Celeste Yarnall’s resume is, to quote an old Vulcan friend, fascinating. As an actress, she counts among her credits such television shows as The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Land of the Giants, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Columbo, Melrose Place and on and on, and such films as The Nutty Professor, Live a Little, Love a Little (in which Elvis Presley crooned “A Little Less Conversation” to her), The Velvet Vampire (a cult fave from Roger Corman that, along with Eve and Beast of Blood, established her scream queen cred), Scorpio, Bob and Ted and Carol and Alice, The Mechanic and Funny About Love (directed by Leonard Nimoy). An utterly stunning beauty in her youth (and still lovely today), Yarnall was the last Rheingold Girl, earning the honor in 1964.
More recently, she’s been a regular on the sci-fi convention/autograph show circuit and authored several books about holistic health care for both humans and pets. She’s also an entrepreneur, appeared in recent documentaries about Elvis Presley and Star Trek (including William Shatner’s Get a Life!), and, at the moment, is co-producing a film. Of course, for those of you reading this right now, Yarnall is perhaps most famous for her memorable guest spot as Martha Landon, Chekov’s love interest in The Original Series episode “The Apple.” StarTrek.com recently caught up with the irrepressible and energetic Yarnall for an extensive interview that we’ll run in two parts. Below is part one, and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow for part two.
It’s nearly 46 years ago now that you filmed “The Apple”…
YARNALL: Isn’t that just amazing? My daughter just celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary. For me, it just feels like time has been standing still. Time, fortunately, has been kind to me. It’s just been fantastic. I met the love of my life in 2009 and we were married in 2010, and we’re coming up on our third wedding anniversary. So, life is just a blessing and a gift. I’ve been on what I call a celestial Trek, and it’s wonderful that fans of the show keep us (people who were involved in Star Trek) alive in their memories and with their good wishes.
Actually, before we delve deeper into Star Trek, it’s crazy to us that your career dates back to 1962, when you guest starred on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. The Nutty Professor was released in 1963. We’re talking 50-plus years…
YARNALL: The number boggles my mind, because my 69th birthday will be July 26. But I don’t refer to them as years. I refer to them as trips around the sun on a big, blue ball. So when you look at life as a trip around the sun, rather than getting locked into the fear paradigm of age or how many years you might have left, my philosophy is that 60 is the new 30. My work is all about anti-aging.
Tell us how you originally won your role in “The Apple.”
YARNALL: It’s just the best episode ever. Right around the same time I did a movie (Eve) in which I played Eve. I was the first female Tarzan or jungle goddess on the big screen, and in that movie my co-star, besides Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom, is Robert “Charlie X” Walker Jr. It seems like my life has always been weaving in and out with Star Trek actors. I met several Star Trek actors way before they were ever on Star Trek. For example, I met Michael Dante in 1965, so we knew each other before either of us did Star Trek. I’m so glad to have landed that wonderful role. I was cast by Gene Roddenberry and (Star Trek casting director) Joe D’Agosta and Gene Coon personally. They’d been looking for something for me to do as a guest starring role. They wanted something perhaps a bit more exotic than Yeoman Martha Landon, but they brought me in and said, “Do you like the part, Celeste? If you like it, it’s yours. We were hoping to find something more exotic for you…” I said, “Oh, no. I love this part.” As actors, we’re always worried about paying the mortgage, you know? So I said, “I love the part. I love the part.”
What anecdotes do you remember from the set?
YARNALL: I had barely even seen the show. So, when I had the pleasure of being up close and personal with Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, Leonard scared me to death. I really didn’t understand what Spock was or what it meant, and Leonard would stay in character when they were filming and off-camera. It seemed like he never smiled. I kept going to Bill and saying, “Billy, I don’t think Leonard likes me. What’s wrong?” Bill, playing white-hat good guy said, “Don’t worry. We all love you. He’s just being grumpy.” I later found out, and this might be wrong, but it’s what I was told… My episode was supposedly the episode where they’d hidden Leonard’s bicycle, and he was very upset that he couldn’t find his bicycle, which had been put up in the rafters where the lights were. Also, our episode was one in which there were so many episodes set so close to us that I know that Bill had many years of tinnitus and hearing problems as a result of the explosion being so close to us.
What do you recall of working with Walter Koenig on the episode?
YARNALL: Getting to work with Walter and the whole crew – with Bill and Leonard and Walter -- was a very special experience I’ve met George Takei a lot through the years, though we didn’t have any scenes together in “The Apple.” I also worked in that episode with David Soul, and that was his first acting gig. I’ve seen David a few times since, including at a convention just last year. So that was a fun reunion. I actually see Walter and his wife quite often. I went to his Star celebration last year and we’ve been away at various conferences and conventions where he and his wife would be, and so we’ve attended some lovely functions and dinners.
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two of our exclusive interview with Celeste Yarnall. Also, click HERE to visit Yarnall’s official site and HERE to follow her on Twitter.
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