Leonard Crofoot has done a bit of everything in his career. He’s acted, danced and choreographed. He’s a juggler, water skier and unicyclist. Along the way, he made three very different appearances on Star Trek, playing Trent in The Next Generation episode “Angel One,” one of the memorable iterations of Lal in the TNG hour “The Offspring” and a Qomar spectator in the Voyager installment “Virtuoso.” StarTrek.com recently caught up with Crofoot for an interview in which he discussed all of the above and more. Here’s what he had to say…
What interested you most about the character in “Angel One”? And about the concept of the episode, that males were subservient to females?
CROFOOT: I loved the concept of living on a planet controlled by women. I wish there were more women in positions of power. The women cast for this episode were very tall, and I am not, which created a strong visual for dominant women. The role of Trent was important to me because even though I was playing subservient to mistress Beata, I also did away with people at her command. There was a sense of a villain in that character and I loved that. Originally, Gene Roddenberry had the makeup department do me up in gorgeous model-type makeup, but they nixed that because they felt that it was a bit too much. They went with a more subdued look, but with a serpent earring and an outfit that managed to be prettified while still vaguely masculine. It was brilliant.
What do you remember of the shoot? Of playing the character androgynously?
CROFOOT: Working on ‘Angel One” was a total delight. The cast and crew were so wonderful. The makeup lady sprayed a reddish glow on my hair that I wish I still had. Jonathan Frakes and I wore similar outfits and I remember being jealous of all his chest hair. In one scene I improvised spraying myself with perfume and was pleased that it made the final cut.
CROFOOT: Jonathan Frakes had requested me, which meant the world to me.
What were the costume fittings and makeup application process like for that episode?
CROFOOT: For Lal, makeup designer Michael Westmore did a plaster cast of my entire body, done in sections. The body of the costume consisted only of latex buns and an angular bra that was glued on, plus metallic contact lenses. The rest was naked me sprayed with metallic gold paint. Then Michael did his wonderfully creative sculpturing of the face in latex. I was very honored to read that Michael Westmore considered it one of his best efforts.
What was your mindset as an actor playing this particular androgynous android?
CROFOOT: My background is both in acting and in dance, so this role felt like an especially good fit. I found interpreting the behavior of the android child of an android a particularly compelling role and was grateful for the opportunity.
How did you enjoy working with Patrick, Brent and Marina, and also with Jonathan as a director?
CROFOOT: My recollection of the first season was that the whole cast was on edge, wondering if the show was going to be picked up. By the third season they had settled in. I loved working with the entire cast on both episodes. They made me feel at home and part of the team the entire time. I remember the intensity of Patrick observing and walking around Lal and I admired the physicality he invented. Brent was generous in demonstrating his own physical mannerisms in the creation of Data. Jonathan is a true gentleman, as a person and as a director. Even though I was only there for a single episode, he was always kind, helpful and generous. Marina was both light-hearted and comforting, just like her character. We held hands. I’ll never forget working with her.
CROFOOT: Lal was a fantastic part because I got to play an entity that wasn't fully formed. I was the child of Data, so I needed to be a bit like him in my movement and yet also a child that is a separate being with its own life. And I had to do this mostly without dialogue. The story is profoundly tragic; the loss of a child is the worst loss. I have received wonderful mail from Next Generation enthusiasts and it tells me that the story is universal. I'm proud to be a part of it all.
You later popped up on Voyager, in the episode “Virtuoso.” Was that an invitation?
CROFOOT: I was just a day player on that one. I was called in to play a spectator observing musical talent for the very first time. My group was directed to watch a performance. I got some laughs on the set when I stared like a boy seeing a naked lady for the first time. I have never seen the episode.
CROFOOT: Not much. I wasn't on the set for very long but it was fun.
You're an actor, dancer, choreographer, water skier, juggler, unicyclist and more. When people ask what you do for a living, what do you say? What does it say on your passport under "occupation"?
CROFOOT: Performer. My first training was in ballet and my first performances were as a dancer. I got to dance with the Kirov in the role of a grasshopper when I was a kid. But because I could sing, I auditioned for other work as well. I have had the privilege of working with some of the most outstanding directors, dancers, acting coaches and choreographers in the world. Some of my more unusual skills came from my role in the Broadway show Barnum, the circus theme of the show provided the opportunity to acquire new skills like juggling and unicycling.Of your acting work on Broadway, TV and film, what are some of your most treasured experiences and why?
CROFOOT: Some highlights are the role I created of Tom Thumb in Barnum, where I was honored to win the Drama-Logue Critics Award. Playbill magazine included my performance in its CD collection Broadway Scene Stealers, a compilation of noteworthy performances, which was a very happy surprise. I performed in six other original Broadway shows and toured with Carol Channing in the role of Barnaby in Hello Dolly. I played the role of Benjamin in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in its American debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
For the 67th Academy Awards I recreated Donald O'Connor's wall-walking sequence from Singing in the Rain. Recently I was on A.N.T. Farm, playing Mr. Whimpers, an eccentric fashion designer who lives in a doghouse. I love quirky parts. I can be seen dancing in the background on films, TV shows and the Los Angeles Opera. I'm very proud to be included in Rose Eichenbaum's book of intimate conversations with great dancers, The Dancer Within. Coincidentally, Jonathan Frakes is included in another of her books called The Director Within.
What did you take away from so many years doing your Nijinsky show and getting inside his mind, his moves?
CROFOOT: Playing Vaslav Nijinsky was a real challenge. It was just me and a chair on the stage for an hour and fifteen minutes. The problem was asking an audience to spend so much time with a rather depressing insane man. So I knew I had to add humor. Finding humor in Nijinsky’s narcissism added to the script and gave the show better pacing. Because I am also dancing through a large part of the show, I worked to avoid the monotony of watching a single performer just stand and talk. Music and a beautiful lighting design pulled the whole piece together.How many Trek conventions have you done over the years?
CROFOOT: I have never attended a convention. I would love to do it.
What's life like for you these days? What are you up to? Are you still acting? Teaching?
CROFOOT: Yes, still working and hope to continue. I just finished a residency teaching movement to second graders, which was pure joy. I have been a background player several times on The Big Bang Theory and am astonished at the ability of those performers. Call me any time. I take several ballet classes a week with maestro Stefan Wenta and recently performed in a theater piece called Blue Apple, playing a doctor in an insane hospital. I have been working on a two-person play and love listening to music, especially the work of Icelandic singer Bjork. I feel very fortunate to have had led such an interesting life. Thanks for asking.