Back in the Skivvies Again

On UPN's Wednesday-night drama "Enterprise," Washington State native Connor Trinneer plays Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker III, the chief engineer of the 22nd-century version of the starship Enterprise.

In the show's pilot, Trinneer stripped down to his shorts in a steamy scene with Jolene Blalock, who plays beautiful Vulcan officer T'Pol.

Now, many months later, Trinneer is seated in his incense scented trailer on the Paramount lot, with a striped Calvin Klein robe covering, once again, those bright-blue Starfleet issue skivvies.

"Literally, I don't say a word today," he says. "I'm just running around in my underwear. This week, I get to run around in my underwear; next week, I guess I finally get to meet a girl."

Trip did have one semiromantic interlude earlier in the season, in which his apparently platonic meeting with an alien female resulted in him becoming pregnant. Asked if his new love interest is human or alien, Trinneer says, "If she's an alien like the other one, who cares?"

Judging by the number of actors in alien Ferengi makeup wandering around the craft-services table in search of food, this upcoming episode, in production in mid-January, involves the avaricious, troll-like species introduced in the previous Trek spin-off, "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Whatever the plot line, the scenes Trinneer is shooting are eerie. Clad in the aforementioned skivvies, he wanders barefoot around the launch bay, which is quiet and deserted. In another scene, he heads to engineering, where bodies of crew members can be seen. As Trinneer said, not a word is spoken, with all the work being done through facial expressions and body language.

It's something Trinneer is familiar with, having a bachelor's degree in acting from Pacific Lutheran University in Washington (where he played college football) and a master's degree in acting and directing from the University of Missouri in Kansas City. His on-screen credits include the soap opera "One Life to Live," the HBO movie "*61" and episodes of "Gideon's Crossing," "FreakyLinks," "Sliders," "Touched by an Angel" and "ER."

"I've done a lot more theatre than I've done film and television," Trinneer says, "and [this show] is very theatrical. I would say it takes the baton of theatricality more than, say, a cop show. It's the willful suspension of disbelief."

Asked to describe Trip, Trinneer says, "He's a good old Southern boy, a smartass, engineering whiz. He's up for a good time and likes to push the buttons, but he cares a lot about the people he works with. He likes to get the job done and have some fun doing it."

"To be honest with you, they didn't describe it a lot to me (at the beginning). They said they'd be learning from me as I'd be learning from them, which is nice. They're writing for me."

Trinneer received some feedback from fans at his first convention appearance, which took place in early January in Portland, Ore. "Awesome," Trinneer says, describing his experience. "They wanted to know more personal stuff, since nobody really knows who we are. There were a lot of 'What's it like?' questions, 'What are they like?' questions, but none of that, 'Can you explain the nacelle housings?' I would have been saying, 'Connor Trinneer, actor.'"

Trip's original nickname was Spike, but that was jettisoned when UPN acquired "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" from The WB Network.

"You can't have two Spikes on one network," Trinneer says.

On "Buffy," Spike is a bleached-blond vampire played by stage actor James Marsters. The Irish-Cherokee Trinneer does share Marsters' blue eyes and lightened hair (but only highlights), and a long background on the stage, especially Shakespeare and other classical theater.

"Classical training, which is what I got," Trinneer says, "gives you tools that you can use in your preparation. I never acted professionally before I went to do training. I think it gives you a certain amount of confidence that you can walk in a room, have goods to deliver and deliver them."

"I've done a ton of theater. I learned the craft of acting, just like you'd learn the craft of, hell, roofing construction, painting, pottery. There are certain things that you can learn about it that will help you get out of your own way.'"

The training offered Trinneer the skills to roll with whatever came his way. "In grad school, in drama school, they force you to take risks. Hell, I was already pregnant, and that didn't bother me one bit. What a great opportunity that was, and that's how I looked at it. I might have felt differently had I never been to drama school."

In "Enterprise," Trinneer also has the advantage of playing opposite Scott Bakula, as Capt. Jonathan Archer, who has a long history in film and television, including the science-fiction series "Quantum Leap."

"He's done this a little longer than I have," Trinneer says. "I've asked him about his longest day, how to retain 10 pages in an evening, that sort of stuff. He's the leader of the group, but much a part of the group as anybody else."

Although Trip's young and good-looking, that doesn't mean he's always going to be the show's romantic hero. "I made a joke about this," Trinneer says. "I said, 'Wait a second, Scott gets to kiss all the girls and win all the fights. I get my butt kicked and wind up pregnant.' Well, hey, it's only partway through season one."

What would Trinneer like for Trip? "I'm learning about him as they are. The things that they've come up with have been cool. I'd like him to remain a bit of a free spirit, which he's been. I hope they continue that."

August 2001,