It’s time for the man who sings his own introduction! Since Creation conventions do not allow audio recording, I’ve done the next best thing! Below are the new lyrics and the piece performed with it’s original lyrics. Play the music and read – or sing! – along!
I am Picardo,
I work so hard oh.
I play a hologram,
Then Richard Woolsey-man.
First I do StarTrek,
I make a steady check.
Then I do Stargate,
That doesn’t go so great.
Our show is gone now!
What I do wrong now?
Maybe Amaaaaaandaaa Tapping tell me!
She will tell me.
Sheeeeeeeeeeeee will tell me.
But for Picardo,
Life’s not so hard oh.
I don’t just sing the blues,
There is some happy news.
When you do both franchise,
You score convention-wise.
I just go straight from
GateCon to TrekCon.
I’m a sensation!
Just ask Creation!
It’s all so veeeeeeery fantastico!
Not only did Robert Picardo come armed with music, he also brought videos! First we saw one of Robert’s “Ask Alphonso” episodes. I’m sad that I cannot find any examples on YouTube, but perhaps that’s just as well because what Alphonso talks about is funny despite being shocking and graphic! Robert describes Alphonso as his “Italian cousin.” Oh, did I not mention that Robert wears a toupee and speaks with an Italian accent while in character as Alphonso? “Alphonso was born in a sketch comedy show for Acme Comedy Theater,” Robert explained. “I’ve done him on stage a couple of times in a sketch comedy context. My goal was to create the most self-absorbed man in the world. I know you’re thinking William Shatner! No! I wanted to make someone who was so convinced that he was the most exciting man to any woman sexually, that all he can do is talk about himself.” This is the moment when Robert decided to announce that Alphonso would be live at the Cabaret that night. “He’s become a phenomenon of his own. So Alphonso live, on stage. Delighting every woman in the audience. And in their room if you give him a key. . . . It promises to be a wild and crazy and R rated event. I take no responsibility. Whatever happens it’s not my fault.” Oh my!
Robert thanked us for our warm Windy City welcome. He told us that his wife was born in Chicago, and they went to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to visit her father’s grave. “Now that we’ve gotten the family stuff out of the way, all of that emotional stuff, I’m here to have a good time!” He also had praise for Creation. Robert was originally scheduled to appear on Saturday of that weekend, but a schedule change was made so that he could see his daughter off to college! It made Friday very packed, but otherwise it was definitely a win win situation!
“For those of you who don’t Twitter, tweet, or look at the internet at all, apparently David Hewlett and I are going to appear on Universe. We will be the first Atlantis characters, I believe, to cross over. Is that correct?” I couldn’t help myself! He was right and I knew it so I told him so, and he said, “I love when I’m right! I’m very excited, but I don’t know anything about the script so don’t ask me. I purchased the Atlantis videos so I could see the shows that I hadn’t seen yet. They used to call that a brown-noser in high school. The guys who watches the show so he can tell the producer, ‘I love that episode!’ That’s the guy I want to be. So I purchased season 1.0 and 1.5. What’s up with that? 1.5 wasn’t ready when they sold 1.0?” Someone up front told Robert their opinion. “They made more money that way! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! MGM needs a rent party, ladies and gentlemen. Because remember the Atlantis movie? All you have to do is send MGM 6.5 million dollars. I can’t believe you didn’t think of that. No one in the audience is prepared to do that?” There was an awkward pause that Robert broke by saying, “Anyway, look hold bald I am! Do we have to have this much light on my head? Don’t I look like a lit match when you take a picture? I should have worn a hat!” The Creation staff kindly adjusted the lights so they weren’t quite so intense. “Don’t you love when I beg? I love when I beg.”
Robert had another video for us that I did find a comparable to. Robert had worked with the Acme Comedy group several times, and this is another one of his sketches with them. Originally they had wanted to do some sort of StarTrek parody act with him. “I said I don’t want to do the ‘Shatner get a life’ thing because my convention experiences have all been great. It’s not my desire to do a sketch where we’re putting down science fiction fans. They said, ‘Well what is your personal experience?’ I said, ‘Well sometimes I’m asked to do silly things in the autograph line.’ I take a lot of pictures holding a stuffed bear that’s in aStargate or StarTrek costume. Those are the ones I hate the most. You put the stuffed animal next to your head and you look like an idiot. And so I said, ‘I find it very difficult to say, ‘No!'” This isn’t the same video Robert showed, and it’s quite a bit dirtier, but the plot is the same: An actor who is incapable of saying “no” to any requests his fans make! Robert said, “Let’s see if any of your recognize your own behavior!”
The version Robert showed us included, at their most extreme, a young woman who asked him to take her baby and raise it as his own, a gentleman who asked Robert to shoot him with a gun he provided, and then the next fan asked Robert to shoot his convention handler. So he did!
After the video, Robert began taking questions. The first question obviously came from a long time fan of Robert’s work. She asked if she would ever be able to get China Beach on DVD, and since most of us didn’t react to that question, Robert explained what she was talking about. “Back in the 80’s, early 90’s, we did a critically acclaimed dramatic series called China Beachset in Vietnam. Dana Delany starred. Marg Helgenberger was one of the co-stars. I played Dr. Dick. Dr Richard Richard, or Double Dick! It’s been a career of being before Alphonso! I’ve played a lot of characters named Dick. Dick Woolsey, who really was a Dick. At the same time I used to moonlight on The Wonder Years as Coach Cutlet, the world’s stupidest man. But China Beach, I had full head of hair. I wore a two and a half thousand dollar toupee, which I don’t necessarily recommend doing under a helicopter. And then when I appeared on The Wonder Years as Coach Cutlet I was bald, so the same network on two different shows, with and without hair!”
Robert explained that both shows were also both set in the late 60’s. Because of all the popular 60’s music that was incorporated into China Beach, copyright issues abound. At the time, the idea of selling TV shows hadn’t occurred to anyone, so there was no deal for selling the songs that were used. Both shows, as Robert said, “never had a legal *cough* legal DVD release because they cannot make a deal on the music. Which is a shame because I would love for my kids to see all of my China Beach work because when my kids grew up I was already a character actor. They don’t know that for a brief, precious moment in time, I was a leading man!” Ultimately, Robert joked that China Beach will be released when all the music artists die, because even trying to replace the music would cost them too much in legal and editing work.
The holographic Doctor from Star Trek Voyager was such a popular character for Robert that there was no doubt he was going to get some Voyager questions, even from the Stargate fans! The first one was a good one, and as a Voyager fan, I enjoyed Roberts answer. He was asked to name his favorite scene with Seven of Nine. “Well there was the scene where I had to sketch her nude. That was a very trying day. They said, ‘We’re doing an episode about the Doctor’s fantasies. Do you have anything in mind?’ The sad part is I didn’t even miss a beat before I made my first suggestion. That was the most fun show to shoot, ‘Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy’. My favorite scene of the whole seven years was in the briefing room where all three of our beautiful StarTrek leading ladies, Kate Mulgrew, Roxann Dawson, and Jeri Ryan, are throwing themselves at the Doctor. Seven propositions him, B’Ellana Torres has her naked foot rubbing up against his leg under the table, then Captain Janeway trumps them both by taking the Doctor’s hand and placing it on her lower back pain, which happens to be the lowest back pain you’ve ever seen. ‘Your hand is firmly cupped around the seat of power,’ you remember that? That was a very good day. Thank you for reminding me of that very wonderful moment. I’m going to go take a cold shower as soon as I’m off stage.”
Robert’s next question compared his roles as the Doctor and Richard Woolsey. Voyager fans know well that the Doctor got to develop over the years, and we watched him struggle with that development. Woolsey didn’t really get that much of a chance to develop, and a fan asked Robert how much say he had in the development of either character, such as it was. “I get teased endlessly, especially by Garrett Wang, about how many times I’ve gone to the producers with suggestions. I believe that when you’re on a long running series, that the character becomes an alchemy between the actor and what the writers originally intended, and the writers like to incorporate strengths that the actor has. When they saw, early on when the gave me some funny things to do as the Doctor, that they worked, and I understood what they liked about it, I started making suggestions. First, it was not a whole plot, it was a sub plot. It was a suggestion I made in season 2, and episode called ‘Tattoo’, which was primarily a Chakotay episode. I suggested that the Doctor brag about the fact that if he were capable of getting sick, which he’s not because he’s a computer program, that it would not effect his job performance. He’s programed to have a holographic flu and turns out to be the worst patient in the world. It’s a fairly obvious gag but it’s a very funny runner, those scenes where the Doctor makes the challenge, and then in my suggestion he programs himself but the writers took the idea and made it much better by having Kes program his flu, and then she makes it get worse and run longer than it was supposed to be. It’s a very cute 1 2 3 runner, we call that a B plot runner.
“Thereafter I frequently called with suggestions. I asked if the Doctor could be an opera fan, because I found it very funny that a technological creature would pick the most emotional form of human expression to be a fan of.” Robert said they didn’t like his timing, but a year later he got the script for ‘The Swarm’ and the Doctor was singing opera in the first scene! Robert might have panicked a little! “I said, ‘No, you misunderstood me! I meant for him to sit and listen to opera! Not sing opera!’ They said, ‘Well if you can’t sing the opera we’ll replace your voice.’ So I went in and pre-recorded O soave fanciulla from La Boheme, and that is my own voice. It’s not so good, but it’s okay, and I started singing on the show. That’s how that all began the Doctor’s interest in opera.”
Robert told us that off all the suggestions he made, there is one that he was a proudest of. When Kes left the show, Robert was unhappy firstly because their original cast was being broken up, and secondly because Kes had been “the Doctor’s confident and emotional sounding board.” None of the other characters had cared about the Doctor the way she had, so without her, Robert feared that the Doctor would regress into “an annoying windbag.” Robert was asked to think of a way for the Doctor to relate to Seven of Nine, who had only just joined the cast. Robert thought it would be a great irony to have to Doctor become Seven’s instructor in how to reclaim her lost humanity, just as Kes had tried to teach the Doctor how to be more human. That idea became a four-year arc! Because of it, Robert had some great scenes with Jeri Ryan. “When Jeri was first on the show, she was 27 or 28 years old, with that knock out figure, I did not want to be caught staring at her, so I would not look at her. We’d have a scene together and she’d be standing next to me and during the break I would turn away from her and talk to someone over here, or I’d just turn away from her! Because my nightmare was that I she would turn back to me and I’d be staring at her butt! I just never looked at her for the first 2 or 3 months, it was a little odd! And then finally, I think one day she pinched my butt and then from then on I just stared at her all I wanted to! I got passed my initial shyness!”
Unfortunately Robert had so much fun telling us about the development of the the Doctor that he forgot to get to Woolsey! Oops! He kind of makes up for it later, so keep reading!
Robert’s next question was about how he got started as an actor. Robert told us that he started in high school. He attended a male prep school, and he said that if you weren’t in sports, the only way to meet girls was to be in the school plays because girls from the neighboring schools would come and participate in the plays. “It occurred to me at an early age that since I had no athletic prowess, if I was ever going to meet a girl I had to develop in some other area.” Some of the crowd found this statement to be very funny, which prompted Robert to say, in an Italian accent, “You’re going to love Alphonso!”
Robert said that his childhood ambition was to become a pediatrician! He attended Yale as a pre-med student and continued to act for fun. While there he was in some shows and became successful. One of them was a Leonard Bernstein piece, but I can’t figure out what one because what I thought I heard Robert say doesn’t match anything Bernstein is credited for! The production went on tour to Europe, and it was at that point that Robert started to wonder if the hobby he loved could actually be his career. “I decided to give it a shot, and the jury is still out, but I’ve been a been a professional actor not for over 3 decades! I think I’m coming up on 34 and a half years! And I know I’m an older man now, although I do have the body of a 19 year old . . . in the trunk of my rental car!” Robert was surprised at our reaction to that statement! “It’s a sick joke, why are you laughing?! You laugh at that, that’s disgusting! It’s a serial killer joke! Boy, Chicago! You guys are weird, man! You’ll love Alphonso!” Oh Robert, if only you knew what the other guests had already put us through that day! You’d be running for the hills!
Robert was asked about his influence on Woolsey’s character, particularly if he’d had any input regarding the scene where Teyla, rushing off, hands Wooley her baby, and if he had any say in the perfect woman that Woolsey imagined in ‘Remnants’. “First of all, I think I only made one suggestion. When Joe Mallozzi called me and said, ‘How would you like to assume command of the Atlantis expedition?’ I responded with the words, ‘You are kidding.'” It wasn’t a question, folks. Robert said it as if it was a solid fact! “‘How can I be a leader? I’m a complete Dick! You’ve introduced me as a coward, as very adversarial, no people skills, everyone hates me!’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about that. We can rehabilitate Woolsey.’ We had seen Woolsey get more likable, given him some comic foiables, but when there was danger he ran away from it faster than anyone else. In the SG-1 crossover ‘The Scourge’, Who ran away faster from the bugs? But then I thought it would be interesting to take someone who’s spent their life being an adviser, a briefing room guy, a think tank guy, and suddenly put him in the real situation. Instead of coming in to evaluate other people’s command, suddenly he was the guy who was going to be evaluated. He was going to try and take all the theoretical stuff that he had advised other people with and try to put it to action himself. And I thought that’s an interesting challenge. I also think that because of our economic problem there are a lot of people in middle and later life who are going back to the job market, or trying to reinvent themselves in a changing job market. I thought that’s another cool reason to take this job. And they third one was, hey, it’s a steady job! The only suggestion I made was if, at the end of an episode, Woolsey said he was going back to his room to relax and someone knocked on his door, he was in a suit and tie, listening to music, having a glass of wine. The idea that he missed his old uniform, the business suit that he’d been in for all those years, and did not like his little jump suit that he had to wear, I thought that was a cute idea. It showed that there were certain things about the life he left behind, that sort of genteel aspect of his life as a business man, or as a theoretical guy, that he missed. So they did put that in in that one episode.”
Robert went to say that he really loved that Woolsey had a dog. Anyone who reads Joe Mallozzi’s blog knows that Joe has dogs and he loves dogs. Robert said that the fact that Woolsey was sad that he lost his dog when he and his wife divorced was a sign that he really was a very lonely man, but he has no strong emotional ties to anyone on Earth.
Richard said the scene with Teyla’s baby was entirely the writer’s idea, so it was probably Mallozzi’s. “What was so great about it was that in a very very short little moment, it so humanized Richard Woolsey. And he was very clever in that episode particularly, ‘Broken Ties’, the three little vignettes that were sort of comic, when Woolsey ends a briefing and he doesn’t know how to get out the door, the thing with Teyla’s baby where he’s trying to help out but he has no idea what to do with the baby once he starts to cry, and there was a third moment that was also kind of comic, but I don’t remember. But that so briefly, in such wonderful shorthand, really humanized him. It showed that he was trying to be a better man. I think he was a fish out of water in this Ancient technology of Atlantis, but he wanted to learn, and I thought that really helped the audience to say, ‘Okay, lets give this guy a chance, even if I haven’t liked his character.’ I mean I was confident that the science fiction audience might like me as an actor, but I knew that my character had been introduced in the SG-1episode ‘Heros Part 2’ as a complete one shot axe man. He had been sent in there to assign blame and to be a complete jerk, a complete adversarial character. Even when I came back in the next episode, ‘Inauguration’, I was surprised that they had me back, and they started to rehabilitate him then because he was still a complete asshole, but he was an asshole who meant well. Am I right? That was the first step. I think it’s just because the producers, once they had me up there they kind of liked me and said, ‘Okay, what do we do with this guy? Now that we’ve shot ourselves in the foot by making him such a creep!’ I’m very grateful about that. Even though versus by 170 hours of StarTrek I was probably in a total of 22 hours all told of Stargate, but my character has had quite a journey, and that’s because we had so many obstacles to overcome with the way I was introduced.”
Robert said he had some casting ideas for Woolsey’s ideal woman in ‘Remnants’, but the whole idea was again, purely Joe Mallozzi’s. “What was fun was, being a gentleman of a certain age, you don’t get many romantic stories anymore. What was fun about that was to have Richard Woolsey, a guy who’d been married and since he’d been married probably had no dates, so when a woman flirts with him suddenly it’s like he reverts to a man 30 years ago. He reverts to the way he was probably when he met his wife, and how he would behave, because that part of his behavioral repertoire had been dormant for so long he didn’t quite know what he was doing. Unlike Alphonso as you’ll see! So it was great fun to play those scenes in a bumbling kind of way, acknowledging that this attractive woman was flirting with him and was like, ‘What I do about it? How do I handle this? Do I initiate anything? Am I misinterpreting her signals?’ So that was great fun. The actress, who’s name I don’t remember, was lovely to work with, and perfectly charming, and very pretty in a very unusual and offbeat way that made it believable. I said to the producers, ‘Please don’t give me some beautiful woman in her mid-thirties because it’s going to look sordid. I don’t want it to be sordid that I’m flirting with her! Please give me someone old enough.’ Even though this woman was a little too young, at least it didn’t look sordid. But if you want to see so did, Alphonso live!”
Robert then pulled out a season 5 Atlantis cast photo, signed by everyone on it in silver, and auctioned it off for the Catholic charity, Together in Mission. Robert considered the cast picture to be very comical in itself. “There are five very hot looking people plus a bald guy, they are splashing around in a giant bath tub, with a Stargate off to the right. It’s in my opinion a completely idiotic picture.” Robert started the bidding at $100, and he very quickly sold it for $325!
The next fan to ask a question complimented Robert on his acting, and Robert complimented him on his hair, or lack there of! Their hair cuts were pretty much identical! The gentleman said his wife is also a big fan, and Robert replied, ‘Is your wife here? My wife is here too! Why don’t we let our wife run their hands through eachother’s hair?” The poor guy, he was speechless! “Is my wife in the room? I shouldn’t offer that for her. You’ll see her later, she promised to come to see Alphonso. She wants to see me crash and burn.”
This gentleman and his wife are regulars on the convention circuit, and I’m pretty sure I even saw them went I went to Vancouver! Oh to have that kind of free time and funds! Anyway, he said they say Robert at a StarTrek convention in Las Vegas 3 weeks earlier, and he wanted to know if Robert felt there were any differences between Stargate cons and StarTrek cons, and if Robert could name them. I think Robert knew he had to be a bit diplomatic about his one! He paused before saying, “Well, StarTrek is an old franchise, and Stargate is a much newer franchise. I think that they both have tremendous things to recommend them. I loved doing StarTrek but it was a much more formal experience as an actor, and I think that some of that is reflected in a the fan base. StarTrek, being an older franchise, being set in the future, the producers kept very careful control over not only the way the show was shot, but all aspects of it. We were not allowed to ad-lib because, very reasonably, they didn’t want the show to become colloquial. It was set in the moment, in this imaginary future 300 years out. They didn’t want to have an actor ad-lib and go, ‘Far out,’ or, ‘That’s cool.’ Of course all my expressions are from the 60’s and 70’s! But they didn’t want it to suddenly seem like it was not in the future, which is why nobody has a regional accent. You could have a British accent on StarTrek. You could not have a New Jersey accent! I am from Philadelphia. If I had done StarTrek in a Philadelphia accent, this is what it would sound like.” If only you could have heard what he did! It was so funny! He said, “Oh, please state the nature of the medical emergency. Oh, no! No no captain! We’ve got to go back!” with hilarious voice inflections. It’s really hard to describe!
“However, Stargate, as we all know, is set in the present, in this science fiction reality, and ancient technology that we discovered that we are hiding from the rest of the world. That’s what’s cool about it. You could make any kind of present day reference, and that gave it a kind of looseness. For example, there are times when I would ad-lib and the producers, instead of yelling at me, thanked me. I thought it was funny that my character couldn’t remember Chuck’s name. So this one episode where I’m showing off to this person who has come to evaluate me, (Robert had a little trouble remembering the character’s name, we we helped him out!) Xiaoyi. I’m trying to show her what a great leader I am and how I have a one on one relationship with all my staff, and I can’t remember Chuck’s name, I call him Chad or Chet or something like that. And then I come back and I still can’t remember his name and I go, ‘Hello . . . you!’ I did that just as a gag in one take and they put it in! That would never have happened on StarTrek! That kind of seat of the pants fun . . . my impression is that humor means even more to Stargate fans than maybe your regular StarTrek fan. That’s my impression, I don’t know if it’s true or not. There’s not a huge overlap. Which is why it’s interesting that the new show, Universe, is much more dramatic than SG-1 or Atlantis. It doesn’t have that winking at the camera that Richard Dean Anderson does so well, like ‘we’re going to save the world in the next 43 minutes.’ That let the audience in on the joke, which became a trademark of the first two Stargates. They’re moving away from that. They’re moving to a much more dramatic, ‘We’re not going to comment on what’s happening.’ Am I correct?” The audience solemnly agreed. “So in that sense I think Universe is closer to StarTrek than either of the first two. Dramatically closer. I’m saying that it’s trying to be StarTrek, I’m saying that it’s getting closer in tone. Having come from StarTrek what was particularly fun for me was that go by the seat of your pants aspect of it. So, I’m glad I got on Stargate while they were still being a little silly!” By the applause that Robert received, I’d say his answer was very diplomatic indeed!
Robert polled the audience to see if there was anyone who had never watched StarTrek. If there was anyone, they didn’t dare raise their hand, which is probably a good thing because Robert said,”I’d be surprised. We will kill you.” To Robert, this was proof that though Stargate fans are familiar with StarTrek, they really love their Stargate!
Before the end of his session, Robert gave us a brief update on what he’s being doing recently. The poor man landed a role in one of those awful SyFy channel original movies, Monster Wolf. Watch me as I restrain myself from commenting apart from saying that Robert’s participation is probably the only thing that will make that movie bearable. Sadly Robert says he was not the lead. He was actually the businessman who stupidly causes the problem, but Robert didn’t sound too cut up about being the bad guy! It premiered on October 9th.
Robert will also be in a piece called Warlocks with David Hewlett, but he didn’t give us any details except to say that he’s a bad guy again, but this time he’s a military bad guy instead of a corporate bad guy. How do you like that?
Robert recently made an Asylum film. He asked us if we were familiar with them, and said, “They make knock-offs of knock-offs. Movies like Mega Piranha. If ‘Mega’ is in the title, it’s an Asylum film. So I thought I would be in my first ‘Mega’ movie. I assumed it would be named something like ‘Mega Hooters’, which I was interested in, but unfortunately it’s Mega Shark. So I’m in a movie called Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus. It’s so much fun! It’s so silly, I’m dead serious! We have these two prehistoric creatures that are fighting each other. It’s like Godzilla Versus Mothra. I had a ball doing it. But I’m apologizing in advance because you’ll see this credit on my IMDB site, and you’re going to think, ‘What’s happening to Robert Picardo? We have Monster Wolf, Warlocks, and Mega Shark. The truth is I’ll be in any movie with a silly name that begins with an ‘M’. Anything! It could be about a giant dress and called ‘Monster Lu Lu’! So at the autograph table if you can think of a movie that begins with ‘M’ that I should be in, tell me.”
With one last reminder to look forward to “Alphonso live” at the Cabaret that night, Robert left the stage. Thank you so much for coming out to the Windy City, Robert! It was a real treat!
You can see more pictures of Robert from his visit in our Photobucket!
As difficult as it’s going to be, I will be attempting to write up my notes from the Cabaret, including Alphonso. Good grief! You had better thank me for this one! Yikes!