INTERGALACTIC EVERYMAN


In today's world, most of us work to live. However, there are some people who live to work. Actor Connor Trinneer is one such person. "My favourite thing in the world is getting up in the morning and going to the set," he says. "I really enjoy the process of acting. Whether you're performing onstage or in front of a camera, all actors want to practice their craft. Almost every day I'm given the chance to do just that. I'm one heck of a lucky guy."


Evil magician, EMT and lawyer are just a few of the characters that the classically trained actor has played on TV. Three years ago, Trinneer took on a role that would change his life forever, that of Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker III on Star Trek: Enterprise. As chief engineer it's Trip's job to keep the starship's engines running at peek efficiency. He's the latest in a long line of Trek Mr. Fix-Its and like them his life outside the engineering room is far more interesting.


The commander has, among other things, become pregnant by an alien woman, been imprisoned in an alien cocoon, and ended up stranded on a planet with a beautiful but obstinate female. His responses in these situations have not been unlike those you or I might have. Trip's everyman quality is, in part, due to Trinneer bringing more of himself to his role.


"When people ask about a character description of Trip there's the stock one, and that is he's a good old Southern boy who has a talent for engineering and a friendship with Captain Archer [Scott Bakula]," notes Trinneer. "However, what's made him more fun for me to play and, I hope, viewers to watch are some of the qualities that the writers and I have imbued him with. I know that sounds sort of artsy-fartsy and I don't want it to be. Basically, the changes in Trip are a result of him feeling more at ease in his job. In the beginning he was slightly in awe of meeting new aliens and all that kind of stuff. That's become more like second nature to him now and he's better prepared to face the unexpected.


"Of course, Trip's feeling more at ease coincides with my feeling more comfortable in the role. I'm fortunate in that the writers hear his voice when they write for my character and that's a good thing because it just happens to be my voice, too. So together we've managed to, I guess, make him a real person. As far as what I specifically bring to Trip, that's not easy for me to say. I'm too close to the character to be objective. I'm easy-going and, jeez, I don't know, perhaps charming," he chuckles. "I'd like to think I bring a bit of both to my performance. Bottom line, there's a lot of me in Trip. It's been great to play a character like this for an extended period of time. Actors don't often get the opportunity for such an exploration and I want to take full advantage of it."


In Enterprise's two-hour opener Broken Bow, Captain Jonathan Archer and the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 make history by being the first humans to venture into interstellar space. Their mission is to return an injured Klingon to his homeworld, but along the way they encounter a dangerous alien race known as the Suliban. Archer discovers that this species is in contact with a being from the future and that together they pose a serious threat to the human race. Because of this, Starfleet Command orders the Enterprise crew to remain in space so that they can gather as much intelligence as possible about their new antagonist. The production of this episode went by at warp speed, making Trinneer's memories of it somewhat of a blur.


"I'd compare the shooting of Broken Bow to trying to tame a wild pony. I just held on tight and went along for the ride," jokes the actor. "I couldn't tell you much of anything about the first few days of working on the pilot. Things more or less unfolded in front of me and to be honest I pretty much tried to just focus on the job at hand.


"The weight of it all does sort of play on you at the start. There I was, a regular on a TV show, and I for one didn't realize that my role in it was going to be as big as it was or is. In those very early stages I was surprised to learn that Trip was part of a triumvirate along with the captain and Sub Commander T'Pol [Jolene Blalock]. From then on I took a proactive look at the reality of things and tried to become more involved in the fact that a large portion of what was going on centered on my character."


One of the first Enterprise episodes to showcase Trinneer's talents as an actor was Shuttlepod One. In it, Trip and Lieutenant Reed (Dominic Keating) are marooned in space aboard a damaged shuttlepod with only a few days of air remaining. "Shuttlepod One was a difficult shoot because we actually had to make the soundstage cold enough so that you could see my breath and Dominic's when we exhaled," says Trinneer. "That said, the script was wonderfully written and I loved the fact that it was just the two of us. Dominic is a really talented guy and it was a pleasure to toss the [acting] ball back and forth with him. I thought it turned out well.


"Another episode I enjoyed working on for much the same reason was [the second season's] Dawn. That's where Trip is stuck on a planet with an alien who doesn't speak English. Neither of them have a working universal translator so they have to find a way to communicate with one another a la [the feature film] Enemy Mine. Again, I was working opposite another solid actor, Gregg Henry. He did a terrific job of making his character, who couldn't utter a word of English, truly interesting."


Unlike prior Trek series, the Prime Directive has yet to be established in the Enterprise universe. This standing order prohibits members of Starfleet from interfering in natural evolution of another culture. Trip does just that when he tries to befriend an alien in the second season story Cogenitor. Although his intentions are good, the commander unwittingly sets into motion a series of events that end in tragedy. After Dawn, this episode is Trinneer's next favourite from last year.


"I hate to sound redundant but the actress who played the Cogenitor [Becky Wahlstrom] did an amazing job in the role," he says. "We were fortunate to have LeVar Burton [Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation] as our director. Being a fellow actor, he knows how to talk to a cast. LeVar was right there to offer support as well as ideas and ways on how to approach a scene. I felt the subject matter we dealt with was presented in an interesting and thoughtful manner. Just because Trip had previously seen Archer get involved in another race's affairs didn't give him the right to do so as well. I thought the writers gave the situation the gravity it needed by having the episode end like it did."


A mysterious species called The Xindi launch a surprise attack on Earth in Enterprise's second season finale The Expanse. Among the millions of casualties is Trip's sister. Archer and his crew are ordered to the Delphic Expanse to track down these aliens. Their mission continues in the third season opener The Xindi. Obviously, no one is more anxious to find them than Trip, and Trinneer is looking forward to this quest revealing new facets to his character in the show's third year.


"Already this season there have been a couple of more layers added to who Trip is," explains the actor. "We may see him display more of what it means to be human but I feel that's already a big part of his makeup. Trip is, at least in my eyes, a good example of how your average person would respond to being aboard Enterprise. He's been allowed to have that sort of dimension. Heck, that's what got him pregnant," he chuckles. "So you can probably count on some interesting developments with my character. Fingers crossed, they'll be less hayseed and more depth to him. Most importantly, though, I'd love for there to be an exploration of where Trip is in his grief for his sister and what he's doing about it."


Enterprise has certainly weathered more than its fair share of criticism during its first two seasons. Its producers, however, are confident that season three will be a breakout one for the show, and Trinneer agrees. "Our characters needed a mission like this. It's good to have subtle shifts in the pendulum swing every now and then. That's true of any series. I'm excited about this year and I hope the fans are as well."


Mutual Appreciation


Roxann Dawson, Star Trek: Voyager's B'Elanna Torres, is a frequent director on Enterprise and among the episodes she's directed is Dawn. "This story was a challenge in that you've got two guys on a planet's surface and that's it. How do you make that interesting'" says Dawson. "Luckily, we had a very talented actor named Gregg Henry playing opposite Connor and I thought the relationship between their characters worked very well.


"As for Connor, he's a joy to work with. He has a tremendous amount of talent as well as range and is very dedicated to his craft. I find his character to be one of the most interesting in the Star Trek world because Trip is so accessible. He behaves very much like you or I would if we were in his shoes, especially when it comes to his awe and wonder." Trinneer is equally complimentary towards Dawson. "Roxann is a sweet lady and a talented director," says the actor. "She's logged plenty of hours in the Trek franchise and totally understands it."


Inter-Crew Relations


"I think Trip's relationship with Archer is going to remain the same," says Trinneer. "They have a strong friendship and one that's likely to be tested this season.


"With T'Pol, I can tell you that she and Trip will interact more closely than ever with each other," laughs the actor. "As for specifics, I can't say. The writers don't share that information with us. However, rather than being as combative as they were in the first two years, both characters will definitely be getting along a lot better with one another. I'm curious to see what does happen between T'Pol and Trip only because prior to this year I didn't have many one-on-one scenes with Jolene. She's a gifted actress and there are several ways to go with our on-screen relationship."


What about Trip's good buddy Lieutenant Malcolm Reed' "I've no doubts their friendship will continue, too," says Trinneer. "Oddly enough, I wouldn't have guessed in a million years that two very different people like Trip and Reed would become such good friends. However, I think the writers pursued that relationship mainly because they know how well Dominic and I get along off-camera."


Thespian Roots


The middle child in a family of five, Connor Trinneer was born March 1969 in Walla Walla, Washington. He was all-star athlete in high school and went on to play football at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington. It was during his sophomore year that the actor discovered his second passion - acting.


"I was talking with someone and she suggested I try out for the school play," recalls Trinneer. "I said, 'OK, why not.' My parents were both teachers and they had been in plays when they were in college, so I sat down with my mom and we went through the material. I went in for my audition and right after that decided, 'I'm going to become an actor.'


"I knew I needed a lot more practice, though, so after graduating from Pacific Lutheran with my Bachelors degree, I went on to get my Masters [of Fine Art in Acting and Directing] at the University of Missouri. Without that training I'm sure I wouldn't be able to do this job. "Had I not chosen acting I don't know what else I would have done. I'd have probably become a teacher and coach, and that would've been fine, but I'm sure glad I found this profession."



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