Many television aficionados, when they think of Don Most, immediately associate him with Happy Days. After all, he spent seven years playing Ralph Malph on that iconic series. But the actor also made two memorable visits to the Star Trek universe, guest starring in both installments of the Voyager two-parter “Workforce.” Cast against type, he played the duplicitous Dr. Kadan. Surprised? Most has actually led a career full of surprises. Did you know, for instance, that he directed the film in which Shailene Woodley made her big-screen debut? Did you know that he’s a talented singer who’s playing night clubs on a regular basis? In fact, he’ll be performing a gig on Tuesday, July 7, at the famed Iridium in New York City, followed by appearances at Tim McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park, N.J. on July 12th, and Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, New York on July 25th. And did you know that he and another Happy Days and Star Trek alum, Anson Williams, are set to attend Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention next month in Las Vegas? Most talked about all that in more in a recent conversation with StarTrek.com. Here’s what he had to say.
Acting-wise, IMDB lists Remember Isobel and Follow as upcoming projects. Are those accurate and, if so, what are the basic stories and what do you play?
MOST: I finished Follow fairly recently. That’s a psychological thriller. I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and a real good role. We shot that in Austin, Texas. I play a landlord and next-door neighbor to the lead character, who starts to spiral downward in a very dramatic way after a series of events. And you don’t really know whether I’m a good guy or a bad guy. He sends off different signals and you can’t really make him out. I liked that. I liked the ambiguity of it. The other film, Remember Isobel, I did more than a year ago. I’m not sure what’s happening with that one. They’re taking a long time with the post-production.
MOST: I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, and I started doing it about not quite a year ago. My first show was in mid-July of last year. Performing is something I’ve loved my whole life, and the kind of music I like and that I perform is jazz standards, the Great American Songbook and swing. I like songs along the lines Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin and Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. I like some blues stuff, too. I actually sang before I started acting. I was about 15 years old and I was singing professionally in a group that performed in the Catskills Mountains during the summer in, I think it was 1968. Then I switched my focus that summer into more serious acting study. I went to a workshop with a really good teacher. So I put the singing aside for a while. I did use it over the years in the musical theater things I did here and there, but all along I knew that one day I wanted to do my own act and perform the kind of music I love. And here we are. The timing just felt right for whatever reason. It looks like I’m going to be recording an album as well. So I’m having a blast. And I’m not giving up acting or anything else I do. I’m just adding singing to the program.
Go back a ways. Were you a Trek fan or was it at least on your TV and pop culture radar?
MOST: Yes, I was a huge fan. I loved it. I watched it all the time. I was not that much a fan of the later shows, not because I didn’t like them, but because I was working by then and didn’t watch anything. I think I saw all of the (TOS) features. I was aware of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, but when I did my episodes of Voyager, I’d probably only seen one or two episodes.
How did the opportunity to appear on Voyager come along? Was it an offer? An audition? And if it was an audition, what was the process?
MOST: It was an audition. I didn’t have a chance to read the entire script before the audition. They sent me a couple of scenes to do. Sometimes that’s tricky, because you don’t know everything that’s going on. You don’t know the full story. You don’t have the context. But you try to garner as much as you can from what you have and just do it. You could always ask them questions if you’re confused about things. But I remember that I went in and they were good scenes, meaty scenes. I felt really good about the audition and they seemed to really like it, and I found out a couple of days later that I got it. I was excited about being a part of the Star Trek culture, especially since I had been such a fan of The Original Series.
You played Doctor Kadan in "Workforce." It was a juicy role in a thought-provoking story. What interested you most about the character and how he figured into the action?
MOST: After I got the role, they gave me the full script, and it was an interesting character in that he had conflicting things going on. You thought, “What is he doing? Is he doing something good or something that’s bad?” It could be looked at both ways, depending on your perspective and which side you’re on. I don’t think he saw himself as a villain. He did what he felt was needed to be done for the greater good, yet his means and methods of going about it had to be secretive and devious. That’s interesting to play, because the villains always have more levels and colors than the good guys. That’s the case most of the time.
MOST: It was good. I didn’t really get on solid ground with my performance until the second episode. One of the executive producers was in my ear, telling me things and saying I should go against the villain aspect of the character. I understand that in retrospect, but it’s tricky on set when the producer tells you one thing and the director (Allan Kroeker) tells you something else. So I remember being conflicted and confused that first episode. Roxann Dawson directed the second episode, and I didn’t have the producer saying anything that time, so I enjoyed doing that one more. You asked about the makeup. Even though the makeup was minimal, it was still a pain in the ass. I sat there a long time in that chair, probably a couple of hours, and I had to get there a couple of hours before to get it done. But it’s part of the process and you do it. I also remember how cool it was to come on set and see the sets, but especially the ship that I was on. After having watched The Original Series, it was a “Wow” moment to be on a ship set. And the cast was really nice and welcoming. I’d actually worked with Jeri Ryan on an episode of Dark Skies before I was on Star Trek. So it was neat seeing her again on Voyager.
Something that Trek and Happy Days have in common, beyond being shot at Paramount, is that actors from both shows became so associated with their respective characters that it was hard to be viewed by audiences as anything but those characters. Can you talk a bit about that -- and also, how satisfied are you with what you've achieved in your career post-Happy Days as an actor, director, singer, etc.?
MOST: What you are saying is true. It was difficult for all of us on Happy Days. It’s difficult for any actor coming off something that iconic and successful and sort of specific. That was one of the reasons why I left when my contract was up. They wanted me to renew it, and the show continued for four more seasons, but it was time to go. I left for several reasons, but one of them was, “OK, seven years on one show, playing one character… I want to branch out.” So it was very difficult. At the beginning, I said to my agents that I wanted to get film work. I didn’t want to do episodic TV for a while, which made it even more difficult because, especially back then, it was very difficult to go from TV to films, and especially from a sitcom to films. It was almost not done. I think Travolta and Sally Field were the only ones who really did it. But I was trying. I couldn’t even get an audition for six months. So I started doing more theater and keeping myself busy with that. I did start to get a little bit of film work, but I eventually said, “Let’s look at television again,” and I started getting some television stuff. As the years have gone by, it’s gotten better and better, because there’s more distance from the show. But the show is still iconic. So you still fight it to some degree.
But I’ve gotten work. I had some good opportunities. I had a recurring role on Glee. I did Voyager and Dark Skies and The Crow and a few independent films and some studio stuff, too. I’ve also gotten to direct. I’m singing now. So I’ve gotten to do a good amount of things over the years. Am I satisfied? The real answer to that, the honest answer to that, is that I feel like I’ve only touched the surface, that there’s so much more I could do as an actor. I’m happy and I’m thankful for what I have been able to do, but I feel that there’s so much more that I haven’t done as an actor. Now that I’m at a different age bracket and there’s even more distance (from Happy Days), I think things are opening up in an even bigger way and that there will be a lot more great roles for me to come. I really feel that.
MOST: The first movie I directed was called The Last Best Sunday. It was a straight drama, pretty heavy. Then, about five years later, I did Moola, which was a comedy-drama. It had a great cast, but you’re asking specifically about Shailene, which was very interesting. We had cast William Mapother as the dad. I had Daniel Baldwin and Curtis Armstrong and Treat Williams and Charlotte Ross. Then we were casting the role of William Mapother’s daughter, and William was playing the main character. My casting director wanted different girls to read, and we were down to two girls, Shailene and another gal who had a recurring role on a TV show. She had real comedic chops. The movie was a comedy, but it was also a drama. I think a lot of people on the creative team, some of the producers and whatnot, were leaning towards her. But at the end of the day, I kept looking at the auditions, and there was something about Shailene. There was such an honesty and sensitivity, and I thought that would be more important to the role than the comedy. So I went with Shailene, and I’m really glad I did. And the film is out there. You can get it on Amazon on Demand.
You and Anson Williams will be in Las Vegas in August for the big official Star Trek convention. Have you ever done a Trek convention? How eager are you to meet the fans, pose for photos, sign autographs, etc.
MOST: I’ve done autograph shows, but this will be my first Star Trek convention. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve heard so much about these conventions, so it’ll certainly be fun, entertaining and interesting to experience it first-hand. Anson and I will be together, and we’ve been together at autograph shows. He actually directed four episodes of Voyager, I think, and two episodes of Deep Space Nine, so we both have that Trek connection. So, yeah, I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it.
Visit Creationent.com for details about Most’s appearance at the upcoming Creation Entertainment Official Star Trek Convention. And go to Most’s Facebook page at for information about his upcoming concert appearances.