A Long-Awaited Return: Garrett Wang

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Garrett Wang has directed the Trek Track at Dragon Con for 8 years. He does so because he loves Dragon Con, loves entertaining people, loves science fiction, and is a nerd at heart. Usually his duties keep him so busy that he doesn’t even try to conduct his own Q&A. Even with a great staff helping him out, his job is challenging. Just ask him about trying to wrangle the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation at Saturday’s panel! Yesterday afternoon, in the home of Trek Track (Hilton Galleria 2-3), Wang returned to the center seat and conducted his first solo Q&A in five years.

Wang has a natural and easy way about him, and he immediately began to survey the room to find out how many attendees were “newbies.” He reminded them that while feeling overwhelmed is natural, it is better to have more than less. His survey revealed that fans had travelled from as far away as France and Australia to attend.

As a child, Wang idolized Rich Little (The Man of a Thousand Voices) and became adept at imitations. He self-identifies as the “impersonator” of Star Trek: Voyager.

Wang was the last person cast for the show, and he recounted his trials and tribulations. The entire process took nearly three months with multiple auditions. At Wang’s first audition, the casting director ordered him out of the room because he had not memorized the lines. The gruff, chain-smoking casting director scolded him severely for being unprepared. She then ordered him to take the audition script, memorize the lines, and come back ready. Her assistant informed Wang that this was an obvious sign of affection! Exhausted and drained from the trauma (and an early final audition for a part in the film Glory Days), Wang pleaded to reschedule the audition. The assistant agreed to ask but ordered Wang to go hide behind a dumpster and memorize the lines just in case! Wang received his reprieve. Over the course of the next three months the casting director pushed, pulled, and otherwise inflicted pain on the young actor. As we all know though, the tortuous ordeal ended with Wang winning the part of Ensign Kim.

Speaking of rank, the subject of Ensign Kim’s failure to win promotion came up. One fan pointed out that in the series finale Kim held the rank of Captain. Wang wasn’t swayed. That occurred in an alternate reality and thus did not count. Given everything that happened to him, and the role he played in the ship’s survival, Kim deserved that promotion. How indeed, Wang asked, is it possible that other characters, including Tom Paris (who opens the series in jail), win promotion but not poor Ensign Kim? In short, Wang declared, Kim was the “Rodney Dangerfield of Star Trek!”

Wang and his cast colleagues had great fun on the set. He described the Voyager set as one filled with jokes and a lot of laughter. One evening the shooting schedule called for the cast to work through the night. A staffer notified them at midnight that they should plan to work be at work until 4:00AM. The episode involved Tuvok (Tim Russ) entering the state of pon farr, the Vulcan time of mating. Russ had an idea for a prank but was hesitant to do it. Wang convinced Russ to go for it, insisting that a good laugh was just what everyone needed. Instead of showing early signs of the condition, as stated in the script, upon cue Russ screamed “pon farrrrr,” began running around the set in search of a mate, cornered Neelix, and began to “mate” with him. The camera man, in on the prank, panned in closeup to Neelix’s face, and rather than grimacing or screaming, Neelix looked into the camera with huge smile! Once the cast and crew recovered and got back to work that anticipated four-hour work schedule was completed by 12:42AM. Wang swears the footage exists… somewhere.

Wang filled the hour with stories and recollections loaded with subtle and fascinating details. He discussed everything from Robert Beltran’s love of Shakespeare and tendency to flub his lines to special guests, including His Royal Highness Prince (now King) Abdullah of Jordan. He spoke of his deep desire to direct good science fiction and his sadness at not being able to do so on Voyager. Wang is a veritable repository of Voyager lore. Here’s hoping he doesn’t wait another five years before taking the center seat on a panel again.

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