It’s every Star Trek fan’s dream to appear on screen in an episode of Star Trek or in one of the films. It was Jane Wiedlin’s dream and, unlike so many of us, she got to live it. Wiedlin popped up briefly – about eight seconds – in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That’s Wiedlin as Trillya, the funky-haired U.S.S. Shepard communications officer, sending a distress call that’s glimpsed on a viewscreen at the beleaguered Starfleet Headquarters. Of course, Wiedlin was no stranger to the entertainment industry back in 1986. She’d already topped the charts as a member of The Go-Go’s and had made her acting debut a year earlier, as the Singing Telegram Girl in the movie Clue. In the years since, Wiedlin has continued to sing, solo and with the reunited Go-Go’s, and also to act, provide voiceovers for animated shows, launch a comic book and more. It happens to be Wiedlin’s birthday today, and we thought the occasion would make for the perfect time to catch up with Wiedlin for an exclusive StarTrek.com interview. Happily, she agreed and here’s what she had to say.
How big a Trek fan were you growing up?
Wiedlin: Oh, my God! Star Trek was the highlight of the week for my family when I was growing up. I have older brothers and sisters, otherwise I don’t know if I ever would’ve heard about the show. But we watched every episode when they were originally aired, and then we would recreate the episodes. We even made our own Star Trek movies with Super 8 cameras, and I’d kill to get copies of those films. I don’t know what became of them. But, yeah, I’ve been a geek girl since the 60’s. It’s funny, because there’s been a flame war on Twitter. It started with this one guy who said that female celebrities pander to geeks to get work. A lot of my friends are going crazy about this, how unfair it is. I know so many women who are geeks and it’s like, just because we have boobs doesn’t mean we can’t be geeks. So I’m definitely old-school geek. I was geek before it was cool to be geek and before most of these geeks were even born.
What is it that you most appreciate about Trek?
Wiedlin: The subliminal thing that got to me, that I didn’t really think about until years later, when I analyzed it, was just the positive vision of the future. All races got along. There was no question of race anymore. I don’t know that in the future people are more enlightened, instead of less enlightened, but everything seemed to point toward a better future rather than a worse future. That resonates with me because I can be kind of a depressed person and I worry about the future. I think Star Trek made me feel good. And, just in general, there’s something about science fiction that appeals to me in a huge way. I’d say that outside of music it’s probably been one of the most influential things in my life, in every way, even guys I date. I fell in love with Spock when I was eight years old and I’ve always been attracted to that sort of brainy, stern kind of guy. That sounds so ridiculous! But it’s been influential in the way my house is decorated and the clothes I like.
Let’s talk about Star Trek IV. How did the opportunity to be in it come about?
Wiedlin: I had just gone solo from the Go-Go’s. I had a new manager and he was trying to think of new things for me do besides making pop music. He suggested I try acting and he got me an agent, and I started doing auditions. When I heard Star Trek IV was going to be made I freaked out and just basically begged, begged, begged. I said, “Please get me in that movie. I don’t care who I am in it. I don’t care if I’m wearing an alien mask and you can’t see it’s me. I just need to be in a Star Trek movie.” They did that and, luckily, the casting agent had a good sense of humor and I did get that little part. And it was one of the highlights of my career to be directed by Leonard Nimoy, even if it was just for a few minutes. It was so thrilling.
What details, 25 years later, do you remember about your day on set?
Wiedlin: The uniform I wore was 100 percent wool, so it was very thick, very hot. I was uncomfortable. I was at Paramount and they had these little boxes that basically looked like small storage rooms, which were for the day players. I love that, such an old-school term, day players! So I was uncomfortable and hot and just hung out and hung out and hung out in this room for hours, getting more and more nervous. Finally, it was time for my moment. I remember going on set and Leonard being there and walking me through it. He was a really kind and proactive director. A lot of directors don’t direct you. They just set up their shot and say, “Go.” Leonard led me through my lines and told me what he wanted. I’m sure I was terrible. I hate to say that because I know I’m always supposed be positive about myself, but I’m sure I was absolutely awful because I was so star-struck and so nervous. But he was very kind and patient with me, and the moment was over almost as soon as it started.
How cool was it to see the movie and your bit in it?
Wiedlin: It was so cool. I had my scene and Leonard did me a kindness by showing some of the scene again in the end credits. But I was terrified seeing the movie because I’ve always had an aversion to seeing myself on screen. I was horrified, but the movie was so good. I’m just so happy that I was in the best Star Trek movie.
People still come up to you and ask about Trek. You sign photos of yourself as Trillya at autograph shows. You attend the occasional Trek convention. How cool and weird is that 25 years later people are still eager to hear about your Star Trek IV experience?
Wiedlin: Well, you could say that about my whole life. I am amazed and grateful that people care. I think the whole cult of fandom is so interesting and so fun, and I consider myself part of it, not just as a semi-celebrity, but as an actual fan. I understand why people like this. It’s fun these days because of the conventions. You can meet people you’ve admired, that you’ve got memories of, that were part of your childhood. I think it’s a really good thing. I love doing the conventions. My favorite part of the conventions is that, when people are kind enough to give me money for an autograph, and when I have a break, I run out with my money, find the people I love and pay for their autograph. The money doesn’t leave the system, which really cracks me up.
Let’s talk about what you’ve got going on these days. Let’s start with Lady Robotika, which you’ve been doing with (The Simpsons artist) Bill Morrison for Image Comics. It’s basically you, captured by aliens, and becoming a superhero. What inspired it?
Wiedlin: I met Bill at a convention four or five years ago. We hit it off right away. We’re both geeks and we have a similar sense of humor. By the end of that weekend we said, “We should do a project together.” It was Bill’s idea to do a comic book. To be honest, I was not a comic book reader, even as a child, because I read too fast and just as I’d get into them they’d be over. I didn’t know about graphic novels until I met Bill, and now I enjoy comics because I buy graphic novels and can read a bunch of comics at once. But he suggested we start a comic book and that I be a superhero and, of course, I leapt over tall buildings at the chance. Who doesn’t want to be made into a superhero? The rest of it was just talking and writing and emailing back and forth about what Lady Robotika would be. We made a short list of the things I adore most, which were aliens, spaceships, ray guns, rock and roll, a little bit of the naughty stuff, but more on a fashion level than a creepy level. I get to wear corsets and there are a lot of hot women running around with whips and stuff, but I’d say it’s still pretty PG. And then it was really easy to write a story. Now, I’ve actually written a musical based on it and what I need is a theater angel to come and say that they want to help me launch it.
What else do you have going on?
Wiedlin: I did three independent films last year. I did Doogie Boogie, a San Francisco-based family comedy about competitive dog dancing. I also wrote the theme song for that and I’m the music supervisor for that. Then I did The Casserole Club, which is the latest film from Steve Balderson, who I’ve worked with a few times now. It’s a crazy, true story about this group of suburbanites who start getting together for a weekly dinner party and it kind of evolves into a sex club. It’s funny, it’s tragic, and it’s about the consequences of infidelity. And the third one I did is called I Want to Get Married, and that one is directed by Billy Clift. It’s a sweet movie about a lovely, shy gay man who just wants to fall in love and get married. It’s set during the few months in California where we finally got equal rights and everyone was allowed to get married, and then the whole Prop. 8 thing happened and the rights were taken away. I’m proud to be a part of that one, too. I’ve also directed a short film. It’s called The Pyrex Glitch and it’s a science fiction comedy. I wrote and directed it, and I act in it, and it’s kind of my baby now.
Almost a year ago you were about to go on a farewell tour with the Go-Go’s. Then you fell 15 feet down a vertical cliff while hiking, damaged your knees and totally banged yourself up. Now you’re well and the tour is back on and it’s no longer a farewell tour. First, we’re happy you’ve recovered.
And now the Go-Go’s tour is no longer a farewell tour. What happened to change that?
Wiedlin: This tour is the best consequence of me falling off that cliff last summer. We’d agreed, “OK, it’s time to retire and put the old horse out to pasture.” Then we had to cancel because of my accident and somehow over the year all of us started to ponder whether or not we should actually retire. Ultimately, we decided that we didn’t want to make such a definitive statement at this time. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but we’re getting along great, the reaction to our tour has been fantastic, and I love being a Go-Go. So I’m hoping to continue doing this as long as I possibly can.
Lastly, on behalf of Star Trek fans everywhere, happy birthday.
Wiedlin: Thank you! Yay; happy birthday to me. I’m still alive!
For more information about Jane Wiedlin, her upcoming projects and Go-Go's tour dates, visit her official site at www.janewiedlin.com.