Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eugene Roddenberry Interview

Eugene Roddenberry, the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, spoke with about the upcoming movie, sci-fi in general, his documentary "Trek Nation" and various other topics. Below is excerpts from the interview specific to the movie and Majel Barrett Roddenberry (his mother) but full interview (worth the read) is at the links below.

Part I | Part II

Dan Madsen: How do you think your dad would feel about the new JJ Abrams Star Trek film?
Eugene Roddenberry, Jr.: I think he would love it. I think he would put his arm around JJ and hand over the keys, so to speak. He would say, “This baby is yours.” You had it in an interview you did with my father in your magazine, the Star Trek Communicator, where my father said, in essence, “I look forward to the next young writer who will come up and take steps beyond what I have done to create the next Star Trek and make it better.” That was the true humble nature of him. I think, in his older years, he was more than happy to pass on the torch to someone who was young, smart and able to take the next steps with it. I think JJ would be that guy. I think if my father had been able to get to know JJ Abrams he would have gladly given the reins of Star Trek to him.

DM: You and your mother visited the set of the new film, correct?
ER: Yes, we did separately.

DM: What was your opinion?
ER: I was there on the second to the last day of principal photography. It seemed like a great crew. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto were there. JJ Seems like a very casual director. Everything was very low key and fun and loose. Not unprofessional, though. It was a machine that was working and everyone knew their place and how to do their job. He seemed like a great director. He was not one of those stereotypical dick-heads. He just seemed like a great guy. He would talk back and forth with the actors; suggest they do something, and they would say, “Like this?” And he would say, “Yeah, that’s great!” It was a very collaborative environment. He definitely seemed to be in control and knew what was going on. He was very confident and knew what he was doing. When you get someone like that, those are the kind of people you want to work for because they will collaborate and they will listen to you. They’re not scared of losing their job.

DM: Have you seen any footage from the new film?
ER: Not much, I just visited the set. After my mother passed away, I had some people come in to help me with the logistics of the funeral service and I got to focus on the things I wanted to like putting a memorial tribute video together and the music, which really allowed me to grieve and was helpful. I contacted JJ’s office and told them that I wanted to end the video tribute with a clip from the new movie of her voice as the computer. It was a way of saying she will live on. After a few phone calls, they did give us a clip. It was a ten second clip at most and they didn’t make us sign any agreements or anything. I said, “You have my word that it will be used in the tribute video at the memorial and that’s it.” It was just a very nice way that they responded. That’s all I’ve seen.

DM: Do you have any concerns about the new film?
ER: Well, I just don’t know JJ Abrams that well and while I have recently fallen in love with his series, Lost, I think he is extremely talented. He is a fantastic writer, producer and director. I know he is a fan of Star Trek. I just want to make sure this new film doesn’t become Star Wars. My concern is that it will be an awesome Star Wars/sci-fi/action movie but it will lose the subtext and metaphors that were at the core of Star Trek’s humanity. I don’t think it should go as deep as Star Trek: The Motion Picture did but I just want to make sure the bad guy isn’t a black & white bad guy like in Star Trek: Nemesis. I just want to make sure they show both sides. You get a little bit deeper into the characters and you have some empathy for both the good and the bad. In the end, they have to make that tough decision perhaps like they made in the episode The City on the Edge of Forever. I hope there is some depth in the humanistic elements.

DM: Did she finish her work on the film before she passed away?
ER: She did. She loved that sort of thing. Her health had been declining for a number of years. As it got worse and as her energy level and voice declined she would have ups and downs. I had very serious concerns when they contacted us and said they wanted her to do the computer voice again. I said, “I don’t even know if she can do it.” They would have to have somebody come to the house and they would have to accommodate her in every way – not because of her ego but because of her health. I thought to myself I still don’t know what they are going to get even with all of that. So the day comes around to record her voice work and I am just wondering what is going to happen. I am wondering if they are going to do it and just say it is not useable. Apparently, when her friend, Reina, reminded her about this her entire mood changed and she became uplifted and happy and came out with plenty of energy. She wasn’t just putting on a show. She genuinely loved doing this sort of thing for the fans and for the show. She was a “show must go on” kind of lady. I think, in the end, she was doing it for my father. Her love of him and of Star Trek was special. I heard that it was phenomenal. They taped all of her lines right there at the house. She couldn’t travel at that point.

DM: What do you believe is your mom’s greatest legacy to Star Trek?
ER: I think the lives she touched in-person. I only know half of the story because they had an entire life before I was born and before I reached any comprehension of what Star Trek was. From what I saw, it was her genuine interaction with the fans. When she met people, she was genuinely interested in them. She wasn’t like a lot of the other actors who charge $50.00 for an autograph and they don’t even look up. She would look up and smile and talk with the fans. And she wouldn’t just stay for an hour; she would stay for three or four hours until everyone got an autograph. It is that little personal touch. I keep saying to people, “Paramount owns Star Trek but they still don’t screw with Roddenberry because there is a loyalty that my mother and father earned with the admirers of Star Trek.” Whether it was speaking to them as people in-person, on stage or at the autograph table or corresponding through letters and acknowledging their support over the years, it was all of those actions that made a loyal fan base to the Roddenberry name. That is what keeps Roddenberry alive as far as Star Trek goes.

She had a feisty side to her as well. The memorial service we gave her was not a sad event. It was to acknowledge her and who she was. It was the real her. We had a number of people come on stage who talked about how feisty she was and how she would sit with the boys and tell dirty jokes! There was a Star Trek element but it was really there to remember who Majel Roddenberry was.

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