This year marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of Star Trek, and while I may not have the same budget available to me as CBS-Paramount, I nonetheless wanted to mark the occasion somehow. As such, I decided to delve into my back catalog of interviews and compile a piece featuring reflections and remembrances from some of the many cast members and guest stars of the various series and films in the franchise that I’ve had the opportunity to talk Trek with. I don’t think there’s many of you out there who would’ve read all of them already (mostly because there’s at least one in the mix that has yet to see print), but even if you’ve read most of them, you’ve still never had the opportunity to read them all in one place, so please enjoy and – wait for it – live long and prosper.
Star Trek: Enterprise
“People always ask, ‘Did you know you were gonna grow up and be the captain of the Enterprise?’ And I say, ‘No, I had no idea.’ I was a fan of the original Star Trek when I was growing up, but I never would’ve believed that I would’ve grown up to be a starship captain, much less meet and become friends with Bill [Shatner] and Patrick [Stewart] and all the other captains. The community, the outreach of the planet, is kind of unfathomable. That was a great experience for me, and I was grateful to be a part of that franchise. I just got together with all the guys in Las Vegas for a convention a few weeks ago, and we laughed a lot. We worked with some of the most creative people in our business, pioneers, from Michael Westmore to Robert Blackman, and Herman [Zimmerman], our art director… To be a part of what they were doing on television and in the industry, and what they were able to do with all of the technical stuff… We were working with some of the most brilliant minds in the business, and who’ve been in the business for a long time. And when I heard it was 100 years before Kirk and Spock, I was just like, ‘Okay, I’m in.’ I didn’t want to follow anyone else—I felt like there was no following them—but being first? I was okay with that.”
Star Trek: Voyager
“I would say that, if I had a stock and trade as an actor, it was to play characters that you initially didn’t like, or that you thought that you were not going to like and then grew to like in spite of that negative first impression. So The Doctor [had] a certain arrogance. Obviously, because my character was an artificial creation, sort of a first-generation program for a holographic emergency medical physician, there was a certain artifice to the way he acted for the first season or two. But eventually, as the show went on, he became more and more successfully human-like. As far as the initial impression of being full of [himself] and a little arrogant…I mean, you would never see the holographic doctor pinch a woman on the butt! But he still had that ‘I’m the smartest guy in the room’ feeling.”
Star Trek: Voyager
“Oh, God, I so, so wanted to have a bonfire when [Star Trek: Voyager] ended. I was so lobbying for them to let me just burn one of the corsets. ‘Just one!’ But, no! You know, I loved the ones where Seven was sort of experimenting with humanity, so some of the later seasons, there were episodes where she was… Of course, I’m not going to remember most of the names of the episodes, because I’m a terrible Star Trek fan! ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ was one of them. I think that was the one where the Doctor was…it was sort of Pygmalion, and he was teaching her how to be human and how to date and things like that, and he sort of started to fall in love with her a little bit. It was very poignant and touching and very sweet. So I loved that one. And there was another one, I think it was in the last season, though I can’t remember right now…when she built this entire fantasy life on the holodeck and fell in love with Chakotay, then realized that she couldn’t experience intense emotions because her Borg hardware would short out or whatever! They just ignored that entire storyline for the series finale, though. That all just went by the wayside!”
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“Rick Berman, who was the executive producer on Star Trek, saw A Dangerous Man, and he had really eclectic tastes, because that was by no means a commercial movie, but that’s what he chose to watch on whatever night Great Performances was happening. He watched it, and he gave me the role of the captain, actually. And then he realized that at the age of 26, or whatever I was, I was way too young to be the captain of his new show, and he made up a role for me on the spot. So I was incredibly lucky. This doctor who was gonna be called Amoros, who was gonna be from Central America, ended up being me.
“We had a devious plan: we wanted to build a character that we knew wouldn’t go down well in ’90s American culture. This was a time when, you know, 90210 and Melrose Place were all the rage. These were the shows that everyone was watching, and they celebrated the mediocrity of the perfect youngster, the beautiful young Adonis, and it was all about ready-made, cookie-cutter characters, as far as I was concerned. And I do remember a conversation with the execs on Deep Space Nine. We had some really good writers. It was a really good room for writers in those days. Ron Moore, Rene Echevarria, Ira Behr, Michael Piller… But they said, ‘Well, what if we do a character that we know isn’t going to go down very well? You know, he’s going to be pretty unpopular. He’s going to be not the perfect article. He’s going to be pretty un-heroic. An antihero, if you like. And then we change it up and see if the public follow us and see if everyone comes with us.’
“And there was a moment when we did an episode where I emulated James Bond on the holodeck… and that was the point, obviously, where we decided—well, they decided it. I wasn’t part of the decision about when to change me, but I was part of the devious plan as far as the aim of the arc of the character. But they decided that that was how they were going to do it, so they did it, and—weirdly, as if by magic and nearly overnight—my character started to improve in the polls! And I suddenly became one of the favorite several characters, actually, as opposed to easily the least favorite. The studio tried to fire me every year for the first three years. Rick Berman had to say, ‘Over my dead body,’ because he had a plan. So there was kind of a weird social experiment that went on in that show, and I was really lucky to be part of it.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“I wasn’t [much of a sci-fi fan.] And I’m still not, really. I learned a lot more about sci-fi by doing [Star Trek], and I was very impressed with how the writers used it being set in the future to address contemporary issues, everything from homelessness to genetic engineering. All these issues were brought up in that show. I was very impressed with that. [Deep Space Nine] was a big show, well-written for the most part. Even though we did 26 episodes a year, which is a lot of shows to do and keep the writing standard high, they did it. I was very fortunate there. We had a great executive producer, Rick Berman, who… I mean, during that show, every season, I’d do at least one, maybe two features, and they would release me to do that. Which was very unusual in TV in those days. It was like I was two different people. The people who watched Star Trek knew me as Miles O’Brien, and the people who knew me from features… It was like I was two different actors! I had two different careers. I mean, it was fun, it was a pleasure to do, but [for me] it certainly wasn’t life-changing.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation
“They were looking for a young actor to play [Wesley Crusher], and David Gerrold recommended me to Bob Justman because I was kind of well-known at the time because of Stand By Me, and I had done a lot of work that people just don’t remember, a lot of After School Specials and movies of the week, [but] for an actor, those things were important. That was an important part of our resume and our career. So David Gerrold recommended me to Bob Justman, who then recommended me to Gene Roddenberry, and they just brought me in for an audition. It was yet another audition like the thousands of other ones I had had. It wasn’t like they were specifically looking for me or anything like that, you know. There’s nothing really cool like that. But I was really excited for the opportunity, because I am a huge Star Trek fan and have been my entire life, and a big science fiction and, like, fantasy nerd. I sort of felt like I was in Rudy, finally getting a chance to run out onto the field. Fortunately for me, my time on the field was a bit more successful than his…
“I was 14 at the time, so I was that kid. I was too smart for my own good and really nerdy and really, really, really, geeky and awkward and just excited beyond words to be a part of this immense thing. Wesley and I really had that in common. What they never really wrote, and I think is a massive failing from the writers, was how tumultuous that made me feel. I was a really enthusiastic, really excited, really geeky teenager and I was around a bunch of very sophisticated adults, and they were the people I spent most of my time around, and they were my friends, and they were the people I looked up to, but it was weird because they were adults and I was a kid. We could never really relate to each other as much as if I had been closer to their age, even if I had been like 18 and 19 instead of 14 and 15. And that created a lot of turmoil for me. I felt like I was part of this thing, but I was really on the outside looking in the entire time. Everyone was wonderful, the cast was great, we were all very much a big family, but…if you’ve been to big family events where you’re with members of your family and you love them and they love you and it’s a great time, but you still can’t sit around and talk about music and you can’t talk about TV and stuff because your influences and interests are so, so different? It can be kind of isolating.
I thought years later – I didn’t have this thought process at the time – if the writers had explored that with Wesley Crusher, it would have made him, I think, a more believable, more well-rounded and ultimately more sympathetic character that more people could identify with. They really advanced Wesley’s character a lot in just in the first season alone, but Wesley doesn’t really become a good solid rounded-out character until the episodes like ‘Final Mission’ and ‘The First Duty.’ That’s unfortunate that those are the only times that they ever really wrote well for him. There are other little bits here and there, but those are the ones where I think the potential of the character is realized.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“From what the producers say, there were two of us that were really kind of vying for the part [of Worf] – the other was James Avery, who’s a fabulous actor – and the producers said, ‘Well, we had to go with a young one, so we went with you.’ It had nothing to do with the performance! They said, ‘Yeah, the readings were great, but James’s reading was better than yours. But you were younger.’ Which is horrible to say to an actor, but… I like to think that I came in and I was Worf, basically. Because I knew that Klingons are very no-nonsense and get-to-the-point. They say what they’re going to say and they leave, yknow? So that’s what I took into the audition.
“Interestingly enough, at that point in my career I was doing a lot of different stuff. I mean, I was really happy because I was doing drama, I was doing comedy…I was working like crazy, which was great. And this was just another audition, although when I heard that they were doing one, I called my agents and managers immediately and said, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta get me in! I want to do this!’ But they called and they said, ‘Okay, we’re sorry, but it’s already been cast. It’s done.’ And I kind of went on with the rest of my life. I went, ‘Okay, well, that’s life,’ and I kind of went back to what I was doing. But then I got a call two weeks later saying that they’d come up with this part and they wanted to see me for it. But you don’t know what’s going to happen with these things. Even at that point, I’d been in the business long enough to know that you just never know. It’s better not to think about those things, because most of the time it doesn’t work out like you think it’s going to work out.
“But I never had to storm up to the office and yell at them about where my character should be. I was always excited about getting a script and going, ‘Oh, my God!’ And that was for a couple of reasons. There were other characters, you could only write so many episodes about each character, but they put a lot of effort into that, because when you’re talking about Klingons…I mean, you’re not generally talking about Starfleet, you’re not talking about a love story, or any of the regular things. They had to come up with really interesting and different ideas for the Klingons, So whenever they came up with something, it was very special, and I was always blown away and really happy about what they wrote. There was one episode where a Romulan needed my blood, and I didn’t give it to him, and he died. And I was concerned about that. That was one of the few times, maybe the only time, that I went to Rick Berman’s office and said, ‘What do you think? Do you really want to do this?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely!’ And I think it turned out really well.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation
“I don’t think everybody wanted to be on [‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’”] I certainly didn’t! I had an agent, and they were seeing people for the parts, so my agent said, ‘Here’s the script, see if there’s anything that speaks to you.’ And I did, and I called my agent and said, ‘I think this character Data is kind of interesting,’ and she said, ‘Well, okay, I’ll get you the appointment with Junie Lowry.’ I had to read with the casting agent first, ’cause nobody really knew me then. So I did, and Junie was very nice and said, ‘I think you should see the producers.’ And then after that, I had, I think, six different auditions for the role. And finally it was me. It really was not that difficult a process [to create the character], because I was playing something that doesn’t exist. So it was really based on… Imagination was the key element in that, and whatever I could think of, I could do, because there was no precedent for it. It wasn’t like someone was going to say, ‘Well, an android would never do that.’ They didn’t know! So it was kind of nice to do. It was open to interpretation, so you could do whatever you wanted.
“You know, initially I objected to the Data makeup. I said, ‘Why do I need this makeup? Why can’t I just look like me?’ In fact, I said to Gene Roddenberry, ‘Don’t you think that by this time in history, they would’ve figured out how to make skin look like skin?’ And he said, ‘What makes you think that what you have isn’t better than skin?’ And I went, ‘Um, okay.’ Can’t argue with Gene Roddenberry! He was a pretty brilliant guy. I really don’t [have a favorite episode], because I didn’t really watch the show. I still haven’t seen about 150 of them! So I didn’t really think of them too much in terms of episodes. I thought of them as kind of one long seven-year episode. But it was a very, very pleasant episode. I’ve worked with some great people, and I was paid handsomely, and it was a nice role, so the whole experience was positive for me.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation
“I went in to read for Junie Lowry, who cast the show, and seven auditions later, I was lucky enough to be cast in spite of the rumor being that they’d wanted to get Billy Campbell to play it. I’m not much of a sci-fi geek. I was certainly aware of the original, but I wasn’t quite aware or prepared for the iconic place that it had in popular culture. And I didn’t have any idea that it was going to change my life in such a positive and substantial fashion. Gene Roddenberry, the late Great Space Bird Of The Galaxy, had asked me originally not to smile, that he wanted Riker to be played with what he referred to as a Gary Cooper, Midwestern glint—not a scowl, but not smiling. And my nature is to smile, so I looked, or thought I looked, very uncomfortable—certainly in the first season—because I was playing Roddenberry’s wish, his note. But Maurice Hurley came on the show and sat me down and he said, “So what do you do?” And I told him about the trombone and the jazz, and then all of a sudden the character started to have a few of the qualities that I could relate to personally. And then after the writers’ strike, I’d grown a beard because I hated to shave. And Roddenberry fell in love with the beard, and the beard became a part of the character in a way that was, as Gene described it, was a nautical, decorative beard, which he took great pride in designing on my face. So somewhere in there, I sort of found my legs, and I felt like we were really off and running.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation
“My favorite [‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ episode] is ‘The Inner Light.’ It was a spec script, you know. That’s something that not many people know: it was a spec script. One of the tiny few that actually got made. And, of course, my son was in it, and it was the first time I’d ever worked professionally with my son, so that’s another reason why it’s special to me. There are other stories about that episode, but…I’ll have to save them for my biography, as I’ll probably be sued when they come out!”
Star Trek (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”)
“[‘Star Trek’] has turned out to be very beneficial to me in the afterlife of that particular time, but I can say this: it was the most difficult, horrible job I ever had. Because I had to put on these full contact lenses when I became the god-like figure, and I had these silver eyes. It was very, very difficult. I had to choreograph everything blind. I couldn’t see. Everybody thought I could see them, but I couldn’t. So I would have them put me on a mark, and then I did everything based on what I knew of where things were in the rehearsal, like a blind person. And then my eyes began to hurt, so…it was not a fun time, no. But, I mean, it turned out to be a real bonanza for me, in that I do autograph shows sometimes, and Frank Poole [from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’] and Gary Mitchell are the ones I do the most autographs for.”
Star Trek (“The Corbomite Maneuver”)
“I’m honestly not a big Star Trek fan, but I do appreciate the fact I was a part of a piece of real TV history. The fact that Balok lives on is great, and I have nice memories of my day on the set. Getting to work on a sci-fi show when you’re a little kid is a thrill. I made sure I had Dad take some photos of me on the set. I have a photo of myself in Balok attire on the bridge of the Enterprise.”
“Here it is, more than four decades since we first went on the air in 1966, and Star Trek is still popular! And we’ve had so many different guises: the TV series, the animated series, and then the series of major feature films. And almost since the beginning – well, starting in the ’70s, anyway – there have been Star Trek conventions all over the world. It’s an amazing phenomenon.”
“I knew from the very beginning – or at least when it made me popular – what a profound effect [Star Trek] had, but to bring yourself to understand it again, to have another insight, is helpful about everything, whether it’s the love you have for the people around you or your work or…eating an apple! As long as you live in the moment and appreciate it, that’s really what makes you happy.”
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
“To this day, I don’t know why they cast me, because I hadn’t done anything that I can recall that bore any resemblance to the character of Captain Kruge! They just played a hunch, I guess. And I loved doing that. I mean, he epitomizes somebody with absolutely no moral conscience. He even blows up his so-called girlfriend in another spaceship. They have a short conversation at the beginning, and he doesn’t even apologize. She’s amenable because… well, it’s for whatever political reasons. But, yeah, he’s just evil! He’s demonic. There’s no conscience in place at any point, and he has no apologies for any of his actions. He just goes out and destroys and kills and creates havoc until he gets what he wants. And that was fun to play. I loved all the makeup and the clothes, the whole Klingon look. It was a joy. And Leonard Nimoy directed! I mean, I had to do that film. It was like, ‘What the hell, you only live once.’”
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“Things Past”)
Star Trek: Voyager (“Year of Hell”)
“I had done a movie with Nick Meyer called Company Business—with Gene Hackman and Mikhail Baryshnikov—and then they called me up one day and said, ‘Hey, we’re doing Star Trek VI!’” He had also done Star Trek II, I think. So he said, ‘Do you want to do something?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure!’ He said, ‘Well, take a look and see who you like.’ So I called him back and I said, ‘How about the Federation President?’ And he said, ‘Oh, great!’ They had gotten somebody else, but they were just looking to go a different way.
“So I did that, and…well, you know, there was some fun involved, and the makeup looked great, but the problem with that—and when I played this Kardashian on… No, not Kardashian! It’s like Kardashian. When I played the Cardassian on Deep Space Nine—is the makeup just isn’t comfortable, you can’t lay down. For the Federation President, I had to have the lenses where they made my eyes look blue, so everything was always foggy, I was never comfortable, and I’d never get enough sleep. You had to come in at, like, 4 in the morning to get the makeup, then they’d work you for 12 hours, then you’d spend another hour and a half taking off the makeup, so you’d end up getting maybe three and a half hours sleep a night. So by the end, you’re just punchy and grumpy. But when I did Voyager, it was less makeup and a much more interesting character who had some real depth to him.
“I think of the Star Trek shows in general as being rather Shakespearean, because of the stories and because of the scope. That’s why so many of the actors on those shows are really trained actors. Rene Auberjonois and Armin Shimerman and Jeff Combs… I knew a lot of those guys from before, having done theater with them, so I knew about their classical backgrounds and such. I think that helps in those kinds of shows, because of the size of the characters and the size of the stories.”
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
“It was absolutely revolutionary to me that Klingon was actually a language and had been registered in Washington as a language. I never knew that. They’re terribly serious about pronunciations and stuff. There was an expert on Klingon on the set! I was like, ‘Are they really serious about this?’ So I cut my Klingon down as much as I could, because I couldn’t… I couldn’t gargle like they could! I also persuaded the director, Nicholas Meyer, who I liked very much, that I didn’t have to put that awful brow on. That phony-looking thing, oh my God. I said, ‘No, I want mine to be just one little hint of it!’ So they let me do that, but there was a great fuss about, ‘Oh, the sacrilege of changing it!’ So I ended up looking like Moshe Dayan, with the patch! But, no, I was happy with it. It was great fun, and quite a funny script!”
Star Trek (“Miri”)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (“Trainee Foster”)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places,” “Rocks and Shoals”)
Star Trek: Voyager (“One Small Step”)
“You know, I wished I could’ve done Next Generation and, ultimately, Enterprise. But they didn’t happen. I actually was doing another show at the time for Paramount when Next Generation started. My sister Iona and I both did the [Star Trek] episode ‘Miri.’ I think what the creators wanted were kids who were not actors to play the surrounding characters. They had a couple of actor kids who played the kind of lead characters in that episode—certainly Kim Darby and Michael J. Pollard were seasoned actors—but, you know, they wanted kids who were not actors but knew how to conduct themselves on a set. And who better than actors’ kids? Or directors’ kids or producers’ kids. And that’s who we all were. We were all somebody’s kid.
“To be honest with you, that episode freaked me out a little bit! Because if you remember at all the scene where we’re in the schoolhouse, and one of the Grups who has been ravaged by this disease runs through, and she’s this hag with white hair and all these applications on her. I don’t recall them telling us that’s what was going to happen. And when it happened, my reaction was absolutely visceral and honest, because it freaked me out! So if you watch the episode and you see us all running and scurrying to various corners, I think we really were scared, and it worked brilliantly. I mean, Shatner was brilliant in it, and DeForest Kelley was amazing. For a kid to grow up right on that lot, the Paramount lot, was amazing, so to do that episode and to be a part of that kind of iconic legacy… again, very special.
“I’m not a Trekker or Trekkie or whatever you call them. I’m just an actor who enjoys great work, and when you play on Star Trek, in any iteration or variation of it, you’re gonna be guaranteed to be given amazing material, passionate, high stakes to play. And I got that in every episode I did. I think the only experience I had that wasn’t quite like that was The Search For Spock, which was kind of an innocuous moment, and which I just saw the other day, as a matter of fact. Me on the bridge with Admiral Kirk, as he was at the time. It was kind of an innocent, naïve moment, and I never had another one of those again. Every other show I did for them was, like I said, high stakes. I was either playing a Klingon or a Jem’Hadar or the man who first encounter alien life or an alien spacecraft. Just incredible stakes. And I always had an amazing time doing the work, because they give you so much.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Encounter at Farpoint”)
“I was happy to be part of the project, in the first episode, when Q came in, and I knew intuitively that it was going to be an important project, if maybe not that it was going to be quite that big. But when I put on the wardrobe, I just felt, like, “Ugh…” I was little apprehensive. It was so stereotypic, with the little Fu Manchu mustache. I thought, “Shit.” But then I went, “You’d better let all this stuff go, because you’ve got to recite your line.” And it was only one line, for God’s sake. But I was definitely rumbling back and forth about it. I had to do the line a couple of times. But I’ve gone to a few Star Trek conventions, and even at Comic-Con people ask about it. They even made a trading card for it!”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Emissary”)
“That was kind of a fun show to do, ’cause I grew up watching Star Trek when I was a kid, and I really wanted to do the show, so I was excited. Also, frankly, I hadn’t eaten in awhile, and it was great to be on a set, because they had a great craft-services table! Literally, I think it actually had been maybe two days that I had not eaten. I was, seriously and literally, a starving actor. So to go onto a set with food was amazing. And I got to be on the bridge, on the Enterprise deck. I took over for Worf at the security station when he took over as captain, so he had to ask me for status updates. But it wasn’t like I was ever going to come back or anything. Frankly, I was hoping to be killed. That would’ve been awesome. But no such luck. I also wanted to be able to go through the bridge doors, but that didn’t happen, either. But we did get attacked by Klingons, so I got to hurl myself across the deck. So yeah, it was cool. Got to wear the little outfit and everything. But one thing people don’t know is that the zippers, they just don’t go down far enough. So when actually had to pee, you kind of had to take off the whole thing. You’re standing at the urinal, and you’re letting it all hang out!”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Outrageous Okona”)
“[Playing Okona] was awesome. But, y’know, what happened was, Junie Lowry—an L.A. casting agent who, in fact, cast me in The Killing—has, over the years I’ve been out here, been the biggest proponent of my career. When I was first starting out, I did something for her, I can’t remember what it was, but…well, point being, she called me up about Star Trek. She said, “I’ve got this thing going on, and you’re perfect—perfect!—for this second-in-command. It’s you. You’re gonna be it.” And I’m, like, ‘Star Trek! I could be the second-in-command on Star Trek! On the Enterprise! Fuck, fuck, fuck!’
“So I went in, and I auditioned, and she’s, like, ‘Great! Perfect!’ And we went through the whole process. And we got to the last meeting. And it was me and Jonathan Frakes in a green room, waiting to walk into a room full of executives. And I start thinking…well, I’d actually started thinking long before that, but I really started thinking, ‘My God, if I do this…I’m not sure if I’m gonna do anything else.’ Because that’s kind of the way it goes with something as iconic as Star Trek. And I actually pulled the same maneuver on…Dynasty was one of the first things I did when I came to Hollywood, and I did 13 episodes, I think, or something like that. And they asked me to re-up, they asked me to sign on for good. And I refused. Because I knew that if you got too hooked into something that was iconic as Dynasty, which was the highest-rated show on TV at the time, there’s a danger to that. And I thought about that while I was waiting for Star Trek. And I got petrified. And I absolutely clutched the meeting. Junie had been telling me, had been buzzing in my ear, ‘You’re the guy! You’re the guy, you don’t even have to worry about Jonathan Frakes. You’re the guy. This is happening.’ And I clutched. And Jonathan Frakes…as it ended up, he was the guy!
“And Jonathan Frakes should’ve been the guy. He’s brilliant and wonderful in the role, and it should never have been mine, and I agree with all of that. But later on… I think when I went in the room and I really screwed up the audition so badly, Junie was quite angry with me. I mean, really quite angry with me. ‘Cause I kind of embarrassed her. ‘Cause she had put a lot of stock in me and so forth. And ages later, I sent her an email or wrote her a letter, I don’t remember what I did. Maybe I called her, I’m not sure. But I said, ‘Junie, I’m so sorry I messed up,’ or whatever, and she said, ‘No, honey, it’s fine. It’s fine! Jonathan is wonderful, and it all worked out wonderfully.’ And I said, ‘Does that mean I can do an episode?’ She said, ‘You want to do an episode?’ ‘“Yeah…?’ ‘I’m on it!’ And literally in two days’ time, she called and said, ‘Here’s the job: ‘The Outrageous Okona.’’ And I had to come in and read for somebody, of course, but the job was mine. And that’s how it all came about.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Who Watches the Watchers?”)
“I was a Bronze Age Vulcan. I was a Mintakan, and I was my people’s official timekeeper. I played Ray Wise’s daughter, and we didn’t have enough knowledge yet to have any technology. Then Picard fell through something called a ‘duck blind,’ where I guess he beamed to our planet. And there’s something called the Prime Directive in Star Trek. You’re never supposed to break the Prime Directive, which is to keep people’s knowledge at the level at which they discovered them. So, yeah, all this shit! I would go to work at four in the morning, and then I’d sit in a makeup chair, and then at six I’d be an alien. They would have transformed me. I had, like, a protruding forehead and Vulcan ears. I kept my Vulcan ears! I kept them in my apartment…and my housekeeper threw them away!”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”)
“I was doing a play at the time. I was doing Biff and Happy in Arthur Miller’s famous play, Death of a Salesman, we’d been a big hit and been extended, but I get a call about this one night. And this part…the guy was originally called, like, Manuel Castillo. And I’m, like, ‘Oh, yeah, sure, send me in for Manuel Castillo. You can’t wipe the Irish off my face, but I’m gonna go in there and do it, anyway…’ And I did, and I had a great time. The director [David Carson] went on to be one of the most successful directors on the series, and the episode itself went on to become one of the highest ranked among the fans because there was so much stuff involved. There was the Enterprise-C, Tasha Yar came back…it was a gas.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Wounded”)
“That was a wonderful episode. I’ve been to some of the conventions, the signing conventions, and there’s a whole string of people who know that episode beat by beat, and people recall that Colm Meaney and I got to sing ‘The Minstrel Boy.’ The moral question involved in that episode, I think, was kind of intriguing and tantalizing. I was proud of that character, playing him, and getting to get beamed up! I had worked with Brent Spiner on Broadway. We had done Big River onstage together, so it was fun to do work in another medium with him. I remember that, when we were on the set, they had plaques all over the stage that we worked on with the word sandwiches that Data had to say, this nonsensical Star Trek speak. They would applaud sometimes after he would go into one of these real technical speeches, so they got to putting them on the wall in frames, as a sort of congratulations that he was able to navigate through the words.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Chain of Command”)
“I’m a trivia question: I’m one of the few [guest stars] who’s actually done a captain’s log on Star Trek. I also have some relatives who think that’s the only thing of any worth I’ve ever done!”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Unification”)
“I was always a Trek fan. When I got to college, it was over, y’know, because it was the early 1970s. All the geeks gathered at 4 o’clock in the afternoon in the area there where we were living to watch Star Trek reruns. And I think it happened all over the country! That was our little Bible back then. That was the only adult-oriented science fiction that happened at the time, because The Twilight Zone was well off the air by then as well. [But when I did the show], I had to use all my Shakespearean training just to talk over the Klingon teeth! Who knows what it was like by the end of the series, but in those years ofNext Gen, they put heavy-duty dentures in for the Klingons, and you really had to open your mouth to speak! So it helped to fall back on Shakespeare in that sense. I didn’t really get to work with Leonard Nimoy, but he was on the set, so I did get to meet him, and he was a really nice guy. And that was a thrill. Just being in the same episode as Spock was a thrill!
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“A Matter of Time”)
“I can’t honestly say that I was a huge Trekkie beforehand, but I became a big fan after doing the show. A lovely bunch of people, including Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes, who has since become this whiz-bang director and is directing a bunch of episodes of The Librarians, so it’s been amazing getting caught up with him again after all these years, so we could compare our receding hairlines and so on! But he’s a lovely man and a hugely talented director. The actual episode was a blast. I mean, just being on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, right? And we were having such a good time. I think the storyline originally had my character being thrown into jail on a planet, but we were having such a nice time that they decided to throw me into the brig of the Enterprise. I think I was still in custody when the episode ended, so I guess I’m still floating around the 24th century somewhere!”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Cause and Effect”)
“Jonathan Frakes is kind of a buddy of mine, and he just called up and said, ‘Hey, what are you doing? Can you come over for a day and shoot a scene as this guy?’ And I said, ‘I’d love to, sure.’ I’ve always liked to think that he was a friend of James T. Kirk’s. At the very least, he wore the same uniform as they did in the original Star Trek movies.”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Chase”)
“I went in and played the mentor to Patrick Stewart. That was amusing. But it was just an appearance. What I’ve been surprised by is that people remember as an important appearance. To me, it was just a one-shot, and then he dies, I think. So it wasn’t that important to me, anyway!”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Pegasus”)
“I just remember that they offered me that job, and I thought, ‘Oh, what a great feather in my cap, to be able to say I was on Star Trek!’ So I just went on. What I remember about that was that Patrick Stewart was nice, but, more specifically, Jonathan Frakes was probably the nicest person in Hollywood and that I’ve ever worked with in my career. It’s between Jonathan Frakes and Mark Harmon [on JAG]. I’ve worked with a lot of nice people, but they’re gentlemen through and through. Frakes was such a good-hearted soul. I remember him going, ‘Uh, you don’t want to stand like that. I’m just gonna tell you, you don’t want to stand like that. Not in that get-up!’ That was at the same time that there were big fires burning in the hills and everything, and you’d come out of wherever we were filming, and the cars would be covered with ash.
“But Patrick Stewart… I remember going to his trailer one day and saying, ‘Can I get a signed photograph for my son?’ And he said, ‘Okay.’ And I said, ‘Could you sign it as Captain Picard?’ He said [gruffly], ‘I never do that.’ I said, ‘Not for me?’ He said, ‘Oh, all right,’ and he signed it. Since then, I’ve realized how stupid that was. A lot of times, though, I’ll sign pictures from Lost and, after I sign ‘Terry O’Quinn,’ I’ll put ‘John Locke’ underneath. But that was a very happy set—or it seemed like one, anyway—and that was another good example of how you want to work in this business.”
Star Trek: First Contact
“I loved it. Loved it. It was so great. You know, I’ve been good friends with Jonathan Frakes forever. He’s also my godson, which is a long story…because, yes, we’re the same age! But I was friends with him, and I was also friends with LeVar Burton. They’d been doing Star Trek: The Next Generation for some time by that point, but, you know, I’d worked a lot, so I hadn’t really seen it, so when he called me and said, ‘Godmommy, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ He said, ‘I’m gonna send you over a script. I want you to be in this Star Trek movie. We’re doing a movie, I’m gonna direct it, and I want you to be in it. Read the part of Lily.’ I said, ‘Yeah, all right.’ And within 10 pages, I was just… It was, like, reading the script was just as exciting as watching the movie. I was, like, ‘Oh, hell, yeah! I am there, Jon!’ So he said, ‘“Well, come on, then!’ But I didn’t really know about the world or anything, so I said, ‘Okay, somebody’s got to explain some stuff to me. Now, who is Jeffrey?’ He said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘It says I’m in Jeffrey’s tube, and we do something in it.’ And he stopped and looked, and the continuity person looked, and they both kind of smiled, and he goes, ‘It’s okay. You don’t need to know. Lily doesn’t need to know about all that. She’s from a different time.’ So I really didn’t know…and they used to have the biggest laughs on me.
“By the way, I had so much fun doing it, but I was scarred by that movie…literally! You can kind of see how my elbow is kind of screwed up, although I put stuff on it to make it look better, but… Okay, so we’re up in Angeles National Forest, and we’re shooting an 8pm to dawn kind of thing, and it’s me and Jamie Cromwell and the village of people— ‘cause, y’know, we’re all post-apocalyptic—so there are about 40 or 50 extras, but they’re all stunt people. Jamie and I were the only non-stunt people in that scene. So we set it up, and…they had so much freaking fire power in there that even with the stunt people, they kept saying, ‘Okay, this has got to happen exactly this way.’ We walked through it, we practiced it, they talked about it, and people did stuff for about four hours before they set it off, and they kept saying to us, ‘Walk right here. Don’t go anywhere else.’ And Jamie’s supposed to be drunk, but they’re still saying, ‘Right here.’ It was like the moon shot. ‘We’ve only got one shot!’
“So we did it, and everyone was just so excited. We were all, like, ‘Here we go!’ So we come out of the place, and Jonathan had said to us, ‘Okay, the camera’s here, I want you to go here, then when the big boom goes off, I need you to jump up, somehow turn around in mid-air, and I want your faces to be right here facing me.’ We’re, like, ‘Okay!’ We walked through it something like 20 times. But when they finally set it off, there was so much firepower that you couldn’t stand! You didn’t have to jump. When it went off—POW!—that shit knocked you over! And it’s, like, ‘Face the camera! Face the camera!’ A few moments later, I hear Jon Frakes yell, ‘Cut! We got it! We got it!’ Meanwhile, I’d been knocked on my butt by the explosion, and I hit hard. The sleeves of my shirt were ripped open, it’d took the skin completely off my forearms, blood was everywhere, and I’m going, ‘Oh, fuck, now we’ve got to get new costumes…’ I said, ‘Jonny, I’m all bloody, the costume’s all ripped up…’ And he goes, ‘It’s okay! We got the shot!’ I was, like, ‘Hey, fuck you! Look what I got!’”
Star Trek: The Next Generation (“Sins of the Father,” “Redemption”)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“The Visitor,” “Sons of Mogh”),
Star Trek: Voyager (“Prey”)
“[Playing Adult Jake Sisko] was probably my favorite TV experience. That was a ton of work. I remember the last day we were on set for that, I had a 1:00 call on a Sunday, one AM. And it took five hours of make-up, and my set time was six AM, so we ended up having a 22 hour day. You know, I have a lot of family members that don’t really appreciate what I have to go through in order to keep the wheels running and turning and burning. And it really doesn’t matter to the people watching it, because it goes by in an hour, but there’s a lot of dedication and work that goes into stuff.”
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“Family Business”)
“[Playing Ishka] was tough, because the make-up call was 4 a.m., and I was in the makeup chair until 12 o’clock. It was really difficult to breathe because of the prosthetics, and I wore fake teeth, and it was very hard to hear, because the prosthetics covered your ears. It was enormously claustrophobic for me. So even though it had a huge following—and even many years afterwards I was still asked to go to Star Trek conventions—I only did the role once, because it was just too difficult for me underneath all of that makeup.”
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“Second Skin”)
“I barely remember [the show], except for the fact that it was one of my very first gigs. I remember being in makeup for four and a half or five hours, and then to take off the makeup it was another three or four in makeup, because you have to go through the whole process. It was very brief. One scene, maybe a scene and a half. It was basically a walk-on role. But it was very… it was a style that I was completely not used to as an actor. It was very Shakespearean, that show. But I did the best I could.”
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“Inquisition,” “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges,” “Extreme Measures”)
“They called me up and asked me if I’d do it—that was another offer—and I had been a Star Trek fan, but I hadn’t watched Deep Space Nine. I didn’t follow that series. But Star Trek was such an important part of the fabric of the culture when I was growing up that I was thrilled. And I had a ball, too. But what a fun character to play. I think the first time we see him, he’s sitting at Dr. Bashir’s bedside, and he’s been there all night. Or you don’t know how long he’s been sitting there watching Bashir sleep! It’s just an extremely creepy entrance for a character, and it’s great. Very unsettling. I had a great time doing that.”
Star Trek: Voyager (season two)
“I must’ve seen every episode of the original Star Trek series two or three times, so when I finally got to be on a Star Trek series, that was such a blast. It was one of those pinch-me moments. ‘Omigod, omigod, I’m on the bridge!’ And talk about a franchise that’s got a core audience. What I remember about being on the show was that I was Engineering, and they had all of these sort of made-up words. And Garrett Wang [Ensign Harry Kim] was also in Engineering, and he’s such a sweet guy. I’ve told him since that he basically… I don’t know, he just took care of me in a way that I’ll never forget.
“What happened was that the words that they made up were so difficult to memorize, and I would arrive literally white-knuckled on set, having run through them all night in my sleep, trying to make sure that I had them, because they were just the most jabberwockian combination of things. So what happened was, he gave me some memorization tools so that I could find my way through it. That was the scariest part of it. But I remember at one point actually having to resort to writing something on a card because I just couldn’t get it, and I placed it carefully on part of the engineering set so that I could look over and grab it. Of course, I don’t remember what it was. I just remember that it was just impossible to learn!”
Star Trek: Voyager (“The Thaw”)
“Oh, yes: the clown who is fear. I have a very hip T-shirt—I actually wore out my first, but I have a second that I’m keeping fresh—and it just has this kind of swirly, Dali-esque eye on it, and it says, ‘Fear the Clown.’ That’s what we gave out for that show! Yeah, that was really fun. I’d never done a Star Trek before, and I did the whole two-and-a-half-hour makeup thing, which was… okay. Michael Westmore did [the makeup]. The aliens who are coming in just for the week, they call them Guest Foreheads, because that’s usually what they go to work on. But I got measured for this strange outfit that I’m wearing in it, this onesie that, if you look very closely at it, it’s kind of crenulated. It’s got deep wrinkles in it, and that’s because it was supposed to be brain matter. I didn’t think anybody was going to get that, but, yeah, sure, okay. It looked cool. And it wasn’t terribly hot. Although they shoot very long days on that; a couple of days it was over 12 hours, so it was a little tedious. They had to keep touching up the makeup, and I’m very ticklish around the lips, so that drove me crazy. But it was a fun thing, and I think I turned out good. It’s kind of a cool one.”
Ed Begley, Jr.
Star Trek: Voyager (“Future’s End”)
“To be part of the Star Trek franchise, even years on from the original show, which I was a huge fan of… That was just great. Back when the original show was on, I was in my mid-teens. I was the perfect Trekkie candidate. I loved the show. Not so much that I actually went to conventions or anything, but I sure did love it. So to be on Star Trek: Voyager, I felt really blessed. I’m a fan of the whole franchise.”
Star Trek: Voyager (“Before and After”)
“That was really exciting. I was an Ocampa, and I got to put on prosthetic ears, which also made me really happy. And I got to give birth to a baby out of my back. They gave me a birthing bar and I was pushing the baby out, and let’s just say that it was not a flattering situation. It literally looked like I was pooping the baby out of my back. Better yet, you can see it on YouTube if you go looking for it. You can see me screaming and then pushing the baby out of my back. It’s great television, lemme tell ya…”
Star Trek: Voyager (“Scorpion, Pt. 1,” “Concerning Flight”)
“My son must’ve been well into his 30s when he called me up and said, ‘Well, Dad, I guess you’ve finally arrived.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I’ve just seen you [playing Leonardo da Vinci] in Star Trek: Voyager. If you’re in Star Trek, you’ve really cracked it, Dad!’”
Star Trek: Voyager (“Unforgettable”)
“That was a dream come true, because I was a huge Star Trek fan. I mean, I still am, but I was a fanatical Star Trek fan. I had a giant life-sized cutout of Shatner well into my 20s. And my first live-in boyfriend was like, ‘Darling, are you really going to bring Shatner into our new home?’ I was like, ‘Oh, uh… just for fun?’ ‘No, no, I don’t think that’s a good idea…’ I’m just kidding…but not much!
“That was the earliest call time I’d ever had on a show. It was at 2:43 a.m., because I had to put on those… well, they were kind of like Vulcan ears. But it was cool! I got to be on the bridge during a battle, doing the thing where you bob and weave, I got to beam in and beam out, I had my own phaser, I had my own quarters, I went to sick bay and was scanned by a tricorder, and in one scene that got cut out? I went into a Jefferies tube, thank you very much. That’s one of the most dangerous places on the ship that anyone ever ventures into!
“I just went to my first Star Trek convention, and I just can’t believe the people I got to meet, all the people in costume. I thought you had to be invited, I didn’t know you just got a rep and then you can just go. If you’ve been in Star Trek, you can go. So it took me ’til then to get there, but…it was so awesome.”
Star Trek: Enterprise (“Demons,” “Terra Prime”)
Star Trek: Into Darkness
“I admire certain pieces of science fiction, but I don’t read science fiction, I’m not a big Trekkie, and… I’m just not a big science-fiction guy. But creating alternative universes and alternative moralities is what I admire it for. I like to read about it. And I watched some episodes of Star Trek that they did in the ’60s, and there’s a couple of them that I really liked, but I didn’t watch it every week. I’m a big fan of Leonard Nimoy’s, though, because I did [the 1973 play Full Circle] with Leonard.
“I love [the name Alexander Marcus in Star Trek: Into Darkness], because in my Ph.D studies in Italian Renaissance art history—my minor is classical art— Alexander is a seminal general, diplomat, ambassador of the Western world, and Marcus, I guess, comes from Mark Antony. Those are two classical statuaries of antique and modern history. So I loved the names, and the guy… he’s like Curtis LeMay gone wrong. A more interesting version of Curtis LeMay, I might say, but a guy who’s speaking the truth about a war that’s coming, that the people involved—the Klingons—are not going to negotiate, and certain extreme measures are going to have to be executed.
“By the way, everything Marcus says in the film is true, which people forget. People go, ‘Bad guy! Bad guy!’ But why is he a bad guy? Everything he says is true: The Klingons are coming, they do need Khan, and that’s that. It’s just that he’s going to sacrifice the entire Enterprise to get the job done, because the Enterprise started to believe Khan. But if the Enterprise had not believed Khan and had done what Marcus said, then there’d be no movie, and everything would be cool. But the great writing in this is that the Enterprise wakes the dude up and listens to his game, and then everything goes to crap. But that’s the Enterprise’s hubris. That’s them. They screwed up, not Marcus. Anyway, sorry to go off there. I just hate that.”
Star Trek (2009)
Star Trek: Into Darkness
“That was like a little gold meteorite landing in my backyard. J.J. called me and just floated it right into my lap, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I was a fan of the television show when I was a kid, but I hadn’t watched the movies. And I wasn’t aware of the character of Pike. Not really, anyway. But I went back and did the research, and of course realized how important he’d been and where he was placed in the whole canon. We paid a little bit of homage to that with the wheelchair scene at the end of the first film.”
Star Trek (2009)
“It was…important to me that George [Takei’s Sulu] existed. In a way, he’s like my classic. Playing him would be the equivalent of playing Lear at the end of my life or something! It was an incredible opportunity to pay homage to something that was culturally very important to me and to anyone else who was Asian and male and watched television and said, ‘What’s going on? There’s nothing for us!’ And then there he was. So it was important to me, and I felt like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to honor [the original Sulu], but I just wasn’t sure how to do it. But I figured, ‘You know, I’ll just try stuff, and I’ll let J.J. tell me not to do it!’ But with the character, I think my general tactic was to be me, but to play Sulu as younger. George’s voice is so hard to mimic that I felt like it would be dumb to try to do that voice, and I’d be opening myself up to mockery, so I made the choice to keep it closer to my voice and to keep it young-ish sounding, like maybe he had matured into that voice. So, yeah, I thought it wiser to kind of leave that alone a little bit. But I also do remember that, at some point, my voice went too high, and J.J. was, like, ‘Uh, maybe you want to lower it a little bit?’
“Even though I wasn’t a rabid fan of Star Trek, I think I’ve always appreciated it, and I’ve always thought it was quality entertainment. But what I liked about it was that it was this incredibly optimistic American view of what our species could achieve. I always dug that about that show. And still do. I think it’s a really important part of that franchise…but, you know, I’ve got to come up with another word besides ‘franchise.’ It makes it sound so much like a business, and I guess it is, but…it’s more like a mythology.”