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Starlog 2000 (Aug. #277)
Vulcan Love Songs
Tim Russ can sing. Unlike a few of his Star Trek predecessors--are you listening, Bill Shatner?--who recorded and distorted music in past, the Voyager co-star can carry a tune. We kid you not. The proof is on a little disc appropriately entitled Tim Russ. Released in late May, it features the artist currently known as Tuvok crooning a range of songs from the sedate "Crazy" to the more up-tempo "Love the One You're With." And, not content to let the album itself do all the talking, Russ is out on the road, singing his heart out and proving that what you hear is what you get and not recording studio sleight-of-hand.
"So far the reaction to the CD has been very postive and the tour has been very positive and the tour has been going very smoothly," Russ reports during his Star Trek Voyager summer hiatus. "We've had four gigs in Europe so far, and we're going to our fifth one shortly, in Germany. We did several shows in England, and people seemed to like it a lot. I'll be back in the United States soon, and we've got a few more shows set up in June and July. I know we've got one in Oklahoma and one in New Mexico, and there are [at] least a couple of others."
"The record was suggested to me by Neil Norman, who heads up the Crescendo Records label," Russ continues. "He asked me if I wanted to do a CD. I said 'Well, it's not a bad idea.' I thought, 'Why not take a shot at it?' Neil co-produced it and plays with his Cosmic Orchestra (which is also on the road with Russ). Crescendo is a small label, a mom-and-pop operation. I contributed to the CD's production costs out of my own pocket as I could recoup on dollar one. It also gave me a little bit of say-so about the production.
Initially, the reaction of people may be a raised eyebrow, if you will. All the world needs is another Star Trek vocalist coming out with an album, right? But once people hear it, they are quite surprised. It's serious. It's not us just having fun, playing games or joking around. It's a serious record." And Russ sounds seriously like Cat Stevens on several numbers. "It's simply the way my voice is," he adds. "I can't do much about it. That's just the way it is. The tonal qualities of my voice fit in that area. The range tends to be from Cat Stevens and James Taylor all the way back up. I could be compared to far worse people."
Russ proudly points to "Can't Do It Like That." "I'd Stop the World For You." "I Can't Imagine" (which he wrote) and "Love the One You're With" as his favorite tracks on the CD. He also leaves the wormhole to a follow-up wide open. "I think it's possible we'll do a second album in a year or so," he notes. "We had a good time making this one and if it does well, I would like to do another."
And now on Voyager. The series just wrapped its sixth season with "Unimatrix Zero," a Borg-charged cliffhanger that found Voyager's resident Vulcan very much Borgified, along with Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and B'Elanna (Roxann Dawson). "Season six was fairly slow for Tuvok, in terms of storylines for the character and days I worked," Russ says. "I was not nearly as busy as I was two years ago. That much I noticed. Otherwise, the season overall was very good. We did some good shows. Would I like more Tuvok shows? Yes. But you don't have to do many scenes to have a good season as an actor. You could be around a lot and just saying the usual stuff on the Bridge. The shows that did feature Tuvok as the main character have been very special for me. I've gotten to do things other than what I normally do.
The big Tuvok shows over the past a few seasons--this season I had 'Riddles' and 'Blink of an Eye'--have been particularly revealing about Tuvok, I think. There was actually more to 'Riddles.' It ran nine minutes too long and we had to cut stuff, like the scenes that further developed the relationship between Tuvok and Neelix (Ethan Phillips). I had some nice scenes in the Kes episode ["Fury"]. I was heavy in that one. I also had a few scenes in 'Unimatrix Zero' and, judging from the way it ended, I'll be more involved in 'Unimatrix Zero, Part II" than I was in the front half."
Looking back to the immediate past and into the future as well, Russ sees good things. He has his hat in the ring to direct another Voyager episode next season. East of Hope Street, a feature film which he co-produced, co-wrote and co-starred in, is still in limited distribution at art houses around the United States, and has turned a profit in advance of its video distribution. And, no surprise, Russ lends his voice-as Tuvok-to Elite Force, an upcoming Star Trek Voyager CD-ROM adventure with plenty of action for the character. "Between my music and an Internet project, Farenheit 452: The Art Police [an SF comedy show] I'm working on for GalaxyOnline.com and a feature film project that I'm writing a script for, I think something will pop," Russ says. "Then, if I get some direction opportunities, I'll certainly be busy after Voyager ends. I know the end is coming, and I'm just trying to be ready for it."
So who precisely is Russ? Is he a singer-actor? Or perhaps an actor-singer? Maybe the far more flexible term entertainer fits the bill. "I would go with entertainer." Tim Russ concludes with a laugh. "I'm either an actor or a singer at any given time. Hopefully, I can put both together. I would love to do a musical play and then I could do both. Growing up, I was a singer. I did years of music and the acting came later. It just happened that I was earning money as a singer first. But definitely, I would call myself an entertainer."
CINEFANTASTIQUE (Issue April 2000)
By Anna Kaplan
If it seems like Tuvok, played by Tim Russ, appeared onscreen less often during VOYAGER'S fifth season, it's true. Russ spent a lot of time on other projects, but he enjoyed everything he and Tuvok did.
Russ noted, "Particularly the last six or seven shows, I'm not very heavy in them at all, because I had other projects done. They accommodated me, very graciously so, and allowed me to have a little breathing space. I have a feature project I am trying to get out, and a couple of music projects."
Russ and partner Nate Thomas worked on a movie called EAST OF HOPE STREET, which won the award for Best Urban Drama Feature Film at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in 1998.
And Russ regularly plays guitar and sings in the Los Angeles area. Sometimes he sings at STAR TREK conventions. Said the versatile performer, "I had a CD that I completed recently, called 'Only a Dream In Rio.' I usually sell it, take it to conventions. It's also on the STAR TREK website under my biography. I am currently working on a second one and a couple of live shows with another band."
Russ took a look back at the fifth season. "It's been a very interesting year, because of the variety of stories. The show is only designed to run for seven years. When it's done, who knows what then? I wonder about it myself sometimes."
STAR TREK COMMUNICATOR
In the article "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations," Tim Russ tells us as guest editor, "I worked as an actor for 12 years before landing my role on Star Trek: Voyager, and there were parts I read for that were extraordinarily stereotypical and demeaning. I did not accept those parts for that reason." (Issue April--May 1998)
STAR TREK VOYAGER
(Photo from Starlog)Tim Russ in an interview by Ian Spelling states that he has "worked at Universal a couple of times over the years, but to be on the actual outdoor lot [for the Killing Game, Part 2] is kind of neat."
"I've learned a great deal. From a practical standpoint," he notes, "I have gained a great deal of knowledge about producing and directing, which I've already put to use in the past year on a movie [a drama entitled East of Hope, which Russ co-wrote, co-produced and which he plays a small role]."
The role itself, on an everyday basis, is not a challenge. What becomes a challenge is when you step outside the norm of the role."
"Tuvok, on a daily basis, has to be the same. I know that, and I knew that going in. That's why I love any opportunity to stretch, both as the actor playing the character and in other roles and capacities outside of Star Trek."
He made his directorial debut on "Living Witness." (Issue June 1998)