(written from a Production point of view)
Ethan Phillips (born 8 February 1955; age 66) is the actor best known to Star Trek fans for playing the part of Neelix through all seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager. He also played two different Ferengi characters, one on Star Trek: The Next Generation and another on Star Trek: Enterprise, and made an uncredited cameo as a holographic mâitre d' in Star Trek: First Contact.
Early life and career
Ethan Phillips was born and raised in Long Island, New York. Phillips graduated with a degree in English Literature from Boston University and a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Cornell University. He began his on-screen acting career playing Pete John Downey on the hit television series Benson. Although the series began airing in 1979, Phillips did not join the series until the following year. Also joining the series in that year was Rene Auberjonois, who later starred as Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Phillips and Auberjonois co-starred together on Benson until 1985, when Phillips left the series. While still acting on the show, Phillips made his feature film debut with a small role in the acclaimed 1981 drama Ragtime. Starring in this film was Phillips' future Voyager co-star Brad Dourif (Lon Suder). Robert Joy also had a supporting role in the film.
After leaving Benson, Phillips began to make a major transition towards films. He had a supporting role in the popular 1986 horror movie Critters with Scott Grimes, and the following year, he appeared in the comedy Burglar, starring Whoopi Goldberg. He appeared in three films in 1989: the highly-acclaimed Lean on Me (also featuring Tony Todd and Mike Starr), the romantic comedy Bloodhounds of Broadway (co-starring Googy Gress, Stephen McHattie and Alan Ruck), and the Oscar-winning historical war drama Glory (with Bob Gunton, Cliff DeYoung, Richard Riehle, and Mark Margolis).
Phillips continued to appear on television, however. In 1987, he co-starred with Lance LeGault and Raphael Sbarge in the pilot episode of the short-lived series Werewolf. He also appeared on a number of other TV shows throughout the late 1980s, including an episode of The Twilight Zone with Christopher Carroll.
Phillips' film and on television credits expanded steadily throughout the early 1990s, prior to his joining the cast of Star Trek: Voyager. He played an agent with the department of immigration in the 1990 romantic comedy film Green Card, which also starred Bebe Neuwirth. In 1993, he co-starred in Mel Gibson's The Man Without a Face (as did Zach Grenier), which was followed by an appearance in the 1994 film The Shadow.
Phillips had a supporting role in the 1994 Western comedy Wagons East, as did Robert Picardo. Both Phillips and Picardo began starring together on Star Trek: Voyager later that year. Coincidentally, Picardo originally auditioned for Phillips' role of Neelix on Voyager before being cast as The Doctor. Wagons East also featured Ed Lauter and the late Charles Rocket in the cast.
Among the television projects Phillips worked on before joining the cast of Voyager were the TV movie Condition: Critical, co-starring Anne Haney, and guest appearances on such shows as L.A. Law (with Corbin Bernsen, Larry Drake, and Diana Muldaur), Law & Order, NYPD Blue (with Gordon Clapp), and The Good Guys (with Ray Wise).
The Voyager years
As Voyager continued its journey, Phillips took on other roles. In 1995, he co-starred with Next Generation star Patrick Stewart and Deep Space Nine guest actor Steven Weber in the comic drama Jeffrey. Two years later, he appeared in the comedy For Richer or Poorer, starring Kirstie Alley. In 1998, he starred in the short film The Battery, written and directed by his Voyager co-star Robert Duncan McNeill. He also starred in McNeill's 9mm of Love, another short film which co-starred Liz Vassey and was made in 2000. That same year, Phillips starred with the aforementioned Alan Ruck in the film Endsville.
Phillips also appeared in the acclaimed 1998 TV mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, as did fellow Star Trek alumni David Andrews, David Clennon, Ronny Cox, Clint Howard, Daniel Hugh Kelly, John Carroll Lynch, Deborah May, Andy Milder, Holmes R. Osborne, Mark Rolston, Stephen Root, and Alan Ruck. Other television series Phillips appeared on during Voyager's run include Maybe This Time (with Michael Ensign), Chicago Hope (with Gregory Itzin), and Homeboys in Outer Space (with David L. Lander and Star Trek: The Original Series star James Doohan).
Following Star Trek: Voyager's end in 2001, Phillips again began making frequent television guest appearances. Among the shows he appeared on were Providence (with Concetta Tomei), Touched by an Angel (with Scott Thompson), JAG (with Steven Culp), and Las Vegas (with Nikki Cox). He also appeared in an unsold pilot entitled The Danny Comden Project, directed by Robert Duncan McNeill. In October 2006, Phillips made three guest appearances on Boston Legal. On this series, Phillips played the father of the boy accused of killing the wife of a judge played by DS9's Armin Shimerman. Besides series regulars William Shatner and Rene Auberjonois, Trek guest actor Ron Canada also appeared in the episode.
More recently, Phillips has guest-starred on such series as Eli Stone (with Bill Smitrovich), Bones (with Geoff Meed), Bryan Fuller's acclaimed Pushing Daisies (with Stephen Root), and Chuck (which Robert Duncan McNeill produced). In 2018, Phillips guest-starred in two episodes of AMC's acclaimed Better Call Saul (starring Jonathan Banks, Patrick Fabian, Mark Margolis and Michael McKean, and featuring Raymond Cruz, Ann Cusack, and Ed Begley, Jr. in supporting roles).
Phillips played the title character of the 2003 short film Living in Walter's World, co-starring the aforementioned Armin Shimerman. Phillips played the role of "Mr. Gorn" in the short Roddenberry on Patrol. This short film, directed by and co-starring Phillips' fellow Voyager actor Tim Russ (Tuvok), offers a comedic look at how Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek and also featured Robert Beltran, Richard Herd, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Robert O'Reilly, Robert Picardo, and George Takei. In 2008, Phillips was again directed by Tim Russ for the independent comedy A Night at the Silent Movie Theater, which also stars Tony Todd. He also appeared in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, again directed by and co-starring Tim Russ, which also featured Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Alan Ruck, J.G. Hertzler, Chase Masterson, and Gary Graham.
In addition, Phillips' voice can be heard on the Nickelodeon films The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002, also featuring the voices of Brock Peters, Keith Szarabajka, and Alfre Woodard) and Rugrats Go Wild! (2003, also with the voice of Tony Jay). He has lent his voice to a number of Star Wars video games, as well. Phillips also continues to make occasional appearances in films, such as the 2003 black comedy Bad Santa and the 2005 science fiction epic The Island (written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and co-starring Glenn Morshower, Randy Oglesby, and Noa Tishby). He recently completed filming an independent drama with Michael Pataki called Trim.
|Star Trek: Voyager regular cast|
|Robert Beltran • Roxann Dawson • Jennifer Lien • Robert Duncan McNeill • Kate Mulgrew • Ethan Phillips • Robert Picardo • Tim Russ • Jeri Ryan • Garrett Wang|
Star Trek interviews
- TNG Season 3 DVD special feature "Memorable Missions" ("Ménage à Troi"), interviewed on 10 September 1994
- E! Inside Star Trek: Voyager (1995)
- Star Trek: Voyager - Inside the New Adventure (1995)
- VOY Season 1 DVD special feature Cast Reflections: Season One, interviewed on 20 March 2001