Tim Russ beams into Lansing for Capital City Comic Con


More people know Tim Russ from his five-second scene in 1987’s “Spaceballs” than his seven seasons as Tuvok in “Star Trek: Voyager,” which ran from 1995 to 2001.

He played the trooper who shouts, “We ain’t found shit!” while literally “combing” the desert with a giant Afro comb in director Mel Brooks’ science-fiction parody.

“It was a day’s worth of work. It was great working with (Brooks). I forgot about it after that. The check cleared, and we’re on our way,” Russ recalled. “Then, 30 years later, it becomes a bloody cult classic, and so does that moment in the movie and that line!”

Russ will appear at Capital City Comic Con on Saturday (July 13) and Sunday (July 14) at the Lansing Center as one of the two headline guests (Adrian Pasdar of “Heroes” is the other, along with several pro wrestlers, voiceover actors and comic creators). Based in Los Angeles, this marks his first time in Lansing.

Russ, who’s also a musician and will have CDs for sale at his booth, is looking forward to the convention. He said events like this remind him of “how enthusiastic fans have been” for “Voyager.”

“Lately, some of them have watched it for the first time, so it’s crazy because it’s been on for such a long time,” he said. “The show has legs. It’s interesting hearing the perspectives of those who just started watching the show, rather than the fans who’ve been marinating in it for 20 to 30 years.”

There are no rules in showbiz, and they’re strictly adhered to, Russ pointed out.

“There’s nothing about this business that makes any sense whatsoever,” he said. “There simply isn’t. It’s an art form, it’s subjective, and it’s unpredictable — that’s just the way it is. You’ll never be able to pin it down, it’s never set in stone, it just does what it does. We’re along for the ride.” 

He compared showbiz to alchemy.

“It’s putting all these pure elements together, and if you’re lucky, it’ll turn out to be gold or diamond,” he said. “You can’t predict how it’ll turn out, you can’t predict what will happen, and you can’t predict what the path will be.”

Born in Washington, D.C., Russ spent the majority of his childhood abroad while his father served in the U.S. Air Force. He completed high school at Rome Free Academy in upstate New York, where he took acting classes and performed in musicals, which he found “exhilarating.” He earned his bachelor’s degree in theater arts from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and completed graduate coursework at Illinois State University. 

“When I came to L.A., I decided to pursue film and TV rather than going to New York to pursue stage,” he said. “Mostly, it was financial. Working in film and television, I’m able to support myself much easier than I would’ve been trying to work on stage. It would’ve been equally competitive, but the payoff is bigger here.”

Russ, whose first regular TV role was in the short-lived 1988 series “The Highwayman,” auditioned for the roles of Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Dr. Julian Bashir on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” (The roles went to LeVar Burton and Alexander Siddig, respectively). He appeared on various “Star Trek” shows as different characters before landing the role of Tuvok, the Vulcan security chief on “Voyager.”

In the show, the titular starship, commanded by Capt. Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), attempts to return home to the Alpha quadrant after being stranded in the Delta quadrant on the far side of the galaxy.

“Kate is amazing. It’s challenging to work with Kate. You better be on top of your lines because she never makes any mistakes with her dialogue. And I mean ever,” Russ said, laughing. “You have to have it together when you have a scene with her. Otherwise, you’ll be the only one holding up the whole process. She’s very much the consummate professional. I enjoyed working with her.”

He said “business” attracted him to the role of Tuvok.

“It was about the gig. I knew there was a good chance the series would stay on for several years,” he said. “You can work 100 gigs, but it’s always tricky — financially and career-wise — because those roles come and go. If you can get a project that’ll be on awhile, you’ll get not only what you make on the show, but also what you make in residuals for years after the show’s over.”

He also spoke about what makes Tuvok so popular.

“Vulcans are always popular because they’re juxtaposed to humans, human conditions and human emotions. People like to watch that interaction, see the humans tweak him whenever they can. They want to see them get a rise out of him and see his reaction to something, even if it’s very little,” he explained. “Vulcans suppress their emotions, while humans don’t. That’s what people are fascinated by. They like this character who can control his feelings and emotions so specifically and so well, while humans cannot.”

In 2023, Russ reprised his role as Tuvok, now a captain, on the final season of “Star Trek: Picard.” He believed he was a better fit for Tuvok than Geordi or Bashir, noting those roles “had a lot of techno-speak, which I’m not interested in.”

“I wasn’t interested in it then, and I’m not interested in it today — for any show. It does nothing for me,” he said.

Next year, “Voyager” will celebrate its 30th anniversary.

“Time marches on inexorably,” Russ said. “It doesn’t feel like 30 years, doesn’t seem like 30 years, except for the fact that I can’t remember most of what I did, and that’s because it’s been 30 years! Most of it has evaporated by now. I can only remember bits and pieces. It almost seems like another lifetime to me.” 



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