Character actor extraordinaire Clint Howard will return to Star Trek Las Vegas next week, and he’ll have fresh stories to share thanks to his recent appearance as the creepy Orion who interacted with Tilly (Mary Wiseman) in the Star Trek: Discovery season-one finale, “Will You Take My Hand?” Howard’s Trek association, of course, dates back to The Original Series, when he guest starred as Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver” He’d just turned 7 when he shot that classic hour. Decades later, he played Grady in the Deep Space Nine hour “Past Tense, Part II,” and in 2002, he sported Ferengi makeup to portray Muk in the Enterprise episode “Acquisition.”
Howard, at STLV, will participate in a panel and will also be available for photo ops and autographs. StarTrek.com recently chatted with the actor about his STLV appearance, returning to Trek for Discovery, and a unique Star Trek-Star Wars connection…
How ready are you for Star Trek Las Vegas, and how pleased are you to have something new and fresh to talk about with your recent appearance on Discovery?
I personally enjoy it and I look forward to the opportunity to meet the fans and get that reinforcement. I also am enjoying the opportunity of being a vendor, and the fact is this is an income stream for me. It’s not my sole income stream, but show business has changed and I need to continue making X amount of money to keep making my yearly nut. So, having the opportunity to go to a Star Trek convention where the fans are wonderful and generous makes it a good show for them and for me.
Aside from Trek, when you attend conventions and autograph shows, what of your many other credits do people most often talk with you about?
Having done this for so long and been the sort of actor that has had a very eclectic career, there are many things that I get spotted for. Star Trek is an obvious one. Seinfeld is one that is a regular highlight. People love to hear me say, "Ann Landers sucks,” which I gladly will say. It was actually a flubbed line, and Jerry goes, "What, are you kidding me? That was perfect." So, an improv line for me that has become a staple of memories for others is fun. Apollo 13 is a film that people love and respond to. It depends on what kind of convention I’m at, as people's tastes tend to dictate what they're saying their favorite role was. When I go to horror conventions, of course, Ice Cream Man comes up, or Ticks. It's a pretty wide range, and I've been really lucky. God did me a solid. He gave me a really interesting face and I sort of got a niche as a character actor at a very young age in my life.
You have the distinction of so far being the first and only actor from The Original Series to appear on Discovery…
It puts me in Mickey Rooney territory, meaning I've just been doing this so long. The coincidences are going to start to become the reality. I didn't think it was that big of a deal when I made Star Trek, because nobody knew what it was going to become. Interesting story… I was just in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Here’s the Star Trek connection. It’ll take me a minute to get there for you. I auditioned for Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. There was a time in the business, before videotape, when producers would tend to see anybody who had any kind of recognition. So, I got an interview to go meet George Lucas and read for Star Wars. Very preliminary interview. It was at Fox and I remember seeing Mark Hamill there. I'd seen him at other auditions. Francis Coppola was in the room, which makes your jaw drop because he's a big man. Not physically, although he's not small. It's just he's got a huge presence.
All of the sudden I'm going, "This is the big leagues here.” Coppola is looking at me. There's another person that I know who worked on American Graffiti with George, and his name was Geno Havens (who was a casting agent). George was turned away from me in a big leather chair, and just like in the movie he spun around in his leather chair and we made eye contact and the first thing out of his mouth was, "Commander Balok, ‘Corbomite Maneuver.’" In retrospect, it was pretty cool, but when you're 17 years old and trying to get an adult part in an adult film, to have the director make a reference about your work as a six or seven-year-old tends to throw you off your game.
And I remember so vividly when George said that, the next thing in my brain was, "Jesus, George, get a life." Now, as it turns out, George got a pretty good life. And, as it turns out, he was the first Trekkie geek that I really came in contact with. I reminded him of this at the Solo premiere. George has had zillions of experiences and he didn't instantly acknowledge that, "Oh, yeah, I remember," but he chuckled and acknowledged that he was a big Star Trek fan. Anyway, we had a bit of a laugh at that, but that was my Star Wars experience colliding again with my Star Trek life.
How did Discovery come about?
Akiva Goldsman is a very close friend of my brother Ron and they've collaborated and they've won Oscars together. We've always had a really solid, unique, special relationship, and a couple of months before, Akiva called and said, "Hey, I'm going to direct a new Star Trek show. Would you be interested in doing it?" But it was my relationship with Akiva that put this opportunity on the table and at this point I certainly am not going to turn down a Star Trek gig. It's too cool that I've been in, what, four incarnations of the franchise?
Your character was this deliciously creepy Orion. Did they give you any background in the script or on set about who he is and why he's doing what he's doing?
No. Akiva and I had a very brief exchange about who this guy was. Akiva explained what the purpose of the guy was, that he has to deliver the information about volcanic ash. So, I knew what the job was. So, he's the creepy drug dealer and he basically says, "Now, just open yourself up for possibly a little entertainment for the evening,” and delivers the information to Mary’s character. It was a pretty easy one. Working with Akiva is a little like working with Ron. We can almost communicate without dialogue. We don't have to finish complete sentences to know what each other is saying. And working with Mary, she’s really good. I always appreciate when an actor has the ability to shift gears and change up on the fly and have the thing get better, and she did. It was wonderful.
Others involved with the show have said that the drink on the table by you was Tranya, but a direct mention isn’t in the episode. Could there be a next time? And would you be interested?
Oh, sure. I'm an actor and I love gainful employment. Virtually every job offer gets a legitimate consideration from me, but the fact that it's Star Trek is a yes at the drop of a hat. How many people have been on shows 50 years ago and are still being asked to be in incarnations of the same franchise?
Go to Creationent.com to purchase your tickets.