Yesterday, Wil Wheaton looked back with great affection at his days as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Today, in part two of our interview, Wheaton talks about filming his deleted scene as Crusher for Nemesis, comments on his voice cameo in Star Trek (2009), and fills us in on his latest projects, which include a guest shot this weekend on Leverage and an upcoming recurring role on Eureka.
You shot a cameo as Wesley for a scene in Nemesis that was ultimately cut from the film but can be found among the DVD extras. In hindsight, do you prefer that it was edited out, as it leaves Wesley still roaming the galaxy with the Traveler?
Wheaton: That experience for me was less about whatever made it onto the screen and more about having two days to go back to Star Trek and finally be the adult with the adults, which is an experience I’d always wanted to have as a kid. I never got to experience that when I was little, and it was incredibly wonderful. I wrote about it in my book, Just a Geek. There are two chapters all about what it was like to be there and to work with everyone again. It was like coming back from college to be with the family.
You also did a voice cameo in Star Trek (2009). How did that come about?
Wheaton: J.J. (Abrams) and I were going to keep that a complete secret because we just thought it was kind of a cool Easter egg thing that no one would ever know about. Then someone at Paramount found out and they had to do a bunch of bookkeeping with me and they had to credit me. And I didn’t want to get in trouble with my union. So we went ahead and told the world about it. It was really fun. Right up until the moment I was actually standing in the ADR studio at 20th Century Fox with J.J. I was convinced that somebody was pulling a practical joke on me. But I couldn’t figure out who I know that had the money and the desire to pull a practical joke this elaborate on me. It was great.
And what did you make of the movie?
Wheaton: I loved the movie. I really liked the way that J.J. made the Star Trek universe relevant to my kids’ generation. And I’m real excited to see where it goes next.
Let’s get caught up on some of your current projects. First up is “The Ho, Ho, Ho Job,” an episode of Leverage that will air this Sunday on TNT. Give us a preview.
Wheaton: It is the return of my character from “The Two Live Crew Job,” Chaos. And the way I was introduced to this episode was via a phone call from (Leverage creator-executive producer) John Rogers. He said to me, “How do you feel about playing the Grinch Who Stole Christmas on Leverage?” I said, “I feel like that needs to start today.”
Chaos is a genius hacker and troublemaker with a sly sense of humor, who seems to take his greatest pleasure in confounding Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), the Leverage team’s tech wizard. How much fun do you have playing the character?
Wheaton: It’s really fun to play characters that are very dissimilar from who I am in real life. The whole reason we become actors is to make believe and to experiment with playing people who are in realities that are different from our own. Chaos is really unlike me. He violates my fundamental rule for life, which is “Don’t be a d—k.” He just loves it. He seems to revel in outsmarting people and, especially in “The Ho, Ho, Ho Job,” using a sort of intellectual Aikido against the Leverage crew, setting them up, knowing exactly what they’re going to do and counting on what he knows about them in order to win.
What has John Rogers said about you coming back for more?
Wheaton: We haven’t talked about it, but Rogers did tell me that you don’t create characters like Chaos, you don’t create a crew like the crew from “The Two Live Crew Job” without planning to bring them back at some point in the future.
What else on the acting front do you have going on? You’re going to be on Eureka, right?
Wheaton: I’ve spent much of the past three months working in Vancouver on Eureka. I’m a recurring regular on the back half of Eureka this year. It’s really cool. I actually got that job directly because of Leverage. Amy Berg, who created Chaos for “The Two Live Crew Job,” went to work on Eureka this year. In an example of how weird technology is these days, she was direct messaging me on Twitter. “How do you feel about playing a character who’s kind of a nemesis to Fargo and is sort of prickly and kind of a jerk?” I said “I’d love to do that.” So I’m in a lot of their back 10 and we wrapped about a month ago. My understanding is that the episodes will air (on Syfy) either at the very beginning of 2011 or in the summer. I also keep going back to The Big Bang Theory, playing the evil version of myself. This is an interesting career I’m having right now, playing characters like Chaos and Dr. Parrish on Eureka and Evil Wil Wheaton, who you love to hate. It seems to be my dramatic function right now. Since I started playing characters like that I’ve been working like crazy. Sort of existentially I’m mildly disturbed by how much fun I have playing these guys, but I think it’s because when I walk around every day I go out of my way to not be like that.
Let’s talk about your blog, Wilwheaton.typepad.com. Everybody blogs now, but you were way ahead of the curve, having started your blog more than a decade ago. What made you say, so early on, the future is now and this is it?
Wheaton: I always wanted to write and I always enjoyed writing. Back in 2000, I just loved how keeping a blog allowed me to speak for myself, to tell the stories I wanted to tell, to communicate with people without any middlemen, and to really do it all on my own terms. I think we’ve seen, over the last decade, as a lot of the traditional, mainstream media has lost the confidence of a lot of people, those people are turning to the Internet and turning to blogs and turning to more independent voices just to experience the world. I was glad to be there at the beginning. I remember a time when pretty much every author and journalist and even actor who had a web site with a forum, was sort of looking down their nose at bloggers like we were these filthy invaders. I’m delighted that it’s come as far as it has and it’s been wonderful to be a part of that.
And lastly, after TNG you could have imploded and ended up like too many former child stars we’ve heard about – in rehab, on Dr. Drew or even dead. Instead, you kept working, created your own opportunities, got married and raised a family, etc. So, how close, or not, did you ever come to imploding and how proud of yourself are you for not letting that happen?
Wheaton: I never felt like imploding was an option. A lot of the people who implode do so because they’re angry or in some kind of really intense emotional/psychological pain. When I talked about the creation of Chaos, my character on Leverage, I decided that Chaos was one of those guys, and his version of imploding was to go on to be a super-criminal, to get back at everyone and make the world pay for perceived and actual transgressions against him. For me, I just decided that (his early acting period, including TNG) was a great part of my life. I enjoyed what I did when I was a kid, but there was no reason to think that, because I was an adult, that was the end. For me, it was always about the work, always about the performance, and it was always about acting. It was never about anything else. So I just did what I had to (do) to keep doing that. By the time I was 20, I’d been doing it for 13 years. Most people, if you start your career when you’re in your 20’s, you’re in your mid-30’s and 40’s when you maybe have a bit of a lull and figure out where to go next. Mine just came sooner because I was younger when I started. One of the kindest things anyone ever said to me came from my friend John Scalzi, and he said, “You know, every day you disprove F. Scott Fitzgerald’s saying that there are no second acts in American lives.”
Read part one of Wil Wheaton's interview here.