"Trip's a god ol' boy smartass..."

We talk to Connor Trinneer about life as ENTERPRISE's chief engineer, Charles 'Trip' Tucker III - young, keen, with an offbeat sense of humor - and a great eagerness to explore the Galaxy.

Along with the rest of the Enterprise crew, "Trip" Tucker is not the polished Starfleet officer we're accustomed to; unlike the later shows, there are no rules of behavior, and the actors are being encouraged to bring their own personalities to their roles. Connor Trinneer says, "Trip's a gold ol' boy smartass, which is not too hard for me to do! We got a little information when we came in, and it was pretty much what you could glean from the script itself, so I asked them if there was anything else they could tell me, but they said, 'Well, frankly, we're going to take off of you what you bring to the table, and go from there.' So they're writing for what I've been doing with the part, and we're learning about each other. I guess they're writing history as we go along."

Star Trek Viewer
Although an original series fan, Connor didn't know much about the later shows. "I think like most people, I knew the first one. I grew up with it, and I watched reruns; I also watched a little bit of Next Generation, but I wasn't a consistent viewer. I don't know that I ever saw Deep Space Nine, but I've seen a little Voyager. So I'm not walking in with a lot of knowledge about the show, which is maybe an advantage, because Enterprise isn't quite like those. I've never seen some of the aliens that the fans have seen, because I wasn't that avid a viewer, and we as a crew have never seen these people either, which is nice."

One of his favorite aliens was Spock. "I think he was a fascinating character study. They all did great jobs, but Leonard Nimoy did a fine job with a difficult part; I think being the half-alien on the show made him a bit more intriguing, and the way in which Niomy carried it off - that sense of curiosity, buried in a lack of emotion - was an intriguing thing to watch."

Audition Process
Getting the role of Trip Tucker was quite a drawn out process. "I think I was one of the last people cast!" says Connor. "I know that some of the actors only had one audition, but I had five, and then I had to wait a week. So I went through the grinder, which was fine, but mine was a full process, as it were! Up to a point, it's not up to you. You do what you can do, but once you get to say, the network audition, you really have to let go of it. But of course the competitive fire starts to burn, and you realize, once you're close, 'Well, damn, I want it!' I wanted it to begin with, and by the time I knew I had a shot at it, I really wanted it. And I knew it was going to be a good show, although I didn't have an entire script; I only had the scene that I was to read from, so the more I went along, the more excited I got - I crossed my fingers and toes and hoped for the best. But you get crazy if you spend all night and day worrying about it. You've got to do what you do, and do it the best you can; then you have to let go. I'm glad it turned out well."

The Long Haul
Enterprise is virtually assured of a long run, which doesn't daunt Connor at all. "It's a standard thing that you sign the time away, but one of the differences with this show is that it already has a core audience. So you know it's probably going to be a show, which is a relief; you can start off knowing that your energy can be spent in doing the best you can, and not in thinking, 'Gosh, I hope this works out!' You know you're going to get to do this for a while."

And what would Connor like to see for Trip? "Good question! I don't know. My hope is that I get really interesting stories, which has been the case thus far, and I hope that continues. And you know you're going to get an opportunity to work your chops, day in and day out, and you're just going to get better. And as an actor it's a great gig; you get to deal with so many different kinds of topics. You're not rehashing the same story over and over again like you do on a cop show. Every episode is a new deal, which is exciting."

Among the exciting elements is the fact that there's a lot more physical action than we've seen for a while on Star Trek, and Connor is well equipped to deal with that; he is trained in unarmed combat and in rapier and dagger skills. "I have yet to get to rapier and dagger, but I sure would love to! I've had opportunities to do some unarmed fighting, and I love doing that. I did a pilot for a 'Three Musketeers' show that didn't work out, but I was able to do rapier and dagger and that was a great deal of fun. Hopefully, there'll be some of that. My impression is that I'm going to get some stuff!"

Football Plans
Connor says he never planned to be an actor. "I went to college on a football scholarship and played football for a couple of years. "'d never acted before - but then I got bored playing football, and a friend of mine in the theater department said, 'Why don't you audition for a play?' So I went in, and it sounds kind of corny, but I walked out that night from my very first audition and knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I quit football the next day! After that, I realized that I needed to have more training. I wanted to be classically trained, so I went to drama school and got my master's degree in acting and directing. The bulk of my work prior to moving to Los Angeles was in the theater, but although I've been fortunate in the fact that I've worked relatively consistently since I got out of school, there have been good and bad times - I've done telemarketing and I've catered parities. Actors who get a comfortable gig straight out of the gate are the fortunate few. I've often wondered about how I was going to pay rent!'

Connor's stage work continued after he moved to LA. "I joined a theater company called Circle X. It's a group of mostly drama-school-trained actors, and we do mostly new works and the occasional classic play; it's a fascinating group of people who are interested solely in putting on good theater. There's a misconception about Los Angles that theater doesn't live here, but there's a thriving scene; some of the best plays I've ever seen have been in Los Angles in small theaters. You're not really going to make a career in the theater, so if you're drawn to it and you want to commit your time to it, it's because you love doing it. The theater will be something I do until the day I die."

A theater background has, as always, been invaluable in enabling Connor to play his new role; Trip, as engineer, gets most of the technobabble. "I do think if someone has a background in theater and an understanding of classical texts, that makes it easier. If I can do 14 lines of Shakespeare, I can do two lines of technobabble; if I can't, shame on me! But as we've gone along, I've asked what things actually mean, so I know exactly what I'm talking about. Otherwise, it's hard to communicate words when you don't understand them. So it's difficult, and I can say that I'm getting better, but sometimes you just get stuck!"

Life will be very different for Connor in the future, and he realizes he is going to get a lot of fan attention. Is he prepared for it? "Nope! I'm not. And there's no way you could be. It'll be interesting, I know I'll be amazed, surprised, amused, all of those adjectives! And frightened." Long days are also the norm on a weekly TV show, but Connor is becoming accustomed to them. "They've been long, but great fun. The muscle gets stronger the more you use it; you learn what stamina it takes and you take care of yourself, and in your time off, you try to be around the people you love, and keep your support group.

Staying Fresh
Part of the support group has been the cast itself; they all fit together well from the early stages. "We laugh a lot; I think that's a good sign. We pretty quickly became an ensemble, and that's an ideal situation - everybody's working hard for, and with, each other.

And Connor is confident that the show will stay fresh. "We've never met these aliens or seen these planets of galaxies or whatever, so there'll be plenty to do. And the show is well written; what a great luxury to have! This is a good show that deals with issues that we all deal with. And because we're going out there knowing that we haven't met anybody before, that sort of mindset will make for an interesting ride for as long as it airs. We have a lot of time to learn.

StarTrek Magazine, March