STATES OF FLUX:
Josh Clark on Playing Lt. Carey
by Michelle Erica Green
He's best remembered for being the guy who was punched in the nose by B'Elanna Torres, then beaten out by her for the job of chief engineer aboard the starship Voyager, despite the fact that he was a Starfleet officer and she a Maquis rebel. But Josh Clark, Star Trek: Voyager's Lieutenant Carey, made such a big impact during the show's first season that fans are clamoring for his return.
Though Clark has not made an appearance on the show for almost two years, Carey's name comes up often, and he makes regular appearances in the novels and comic books. Yet the character didn't even have a known first name when Clark last played him - we first heard it last season, when Tom Paris mentioned him in "Before and After."
Carey played a major part in the pilot "Caretaker," and in three additional episodes. When the head of engineering died in the early minutes of the series, Carey briefly held that position...putting him in league with Scotty, LaForge, and O'Brien.
But in the next episode, "Parallax," Maquis upstart Torres solved a difficult engineering problem, ingratiating herself with the captain. She won the job of chief engineer over the more experienced Carey, whom the Klingon woman had beaten up when he got in her way. The two spent much of the episode sparring, yet put that behind them in the end for the common good of the Starfleet crew.
"Unfortunately B'Elanna won as chief engineer, but I liked my scenes with her - particularly the last scene, where we reconciled," says Clark. Carey and Torres settled their differences sufficiently to work together in "Prime Factors," where Carey helped Torres try to use illegal alien technology to get the ship home - despite the fact that their plan was a violation of the captain's orders.
Then, in "State of Flux," when the crew realized that there was a traitor on Voyager, Carey was an early suspect because Janeway suspected he might be bitter about not getting promoted in Torres' stead. Clark never had any doubts that Carey would be innocent, but had to play him as nervous enough over the accusation that there was some suspense for the audience.
"I see him as a really proper officer," says Clark. "I like the scene where I'm being interrogated by Janeway and Tuvok and Chakotay - that's the last episode I did." Though the real traitor, Seska, tried to finger Carey as the culprit, First Officer Chakotay - who had wanted to believe in Carey's guilt to exonerate his Maquis crewmember and ex-lover - discovered the truth.
Since then, Carey has apparently lived a quiet, unassuming life as an engineer. We don't know much about the character beyond his desire to get home to his wife and two little boys. Clark is hopeful about the character returning to the series at some point, especially now that he knows he's been missed by fans.
"Look, there I am!" he exclaims, pointing to a not-so-terrific likeness in one of the Voyager comics. "I'm not dead, and I get mentioned in the books." He speculates that Lieutenant Carey must have done something which offended the captain and gotten locked in his quarters for several months.
Though Clark appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation early on in the episode "Justice," he groans, "I had hoped that they would forget about that when I auditioned for Voyager. The director hated my guts. I could not do anything right for this guy, and I don't know why - I tried to be nice, and do what he wanted! That part was supposed to be recurring, but obviously, since he hated me, I never got back."
Seven years later, when the call came to audition for Voyager, Clark put his chances at "nonexistent," because he assumed that the producers would remember him. But the personnel turnover was apparently sufficient that none of the new "powers that be" recalled the incident, and, after several auditions, Clark landed the role of Lieutenant Carey. Things were a bit chaotic at first. Actress Genevieve Bujold, who was cast without an audition, left the show after only a few days of shooting, and Kate Mulgrew was hired for the part of Captain Janeway.
"I was there in what must have been one of her first days of shooting - I remember that they stopped a scene as we were shooting because there was word from above that they noticed that Kate was wearing an earring, and they didn't know whether it was cool for a starship captain to be wearing earrings," recalls Clark. "The word came down that she couldn't, so they had to spend an hour or so puttying up her ears!" Clark also had to contend with reshoots and delays when they changed Janeway's hairstyle.
Though the cast has a reputation for being rowdy, at the point when Clark was on the show, "it was so early on, there wasn't a lot of cutting up - everyone was probably still worried about their jobs!" Robert Beltran, he says, was the biggest joker, but he also seemed to be the person most appreciative of having a role in the lucrative franchise.
Anyone who has seen the E! entertainment network special on the making of Voyager, which features both Beltran and Clark, can get a sense that even during the first season, there was a lot of joking around on the set. In one scene from that special, Ethan Phillips' false teeth fly out of his mouth while Clark and Beltran double over laughing.
Though he has fond memories of working with them, Clark didn't watch the show for most of last year. He reveals, "I really liked doing [Voyager] a lot, and I spent a lot of time wondering when I was going to get back to it, and finally I had to sort of bury it. It was bothering me too much." His enthusiasm was rekindled when he learned about the existence of his action figure, and then of his online following.
Because of the pregnancy of actress Roxann Dawson, who plays Torres, there is speculation in the newsgroups that Carey may return to visibility later this season. Clark thinks it's premature to comment on such a possibility, but says he's certainly open to the possibility. "I don't need anything splashy, I'd just like his presence to be felt on the show. I mean, he's second in charge of engineering. Just a scene here and there would help it out." Of Torres' relationship with Tom Paris, he jokes, "Let her go fiddle around and I'll run the ship! Just once in awhile!"
Clark's most recent role of interest to genre fans was that of murderer Edward Petey, in the episode "Weeds" on Millennium last season. He recalls, "I loved doing Millennium - I did a pretty grisly episode. It's always fun to play a maniacal killer!"
Working on Millennium was interesting for the actor because a lot of the show is shot by what's called the second unit - an assistant director and a secondary crew. "First unit starts shooting another show, while you stay in town and do some stuff for second unit, so actually the shows take longer than most to film - it's really like having a second director, and they do some important stuff. It's nice that they take a lot of time to do the show."
The actor has three children; his six- and eleven-year olds play with Carey action figures, though his teenager predictably wants nothing to do with them. His youngest son collects Batman figures, and Dad expected that Lieutenant Carey and Batman would work together to defeat villains. Little did he realize that Carey would become the villain.
"I go out there, and Lieutenant Carey is tied up by Batman, and hanging from the fireplace, suspended over a bowl of some poisonous liquid! He tortures my figures! Good thing I've got enough so I can sacrifice a couple."
Clark's search for an action figure in his own likeness led to his discovery that he had a fan following. He went online looking for assistance in locating a Playmates Lieutenant Carey. On America Online, Clark met a dealer who offered him several free action figures if he would autograph some for her.
The dealer worked as an agent of sorts to get him booked for his first convention, and told him about AOL's bulletin boards devoted to Star Trek: Voyager, where Clark found an enthusiastic group of "Joshettes"...a big surprise to the actor, who had expected his character to be all but forgotten. Now the "Josh Clark/Lieutenant Carey" folder is quite popular because of his involvement. "If I wasn't posting in it, that thing would probably dry up and die in a week!" he laughs.
However, Clark has several "rules" for participating in his folder, as he jokingly explains. "Never, ever mention any part of the female anatomy, because Lieutenant Carey hasn't gotten any in years! That's rule number one! Number two is, you have to put your Lieutenant Carey action figure on top of your computer monitor and melt the feet into the monitor, so that they're melded permanently. Number three, any time you sign on, you have to say something extremely complimentary about Lieutenant Carey." Clark obviously doesn't take this seriously, but he does hope the producers notice that he's there, and that fans seem to want to see him on the show again.
Clark's interactions with fans so far have been very positive. In his four convention experiences, the only odd thing a fan has asked him to do was to take a picture holding her stuffed bear - and he was once asked to sign the inside of a Klingon's boot. "I had sort of heard about [the convention circuit], but I never thought about getting into it until the action figure," he relates. "It never occurred to me that anyone would have any interest in seeing me. I'm having fun doing it. The fans are really, really great."
A Maryland native, Clark went to New York when he was 20 and spent several years doing theater on and off Broadway. Of his stage career, he says, "I played a lot of Brits." Then he went to L.A. to check out his options and got several jobs there, so he relocated.
The most prominent film on his filmography is Big in which he played what was written as a terrific part as the young boy's father. But his four substantive scenes dealing with the family and neighbors were cut, so the film could focus on Tom Hanks - a wise marketing move, but a loss for Clark. "Big was a little bit of a disappointment because it was such a hit movie," he allows. "Had I been in it more, things might have been great."
When he reads a script, Clark adds, he's not always sure how good the overall story is because he tends to focus completely on the character he would be playing. "I don't think I have the broad vision, but I have very good tunnel vision for what I need to do." Currently working on a feature film called Jackers, of which he notes, "It's one of those things where they shoot twenty minutes of the film and then try to get the money to do the rest," he says E.R. is the show he'd most like to be on.
But Clark was always a fan of Star Trek. "Both times, I got to do 'the new Star Trek show,' which was pretty cool," he observes. With luck, he'll be back later this season on a show where Carey has been making his presence felt even without the presence of the actor for more than two years.