Scott McGinnis is an accomplished businessman, producer, film and television director, and a former actor. You might remember one of his roles, actually. McGinnis played Mr. Adventure in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Yes, he was the cocky, arrogant Starfleet lieutenant whom Commander Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) put in his place – and in a nearby closet – at phaser point in order to help Admiral Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Sulu transport from Old City Station to the Enterprise. It was a short but terrifically entertaining scene, and a lighter moment in a mostly solemn installment of the Star Trek saga. Star Trek III opened in theaters nationwide 28 years ago this weekend, and StarTrek.com thought, that to celebrate it, it’d be fun to catch up with McGinnis, who graciously obliged an interview request.
How shocking is it to you that 28 years have passed since Star Trek III opened?
McGinnis: It’s really amazing. It’s also amazing that the franchise has kept that momentum going for so long and that we’ve all survived it. I’m actually getting more attention now, remarkably, from that character, from that movie, than I ever have. It’s interesting how it’s all come into play here.
Where were you on opening day in 1984?
McGinnis: You know what? I didn’t see it with family or friends. That job was just really a job for me. I knew Star Trek, but I wasn’t a big Star Trek fan. I was a working actor. I’d just done another movie for Paramount called Racing with the Moon, with Sean Penn and Elizabeth McGovern. So I was kind of in this little Paramount mix there and I just went in and auditioned for Star Trek III, and I got the job. I didn’t really start to appreciate the fact that I was involved in that project until later on in my career. It’s not that I didn’t see movies, but I didn’t rush out to see what I’d done in it. It was something I waited until later to see.
But you’d seen Star Trek II, right?
McGinnis: I was very familiar with The Wrath of Khan and I liked that movie, so the idea of doing the third one, the idea that Leonard Nimoy was directing it, that was exciting. Nimoy was an actor. So an actor being directed by an actor, that was such a great opportunity. I was real excited about it, about the audition. I went in and just nailed it. So it was literally the typical process of auditioning and callbacks and then getting the role.
When was the last time you saw the film?
McGinnis: A few years back, probably three years ago. But I recently saw the scene again. Someone pointed out that the scene I have with Nichelle is on YouTube as a single HD entity. I saw that a few days ago. Nichelle had me eating of the palm of her hand. What can I say?
You worked on set for a couple of days. How did you enjoy working with Nichelle Nichols?
McGinnis: I loved Nichelle. I had the best time with her. We got along very well. She just was really easy and fun to work with. Years later, I produced a movie called Within the Rock, and we won a Saturn Award. It was interesting, because I got reconnected with Nichelle at the Saturn Awards. This was in the 90's. I can't remember why she was there, but we sat at the same table together and had a great time.
What kind of notes did you get from Nimoy?
McGinnis: When I first auditioned, I played Mr. Adventure a little rougher around the edges. He was not so corporate. Nimoy suggested that he should be a little more uptight, a little more corporate about everything. That was Nimoy’s big note, I remember. He just wanted Mr. Adventure to be a little less rowdy or obnoxious, and more straightforward. Then, when they put me in wardrobe and did my hair that way, it was a little more clean-cut, and I kind of went with it.
Were you aware that in the Star Trek III novelization Mr. Adventure was given the last name Heisenberg? And in one of the Trek novels, Catalyst of Sorrows, he was given the first name Scott. Is that news to you?
McGinnis: It is. I had no idea about that. That’s amazing. I just don’t follow it that closely. Maybe they named him after me.
Let’s talk about your career post-Star Trek. You continued to act. You directed episodes of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Angel. You got into producing…
McGinnis: Star Trek was the beginning of my career, along with Racing with the Moon and smaller parts in movies. I went on to do leads in films, a lot of teen stuff, things like Secret Admirer, You Can’t Hurry Love. I did a lot of TV. I worked pretty regularly until the late 80’s when, at that time, as an actor, if you really didn’t have a career in film, TV was the other alternative. But I was really fascinated with the behind-the-scenes of it. I started to write and I really wanted to direct. When my acting career quieted down, so to speak, and I got an opportunity to direct, I said, “You know, I’m going to do this.” My first feature as a director was for Roger Corman, and that was an incredible experience. James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, all these incredible people came out of the Corman school of directing. Then it just took off for me.
And that’s when Mr. Adventure crossed paths with the T-1000, better known as Robert Patrick…
McGinnis: Robert is a great guy and we got a production company going. We produced low-budget, indie sci-fi/thriller movies. So it was a progression, really. It seemed like the next step for me. That led to me directing five years of television. I directed about 30 episodes of TV and I realized that what I missed was the development of projects, like what I’d been doing with Robert. I liked owning projects and really seeing them from beginning to end. TV directing, you go in, you do your job, you try to do it well, and then you leave. So, after I had this run of directing, I decided to develop shows. Reality TV had really kicked in, so there were opportunities there. I developed some pilots for Cartoon Network when they were doing live-action shows.
I’m also doing a site, Global Broadcast 4 Kids, GB4K.com, which is a kids’ site that’s totally taking off now. That was something I started because my son, who was 10 at the time, said, “Hey, Dad, there’s no cool site for kids’ news on the Internet.” I’d been fascinated with the whole Internet, with viral marketing, with YouTube, all this stuff. I thought, “Let me try that.” And with the technology and equipment we have now, as far as cameras and editing, I did it. It started as just a little labor of love, as a fun project, and now we get over 300,000 unique views there monthly, and that’s with no marketing, with nothing. I’m pursuing that further. There are some larger companies that might want to license up with me.
What else are you working on?
McGinnis: I’m developing films. I’m working with two producers out of Detroit and we have a series of films that we’re going to produce in Detroit, using some of the Detroit infrastructure. And there’s a huge tax credit in Detroit right now for filmmakers. One of the projects is actually a horror film that we’ll start pre-production on in the next 30 days. We’re meeting with some amazing people. And I also have some TV projects in development.
So, as busy as you are, as far removed from Star Trek III as you are, do you still get a kick out of someone contacting you out of the blue to talk about your one short foray into the Trek universe?
McGinnis: I do. Absolutely. I got a call about a year ago from a guy who does trading cards. He said, “I want to send you 3,000 Mr. Adventure cards,” with my picture on them. I guess they’re part of a series. I said, “Sure.” I’ve also been contacted by an agent who does conventions, and we’re trying to see if there’s room for Mr. Adventure at any of the Trek conventions. So, at the time, it was just a job as an actor. “Wow, I got a job.” You go in and do it and then go on to the next one. Years later, you’re thinking, “This has a life, a real shelf life.” I think it’s great. My kids love it. I have a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old and they’re like, “You’re Mr. Adventure, Dad. How cool.” So, it was a small role, but it was a fun role and it was certainly a fun part of my acting experience.
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