Robert Beltran played Chakotay for seven seasons
By the third season of Star Trek: Voyager, some of the actors were wondering what was happening to their characters, where the show could go from that point forward. And fans were starting to ask why certain actors weren’t getting to do more. In a quote in The Fifty-Year Mission The Next 25 Years from The Next Generation to J.J. Abrams by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross Robert Beltran, who played Commander Chakotay, said he’d read in an interview that a producer’s response to why he wasn’t doing more was that [he] was playing the second in command so he suffered from that. The answer didn’t make sense to him.
Brannon Braga, who was one of the producers, was quoted as saying that he thought Beltran “looked down at this whole thing. He thought it was stupid or something…” Braga went on to describe the actor as unprofessional. And it was Braga’s opinion of Beltran that led the producer to not want to write for him.
Braga didn’t think Robert Beltran was prepared on set
Braga admitted that he had an issue with Beltran as an actor. He even went so far as to say that Beltran phoned in performances, which was another reason why he didn’t care to write for him. But Beltran insisted that he did the best he could with the material given, although he did add that he would only be enthusiastic when there was something presented that was worthy of enthusiasm. And he believed the producers thought that the actors were supposed to be enthusiastic week in and week out, but that wasn’t how things worked.
It is true in later seasons that Commander Chakotay did less and less onscreen, often just showing up as part of the team or because he was the second in command and had to make an appearance. When he was challenged as an actor, he delivered. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen too often once the show began to show its age.
In ensemble shows, some characters can get the short shrift, but Beltran was clearly one of the main and necessary characters of Star Trek: Voyager. As such, he shouldn’t have been relegated to the background in so many episodes. Beltran was, to me, another one of Voyager’s missed opportunities.