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SciFi Diner Podcast Ep. 237 – Our Interview with Robert Picardo
(The Holographic Doctor on Star Trek Voyager and
Richard P. Woolsey from Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis)
A Shore Leave 36 Interview
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Robert Picardo (born October 27, 1953) is an American actor. He is best known for his portrayals of Dr. Dick Richards on ABC’s China Beach, the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH), also known as The Doctor, on UPN’s Star Trek: Voyager, The Cowboy in Innerspace, Coach Cutlip on The Wonder Years (where he received an Emmy nomination), Ben Wheeler in Wagons East, and as Richard Woolsey in the Canadian-American military science fiction television series Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe.
Robert Picardo (nickname: Bob) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Joe Picardo. Robert is of Italian heritage, with his father’s family originating from Montecorvino Rovella, Salerno and his mother’s parents originally from Bomba in Abruzzo. Picardo claims that one of the highlights of his life was visiting both ancestral towns with his daughters and his brother Joe in the summer of 2011. He graduated from William Penn Charter School in 1971 and originally entered Yale University as a pre-medical student, but opted to act instead. He ended up graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Drama from Yale University. Picardo is an accomplished singer. While he was at Yale University, he was a member of The Society of Orpheus and Bacchus, the second longest running undergraduate a cappella group in the United States. After his degree, he enrolled at the Circle in the Square Professional Theater Workshop.
He waited tables for a few of years until his theatrical work started to take off around 1976. His first break was appearing in the David Mamet play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” and with Diane Keaton in “The Primary English Class.” In 1977, he made his Broadway debut. He appeared in Gemini (1977) and Tribute (1978). During the 1988-1991 television seasons, Picardo was simultaneously seen on the ABC Vietnam series China Beach in the role of Dr. Dick Richard, as well as the ABC series The Wonder Years in the role of Coach Cutlip, and is among a small group of television actors to achieve notice on two television series at the same time.
Picardo made his feature film debut as Eddie Quist, the serial killer werewolf in the Joe Dante film The Howling (1981). He also had a recurring role in the sitcom Alice. He played a number of roles in Dante’s family science fiction film Explorers (1985), and later appeared in Dante’s The ‘Burbs, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Matinee, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Small Soldiers and Innerspace as the Cowboy. Picardo often plays roles under layers of prosthetic latex, having also played the swamp dwelling Meg Mucklebones in Ridley Scott’s film Legend. He also had a small role as a funeral director in John Landis’s Amazon Women on the Moon.
He voices Pfish in two Pfish & Chip shorts as seen on Cartoon Network’s What-A-Cartoon! Show. Picardo also portrays the voice of the robotic Johnny Cab in Total Recall. He appeared in one episode of ER in 1995 as Abraham Zimble (Season 2 – Episode 6 “Days Like This”). In the early 1990s, Picardo had a brief role as Joe “The Meat Man” Morton, a butcher and neighbor to Tim Allen’s character on the popular sitcom Home Improvement.
From 1995 to 2001, he played the role of the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) and Emergency Command Hologram (ECH) in the television series Star Trek: Voyager. Before being accepted for this role, Picardo initially auditioned for the role of Neelix. He later also directed two episodes. He also played additional versions of the role of the EMH in the 1996 motion picture Star Trek: First Contact and the 1997 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Doctor Bashir, I Presume?”. In 2001, he guest starred in 7 Days episode “Revelation”, purporting to be a time traveler from seven years in the future.
In 2004, he began playing the recurring role of International Oversight Advisory (IOA) member Richard Woolsey in both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, where he became a regular in the fifth season. His first appearance in those series was in the Stargate SG-1 episode “Heroes (Part 2)”. In 2007, he played Principal White in Ben 10: Race Against Time. In 2007, he starred in the independent feature film by director Russ Emanuel, “P.J.”, alongside John Heard and Vincent Pastore. He also more recently starred in Russ Emanuel’s “Chasing the Green” (2008), alongside William Devane, Jeremy London and Ryan Hurst. In 2007 and 2008, Star Trek: The Music was a multi-city tour with John de Lancie. Picardo and de Lancie narrated around the orchestral performance, explaining the history of the music in Star Trek. Picardo has also appeared on Kojak in a 1977 episode, E-Ring as a media rep in The Pentagon, as an enraged father in Cold Case, and as a police officer in CSI: NY. He also appeared as a recurring guest star in two episodes of Season 7 of Smallville.
Away from acting, Picardo is a member of the Board of Directors’ Advisory Council of The Planetary Society, where he has served since the late 1990s. In 2002, Picardo authored the book The Hologram’s Handbook, published by Pocket Books. Other career highlights include performing in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass in D during its European debut tour, performing with the Yale University Society of Orpheus & Bacchus a cappella singing group as an undergraduate, and appearing in dozens of other television and film roles, including the film Our Last Days as Children. On February 5, 2008, it was announced that Picardo would be joining the regular cast of Stargate Atlantis full-time for the series’ fifth and final season. He will be taking over the role of mission commander of the Atlantis Expedition. Recently, Picardo performed the voice of Loki in the Xbox 360 video game Too Human. In 2009, he also appeared in Pushing Daisies, Chuck and Castle. Also in 2009, he played the lead role in the independent psychological thriller film Sensored. In 2010, Picardo had a cameo in the final episode of Persons Unknown, as a member of “the program”‘s governing board. Picardo also voices Robert McNamara in Call of Duty: Black Ops in campaign and in the ‘Zombie mode’ after completing campaign on the one map, “FIVE”. In 2012, Picardo appeared in a season 4 episode of The Mentalist as Jason Cooper, a lieutenant of cult leader Bret Styles. Picardo also appeared on a season 6 episode of Supernatural entitled “Clap Your Hands if You Believe” as a leprechaun. In May 2014, Cartoon Hangover announced Robert Picardo as a guest voice actor in the second season of Bravest Warriors, in the episode “The Parasox Pub”.