TELUS Spark: How do you think Star Trek helped shape and inspire science and technology today?
Garrett Wang: Over the last twenty years I have met numerous Trek fans who have shared with me how Star Trek inspired them to find careers in the fields of Science and Technology. Star Trek's influence can be seen in many devices of the past such as the first flip phone influenced by the original series communicator, to present day devices like the iPad/tablet, and even a working tricorder.
TS: Tell us about a highlight moment that you recall from filming Voyager.
GW: There are so many highlight moments that I experienced while filming Voyager. I will relate one moment, which ended up being a lesson about perspective. We were filming on location at the Bronson Caves in Griffith Park. It was an extremely sunny and hot day, which caused the actors, including myself, to start complaining about the heat. We began to request cold water, fans and umbrellas for shade. After a couple of hours of whining, the actor playing Neelix, Ethan Phillips, who up until this point had not complained once, yelled out, "Shut up! Shut up! All of you actors playing humans, shut up! None of you are wearing a mattress on top of your head!" He was referring to the three inches of foam latex prosthetic mask enveloping his head, which caused him to be hotter than all of us combined. A lesson to remind us all that, while we may perceive our situation to be dire, there is always someone else in worse shape than us. On a humorous side note, during his verbal rampage, his alien fake teeth flew out of his mouth.
TS: If you weren’t an actor (or involved in the film industry), which career would you choose today?
GW: Before I chose the life of an actor, I was planning on being a doctor – an anesthesiologist to be precise. The other occupation I considered was an Internal Affairs officer for the LAPD. Serving as a cop that busts bad cops seemed like a noble and worthwhile job.
TS: What has Star Trek taught you about real life?
GW: Star Trek provides a blueprint for living a better life. Each episode has an underlying message. Years ago in New Zealand, a man asked me to sign an autograph for his wife. He told me that she worked as a psychologist for one of the New Zealand prisons. After consulting with prisoners and discovering which mental issue they were struggling with, she would prescribe the viewing of the corresponding Star Trek episode that dealt with that issue as a form of therapy. Time and time again, fans have approached me to share their stories of how Star Trek saved their lives. I know of no other television show with this kind of power and influence. It truly transcends entertainment.
TS: Star Trek is known for the moral and ethical questions it poses in its episodes. Is there any one quandary or problem that stands out in your mind?
GW: After living in Tennessee during my formative years, the problem that stands out the most for me is racial segregation/racial hate. For that reason, the original series episode "Let that be your last battlefield" shows how ridiculous racial hatred can be.
TS: What was the first “gig” that you had and how did you get started in the business?
GW: My first job ever was as a martial arts instructor at a children's sports daycare. My first acting gig was a Burger King commercial. I played an employee and had to say, "You can get a BK Broiler in Denver for $2.99."
TS: Which Star Trek device do you wish was in your home (other than the Replicator, because that’s too obvious)?
GW: I have often wished for a transporter pad in my home. This would allow me to maximize my sleep time and minimize my travel time.
TS: What was it like working with people in such over the top costumes? Was it difficult to keep a straight face all the time?
GW: I don't recall any moments where I had to restrain my laughter because of costuming but I do remember making fun of Jeri Ryan for her brown costume. I would say, "Ah...so they selected the dookie suit for you to wear today." I just want to remind everyone that I was an immature twenty something when I said that. There were also a few times when people laughed at me for splitting the fabric in the seat of my suit.