American teacher at some point, and I’m part Canadian..

Robert – That doesn’t help.

Garrett, your most recent project, “Unbelievable”..

Garrett – Yeah, that’s done, and that’s an independent film that’s sort of like a “slapstick” Airplane type of movie. It’s set on a lunar base and there were a lot of different “Trek” alumni involved in that. But that’s done with, although I think it’s still in editing at the moment. I dropped out of doing Renegades because Unbelievable was still in progress. Managed to catch up with people on Unbelievable though, and yeah, that was fun. Most recently I did a voice over for American Dad. Robert, what projects have you been doing lately?

The Kickstarter didn’t go to plan

Robert – Hey!! F*** off!! F*** off!!

At this point Robert face goes very stern. I’m 80% certain he’s joking, but the nagging 20% doubt is worrying me, and then after what seems like an eternity, but could only have been a few seconds at most, a huge smile spreads across his face. It turns out that Robert is something of a master when it comes to winding people up.

Robert – Nah, the Kickstarter was for a film that was supposed to go this Spring. Obviously that’s been detoured until a little further down the line.

Well you’re fairly new to Twitter etc so don’t have a huge online presence as yet, but I wonder once everybody finds you on Twitter, you try again, I suspect you’ll be successful because it actually looks like a good project.

Robert – You could be right. I am a new “Twit”, that’s true.

But you also did a Reddit AMA as well though.

Robert – Yes I did yeah. We’ve had things like that before, doing Q & A’s

Garrett – Wait, what, you did a Reddit AMA?

Robert – Yes I have!

Garrett – I didn’t know this, I haven’t done one. You’ve beaten me to that. When did you do it?

Robert – A little while ago, March. The publicity people for the film, they set that up. I expected to be on for a couple of hours, it was about three and a half hours, and there were still thousands of people trying to get their questions, comments answered. It was very successful, I really enjoyed doing it. As far as the questions though, they really knew their stuff, didn’t they Garrett!

Garrett, for the record, is messing around!

Garrett – Sorry, what? No, the questions don’t throw us at all though.

Robert – No

Garrett – But stupid questions will throw him (in a Speedy Gonzalez accent, and points at Robert). He will get very mad. Don’t ask him stupid questions.

Robert – Like “Will you sign my a***”? You, no. You, no. You no, You, yes…

Garrett, would you consider doing a Reddit AMA?

Garret – I suppose, at some point.

Robert – You know, you have to be invited to do these things. You don’t just call Reddit and say “Hi, is this Reddit? Hi Garrett Wang here, when are we going to do this, let’s set this up now”

Garrett – They’d probably say no Ensigns allowed or something. It’s a rank thing (laughs).

Did you guys have a bet on how long it would take for Robert to get on Twitter?

Garrett – (laughs) No, no bet, but when I found out he had an account, I tweeted, I think I said, wait, what did I say!? Oh, I did a Ricardo Montalban quote I think. It was something like “It’s unbelievable, Robert Beltran is finally on Twitter, in the words of Ricardo Montalban from Fantasy Island, Places everyone, places”, or something ridiculous like that! Because honestly, well, Robert didn’t even have a personal computer when he was working on Voyager. No laptop.

Robert – Not until 1999 or 2000 I think.

Garrett – That’s five years after the beginning of Voyager. I remember saying “Hey, you should probably think about getting a computer”, and he was like “Nah, I don’t need that stuff!”.

Robert – I don’t need that stuff!!

Garrett – I don’t need that stuff!!

Robert – I know Bob Picardo

Garrett – (in an impersonation of Robert Picardo) Don’t you know, I invented computers! I’m very clever as a doctor. When I was at Yale, I invented computing. And everything that you know. Modern communication was invented by me. Sorry! (laughs) We do our Bob Picardo impersonations a lot, just to mess around with him.

We won’t ask too many questions about Voyager because you’ve had plenty before, but, how was the mix of mysticism and science fiction with regard to Chakotay?

Robert – Do you know why Chakotay was into all of that mysticism?

No

Robert – He wasn’t getting enough sex. For the whole seven years. Seven! I mean come on, wouldn’t you go into a kind of transcendental meditation, try to leave this world and go somewhere else!? That’s why. I’m sorry (laughs), the question?

How odd / difficult was it to mix spirituality with science fiction for Chakotay?

Robert – Well, it’s all bulls*** isn’t it. Bulls*** science. Bulls*** spirituality. It worked well (laughs).

You’ve been doing a lot of theatre, how has that been going?

Robert – Beautiful. Wonderful. I love it, I mean, that’s why I became an actor. I’m having a good time. In fact I’m directing an evening of sonnets with some actors this coming Friday in Los Angeles, and then we’ll go right into a rehearsals for Julius Ceasar.

I remember you tweeting a question about what theatres there were in London, and I pointed out that the RSC in Stratford isn’t too far away from Milton Keynes.

Robert – Oh, that was you! Yeah, it would have been great to have seen that, but I just didn’t get the time. But, I did come in a day earlier and I saw “A View From The Bridge”, a great play.

You and Robert seem to have that great friendship where you know what the other is thinking at times.

Garrett – Well, Robert was a very good friend on set. He was my best friend. I hung out with him more then Tom Paris.

So you two were the trouble makers.

Garrett – NOOOoo!! We were the fun guys. Ok, we were outspoken.

Now, photography, are you an actual professional photographer, or is it purely a hobby (not that both couldn’t apply at the same time).

Garrett – Oh no, just a hobbyist! You know what, I started taking photos when there was a time when people would come up to me in, I live in Vegas now, but before I lived in Vegas I used to visit Vegas quite a bit. But I would have people come up to me all the time and they’d say “Oh my god it’s you! Thank you so much, that was the best weekend ever! You bought me lunch, you bought me this”, and I’d look at them, and they were very nice people, but it was embarrassing thinking “Who are you!?”. So then I decided I needed to document my life so now, I take photos all the time. I take them with my iPhone, I have a Blackberry, I have a regular camera, I have a video camera. I do every type of photography that I can.

Have you gotten all technical and understand things like the dreaded “Rule of Thirds”?

Garrett – The rule of thirds?

If you imagine the picture divided equally so that it’s a grid of 9 squares / rectangles, so two vertical and two horizontal lines, and anything that’s super awesome important compositionally should fall on those imaginary lines. So if you’ve got a landscape photo that has a church in it, you’d have the horizon falling on one of the horizontal lines, and the church spire would theoretically lie on one of the vertical lines.

Garrett – Oh no, I don’t go into it that much! No, I just snap pictures of what appeals to me, or of what I think is interesting. That’s it. I don’t sit there and try to stick to some formula that is taught to photography students. No. But I think anybody who gets somewhat proficient at photography ends up kind of falling in line with the right rhythm of how a photo should be composed. I do a lot of deleting too (laughs). So I’ll take a whole string of photos, like fifty exposures on my camera, and then I’ll delete forty eight out of those fifty (laughs). Then I’ll keep two.

I know that feeling. If I’m shooting a gig, easily over a hundred shots, but only going to need three maybe four.

Garrett – Oh sure, but the thing is, we can do that sort of thing now. With digital you can take a billion photos, it’s not the days of just film cameras.

And you’re a keen Golfer?

Garrett – Oh, I love Golf, yeah. I’ve never had a lesson, so without a lesson I shoot around ninety two, ninety three, so, it’s better then a hundred, but not breaking eighty at all! So it’s really just for fun right now.

You’ve not taken Robert on a course yet?

Garret – Erm, actually, I did take him once. Yes. He’s not bad actually. He’s an athlete so he held his own. He hadn’t played in a long time though. I mean, he was a quarterback in High School for football, so he’s very athletic, yeah.

How have you developed as an actor?

Garrett – Oh my god. I’m no longer a young naïve impressionable person anymore. I’ve really learned that you have to, no matter what happens in your life, let’s say it’s something that you don’t understand at the time, it could be really bad and you can work yourself up in to a fit about It and have an outburst of “I can’t believe this is what God is doing to me”, whatever you want to say, I don’t want to bring religion into it. Anyway, the bottom line is, everything that happens to you that is bad in the present is really to set something up good later. So if you use that mindset nothing can get you depressed or upset about a life because you realize that that in the grand scheme of things the universe is always trying to go in your favour. It’s not trying to mess you up. It’s always trying to provide the right path or course for you to follow. You just have to be flexible, you have to be like bamboo. You have to bend, but not break. Be flexible. If everyone was flexible in this world we wouldn’t have wars, we wouldn’t have any of these conflicts that we see going on now.

Given how well you get on with Robert, there must be some mishaps suffered or jokes played on each other?

Garrett – Oh yeah, loads (Robert starts laughing). One day, and to this day I don’t know what came over me, but I randomly asked him, “Are you circumcised?”. He looked at me and said “Garrett, I don’t want to talk about that with you!”. Then he got really mad at me. He then said “Why did you ask me that!?”

Robert – No, no. That’s a misquote. What I actually said was “Garrett, I’m not going to talk about that with you at five thirty in the morning!”.

Garrett – Oh yeah, it was really early.I have no idea why I asked that. It just, well, I’ve always been just a very curious person and I always ask questions. There’s no real rhyme or reason why I asked him that, but I just did. I have no idea what came over me. I was just ridiculous. But yeah, he and I have had some great times. If I was to save every message that he had left on my answer machine, I could have edited that into, well, oh my god, that would have sold for like a hundred dollars per copy. I can’t tell you, it was golden. I mean, we usually call each other pretending to be other people, and you can imagine! (laughs)

Robert – Wait, wait. You forgot the second part didn’t you!

Garrett- The second part? Oh, wait, well. I’m quite a sensitive guy, so I was upset that I had made him mad at me with that question. I was all like “It’s ok Robert, it’s fine” (mimicking crying). So later in the day he felt bad, and I’m walking past his trailer, and he throws open the door and yells “OK, so you want to see!?”, and as he’s about ready to show me, I ran away from him almost screaming. So he basically flashed me and I ran. I didn’t want to wait around to investigate! I ran like a girl that had just seen a spider! (laughs). He thought it was hilarious and was just laughing.

Robert How have you developed as an actor? Asides from flashing poor Garrett.

Robert – (laughs) Well, it’s a craft. It’s a lifelong process and you grow with experience both personally and with your profession as an actor. You develop a more sound technique, and gain a more perceptive understanding of the world. So yes, you do change over the course of the years.

You’ve done quite a bit of charity work, but are you working with any at the moment?

Robert – I did do some work with the Down’s Syndrome Association, but not anything at the moment, well, not as actively.

Thank you both very much for your time!

It was great fun interviewing both Robert and Garrett, Garrett messing about, Robert putting on a flawless English accent, to them both doing an over the top Dick Van Dyke Mockney accent. It was terrific to see them just enjoying themselves.

The project that Robert was working on, Resilient 3D sadly didn’t go ahead. You can find the pitch here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2078820888/resilient-3-d-sci-fi-feature-with-robert-beltran. There’s nothing wrong with the idea pitched, so why did it fall short? If people had taken to Twitter earlier would there have been more online support? If it had been pitched to coincide with some major conventions could it have been sold to more people that way (in person) in addition to doing things like Reddit AMA’s? Perhaps the irrepressible Jamie Hibbard has the answer here –http://beardsandaxes.com/2014/04/22/why-my-project-failed-on-kickstarter/

Either way, here’s hoping that Robert and his colleagues somehow get their funding and make Resilient 3D happen!

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