Over the course of his life, Mark Robert Brown has found success as a teacher, singer, mentor, music producer, talent coordinator, television field producer, music artist manager and more. Much more. But, to millions of Star Trek fans across the world he’ll always be the handsome young child actor who played Don Linden in the third-season TOS episode “And the Children Shall Lead.”
Brown reunited with several of his “And the Children Shall Lead” co-stars – Craig Huxley, Pamelyn Ferdin and Brian Tochi -- at Creation’s recent 2010 Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas and, the next morning, StarTrek.com sat down with him for breakfast. Brown is 51 years old now, still boyishly enthusiastic, and was eager to share his TOS memories and update us on what he’s doing these days.
You’ve not done many conventions. How did you enjoy being on stage yesterday, interacting with the fans and with Craig, Pamelyn and Brian?
The first thought that comes to mind is how cool it was, and it made sense to me, all the things the fans wanted to know. There was a natural progression or order of things. They wanted to know what it was like, the experience, being on that set, and between us, the children, and what it was like working with William Shatner and the other actors. Then they wanted to know more about us, about any unique things we’ve done since Star Trek. It was wonderful.
We’re going to cover some similar ground now. Go back 41 years. What actual memories do you have of shooting “And the Children Shall Lead”?
My memories are present and clear, from beginning to end. Any time we were called to set someone else around us would whistle. That was apparently a ritual, like when you’re in the Navy and they call you on to the deck of your ship. So, one person would do it and then someone else would do it. It might have been Shatner who did it first and then Nimoy or Koenig or Takei would make the second call and response whistle to get everyone to set. That’s a very vivid memory because, on a ship it means something serious, but on the Star Trek set it brought great levity. Every time it happened, whether we were starting the day or after a lighting change, you’d hear that call and response and there’d be laughter. What else do I remember? I remember the high level of professionalism.
Did you watch “And the Children Shall Lead” with your family when it premiered?
Most certainly. We had at least two televisions and there was me, my sister, my mom and my dad. You always knew when an episodic was going to air because there’d be a listing in TV Guide, but because I’d done so many commercials, and you never knew when those would suddenly air, someone would yell, “Mark’s commercial is on! Mark is on TV! Run, everybody!” But with “And the Children Shall Lead,” I remember being especially excited to see that. It was always cool to see myself on any show, but Star Trek, for so many reasons, was so damn special. Watching that episode was an event. I got home from school that day and it was like, “OK, do your chores, your homework.” Then we ate dinner and had to have the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned and be ready for bed because “Mark is going to be on Star Trek tonight and you’ve got to have everything done so you can watch it (and be set to go to sleep right afterward).”
You’d done quite a bit of work as an actor before Star Trek, but IMDB doesn’t have your other appearances listed. What shows were you on prior to Star Trek?
I did “And the Children Shall Lead” in 1968, when I was 10. I had started in 1965 and I’d already done I, Spy and Andy Griffith and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and Family Affair and The Flying Nun and Bewitched and The Monkees. IMDB has about two percent of my career. I think they have Star Trek and my episode of Lancer. I will try to make those changes because it’s important to me that people have a better feeling for the work I’ve done.
You’ve also done all sorts of things aside from acting. Take us through some of your endeavors…
I went from acting to entrepreneurial and creative successes, then into the educative field. I had great successes in that, too, but they were spoiled by all the politics involved, by the process. One of the things I’m proudest of is having founded a music artist management company (with) which, in 18 months time, I had two artists who did tremendous things. A vocal group called Shai had a multi-platinum song called “If I Ever Fall in Love.” It got as high as #2 on the (Billboard pop) charts (in 1992). And writer-producers I worked with were involved in two big hits right around the same time, Michael Jackson’s “Jam” and “Rump Shaker” (by Wreckx-n-Effect featuring Teddy Riley). I’m also very excited that, just before Star Trek, actually, I had performed “Ode to Billy Joe” with Bobbie Gentry and that, at 11 or 12, while under contract to MGM Records, I recorded “The Candy Man” with Sammy Davis, Jr. I was on “Up the Sandbox” with Barbra Streisand. I worked with John Williams. I worked with the legendary Sherman Brothers, who wrote so many famous Disney songs. I’ve worked with Bill Cosby and Liberace. The list is just endless. But I’m probably proudest of having been a teacher and mentor in Los Angeles. To be able to share and give and help and play a role in changing and molding the lives of students… it’s been an honor and a treasure.
What are you doing now?
Well, one thing I’m very excited about is I’ve created a site for the fans. It’s called Startreksmarkrobertbrown.com. Forty-one years later I get to continue to contribute to these phenomenal fan moments I’ve come to know, to be part of the Star Trek community. It’s this awesome and humbling sharing and caring. Fans can reach out to me. I’ll have authorized pictures and my one-of-a-kind personal collectibles, like call sheets and shooting schedules and the broadcast airing posts from TV Guide. And I’ll be expressing my thoughts, by blogging, to give people more insight as to who I am and what Star Trek was like for me. It’s great. I get to sustain contact with these fans, many of whom I’m meeting this weekend at the convention. It’s a blessing that is just unreal.