Article: Cult Times Issue N°99 'Trip into Space'

When actor Connor Trinneer sauntered into Toronto's Sci Fi Convention, even hardcore fans needed to take a second glance. As Star Trek: Enterprise's charming Chief Engineer Charles ' Trip' Tucker III, the 34-year-old actor is usually seen sporting his trademark uniform and flat but perfectly coiffed 'do.

Today, that look has been replaced by a spiky hairstyle and comfortable blue jeans, loafers and a button-down shirt. Now in relaxed mode, Trinneer didn't seem the least bit concerned about the forthcoming onslaught of Trekkies or their intimate knowledge about every single detail of the show. "No, I've done enough of these," he says in a calm voice." Frankly, I just do the work; I don't necessarily know everything going on."

That go - with -the - flow attitude has served him well. Back in school, Trinneer never envisioned a Hollywood career but some timely advice sent him down the path. "I played football in college and wasn't really happy doing that," he recalls. "Honest to God, before Thanksgiving in my sophomore year, there was this cute girl talking about theatre and I was searching for what I wanted to do. She said, ' Why don't you audition for a play?' I went in and quit football the next day."

Besides becoming an accomplished stage actor, his credits include the Soap Opera One Life to Live and guest appearances on Sliders , Freakylinks, and ER . Southern boy Trip Tucker is definitely his most high profile part to date and Trinneer says contributing to the Star Trek legacy isn't as gut - wrenching as people might assume. "I can't say that this has been nerve-racking. I watched the original one and every now and then I'd catch the others. I wouldn't consider myself a diehard Trekkie. All of a sudden you get what you have wished for, but as an actor you have a responsibility and when you sit back you go, 'Whew ! Okay! I better not screw this up!' "

Joining Starfleet was made that much easier thanks to seasoned Quantum Leap pro Scott Bakula, who helms the ship as Captain Jonathan Archer. "Scott always set the tone for how we all get along," explains Trinneer. "For the most part, we were all rookies for series television but he made us feel welcome. We're not a practical joke crew though. We work so long that you don't have the opportunity to waste time on practical jokes. But Bakula is a jokester in that he keeps it light."

Obviously, that close bond spills over into the show. Right from the opening episode, Enterprise established a friendship between Trip and Archer, one that echoes that of Dr McCoy and Captain Kirk. Trip may be a confidant and friend but there's also no one better to watch your back in a scrap.

"Yeah, he's such a team player all the way," agrees Trinneer. "He likes having a good time and sometimes, because of his nature, he gets his foot stuck in his mouth but it's not ever a negative thing. He's such a positive dude and I like that and the way he encounters people differently."

But for someone who is Chief Engineer, Trinneer knows how lucky he is not to be constantly cursing or fixing the warp drive and actually participating in the crew's adventures. "I am happy about that," he admits, "In comparison to the original, a lot of us are out there and not necessarily keeping our positions on the ship." But it seems a better title for the actor would be Chief Prop Breaker ; apparently, Trinneer is a bit accident prone on the sets.

"I break shit all the time," he admits. "For the most part I like to do my own stunts, and in the pilot episode we had these prototype phase pistols and I fell down and broke it. I was like, 'Oh my God!' I got Scott's and I broke it too! I didn't know how much those things cost but they aren't cheap. Sometimes you push a button and it falls off. Obviously it's funny..."

No doubt that's the kind of embarrassing material that lands up on a gag reel, or, as a close runner-up, how about out-takes of Trinneer mastering all his technobabble? "I have to ask somebody what is going on," chuckles Trinneer about the lingo. "I've gotten to learn how the language plays into the blueprint of the scene, but it takes a while. The first few times you don't know what you're saying and it's just rote memorization."

However, if it ever got to the point where his character was sleepwalking through a story, Trinneer would have no problems piping up. "Oh, it happens all the time," he explains. "You call up and have a conversation with Rick Berman, he listens to what you have to say and sometimes they agree and sometimes they say, 'This is why we're doing that'. They have a very open door policy. There were a couple of situations where I was worried that they were dumbing Trip down and I was like, 'You can't make me stupid! You can't create a scenario where he's falling apart.' I'm very conscious of that."

You certainly can't accuse Trip of being clueless (unless you count Two Days and Two Nights , where Trip falls for a male shapeshifter), but looking at the track record, he has been the butt of a few jokes. " Shuttlepod One is a favourite of mine and I thought the pregnancy episode, Unexpected , was a hoot," he offers. "And there are things that might happen if a man got pregnant...I also liked the desert episode with Archer. Last year, the episode called Dawn where my adversary Zho'Kaan and I couldn't understand each other, like Enemy Mine , was good too. The issues were handled in a pretty real way and I like working with actors with chops."

He continues: "Those are the fun ones to do. Action stuff just takes forever. When you get the chance to throw down your acting, that's always the challenge. I've been fortunate enough that the ones I've shot have worked out. You get to understand one another, work together, and how you deal with crises."

For female fans, it doesn't matter what Trip is up to, as long as he's often at least shirtless. Dr Phlox's (John Billingsley) wife found him irresistible and, in Acquisition , Enterprise 's leading blond hunk spent plenty of time running around the starship in his skivvies. So what's Trinneer's take on those revealing half-naked shots? "Who wants to run around in their underwear? But it's part of the deal," he grins "When it's handled interestingly enough, it's no big deal. Anybody will tell you, when you have these scenes, you're standing in your underwear with 30 people behind the camera doing their thing. You get over it and they're your friends."

Good thing too, because the Season Three premiere provides more skin, especially when things heat up between Trip and T'Pol (Jolene Blalock). In addition, the Enterprise's exploration mission gets a startling new direction after the Xindi's vicious assault on Earth killed millions. Among the casualties was Trip's sister, which could make this alien hunt more of a personal vendetta. "We're definitely picking up at the end of last year and having an overall arc where we're searching for the Xindi," reveals Trinneer. "Last year, we had a lot of what I call ship shows, where something happens to or about a character. So far, it's been the mission driving the story, with new races. There's also more action and more sex."

Those two elements could be just what the doctor ordered. Enterprise 's ratings have been slipping, and even Star Trek movies like Nemesis haven't packed them in. The easy-going Trinneer dismisses the numbers game, but if the show is cancelled, would he like to break off a souvenir as a reminder of his space days? "At the end of it all?" he asks, before a long pause. "No. I don't really grab things from different projects. That's not important to me. There has been some clothing I've been like, 'Can I have that?' 'No' There was a nice leather jacket I wore and I wanted it. They were like, 'Do you have any idea how much that costs?' I replied 'Well, are you going to use it again?' ' We have to! It costs too much money' ! I may find something that is close to my character, but at this point it's been blue underwear and I don't need any of that."