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 two of our exclusive interview.
HOWARD: Enterprise was interesting, playing a Ferengi, and I was there for several days, but I’d have to say The Original Series. I’ve said this 100 times over the years, but it’s still funny to me: I still can’t stomach pink grapefruit juice. I’m not a big fan of any grapefruit juice, but when I saw the prop man, he’d mixed up pink grapefruit juice and was using it as tranya. I tasted it and it was just terrible. I asked my dad, “Dad, do you think we can get the prop man to put some apple juice in this? Does it really matter?” And my dad said, “Listen, you’re going to drink the pink grapefruit juice and you’re going to like it.” So, if you see the episode and you notice me taking a sip and acting as if I really like it, like it’s alcohol, it was the same pucker-up face as what might happen if you’d just had a vodka gimlet.
You reprised the role of Balok in 2006 for Comedy Central’s roast of William Shatner. What was that experience like for you?
HOWARD: Oh, that was pretty funny. I knew the guy who was producing it, Joel Gallen. He’d done the MTV Movie Awards, the one where I got the lifetime achievement award. That played really well and, a few years later, I ran into him at a Super Bowl. He was producing the halftime show for the NFL and I was there as a guest, so I got to go to a couple of the parties, which was fun. He pulled me aside at one of these parties and said, “That segment you did, getting the lifetime achievement award, might be the best piece of television I’ve ever done.” So that made me feel proud, but what I heard about the Shatner roast was that Ben Stiller had been in contact with Joel. I guess Stiller was going to do something on the Shatner roast and he, in passing mentioned, “Oh, you’ve got to have Clint Howard.” Ben is a big Star Trek guy and he had me in Night at the Museum, so it was Ben’s suggestion and Joel remembering me, and I went in and did it.
If I remember correctly, my agent was able to strike up a fairly healthy deal because if you knew me, you would realize that me going in and climbing into a big, oversized version of a costume that I wore when I was seven and putting on a bald cap again is not my idea of big fun. But it was a nice thing and I’m glad I did it. Shatner is really, really amazing to me. I mean, talk about the Energizer bunny. Also, his career has had big ups and downs, and the fact that he stayed in it and kept grinding, I give him a lot of credit. He’s just a little younger than my dad, and they came out of an era where, by God, they want to keep working. And Bill has done it through a wild career.
It’s why, in my own career, I am so grateful that I have bounced around and done enough varied characters to where nobody can quite pin me down for anything. About the closest thing anybody can pin me down for is being Ron Howard’s brother, which is something I’m very proud of. He’s a great man. He’s a better older brother than he is a movie director, and he’s an awesome movie director.
Let’s bring people up to speed. What are you working on at the moment?
HOWARD: I’ve done several indie films. One of them is called Guys and Girls Just Can’t Be Friends, which was a really fun experience. I shot that in Indiana. I also did a movie called Sparks, and it’s a low-budget film that was really a labor of love. These guys shot in about 14 days in Los Angeles and yet they were able to do a lot of things, with green screens and effects, that even five years ago a small little company couldn’t do. So, there’s Sparks, Guys and Girls Just Can’t Be Friends and a few other indie films I’ve done, and I’ve got a project that I can’t talk about yet that I’m trying to get made. It’s something I’ve been fiddling with as a filmmaker. It’s something I’d direct, and we’re in the formative stages of funding and putting the other pieces in place.
What do you play in the two films you mentioned?
HOWARD: I’m a newspaper editor in Sparks. I shot that a year ago. I probably had a name, but I don’t remember it. He’s like the editor of The Daily Planet, a crusty, old newspaper editor. And in Guys and Girls Just Can’t Be Friends, I play a guy who owns a miniature golf course where a lot of the romantic things in the movie happen.
We mentioned (in part one of this conversation) that you’ll be attending the Hollywood Show this weekend. What kind of a kick do you get from attending a show like that, meeting the fans, signing autographs, posing for pictures?
HOWARD: You know, I honestly have always gotten a kick out of it. My mom could make friends with strangers in elevators, and I’m a little like that. I have no problem saying hi to someone and creating a little small talk. My mom and my dad – she’s passed away, but he’s still alive – instilled in Ron and me the idea that spending time with people who recognize you is an important part of the job. If you can make somebody’s life a little happier by saying hi, you do it. It’s kind of the same thing we do as entertainers. There’s a line that people can cross, and my brother and I instinctively know that line. My brother’s line is a little different than mine because of who he is, but it’s an important part of what we do. For me, if I ran into Lee Trevino, the Hall of Fame professional golfer, I’d be as giddy as all get-out, so I can certainly understand why fans are thrilled to meet certain people.
Click HERE to read part one of our interview with Clint Howard. And remember to follow the links above to watch Howard’s episodes of Star Trek.