Joel Grey is many, many things, among them a Tony winner, Oscar winner, Grammy winner and… a Star Trek guest. Grey, who turns 80 years old today, portrayed the Alsaurian character Caylem, an old, guilt-ridden man, in the Voyager episode "Resistance." Caylem blocked out the deaths of his wife and daughter, which he in part caused by not joining the Alsaurian resistance against the oppressive Mokra. When he meets Captain Janeway, he believes that she’s his daughter. Caylem ultimately kills Augris, the tormentor of his people and killer of his wife and daughter, but he suffers a mortal blow in the process and dies in Janeway’s arms, with Janeway letting him pass in peace by never letting him know she’s not his daughter and by forgiving him for the events of the past. StarTrek.com recently caught up with Grey at his New York City apartment to talk about his Voyager experience, his busy schedule and turning 80.
You had worked with Kate Mulgrew on Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. So, was it her idea or yours to bring you on board for a Voyager episode?
Grey: I honestly don’t remember. I really don’t. I think they’d asked me several times (to do a Voyager episode, and he’d passed each time). I guess it was the part that finally convinced me. It’s always about the part.
What intrigued you most about this poor guy, Caylem?
Grey: If a guy doesn’t know what he’s doing, what he’s done, then that’s an interesting thing to play. The makeup was hideous. Caylem was not a pretty sight. It took a couple of hours (to have the makeup applied), but that was fine. They were great makeup people. It was just such a bizarre ring I had in my nose. But this was Star Trek. It was fun, fun and crazy.
Grey: She’s a lovely person. She’s also just such a good actor. We didn’t have a hell of a lot to do (together) on Remo Williams, so we made up for it on Voyager. I was glad we got the opportunity. I think she’s going to be doing something that’s coming up, something in the theater (in New York).
Let’s talk about your current projects. You’ve been on Broadway for the past several months in Anything Goes, which won the 2011 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. How have you enjoyed the experience so far?
Grey: Well, I must be loving it because I’ve just re-signed and will be with the show until September. First of all, the cast is phenomenal. And you get to hear all these great Cole Porter songs all night long. How bad can that be?
Your role, Moonface Martin, requires lots of singing, dancing, running, jumping and joke cracking. You’re about to turn 80. Where do you get the energy to play the role eight times a week?
Grey: I have no answer for that. I have no answer. But I guess it has to be something about loving what you do and being interested in it.
You also just shot a role for an upcoming episode of Nurse Jackie. What can you tell us about your role in that?
Grey: I play a guy of a certain age who’s in love with one of the nurses. I’m becoming the king of the hospital bed. I was on Grey’s Anatomy and I was on the spin-off, Private Practice. I died on one of them.
You’ll be participating in TCM’s Classic Film Festival, April 12-15, in Hollywood, and the 40th anniversary of your film Cabaret will be celebrated with a gala screening of a restored print. How hard is it to believe that it’s been 40 years since you made that film, and how does it hold up?
Grey: I’m thrilled about this event. I can’t wait to get out there and stand on a stage with Liza (Minnelli). It’s crazy that it’s 40 years, but it means nothing. The film holds up brilliantly. It’s still an amazing film. It’s timeless.
We started to touch on this before. You turn 80 years old today. What does it mean to you to have reached that age and to still be so busy and active?
Grey: It means nothing. It’s just a number.
Well, from everyone at StarTrek.com and on behalf of Star Trek fans, congratulations on reaching that number.
Grey: Thank you.