During FedCon 24 I met up with Tim Russ for an interview. Tim is best known for starring as Mr Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager, but he is also director, screenwriter and musician. In contrast to many other actors, Tim was already a Star Trek fan when he joined the cast. He had a few appearances on the show before he landed a main character role. So you might recognize Mr Russ from “The next Generation”, as the Klingon T’Kar from Deep Space 9 or as a human from Star Trek: Generations, as well as DS9.
Tim Russ is the director of the independent Star Trek movie “Renegades” and it was a real pleasure talking to him.
DG: Hello Mr Russ. Thank you for your time. So of course we are all really interested in Renegades at the moment. How did you get to directing the movie?
TR: “Actually I was approached by the executive producer. Sky Conway called me out of the blue, said there was a new project, a feature length independent Star Trek movie – pilot presentation actually. A pitch for a series, that is what it is. And so he asked me if I was interested in directing it. And I said: “Sure, so what’s the story” – He didn’t have a story. He basically had a concept. I said “Yeah sure, let’s do this”, and then we started the scripting and he and the writers settled on a story we could actually work on. And that’s just it. It just happened out of the blue – completely out of the blue.
DG: Great stuff. So – this is out of context, I know – but since I talked to Manu Intiraymi earlier today, and he couldn’t actually remember how he got involved in the movie, partaking as Icheb, if he was approached or if he applied himself. So maybe you remember?
TR: “Not sure. Many of the roles in Renegades were cast by the executive producer. There were people that they wanted to be in the piece, that they asked to be in the piece. Some people they asked were not able to do it, or were busy with different projects, but the executive producer did a lot of the cast. I suggested some people for certain roles, and some of them actually came in that way but most of them because of the producer.
DG: So… CBS! Is there already a meeting going on, by any chance? I was just interested, because there are so many fans that want Trek back on TV, there are campaigns, petitions to CBS, groups on Facebook…. things like that.
TR: “Of course not! Because it is not finished yet! We have a dozen – or two dozens – different projects, projects that are being shot at the moment, projects like ours in the process of being shot and so on, there were people who were pitching CBS, people who’ve been pitching me and everybody else, but it is really a – well – a conundrum is the word I want to use here, because the property is already owned. It is already copyrighted, already a franchise. And they can do whatever they want. They don’t necessarily care about whatever it is that you came up with. Nine times out of ten they will just do it themselves. If and when they do. I don’t foresee this being on network television. If this is going to be up anywhere, it is going to be on a subscriber based net. You cannot make this show without spending a lot of money and you have to make money in order to spend it. Corporations don’t spend money. They make money. And it comes down to that. Maybe enthusiastic fans do spend money, but if they don’t reach the same numbers as the Kardashians, you will not see the show.”
DG: Sadly this is very true. Let’s talk about something different. Is there a future project you are looking forward to?
TR: “I am looking at directing a big movie. Hopefully by the end of this summer, we’ll see. It is a biography picture that took place in 1916 in the south of United States. It is called “The knights of Mary Phagan” and I’m looking to direct that. This will be a pretty good size budget, and it’s going to be a drama. It is a really good story, a very dramatic story that took place in the south. We are now in the process of engaging several actors for this. That would be the biggest project this year – or actually the biggest one I have done in quite a number of years.
DG: That sounds great. Now besides this really big project, there is still this other project you – or rather everybody who has ever been involved with Star Trek – are part of. “Unbelievable!!!!”
TR: “Yeah! That’s the right title for that.”
DG: Nobody actually is talking about this project. Besides that it does exist, and I really wondered why that is.
TR: “Well it’s not done yet, that’s reason number one. It won’t be done until maybe the end of the summer. They at least finished shooting. And I think the post on it might be finished by late fall. It’s such a big, unpredictable, all over the maps story. And it’s been added to and changed and added to and changed again, and been rewritten and modified. And there’s so many people in it. It’s like a great big road show – yes, I think that’s what you can call it – that nobody knows exactly what to say about it. It’s a basic 1950s SciFi movie that some executive in a studio finds in a vault and they bring it out and they’re going to finish it and release it. And that’s the premise. And so what that movie is, is unbelievable. That’s what the idea is. It doesn’t look like a 1950s movie necessarily. It is cheesy. It is shot to be and look cheesy – cheap budget, low budget. It’s a comedy and there’s a lot of craziness running around, there’s an alien bad guy and a lot of other stuff. But that’s basically it. And nobody really knows what status this thing is in right now and how it’s changed since they last worked on it. Because it did change quite a few times. So it’s really crazy. I don’t even know what it looks like. They’ve shot a lot of stuff since I last worked on it and that story has gone from something relatively “medium” to something quite large. So I have no idea how it’s going to come together. It’s… I can only say that this title is appropriate! It is “Unbelievable!!!!!!”
DG: Thank you a lot for your time. We are all looking forward to seeing your projects in action. It was an absolute pleasure meeting you!