Carel Struycken is a big man who made a big mark on Star Trek: The Next Generation, though he hardly ever said a word. Struycken, of course, played Mr. Homn, the ever-loyal, uttaberry-loving, nearly silent personal assistant to Lwaxana Troi (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry). Homn appeared in five TNG episodes – “Haven,” “Manhunt” “Menage a Troii,” “Half a Life” and “Cost of Living,” most often communicating in sign language, though he spoke a single line of dialogue in “Haven.” The actor also played The Spectre in the second-season Voyager episode, “The Thaw.” Beyond his Trek turns, Struycken is best known for his performances as Lurch in the features The Addams Family and Addams Family Values, while other film and television credits include Twin Peaks, Men in Black, Charmed and Cold Case. These days, Struycken continues to act and still makes the occasional sci-fi or Trek convention appearance, but is focusing most of his energy on videography and interactive photography. StarTrek.com caught up with Struycken last week for an interview in which he chatted about all of the above.
The TNG casting people initially wanted you for something other than Mr. Homn, right?
Struycken: Yes. They wanted me for a part, but it was going to be a one-shot part. I’d actually felt a connection to Star Trek, because when I first came to America, one of the very first things I saw on television was the original Star Trek series. It blew me away. It was so strange. Everything, obviously, looked slightly dated, but the storylines were so fantastic and powerful and unique. So, when they called me about TNG, I felt like I somehow belonged in that universe and I wanted more than a one-shot part. I said, “I’d rather hold out for a recurring part, because I think I belong here.” And that was it. They didn’t kick me out. They said, “OK,” and pretty soon afterward they thought up Mr. Homn for me. Really, it wasn’t a business decision. It was a decision from the heart.
What did you appreciate most about Homn as a character?
Struycken: Both Trois had this great ability with non-verbal communication. When I saw it, I realized that I had very few lines. I had one line in my first episode and then no lines after that. That was kind of a disappointment, but I thought, “OK, the way I can justify it for myself is that on this planet we come from, we don’t always open our mouths when we’re talking.” So, in my mind, I was having long conversations with Lwaxana and Deanna (Marina Sirtis), but you, as the viewer, were not quite aware of that.
What do you remember most about working with Majel Barrett-Roddenberry?
Struycken: She was absolutely fabulous. She was fantastic. Usually when you’re on a production and you’re in the makeup room, people are pretty reserved in what they say and what they talk about. But not Majel. She had very strong opinions and she made sure that everybody knew about those opinions. That was great. And, at least in the way I experienced Majel off the set as well as on it, a lot of Lwaxana’s character was part of her character, even though that may have just been her staying in character. I’m not sure about that. But she always came across to me as a very outspoken person.
You returned to the Trek sound stages a few years later for “The Thaw.” How did that come about?
Struycken: I’d actually missed out on one or two TNG opportunities because I was doing The Addams Family. It was really frustrating because I could have easily have done both, because the stage where we were shooting The Addams Family was literally across the little alley at Paramount where they were shooting TNG. All it would have taken was for someone from production to cross that little alley to find out when I’d be available. Anyway, I missed out on it. And there may have been another one, too. Then, there was this chance to do Voyager, and I wore a weird black pumpkin on my head. It was just another part, but I was very happy to be back in outer space again, so to speak.
We saw you at a convention not too long ago, and you had a couple of members of your family with you at your table in the autograph room. What’s it like for you, all these years later, to attend these events, and what did it mean to you to share the experience with your family?
Struycken: Well, I enjoy the conventions, but my kids have always been completely unimpressed by all of that. But it is fun to take them along whenever I get the chance. My daughter is now in her first year of her medical residency, so I don’t think I’ll ever get her to a convention again. And then my son is going to be applying for medical school. But it’s fun. When I’m on my own at a convention, after being behind a table for two or three hours, I am ready to leave. When my son is sitting next to me, he’ll say, “No. This is what we’re here for. So, no, no, stay here.” He’s kind of my keeper at those shows.
What are you working on these days?
Struycken: I’m setting up an editing system so that I can get back into working on studio stuff. We bought another house last year (in Los Angeles), so I’m converting the garage into my workspace, and it’ll be a nice, big-enough area where I can do photography and video editing.
What kind of photography do you do?
Struycken: Actually, I do almost exclusively spherical panoramas, and those are available at www.sphericalpanoramas.com. You should check that out. The work is really interesting. And now that I have this garage, I should be able to set up little portraits and things like that. I’ll be experimenting a bit.
Are you still acting?
Struycken: Oh, you bet. Acting is a passive thing, to a degree, because you have to wait for somebody who wants you. There’s nothing much you can do about it. So I’m just waiting for that phone call. Once I finish setting up my video editing system, the very first thing I’m going to do is make a nice show reel. So, there you go. That’s one of the few things you can do to make yourself a bit more visible.
To learn more about Struycken’s photography, click HERE to visit his official site.