Trish Stewart Interview
Trish Stewart Interview | Original TV Guide Review
The following is an interview with actress Trish Stewart
that appeared in Starlog magazine #32 in March, 1980.

Trish Interview Title
by Alan Brender
When Salvage I did not appear in ABC-TV's initial fall line-up, it was assumed to be dead. Of course, we now know that this was not the case. By the time you read this, the long-awaited two-part "iceberg towing" episode will have aired, and possibly one or two hour-long episodes as well. Production on the show for this season was stopped with but a mere seven hours in the can. At this point, no air dates have been scheduled for the remaining hours and the cast and production crew are not happy with recent developments.(see "Can Salvage 1 Be Salvaged?" in Log Entries, STARLOG #31).
        The following interview with Trish Stewart was undertaken during happier times, when the show was in production and its future seemed assured. --Ed.

For me it's very exciting," says Trish Stewart in her dressing room trailer on the Columbia Pictures lot, where Salvage 1 is filmed. "I don't think there's a comparable woman's role on television. In Salvage 1 you have a woman who has a Ph.D., one who doesn't go around tooting her own horn and accepts the fact that she has weaknesses. She's capable, intelligent, an activator-not a reactor. She's involved but still vulnerable, which I think is important.
        "The stereotype of a capable woman is usually one who is hard and cold, but I think there's an unreality in that. Some women are so intent upon taking on the role of the man that they are also taking on the attributes that are considered masculine-instead of maintaining their femininity and so many of the nice things about being a woman. Melanie shows that you don't have to give up femininity."
        Stewart herself is a unique blend of softness, strength, humor and intelligence. She is as capable of discussing the translinear vector principle as she is of preparing omelettes or applying makeup.
        "I can't totally disassociate myself from the role I'm playing," Stewart says."I bring my own strengths and vulnerability to the role of Melanie."
There are still some significant differences between Stewart and the character she plays.
        "Melanie is more willing to take chances than I am," Stewart explains. "In some areas I'm chicken. But I'm expandmg, growing. I took off in March last year and went backpacking around the world for four months. I hiked through the Himalayas. I felt so brave and courageous. That was such a departure for me.
        "But I had many moments of self-doubt. Lots of inner monologues where I'd say to myself, 'What am I doing here?' Now Melanie wouldn't do that. If Melanie needed a vacation, she wouldn't hesitate to take it. I get too caught up in responsibility.
        "I think Melanie is accepting of people, as I believe I am, but she doesn't try to accept responsibility for them. I have too much of a tendency to be a caretaker. I think that somehow I ought to be able to make everything right for everyone. And in taking responsibility for others, there is a kind of judgrnent that goes along with it: saying that they aren't
capable of doing it themselves.
        "But Melanie would probably say, 'Okay, I may not agree with what you're doing, but I trust the fact that you know what you're getting into.' Remember in the pilot when Melanie tells the movie cowboy, 'That's enough explosive to break your ankles?' The guy persisted, 'and Melanie said, 'Okay.' Then.. BOOM. But she told him."

Comedy or Adventure Show

        Salvage I is something of an enigmatic program. It doesn't fit easily into any category. "We've had people say they don't know whether to call Salvage I a comedy with adventure, or an adventure-drama with comedic overtones," says Stewart.
        "What I say is that Salvage I is different. It is a unique melding of science fiction and science fact. It is possible to build your own rocketship and go to the Moon with the right fuel. The translinear vector principle we use-that slow, steady-acceleration way of reaching the Moon-that's real. But, as is pointed out in the pilot, unless you have a really strong fuel to give you that thrust and keep you going, you can't do it. But the fuel used on Salvage I is fictitious. 'Monohydrazine' is something they made up."
        And this is what gives Salvage I its science-fiction flavor. Stewart herself is an SF enthusiast. Not only has she read most of the classics (her favorite authors are Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein, and her favorite books are Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein and Childhood's End by Arthur Clarke); but she has also dabbled at writing science fiction. She's currently working on a book involving an embryonic-transplant theme.
        "I got into a discussion with a friend of mine who was complaining that on Star Trek everybody always looked like they came from the same racial stock. I said, 'Why not? If you can transplant a monkey embryo into the belly of a rabbit, ship the rabbit from England to Brazil, take the embryo out and put it into a monkey. And that monkey bears a baby monkey. Why not do it with humans?' Anyway, when I get time, I sit down and work on my story involving human embryo transplants."
        Asked whether she had to do much research for the part of Melanie, Stewart responds, "I took a lot of science when I was in school; so some of the terminology is familiar to me. I'm also a voracious reader. But some words were coined for the show. To learn these words, it's simply a matter of familiarizing ourselves with the new words and making them part of ourselves. It takes practice. But I haven't done any studying about explosives-mainly because I haven't had time. We work 13 hours a day for the most part, five or six days a week."
        The three principle performers-Stewart, Joel Higgins and Andy Griffith-appear in almost every scene. Spending so much time together could be a source of contention, but Stewart says otherwise. "I find everybody on Salvage I to be so helpful, so determined to do a good job-not so concerned with I or me. For instance, last night we were all standing around trying to film a scene that was very static. Andy is just supposed to hand out mail-very static. But now, instead of that, when Andy comes in, I'm going to be doing yoga, and Joel is going to be playing the guitar-so that we are active and not static. We three actors worked that out together. If the script just doesn't track, if it doesn't work, we all sit down and try to work out some hook, some joke, that will pull it together."
        As if to underscore what Stewart had just said, there comes a knock on her trailer door. It is Andy Griffith. He interrupts the interview for a few minutes to show her two pages of changes he had made in the script. They go over the changes together, and Stewart volunteers additional alterations.
        "See what I mean," she says as the door closes. "It's like this all the time. We're always working to improve the show."
        Although Stewart loved the script for the pilot, she admits that there were problems with subsequent shows.
        "It's not that we get bad scripts; it's just that everything has been so rushed all season. We did the pilot, and then a week later got the go-ahead for the show. They just didn't have time to get those scripts together. They're still working on the scripts while we're shooting it. I'm hoping that if the show is picked up for next season, they will give us more time per episode."

The SFX-perts

        One strength of the pilot has been kept in the series--the special-effects people. The producers were able to retain the same special-effects experts, but they too have to work under the same time constrictions in the series as the performers.
        "Our special-effects people," Stewart adds, "are working in a way almost parallel to the premise of the show-putting things together out of junk in a terribly short time. They work under tremendous pressure."
        The spaceship on the show has actually been constructed from old boilers and other bits of junk. Its size is quite impressive when seen on the set.
        According to Stewart, "The spaceship doesn't look like it's all that high on television, but it is-about 32 feet high. When you're walking up that ladder to the hatch and having to swing yourself out in order to get into the hatch, it's pretty scary. And, of course, there are no nets. I have often thought, 'Now, what if any of us ever accidently lost our grips?'"
Luckily, no one has. But other accidents have plagued Stewart and her colleagues right from the beginning. During the filming of the pilot, she tripped over her costume, fell down a flight of stairs and tore open her chin. She still bears a scar from that mishap. Many of the early publicity stills of Stewart show her with her hand in front of her chin to hide the wound, and in the pilot, chin straps were added to the space helmets to conceal her cut chin.
        In the first episode of the series, none of the principals escaped injury. "We were on location where it had been raining," Stewart explains, "and the ground was muddy and slippery. I was running away from the Bigfoot-like creature. Somehow I managed not to fall while I was charging down a hill, but when I ran into Joel-whom I was supposed to think is the creature and then start pounding him with my fists-he lost his footing on a wet tree trunk. I fell down and cracked my head on a boulder. Joel fell against a tree and broke a rib. Shortly after that, Andy slipped, gashed his head and had to have six stitches. We all have had disastrous accidents."
        Trish Stewart has suffered more than one nosebleed trying to rip her space helmet off at the end of a scene. Not much oxygen gets into those helmets, she says, and they get pretty hot. So the performers try to get the helmets off as quickly as they can-often forgetting that the base part that fits into the rim of the spacesuit is very narrow. Subsequently, the helmets hit their noses.

"Window Dressing"

        "I really hadn't planned to get involved with a series (after leaving The Young and The Restless)-at least not so soon. But I loved the script. I really loved the script. I had been offered other roles for pilots, and they were always such pat characters-mere window dressing. I hate that. I don't even like the hour I have to spend in the morning with makeup, hair and getting dressed. I find it anathema to be so occupied with the external that one forgets about what's inside-what makes the character tick. I thought-God, here's a woman who is well-rounded, not locked into some area, who is a full human being. There are so many levels to her.
        "Obviously, Melanie has an attraction to Skip, but there is also pain because of the previous relationship with him. There's holding back, and her vulnerability shows through in that.
        "Usually, I abhor romantic titillation. But on Salvage I, I think they are very wise to underplay the romance. Because here it's a slow reacknowledgement of a growing friendship, a growing relationship~the kind that so often happens in real life where the love comes out of a good strong friendship."
        Stewart laughingly adds, "They might soon break down to the point where they'll go out to dinner occasionally. And we finally really kissed in the Skylab episode!"
        In conclusion, Trish Stewart says that she, Andy Griffith and Joel Higgins enjoy good relationships off camera as well as on. "We care about each other-all three of us-which is very nice. And it's good for the show because that's something you can't really fake."

STARLOG / March 1980


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