When most people think of Corbin Bernsen, they conjure memories of L.A. Law and the Major League movies, or perhaps The Dentist and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, or quite possibly Psych and American Gods. Somewhere along the way – OK, in 1990, to be precise – he stepped into the Star Trek universe oh-so-briefly. The actor, at the zenith of his fame on L.A. Law, made an uncredited cameo appearance as the all-knowing, all-seeing Q2 in the third-season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Deja Q.” StarTrek.com has long wanted to chat with Bernsen, and we finally got our chance last week when the amiable actor jumped on the phone to discuss his TNG experience in advance of next month’s Star Trek Las Vegas event, where he’ll participate in a panel, sign autographs and do photo ops. Here’s what he had to say…
Nearly 30 years ago, you filmed your TNG episode. How well did you know Star Trek in general at the time?
I basically grew up on Twilight Zone, which really easily moved into Star Trek for me, and, to some degree, Star Wars. So, I watched The Original Series, like everybody else in the world watched that. I knew it was new and different, but I was a little less connected to it. It's a bit like I love baseball, but I don't know all the teams and all the players.
How did your TNG role happen?
They came to me. It was out of the blue. I’d maybe put it out there I’d be interested. Everybody wanted to be on Star Trek or Seinfeld or on our show (L.A. Law). I’d still love to be a part of the Star Wars world, on some level, but I’ve gotten to do so much, including Trek and Seinfeld. I’m in the Trek (fiction and reference) books. And I’ve done things that surprised me. I even did a Baywatch! So, I’ve had this wonderful career and gotten to do so much. And there’s still more to do, I hope.
Did the producers, to help you prepare, give you previous Q-related scripts or episodes to watch?
A few episodes. I could get there more quickly as the character by watching episodes. A Q is this omnipotent thing in the universe, and this guy had power over the Q that the fans knew, John de Lancie’s character. That’s basically what I needed to know.
How did you like working on the show, and acting opposite de Lancie?
Let’s start with the costume. You put that on and it was just not forgiving at all, in any shape or form. You saw… every protrusion in the pants and everywhere else, any protrusion. If you have a little bit of stuff going on around the waist, anywhere, it shows. I was very thankful I got to wear a suit for eight years, a tailored suit, on L.A. Law. But once we got past that (on TNG), then we got down to the work. John is wonderful, as everybody knows. You've got to find a way to think, “Well, he's Q and I'm in control of him, so how do I outdo his smart ideas?” We had a good time. I tell people I love doing what I do, love the craft of acting, love the history of it, but we also can have fun. Obviously, that was something we had a lot of fun with, John and me.
How satisfied were you with the finished episode?
Loved it! Great! Wonderful, wonderful. There's this photograph flying around of me with a sort of silly look on my face and my arms are up, and it seems to be the photograph everybody uses of my appearance. It’s a screengrab, I think. It's always second to a GQ cover that I did, and if you find that GQ cover, you'll see a very similar picture to the photo that's out there of me as Q2.
You went uncredited. Why did you choose to do that?
I did, and I don’t know why. I don’t remember. I did silly things sometimes. I guess I feel like that's their family. Sometimes, as a guest star or doing a cameo, I feel like I'm at somebody else's party, and I don't want to take any credit for it. Back in the day, during L.A. Law, I didn’t want my Star on Hollywood Boulevard. “No, no, I'm just not ready for it. I'm not ready.” Some people deserve a star. I guess it’s good. I'm all about the work and the rest… the fame, glory, credits, the Star on Hollywood Boulevard, they're all great and it's part of it, but my big kick is just getting out there and doing it, being on set, working with actors.
Does it amaze you to be talking now about a Trek cameo you did nearly 30 years ago?
Well, I’m going to get sort of Star Trek-y about it. It's this massive universe out there, and once we touch one another, get one bit of contact, you are inextricably connected to one another. I think it shows the power of connectivity, of reaching out and, might I say, to sound a bit altruistic, you have got a power we all possess, a power for change, a power for improving humanity. The fact that you can do one episode and be… People will say, “Well, it's because you're on TV, man!” There is that. It’s like Howard Beale in Network. Of course, there’s that, but it's more than that. We assume in life that differences are only made of these massive sweeping movements, but the fact is one person can touch a life. One person holding hands with the next gets the chain going. And to your point, 30 years later, that chain is relevant to this conversation. Star Trek, uncredited, two hours on the Paramount lot, it shows the power of our capacity for connectivity if we choose to take it.
We just saw you on American Gods as Vulcan and also on Billions. IMDB lists 10 other projects. Do you come up for air?
(Laughs). A lot of those are small films, bit and pieces I’m doing for friends, a day here, a day there. I saw one of them on there, and it was an indie I did four years ago that hasn’t opened yet. The bigger project I'm working on is Marvel's The Punisher, for Netflix. I'm doing season two of that. I've done three episodes and will be doing another. Like with all things, I’m just hanging, waiting to find out the dates. That's been fantastic. But, in general, this is a time where I'm picking and choosing smaller projects that are of interest to me, and they're not big one-month, two-month, three-month commitments.
You'll be at Star Trek Las Vegas later this month. How ready are you for that?
I think I might have gone to one convention as a fan, but I wasn’t an invited guest. I do some Comic-Cons and, invariably, because of the nature of them, a lot of people, even with that one episode, know everything about Q2. I imagine that knowledge will be even greater in Vegas. So, I’m super-excited.
Star Trek Las Vegas will be held August 1-5 at the Rio Suites Hotel. Go to www.creationent.com for additional details and to purchase tickets.