The last Star Trek cast member to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Walter Koenig has had a long and varied career as an actor and writer. SciFi Now spoke to him about his impending trip to Destination Star Trek London and how it felt to finally get a star in Tinseltown
Congratulations on your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, how did it feel to receive this honour?
I don’t know what getting a star truly represents just yet. It doesn’t represent the epitome of acting. I mean you can find John Gielgud and Big Bird on Hollywood Boulevard. I know it’s a good thing but I don’t know how to interpret it yet. It was really considerate of George, Nichelle and Leonard to be there too and I’m very grateful for that.
You will be a guest at Destination Star Trek London event later this month. Are you looking forward to meeting the fans and so many other former Star Trek cast members?
It’s always great to meet the fans because they are the heart and soul of Star Trek. If it weren’t for them, the series would have expired long ago so the least one can do is go out there and shake hands with everyone you can. Over the course of the years I’ve met many of the other actors too and I do very much look forward to seeing everyone.
All five series captains will make an appearance at that event. Do you have a favourite captain besides Kirk?
This could be one of the most self destructive answers I’ve ever given. They’re all very stellar actors and great individuals but I must say I’ve always admired Patrick Stewart not only for his gifts as a performer but for the way he is with his crew of actors. He has a respect for them beyond what is required so I certainly admire him for that.
You’re also keeping the episodic spirit of Star Trek alive with the recent announcement of Star Trek Renegades. What do you hope for this project?
The trailer is really all there is just now, but we’re using Kickstarter to finance the project. Some of the actors are in place, Tim Russ is going to direct and the intention is to produce an online series. I had no burning desire to examine Chekov again, I’ve already done it! But I am involved because of loyalty and because it marks a different time in Chekov’s life. Ultimately I hope I can bring something new to the role and we can make this project viable.
You joined the cast of Star Trek in the second season back in 1967, how did you get the part?
I was almost cast as a Russian in another television show three years earlier, and that same casting director got me back in and I read for him, the director and Gene Roddenberry. I think one other actor auditioned that day and I was asked to wait. So I waited and waited and then a wardrobe person came by and hand to heart truth he dropped to his knees and put his hands on my crotch. My voice went up several octaves and I said “what are you doing?” “Well I have to measure you for a costume, don’t I?” And that’s how I found out I got the part.
It was quite daring to have a Russian on an American television show, and such a diverse crew. What impact do you believe this had on audiences of the time?
That character was not very controversial. He did talk about his patriotism but he was there to appeal to the 8-14 age group and that was the majority of my correspondence came from. The character was inspired by Davy Jones from The Monkees and for the first six or seven episodes I wore a wig – a woman’s wig for that matter and I wore that until my hair grew out and then it was my hair – until I started to lose it and we went back to a hairpiece!
What was it like working with Gene Roddenberry?
Gene wasn’t on set that often because he was busy writing but I always found him very pleasant and jovial. Gene was responsible for launching my career, and there’s a story I must tell. When we were trying to raise the funds for the star the situation had changed. Whereas in the very beginning a star cost around $3,000, this year it was raised to $30,000 and the fans came forward in great numbers to support the idea. We were still short, at which point Gene’s son Rod Roddenberry, volunteered the rest of the money. So Gene and Rod helped get me my star.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I’ve written a graphic novel about vampires after the apocalypse called Things To Come. It’s a different kind of vampire story where the only other creatures are mutated because the war has poisoned the air and made it impossible for humans to survive. But these vampire creatures are trying to interpret what the meaning of their existence is. There are no great love stories, it’s a coming of age story really.
Walter Koenig will appear at the Destination Star Trek London event 19-21 October 2012 alongside the five captains and a host of other Trek alumni. His graphic novel Things To Come will be released 30 January 2013, and is available to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk priced £9.10.