Tim Russ: The Star Trek Actor Almost Played Another Iconic Character

By Rick Gonzales | 2 weeks ago

tim russ tuvok

Tim Russ is by far best known as Lt. Tuvok on the series Star Trek: Voyager but his career began way before Star Trek and has continued on long after the series ended. While much of his career has been centered around television, Russ has stepped over to the big screen from time to time. So what has this supremely talented actor been up to lately?

THE EARLY ROLES OF TIM RUSS

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Tim Russ’s career spans over 4 decades, beginning back in 1985 when he grabbed his first TV role on the series Hunter. Two feature films came next and then he began a run on TV series such as The Magical World of Disney, Heart of the City, Amazing Stories, Starman, and various roles on the series Hill Street Blues. During this time, he also grabbed a quick shot on the Mel Brooks comedy Spaceballs where he is seen in the classic shot of combing through the desert with an afro comb.

ALMOST GEORDI

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In 1987, Paramount Pictures asked original Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry if he could create a new series in the franchise. Roddenberry came up with Star Trek: The Next Generation and set it a century after the events of Roddenberry’s original Star Trek. Tim Russ heard about the show and auditioned for the part of Geordi La Forge. He explained to Trek Movie how that audition went down, “I went in to read for it once or twice and I subsequently went in to read for the doctor’s role in Deep Space Nine and then eventually Voyager. At the time I wasn’t aware that LeVar Burton was also up for it. That might have been a straight offer [without audition]. He was the only well-known name from the States that was in that series, that is one of the reasons they brought him in.”

Tim Russ would eventually grab his coveted role in the Star Trek franchise, but he did say he was eventually happy he didn’t get the Geordi role for one specific reason. “Yeah, I am actually glad I got the role as Tuvok over that one, because the role that I had was somewhat more organic and much easier in terms of dialog. [laughs] I am glad I didn’t get stuck with all that engineering tech talk. I would have not have been as impressed or enjoyed it as much. That kind of dialog doesn’t do anything for me. So, I am glad it ended up the way it did.”

HIS STAR TREK TIES

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No, Tim Russ didn’t get Geordi but he did find time in the franchise. He eventually was able to get on camera for The Next Generation and also got time on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But these aren’t his only other connections to Star Trek. He had a role in the feature Star Trek Generations and he also co-wrote for Malibu Comics Star Trek: Deep Space Nine issues #29 and #30. He was the voice of Tuvok for the computer games Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force and Star Trek: Elite Force II, he co-starred and directed Star Trek: Renegades, and again was the voice of Tuvok in MMO Star Trek Online.

STAR TREK: VOYAGER

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So, who is this Tuvok character we speak of? At the time of Tim Russ’s interest, he was unaware that Tuvok would even be on his radar. “At the time the producer [Rick Berman] told me they were developing a series that was going to be called Voyager. But, they didn’t have all the characters in place yet and he did mention the series was coming and said if there was a role in there for me, he would love for me to come in and read for it.”

Tim Russ feels that his previous Star Trek auditions and eventual bookings helped tremendously. “I did audition for all of those shows. Over the course of a year or two, off and on, and finally just booked a few of them. So, I had already been in their wheelhouse prior to Voyager, which was an advantage in my case.”

tuvok star trek

Tuvok is a Vulcan, the same species as another immensely popular Star Trek legend, Spock. Same pointy ears, the same intellect, Tuvok is Voyager’s Chief of Security and Chief Tactical Officer. Tim Russ played Tuvok for the series’ entire 7 season run.

A WRITER, DIRECTOR, AND MUSICIAN

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Tim Russ’s talents don’t just appear in front of the camera. He is a writer, a director, and for over 40 years he has been a musician, having produced five albums. He has over 40 credits to his name as a director, mostly working shorts and TV series, and his writing resume has over a dozen credits.

WHERE IS TIM RUSS NOW?

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Star Trek: Voyager ended almost 20 years ago. Tim Russ’s talents were not going to allow Voyager’s end to slow him down. He has seen time on many TV series and soap operas which include Hannah Montana, General Hospital, Samantha Who?, Lincoln Heights, and iCarly. He has also been in the features Live Free or Die Hard, Alongside Night, Greyscale, and Six Gun Savior.

Within the past year or so, Tim Russ has seen plenty of work. In 2019, Russ has credits in 19 projects, most notably How to Get Away With Murder, American Horror Story, and Swamp Thing. The 64-year old actor doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon as he already has plenty of projects on his calendar. Who knows, maybe he’ll find himself back in the Star Trek fold, there certainly are plenty of opportunities coming up for the franchise.

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