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Steven Culp: Live Chat

(c) StarTrek.com

May 19, 2004




Actor Steven Culp, known to Enteprise fans as Major Hayes, will be joining us on May 19 at 2:00 p.m. PDT to talk about his role on Star Trek, as well as his numerous other TV and movie parts.

Culp, who recently played Robert F. Kennedy in the well-received film "Thirteen Days" opposite Kevin Costner, is currently working on a new project in Oregon. Interestingly, Culp has played the role of Kennedy twice, the other time in a TV movie based on the life of Marilyn Monroe called "Norma Jean and Marilyn."

Culp is a well-recognized face as he's starred in dozens of popular TV shows, including JAG, 24, The West Wing and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This past season on Enterprise, Culp has made his mark with Trek audiences as the soldierly Major Hayes, leader of the MACO squad of specialist fighters aboard Enterprise.

Please note that due to potential work commitments, the chat time is subject to change. Please check back on the day for confirmation.

(Courtesy of StarTrek.com)

Host: Our guest today is Steven Culp, "Major Hayes" on "Enterprise". Steven is calling in today — he just returned from a location shoot in Oregon.

Steven Culp: Hello, everybody!

Matttrek: Did you have any martial arts or hand-to-hand combat training prior to your appearance on "Enterprise" and how did you and Dominic Keating prepare for your awesomely done fight scene?

SC: Well, thank you for saying it was awesomely done! No, I have not had any martial arts training. Normally in a scene like this, which was three pages of the script, if you were in a big movie, you would spend weeks preparing for it. Dominic and I came in for a couple of hours a day before we began shooting it. We worked with the stunt coordinator, Vince Deadrick, practicing boxing moves and learning some combinations. I discovered that I have a really lousy "left," so I worked very hard on my left. Then basically the setup was Dominic and Vince and I would go over the scene and David Livingston, who was the director, would run in whenever they were changing the lights or he had a free minute, and add his own input. It was a very collaborative effort ultimately. At first, what Vince showed us was just a mass of flying fists and feet and lots of fast and furious stunts. Then Dominic and I would say, "This is good, but we need to build it up as a story more, it can't start out so fast. We have to start from a place and gradually accelerate the fight." So then Vince would take our suggestions and rearrange it so that it would tell more of a story. And then David would come in and look at what we had done and add his own suggestions. Then we were supposed to film it in one afternoon; it actually took two, about six hours each session. And literally toward the end we were making it up as we went along, because, as often happens on this show, there are several units filming at once, and toward the end there was another unit waiting to come in and take over the stage, and we were literally down to the wire with five minutes to go until they forcibly vacated us. As far as the actual stunt work, a good rule of thumb is, whenever you see somebody's feet leave the ground, it's the stuntmen. So all the high kicks and flips through the air were done by them. Everything else, Dominic and I did.

StarR2night: How did you get the role of Hayes? How did you hear about it? Was it something that was specifically offered to you? It seems tailor made for you. :)

SC: Well, thank you. It's actually kind of different than the usual roles I've been playing. My manager called one afternoon and said there was this role on "Star Trek: Enterprise," she faxed the material, there wasn't a lot on the page, and I resisted going in for it. But Ron Surma, the casting director, had assured her that this character would become more prominent as the season went along, and at that time they were talking about him appearing in as many as 10 epsiodes, so I decided to go in and read for it.

SKa: Do you have any projects planned for this summer?

SC: I just finished shooting a movie in Oregon, and we are taking a much-needed vacation. So far, I know that I have episodes of "West Wing "and "ER "coming up when they start going into production again in mid-summer. And there are a couple of other things in the pipeline, but nothing firm enough that I can talk about yet.

Lisa: Hi Steven. Thanks for talking with us. Do you know if you and the MACOs will be back next season?

SC: I think the intention was to have the MACOs here only for the Xindi arc, but it's possible that they could bring the MACOs back next season. I think that's probably up in the air. I can't speak for the writers or producers, but I think we won't really know that until they map out the next season. So at this point it's too early to say.

Jochen: Hi Steven! What is it like being a CIA agent in "JAG "and then becoming a MACO in "Enterprise"?

SC: They're two totally different characters, so I'm not really sure how to answer that. I think they share certain characteristics, one of which would be a real dedication to their job. But I see them as two entirely different people.

tripster47: When did you first become interested in acting? When did you first start your acting career?

SC: I first became interested in acting in high school. But I never really took it seriously until toward the end of college. I think I had ambitions to be a writer, possibly a musician, but I fell in with actors and after that was lost for good. Then I somewhat arbitrarily decided to get an MFA in Theatre Arts and after that I went to New York and pretty much immediately started getting work. My first job was, I was a nice young kid who turns out to be a psychotic babysnatcher on the soap opera "Another World". And it was soon after that that I started getting a lot of jobs in the New York theatre. Most of my early career was in the theatre, in and around New York. And I would recommend a theatrical background for anyone who's interested in taking up acting.

spockfan: Are you related to actor Robert Culp? How about Joe Culp, who appeared on "DS9"?

SC: No. My answer is no.

designationlocutus: The deleted scene between Madden and Riker in "Star Trek: Nemesis" was priceless, I felt it should have been left in the final release. Did you enjoy shooting that scene?

SC: I did enjoy shooting that scene. My agents had sent me a slightly different version of the scene and asked me if I was interested in going in and reading for it. I know I sound like the pickiest actor in the world, but my first response was "absolutely not." It was such a tiny little scene. But then I ended up reading the script over the weekend, and I thought it was just a terrific script, and then I saw how the character of Madden actually fit into the movie and I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to just show up at the end of this movie and take over as second in command on the "Enterprise". Originally I was going to do it as a total cameo appearance with no credit, because it just seemed like a cool thing to do. So yes, I did enjoy shooting that scene. As soon as I heard they were cutting 40-50 minutes out of the film, though, I had a feeling that the scene would not survive and I was right. I did see it on the DVD and I have to say I think I could have performed it better. Although I don't think that had anything to do with it being cut.

scmh: Hi,Steven. In tonight's episode it looks like you get to go in with guns blazing. As an actor, do you find that doing action scenes are more difficult versus technically loaded lines? Have you had any more accidents like the one a few years ago while filming?

SC: What the question's referring to is when John Jackson broke my nose on the set of "JAG". It's just one of those things that happens when you're 18 hours a day into shooting and everyone is going way too fast. And that was one of the things I initially discussed with Vince Deadrick. I said no matter what happens, we can't let them we can't let them make us feel rushed. But of course, in the end, Dominic and I would go into a move with very little rehearsal because we were running out of time. But at that point we had been working together enough that we were in tune with each other's rhythms. I do like doing action, it's a lot of fun. It's kind of like being a little kid again. But I don't think I could do a steady diet of nothing but action. Because character really interests me. And one of the things about Major Hayes is that his character is very much defined through his actions. Not just action itself, but the way he goes about performing his actions, if that makes any sense.

Clay's-Wife: I hear you write sometimes. Who is your favorite writer?

SC: Wow! There are so many that I just love. Here are some of my favorite books: "Howard's End," "Middlemarch," the works of Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald, Shakespeare ... What am I reading right now? Right now I'm reading John Updike's collected stories and Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton.

Expo Tarts: We've just seen Connor and Dominic at a British convention. Any chance of you coming over here to meet your British fans?

SC: Sure, if somebody will pay my way! I have to say, I have two and a half-year old twins, and it's hard to leave them. When I was shooting the movie in Oregon, I really missed the family a lot. But if you want to bring us all over, we'd be happy to come.

VanishingBlue: What kind of music do you like?

SC: All kinds except what's popular on the radio. Right now I seem to be listening to a lot of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. The new groups I really like are The White Stripes and The Thrills. And my kids are huge Beatles fans.

Simaz: Have you ever played a character in a comedy series? Would you like to?

SC: I'd love to be a well-written comedy series, like "Frasier" or "Seinfeld". I think "Scrubs" is a good show. Most comedies on television don't reach that high of a standard, though. And although I've done a lot of comedy on stage, I don't think the people at the networks think I'm very funny.

Carol Y: When you do actually get some time off, how do you like to relax?

SC: It's been so long since I've relaxed I can't quite remember. We're going to be spending some time at the beach in a few weeks. I also love to ride bikes, hike, play guitar and read.

Elswyth: What's your favourite thing about the character of Major Hayes?

SC: His uniform. Just kidding

Host Too: What's on those uniforms anyway?

SC: That stuff on the uniforms is camouflage. It's space, we're blending into the galaxy. I'm not sure what my favorite thing about Major Hayes is. He's still somewhat mysterious to me. He's very self-effacing, in the sense that he puts the job before everything. If you'll notice in the "Harbinger" episode, when he and Reed have their fight, the big question on Hayes' mind is "Why won't you let me do my job?" I can speculate a lot about his background, what drives him, and where he comes from, but all that seems to be irrelevant. When you see him on "Enterprise," he seems to be someone who's not interested in sharing anything about himself. Because that's not what the job requires. I think you'll see some interesting things tonight, there are moments, especially toward the end, where another person might be concerned about themselves, but Hayes' concern is always with other crewmen and giving Reed advice. He's very, as I say, self-effacing, in his way. But at the same time he's not a shrinking violet. He's very definite in his ideas about what constitutes duty and honor and allegience and being a good soldier and being someone who can lead men.

chris83428: You did a great job on the roll of Robert F. Kennedy in the movie "13 Days." How much research did you have to do to get the role right?

SC: Thank you for thinking I got the role right! More research than you can imagine. RFK is one of those roles like a great Shakespeare role, where you could work on it for the rest of your life and still not get it all. But that's what makes it so interesting and fun to do. For RFK, I read a great deal, studies tapes, listened to audiotapes to get the voice, watched videotapes to get the body language, and just practiced these things until they became second nature. Ultimately, even with the role where you're doing so much research, you ultimately have to take an intuitive leap into the mind of the character and no matter how much research you do, that is something where you have to follow your own instincts.

msmontie: If you could have any role on Broadway or in the theater what would it be and why?

SC: That's difficult to say. I wish I was able to read every new play that's coming out. In some ways I feel I already have some of those roles. Doing "Angels in America" would certainly qualify. I did that play at the American Conservatory Theatre. I've had a real desire lately to tackle Shakespeare's "Henry V," and I suppose, like all actors, I'd still like to be able to play "Hamlet," although I'm too old for it now. A great Shakespearian role is just the most wonderful thing in the world. The last one I did was Brutus in "Julius Caesar" and I'd really love to have the opportunity of tackling another great one soon. What makes it difficult at this point is that it's tricky doing theatre and raising a family at the same time. Simply from a financial standpoint, it's not quite as productive. But I'm constantly on the lookout for opportunities. However the last few years, between TV and movies, my plate has been very full.

beth: What types of movies do you like?

SC: This is sort of like my opinion about music! I'm generally not interested in what is popular. Most of the big Hollywood blockbusters, where the scripts are witless and lots of things blow up, hold no interest for me. Last year, as far as big Hollywood movies go, I thought "Seabiscuit" was very good. I also really liked the movie "21 Grams," but it's gotten to the point, at the end of the year, I can barely remember most of what I've seen. Sorry if I sound like a snob. It's just personal taste.

Linde1: Hi Steven. How do you concentrate on so many roles?

SC: That's a good question. I actually find, now that the kids are here, I've had to become more focused and constructive about my use of time than I ever have. The secret of doing all these different roles, I think, lies in preparation. If I have the time to prepare, I use it. And especially now, since I have less free time at home, I find I'm much more constructive with my free time and I will grab whatever script I have for whatever job I have coming up, or as is often the case, for more than one job I have coming up, and secret myself away and prepare. So by the time I get on the set, it's pretty easy to click into it.

NX01Enterprise: Can you tell us some stuff about what's going to happen on tonight's show?

SC: I'm not at liberty to say a whole lot. But I think you'll find it very exciting. I do get to be a bit of an action hero in this one. And that, of course, is a lot of fun for me. There'll be a lot of interesting developments tonight, that I'm sure will have the fans talking. Hoshi and I get married. (laughter) No, no, just kidding. But she is having my baby. (laughter)

deannatroi: What was it like working with Scott Bakula?

SC: I love Scott. He's amazing. He's an actor who is aware of every aspect of the production. He knows what's happening with the lighting, the camera angles, the set decoration ... He'll be the first guy to move something on the set instead of waiting for a crew member to do it. And he's not obnoxious about it, he's just very aware and always ready with a good suggestion. He's also very funny and is good at keeping people's spirits up. I love working with Scott.

scmh: Hi, Steven. You seem to be the chameleon of TV and the big screen. Out of all the parts that you have played, which one was your favorite to film.

SC: You mean aside from "Enterprise"? I would have to put "13 Days" up there, of course. And my role on "JAG". it's been just a huge blessing. I love that character and I love the way he's developed over the years. I'm also really enjoying being on The West Wing, every aspect of that show; writing, directing, acting and everything that goes into post-production is just great. And when I'm on that set, I really feel at home in a way. And I feel challenged to be the best that I can possibly be.

AD: Does Hayes have a first name?

SC: We were speculating ... Jeremiah. Because it does say "J" on the uniform. And then of course, there are those who think his name is simply "Jay." But you have to wonder if he has ever actually told anyone on the "Enterprise" his first name. I think possibly not.

Nog09: Will you be watching the "Enterprise" episode tonight?

SC: I will have to watch it on tape because between 8 and 9, we'll be getting the kids ready for bed. But I'll try to watch the tape tonight.

Tek: How do you feel about being part of "Star Trek" history?

SC: I think it's fabulous. Since I couldn't be part of the history in "Nemesis," it's good to be a part of the history here. And it really is historical. This is a show, and here I'm talking about the entire Star Trek mythos, if you will, this is a show that has had a profound impact on our culture and still sends out a message of peace and unity between disparate and dissimilar cultures. It still inspires us to explore worlds and accept worlds that are not like ours, and that is a message that is as timely as it ever was. And I'm proud to be a part of it.

Host: One more question ...

BigHairyKev: Do you have a Web site?

SC: There is a fansite devoted to me; I don't run it but it's a very good site. Quite often they will find out things about me before I do. It's TotallySteven.com and it's run by a lovely group of people who were originally "JAG" fans.

Host: Thank you very much, Steven, for joining us today!

SC: Thank everybody for tuning in, this has been a lot of fun. Oh, and let me plug the movie that I just finished shooting! It's called "The Sisters" and other cast members include Mary Stuart Masterson, Eric McCormick, Chris O'Donnell, Maria Bello, Erica Christensen, Rip Torn, Tony Goldwyn, Elizabeth Banks and Allesandro Nivoli. It's an independent film that should be hitting the festival circuit later this year.

Dr Slater: Thanks Steven!

ScottBack: Thank you Steven

TWILIGHT TREKKER 35: Thanks Steven!!

msmontie: thanks steven!!!!!

vulcan3324: Thank you so much for coming today! Keep up the great acting!!!!

Silmaril: Thanks for your insights, Steven!

everythingsroses: Thanks, Steven! Bye. :-)

Starfleet-JAG: Thanks Steven! Live long and prosper!!

spazziumsquared: Thanks a lot for the chat!

Madden or Hayes: Cheers from the UK Steven

LieutenantsGirl: Hope to see you here again!

Captain Robert: Thanks Steven you Rock!

Lisa: Thanks Steven. You're great!

sloanemcrae: Thanks and good luck

Guest: bye steven

spottedponies: Best wishes and continued success.

DavidN: Live long and Party, Steven

Hoshi-Reed: thanks from Alagoas Brasil

SC: Thank you all so much!

Angel: BYE

SC: Thanks for tuning in! And I send you all the best wishes!

darrik: Live long and all that jazz

Host: And thanks to all of you for being here and for your questions.

wolf359: Thanks from Japan

TWILIGHT TREKKER 35: Can't wait till 8:00!

Host: Thank you again for joining us!

Clay's-Wife: thanks you from Denmark,

tripster47: goodbye Steven!

Host: Don't forget to tune in tonight for "The Countdown" !!!

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