Clint Howard has been on StarTrek.com’s radar for a long while now, but we’d never been able to lock him in for an interview. Howard, who is Ron Howard’s younger brother, first made a mark on the Star Trek franchise as a child, when he guest starred as Balok in The Original Series episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.” He’d just turned 7 when he shot that classic hour. Several decades later, he portrayed Grady in the Deep Space Nine hour “Past Tense, Part 2.” And in 2002, he slipped into Ferengi makeup to play Muk in the Enterprise episode “Acquisition.” Well, Howard will be appearing this weekend at the Hollywood Show, a popular autograph event, and in advance of it he agreed to chat. Over the course of a half-hour, Howard – who was in great spirits and full of entertaining anecdotes – looked back at his Trek experiences, previewed the Hollywood Show and filled us in on his current projects. Below is part one of our conversation, and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to check out part two.
The Hollywood Show, which you’ll be at this weekend, is not a Star Trek convention, but rather very specifically an autograph show. So, what photos do you most often wind up signing?
HOWARD: Oh, definitely Star Trek. That’s a go-to collectible. Most people want a shot from “The Corbomite Maneuver,” but the real Star Trek aficionados also want shots from Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. They go a little deeper, the Star Trek fans. It really depends on the temperature of the audience, but in terms of pictures people want me to sign for them it’s Star Trek, Gentle Ben, Winnie the Pooh -- there are people who just love Winnie the Pooh (for which Howard voiced Roo) – and it’s also The Andy Griffith Show.
Going back in time and speaking specifically about “The Corbomite Maneuver,” how surreal is it to you that people still care so much about one guest appearance you shot 47 years ago, in the heyday of the Beatles?
HOWARD: (Laughs) Thank you for crafting a question that includes me in the company of the Beatles. I appreciate that. That’s a good one. You made my morning. It was surprising. At the beginning, when Star Trek started to have legs, it was really surprising. I’ve never actually been a big sci-fi guy, and although I was really happy to be on the show – because of the cool devices and because the “Beam me up, Scotty” and all that stuff was fascinating to me – it was just another job. The fact that has stayed in the public’s consciousness for such a long period of time, it just goes back to my theory that you cannot take this business too seriously.
You were a child, seven years old, when you did the episode. What do you remember of the shoot?
HOWARD: I remember getting the skullcap put on. They’d asked me if I wanted to shave my head, and at that time I was going to a public school in Burbank and I said, “No, thanks.” I’ve got pictures of the makeup guy, stills of them putting the piece on me. I remember vividly putting on the skullcap. More than anything, I remember preparing for the job. My dad has always been about preparation. So, as a young actor, I always went in being very prepared. They were originally going to use my voice, but they ended up using a synthesizer. That was brand-new thing, a synthesizer. Anyway, I had to learn the scene and, for a little guy like me at that time, it was a mouthful. So I remember all my preparation. Then, I remember being on the bridge. I made sure my dad took a picture of me standing there, and sitting in the captain’s chair. Everyone was real friendly. But the experience of shooting it, that was like doing any other scene. You have your lines and you do it and the next thing you know you’re done.
Three decades later you guest starred as Grady on Deep Space Nine. Did you land that job as the result of an offer or an invite?
HOWARD: That was an audition. I’d auditioned for Deep Space Nine a couple of times. I don’t know if it’s true, but my understanding was that for a while they had a policy that they didn’t want to use any actors that had been in any other part of the Star Trek world. So, when I auditioned for Deep Space Nine, I don’t think they realized I’d been in Star Trek. Anyway, I got the job and it was just a day. Jonathan Frakes directed it and I don’t think we even started that scene I was in until one o’clock in the morning. Jonathan was worked to the bone. When you’re like me, kind of a relief pitcher, a one-inning guy, it’s no big deal, but Frakes was tired. I could tell. I felt bad for him.
And then, on Enterprise, you played the Ferengi, Muk, in the episode “Acquisition”…
HOWARD: I believe by then they’d suspended the idea of not repeating any faces, so I played the Ferengi, and with the makeup you really couldn’t tell it was me, anyway. I’d done a lot of makeup roles, but because it was television they did not custom build me a piece. When I did The Grinch, they did a cast of me and built the prosthetic piece around the cast. When I did Enterprise, I think they gave me Armin Shimerman’s head. Armin and I have about the same-shaped head, so they just pulled one of Armin’s old Ferengi heads off the rack and gave it to me. Here’s a bit of inside baseball for you: when you do something with a lot of makeup there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to make a lot of overtime. And it was nice because I knew Scott Bakula from working on the TV version of Gung Ho with him.
Visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two of our interview with Clint Howard. And, in the meantime, follow the links above to watch Howard’s episodes of Star Trek.
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