McNeill admitted that, when he was auditioning for “Star Trek: Voyager,” his career wasn’t soaring as high as it might have been. He had just had his second child and was trying to support a family on nothing more than the money paid to him from a job in an off-Broadway play. McNeill had already appeared on “Star Trek” — he played Cadet Nick Locarno on the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode “The First Duty” — so he knew what a plum gig it was. Not only was the pay good but “Star Trek” had a tendency to provide work for at least a seven-year period. A lot was riding on McNeill keeping the job. “My biggest focus that first season was: Don’t get fired,” he said. “Whatever they say, do it.” He continued:
“I guess kind of selfishly I was just making sure I was a good team player, and so it didn’t occur to me to push back creatively the first season. I really wanted to keep that job. So I just did not critique or question anything they wrote because I was there to do whatever they wanted. But I think that if I had not been in maybe … desperate’s a strong word, but ‘desperate-close.’ if I did not have demands that required me to play ball, I might have said, ‘Wait a minute, you know what? I don’t want to play this guy this way and I don’t like this.'”
McNeill doesn’t allude to any specifics, but fans of “Voyager” were able to see the character evolve, grow up a bit, and develop strange, idiosyncratic interests. Tom Paris loved 20th century media studies, for instance, and recreated a cathode ray tube TV to watch in his quarters.