Todd Stashwick interview, Part 1
Spoilers for the the third season of Star Trek: Picard will follow. In this first part of our two-part interview, we get to know a little more about the Star Trek universe’s newest commanding officer.
Early in our Zoom interview, Star Trek: Picard actor Todd Stashwick proudly shows off his “Nerd Lair.” Classic, upright video games twinkle alongside cases of preserved Mego Star Trek and Planet of the Apes action figures. A model of the Enterprise is perched majestically above. In another corner, a dragon is bathed in mist from a remote-controlled fog machine. The walls are adorned with framed sci-fi and fantasy posters. “I’ve spent my adult life living the childhood of my dreams,” Stashwick proclaims in his powerful baritone. In short, he is the ideal choice to play Liam Shaw, captain of the USS Titan-A in the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard.
Born and raised in Chicago and the surrounding area, Stashwick credits his cousin for introducing him to Star Trek at a very young age. “I can just picture it,” he begins. “Christmas 1974, I opened a box and there was Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.… He also gave me the fold-out Enterprise. During that era, I was playing with those and we would watch Planet of the Apes, Thundarr the Barbarian, and The Herculoids.… [Then] we would order pizza and watch Trek reruns….
“So, that probably is what fed my appetite for sci-fi and fantasy back in the day. And in 1977, which was a pivotal year because we had Star Wars and the Rankin/Bass Hobbit. And then in 1978, I got introduced to D&D and started playing it in ’79, and then everything after. So, one could say the fuse got lit because of Star Trek, and I was around six years old. I was in Chicago proper, and then we moved out to Hanover Park/Schaumburg area, and that’s where I spent my formative years.”
Improv on the Road
After attending Illinois State University, Stashwick moved back into Chicago to pursue joining The Second City. The famous comedy improv troupe counts John Belushi, Amy Poehler, Chris Farley, Catherine O’Hara, and many others among their alumni. He was accepted.
“Obviously, training for Second City was a dream come true,” begins Stashwick. He went on to write and perform shows between Detroit and Second City Northwest. “I was a vagabond in my early twenties, on the road, making funny with some of the best comedy minds out there. I toured with Adam McKay, and Nancy Walls, and Neil Flynn, and Brian Stack, who has been writing for Conan and Colbert. So, I was fortunate working in college towns and setting up and doing a comedy show, then moving to the next city. It was just a great highlight of my life.”
Stashwick then moved to New York and, along with some of his Second City cohorts, became a founding member of the critically acclaimed, experimental improv group Burn Manhattan. After finding success there, he decided to move out west to Los Angeles. “Then we get into my ‘public record’ acting,” he jokes.
Star Trek: Enterprise and Beyond
Beginning in 1997, Stashwick worked regularly in myriad one-off roles before landing a guest appearance in his beloved Star Trek franchise. For Star Trek: Enterprise’s fourth season episode “Kir’Shara”, he played Talok, a long-term Romulan operative posing as a Vulcan military officer. “I thought my ticket had gotten punched when I did Enterprise,” he recalls. He couldn’t have imagined that, nineteen years later, he would be called back to the Star Trek universe, to take on the featured role of Captain Liam Shaw in Star Trek: Picard’s Season 3.
But before this calling, Stashwick continued to play a variety of characters in comedy, drama, and yes, science fiction series. He recalls some of his most memorable moments from those years. “Playing Dale on The Riches, and getting to work with Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard was a big highlight. Working with Amy Hennig on the video games that I write… She and I got to stay at Skywalker Ranch and go through the archives, look at the ‘McQuarries,’ see Han’s blaster, and have a few glasses of Skywalker wine.”
His showiest role during this period would come on the fan-fave show Supernatural. Stashwick was firing on all cylinders in the Season 4 episode “Monster Movie”, as a scooter-riding, Bela Lugosi–inspired vampire. “Getting to play Dracula on Supernatural was great,” he recalls. And fans would likely agree.
Stashwick had his second Star Trek encounter in 2010, while playing a character on William Shatner’s short-lived comedy series $h*! My Dad Says. In an interview with TheBurnettwork, he recalled working with the “living legend.” “He was delightful,” he recalled. “Look, he was doing a half-hour sitcom, so he was just wonderful…. I remember once we were doing a scene and he looks over at me and says, ‘You know, you’re very funny,’ and just to hear that from one of my legends was [incredible].”
Friends and Collaborators
In 2015, Stashwick’s life would never be the same after Terry Matalas hired him to play the smooth-talking sociopath Deacon, on Syfy Channel’s series 12 Monkeys. “Obviously 12 Monkeys changed my life in so many ways,” he remarks. “I made lifelong friends and collaborators on that. I went to Prague, went to several Comic-Cons… It was such a special time.”
After his memorable role on the show and building an impressive working resume, Stashwick would now find himself on the other side of the fan convention tables. But when perennially asked who has been his most memorable person to work with, he has a surprising answer. “People expect me to say Jared Padalecki or Jensen Ackles, who are lovely human beings. But my first answer is actually Dick Van Dyke! I grew up religiously watching The Dick Van Dyke Show, along with a healthy dose of Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He is a comedic wizard and a huge influence on me. I did Diagnosis: Murder with him, and I was just like, ‘Tell me everything, Mr. Van Dyke.’ I brought him a VHS copy of a film he did years ago called ‘The Comic’, which was a tribute to silent-era comedians. And we just talked shop, and I was just in Heaven. That was such a feather in my cap, to get to work with Dick Van Dyke.” This statement says so much about the actor and the man. Stashwick is an ultimate fan, a thoughtful, curious, and hilarious individual.
Stashwick’s personal and professional connection with Terry Matalas, which continued after their work on 12 Monkeys, went on to play an important role, as the showrunner worked in the writing room developing Star Trek: Picard‘s third season. But that story, and a few spoilers, will have to wait until after the show premieres on February 16. Stay tuned!