SFX chats to a sci-fi legend
“Live long and prosper” - Star Trek’s Spock first introduced the world to that Vulcan benediction 45 years ago in the episode “Amok Time”, and since then it’s not only become part of the pop culture lexicon, but it also perfectly encapsulates the amazing life of actor Leonard Nimoy.
(Thanks to Els for sharing this article and for doing the transcript!)
Now 81, his incredibly varied career has spanned six decades and he’s still so in demand the man can’t even retire in peace like he intended in 2010. With Nimoy recently wooed back to genre television for Fringe and The Big Bang Theory, SFX talked to the legend about what keeps him coming back…
>You came back to Fringe this season, delighting and surprising the fans. Fringe and Star Trek are pretty similar in their small but incredibly dedicated fan bases. Do you feel they compare?
You’re absolutely right in the comparison to Star Trek. We did very poorly in the ratings but eventually the show started to become more and more popular until stations were carrying the show at various hours and various times and sometimes in marathons on weekends and six o’clock every night in syndication. The same thing could happen with Fringe. I can tell you that when Star Trek was put on a Friday night, which is a date night, not a good night for a show like this, it did very, very poorly. Fringe has the same kind of audience, a very intense audience, a small audience, but very intense and very committed.
>You also voiced an action figure of Spock for The Big Bang Theory this season. How did that come about?
The Big Bang Theory has been an ongoing conversation for a long, long time. Some time ago they asked me if I would provide a napkin that I had used and I did. They used it on the show as a gift to the Sheldon character. Then they asked me to appear on the show. For various reasons, a physical appearance didn’t work out but when they came up with this idea of voicing the Spock character with Sheldon being given a Star Trek (toy) transporter, the whole idea was wonderful. It was a way for me to deliver a kind of appearance on the show and to work with that very, very talented bunch of people.
>JJ Abrams just wrapped Star Trek 2. Any chance we’ll see Spock Prime appear one more time?
Well, my feeling is they don’t need me. They’ve got a wonderful cast. Zachary Quinto has taken on the character of Spock and I think is wonderfully suited. He is a talented guy. He is a very intelligent actor, very well trained. They’ve got a great company of people replacing all of us. I don’t think they need me, frankly. It’s flattering to be talked about, but I just don’t think they need me.
>Your distinctive voice has given you a whole other career in voiceover work for TV, film and more recently, videogames. Was that a surprise, professionally?
I did have speech problems when I first started out as an actor. I grew up in Boston and when I began to think about acting it was pointed out to me that I sounded very much like a very clearly defined Boston person and that it might limit me as an actor. I spent some time working on my speech. The voice was always there but my speech needed some work in order to make it more acceptable as sort of a broad American kind of sound. Then I did the In Search Of… series for seven years, which was almost entirely voice work. It was something that was given to me and I was able to make good use of it.
>You got to watch the recently retired Enterprise Space Shuttle fly into New York City for its retirement. What was that like?
It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced to see that 747 fly by with the Enterprise Shuttle piggybacked the way they did. I was out there at JFK when they did their flyby at about 500 feet. It was an amazing sight and then they went around the city. They went around Manhattan. They landed right in front of us and I was asked to get up and say a few words. I talked about the fact that we - the Star Trek cast - had been invited to be there in 1976 when that shuttle was first rolled out of the hangar and the Air Force band played the theme from Star Trek. It was thrilling then and it was thrilling now just to see that amazing ship come back home.
>Anything you still hope to achieve professionally before you really hang up on Hollywood?
My wife’s son, Aaron Bay-Schuck, is a record producer at Atlantic Records. He’s the producer that brought Bruno Mars to the label and signed him. I’ve been on his case to let me into the recording studio to make some smash hit records. He hasn’t succumbed to my pleas yet. I would love to make a smash hit record but we don’t have any definitive plans (laughs loudly).