Arne Starr, Trek's Jack Of All Trades, Part 2
Yesterday, in part one of our interview with Arne Starr, the actor and illustrator talked in detail about the 70 Star Trek comic books on which he worked and his background as an artist. Today, in the second installment of our email exchange, Starr comments some more on his Trek comic book efforts, addresses how he ended up acting in Star Trek (2009), recounts his long stint as the Tailor on NCIS: Los Angeles, and previews his other current and upcoming projects.
What was your process of working on the Star Trek comic books? How closely did you collaborate with writers and other artists and the cover artists?
Starr: My pages would arrive penciled and lettered and ready for me to finish them up. Now, I used photo reference for the cast to make sure it would always look like the actors, but I’d never actually change the pencils; I would just have an appropriate picture nearby as I inked, so it would still have the look of the penciler no matter what. The volume one series was pretty much done the same way where the inker would treat the pencils more like breakdowns to keep things cohesive, and for a book like Star Trek, that worked. As far as the writing goes, I had no input, unless I found an error, and I was the correction artist on not just Star Trek, but also Next Gen for the first couple of years. Covers… I only worked on a couple early on where there were problems getting them approved. I worked on them, and so did Dick, and others. Really, there wasn’t anything wrong with them. It was just someone on the approval end getting a little nutso. Jerome Moore did many of the covers and they were the best.
How did you wind up in the 2009 Star Trek movie? And how was the experience?
Starr: I had to schmooze like crazy to get in the door for Star Trek (2009), but ultimately succeeded, and was part of a 100 or so people at the Paramount lot who were being designated by wardrobe as to where they’ll be. Myself and another older friend were told about a “Long Beach” scene later in the month, but with my back to them, my friend looking over my shoulder says the casting director is talking to the wardrobe girl, and as I turned around she came up to me and says “You’re an officer.” OK. Then they say all those doing the Long Beach scene can check out and will get called later. I got on the line to sign out, but leaned over to the casting director, asking (that) if I was still part of this group and she says “Get over there,” pointing elsewhere. So I stayed a bit. I still had to leave and come back a few hours later to sign even more NDA (non-disclosure) forms than I’d already signed earlier.
And, finally, I was brought into the wardrobe building, which had a covered wire fence inside. I had to wait some more, but my name was called, and as they opened the gate, there were three long rows of gold, blue and red, classic uniforms… COOL! Then they confirmed sizes and she comes back with one in red …Cool! I confirmed that I was Engineering, not Security, and then asked about the stripes on the wrist that I had more of than anyone (and they weren’t the same as the original, otherwise I’d have known) and they were Lt. Commander. Cool! I also made note of the new texture pattern on the material, that it was a repeat pattern of the Starfleet chevron, and she said I was the only one to notice that. I asked “What ship will I be on?” Being that I didn’t know the story, it could be any starship in Starfleet. She just gave me a C’mon! look, and said “the Enterprise!” COOL!
The set you were on was actually a Budweiser plant. It was kept at about 30 degrees, right?
Starr: So whenever you see anyone in Engineering, they ARE freezing, and those shiny Dilithium containers… beer! On one of the days I worked, I’m all dressed up and not being called in. Hurry up and wait. Now, I did get to meet J.J. (Abrams) personally at lunch. I gave him a picture I’d drawn for him, and that was that. Post-lunch, I was still sitting around. It’s already like 12 hours and the walkie squawks up with “bring the rest in,” which was like three of us. We go inside and right near the entrance is a gauntlet of the background just lined up there, still wearing the black raincoats we wore to hide the costumes so it would be a cool reveal in the film.
Out comes J.J. from around some pipes at the other end, wearing a heavy jacket and a hat with flaps. He wiggles a little wave toward me at the end of the line, to which I look around to make sure it’s me he’s maybe waving at. So I wave back, and he turns and walks away. Weird. Then he’s back doing the underhand kung fu finger wiggle, which says “Come on.” So I look around again, and then start following. He walks up to the monitor that has Chekov frozen on it, and stands there and stares at it for an indeterminate time. Then he breaks and says, “Can you do that?” I say “of course” and take up the pose. He goes away, then brings back another person in red to stand in front of the camera that was behind us on a track. And then, we shoot the shot that shows up in the middle of Chekov’s “anomaly in space” speech. I did do a bunch of scenes shot in the main engineering area, which was where Bones brings Kirk aboard, but only a couple of “blinks” are there, and a long special effects shot that had me ordering around other Engineers didn’t make it.
You were a recurring character, the Tailor, on NCIS: Los Angeles for a long time. How did that come together?
Starr: Over the years out here, the fact that I’m a comic artist has helped a lot. It got me one of my SAG vouchers needed to join on Spider-man 3, a character I did ink for Marvel for a little while during the Clone War days. I was made attending physician on Grey’s Anatomy early on. I was actually named Arne, badge and all, and that stuck for almost four seasons, until I went SAG, then out the door. I almost had the same thing happen on Mad Men, where I played “the Artist” (I would be listed as that on the call sheet) for the first three years. Mid third season, when I joined SAG, I lost almost a month before they decided I should be there anyway. I did some stand-in work for Rich Sommers and Robert Morse during the first season. Then, my costuming experience, from conventions, plus my mom’s sewing, got me in as the Tailor on NCIS: LA from day one.
It seems someone finally decided the Tailor is unnecessary to the show, so I’ll no longer be there. My last episode was a month or so ago, with my friend Jonathan Frakes directing. Now, on the first day in the first season that Jonathan was doing a set walkthrough with the 1st A.D. Joe before he’d begin, I spotted him and yelled out his name, and he turns around and, seeing me, gives me this total “WTF you doing here?” look, to which I answered, “I’m your tailor,” to which he said, “Yes, you are.” I was in my outfit with the measuring tape around my neck. Then I asked him, “How does it feel coming in HERE?” The 1st A.D. gives a puzzled look. We shoot NCIS:LA on stages 8-9 at Paramount. They’re the Next Gen stages. My table is right about where the entrance to Engineering would have been. Jonathan says, “Spooky.” Shortly, maybe this week, you’ll see me once more a tailor on 90210. And, yes, it’s the same pants, shirt and tape.
Also, you have provided art for different TV shows, such as sketch-artist renderings for Castle and Revenge…
Starr: An episode of Greek had caricatures done on it, but the guy drawing them didn’t, I did. On Medium, I did a lunchbox with a retro comic character motif on it, that a killer used. I did a seven-page comic book for an episode using the same character, a book cover and multiple police sketches (and I usually played a detective on camera). I played a court sketch artist for the David Tennant pilot Rex Is Not Your Lawyer, and also on Castle last season. This season on Castle I’ve done all of the police sketches for various episodes, which you should have seen a few of in the past few weeks. And I played that artist on camera for one of them earlier. Also, you may have just very clearly seen me as a sketch artist on Revenge.
What else do you have coming up work-wise?
Starr: I’m working on the pilot Scruples, plus you should see me later in the year in Gangster Squad, with Ryan Gosling, and The Guilt Trip, with Seth Rogan and Barbra Streisand. And, still later, I should be seen a lot in Paul Anderson’s The Master.
Click HERE to read part one of our interview with Arne Starr.