Monday, September 21, 2009

Wil Wheaton Gives Even More Praise to J.J. Abrams Star Trek Movie

First Jonathan Frakes directs, then Brent Spiner shows up, and now this? Wil Wheaton, who played Ensign Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, guest-stars on tonight's episode of Leverage, playing the computer hacker in a rival crew of thieves. Since we've been fans of his since Stand By Me, we got him on the phone to talk about how he got the role, what he's doing next season on The Guild and when his book of snarky TNG recaps is coming out. Also, we find out how he really feels about J.J. Abrams' Star Trek and George Lucas in general.

TWoP: On your blog, you mention that you were a huge fan of Leverage before getting invited to do the show. How did the role come about?
Wil Wheaton:
I've known [Leverage creator/writer] John Rogers for a really long time, and [director] Dean Devlin and I played hockey together when we were kids -- well, when I was a kid, and he was in his 20s -- and John has been telling me since Leverage started, "I'm just looking for a way to bring you into the show, and I think it would be fun to work together." And when this script came up, he saw that there was a chance for me to be a part of it, and I just happened to luck out.

So the character wasn't written specifically for you?
No, in fact, my understanding is that this character was originally written to be a woman, and when John saw the script he told me that he really wanted to bring me into the show, and found a way to do that before they were too close to the end of the season -- at that point they have to think about stories, and can't think about actors. So when he saw the chance to put me on this crew, in a character that is not that far removed from who I am, it was a lot of fun to make that happen.

Have you ever gotten into a blog-war with another blogger in a parking lot on your laptop?
As it turns out, actually, no.

That scene in the episode is hysterical.
You know, I've been doing interviews for a couple of hours today, and everyone I've talked to has singled that scene out as something that they've enjoyed, which is delightful to me, because it was really, really fun to shoot. I love that sparring that Aldis and I did. We improvised a ton of message board trash-talk between the two of us that didn't make it into the final cut, but I really hope finds its way into some kind of DVD, or maybe the Web or something like that before too long, because it was really a lot of fun to do. That whole exchange is kind of -- as an actor, you look for things in a script like, "Oh, I really want to do this. This is the scene I'm excited about. This is the bit that would be fun." And all that stuff with Hardison was what I got really excited about. I could hear Aldis in my head as I was reading the script, because I've been watching the show since the pilot. And getting to sort of imagine what it would be like to go toe-to-toe with him in that material was really a lot of fun for me.

Well, you apparently had a lot of fun doing the show. If the right role came along, would you consider becoming a series regular again?
Yeah. I think it would depend on a lot of things. I don't want to lose too much time writing, I don't want to lose too much time being with my family, but if something came along that was as much fun and was as well-written as what I did on <>Criminal Minds, or what I did on Leverage, yeah, of course. I would love to find myself in a position where I have to decide, "Gosh, do I want to be on a series?" That's awesome. I think that decision-making process would last about as long as it takes me to type the word "yes."

What do you think of Jeri Ryan joining Leverage as a substitute grifter?
I think that's great. The way that they have handled [actress] Gina Bellman's pregnancy and incorporated that into Sophie's arc is, I think, really interesting and really clever. It's logical, it's not something where they're sort of forcing it all in. Jeri is a terrific actor, and I'm really excited to see how the crew, who have only been together for -- even if you assume it's real time -- have only been together for about 18 months, to see how they react to the introduction of a new player, kind of in the middle of a new season. I'm really excited to see how they choose to address that.

Tell us about your upcoming book, Memories of the Future?
Memories of the Future is a collection of humorous anecdotes and recaps of the first season ofStar Trek: The Next Generation. If you've watched Mystery Science Theater 3000, you'll know where I'm coming from with this. It started out as a series of episode recaps that were supposed to be silly, and poke fun at how The Next Generation kind of struggles for its first season to figure out what it wants to be and how it's gonna set itself apart from the original series. And while I was writing it, I thought, well, anybody can sit down and watch these DVDs and have a laugh about it. What makes it unique for me is that I remember doing this, and I can kind of talk about that a little bit. So then it kind of became a kind of like a high school yearbook, for me. If you've ever pulled a yearbook off the shelf and pointed at people and been like "I remember that guy!" and "Remember when we went there?" and "Oh my God, I can't believe I thought that was cool," that's the point of view of this book.

What did you think of the new Star Trek movie?
I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I was as skeptical as anybody else. As I've said many times, we live in a post-Phantom Menace world, and I don't think we can take anything at face value anymore. And I was very cautious going into it, and I was blown away. I had so much fun in that movie, and I thought it was great. Reaching back to what [director] J.J. Abrams had said about him being a Star Wars fan -- and at the time, we were all looking for any reason to be upset about this movie being made -- a lot of us were like, "See, he's a Star Wars fan! He doesn't even care about Star Trek! Blah blah wah we're nerds!" Then, when the movie came out, it was clear that this respected canon and didn't do to Star Trek fans what George Lucas did to Star Wars fans, you know, with the special editions of Star Wars and the prequels. George Lucas was kind of saying, "Hey, you know this thing that you love, that's such it's a huge part of your life? Well, I don't like it and you're stupid for liking it, and I'm taking it all away, ha-ha. They're my toys, you can't play with them" When I saw Star Trek, it was more like J.J. Abrams said, "Listen, this thing that you love? I get it, man -- you love it, and it still exists, and I'm not messing with it. This is my take on it, so if you want to come with me and see what I do with it, welcome aboard, and if you don't, that's totally cool, it's not a big deal." And I wondered if maybe that was born from being a Star Wars fan and leaving The Phantom Menace feeling the way we all did when we left The Phantom Menace.

Do you hope that one day, in this new Star Trek universe, J.J. Abrams' version of Wesley Crusher is born, or do you want this to be a Wesley-free reality?
I don't really have a strong opinion about that one way or another.

What can you tell us about your appearance in The Guild Season 3?
I am sworn to a Cosa Nostra-style omerta on The Guild. I keep trying to get permission to talk about it a little more, but they're really committed to not giving anything away.

Can you at least say if it'll be more than one episode?
It's more than one-episode appearance, yeah. I think that's safe to say. I think that they've already said I play the leader of the rival guild.

The Axis of Anarchy?
Yeah. It's pretty funny. I'm really excited for it. As I've written on my blog, I am one of the few people in the world who is not surprised at how well The Guild is being received, and how much everyone enjoys the people who are a part of it. And it's really exciting for me looking forward to the third season, just because I know that people are gonna be really, really excited about it, and I know it's gonna be a lot of fun for people to watch.

You mentioned that you geeked out when you saw Joss Whedon in the front row of the Guild panel at Comic-Con. What'd you think of Dollhouse Season 1?
I wish that they had aired it in the order Joss had originally wanted, and I think it took a long time to find itself. I struggled with it for the first few episodes, because it felt to me like there was this great thing that Joss wanted to do, and this great story that Joss wanted to tell that was going to take a long time to tell and was really interesting, and I could see the hand of the network executives who were unwilling to take that risk, pushing the show in directions that made it a little bit of a struggle. I felt the show kind of blew the hatch around whatever the episode was with Patton Oswalt, where you finally got to really see what the Dollhouse was about and where it was going. And I have not seen that unaired 13th episode that Felicia [Day] is in, but I keep hearing that it's super-dark and super-awesome and opens up this potential for the second season to be tremendous.

Speaking of "blowing the hatch," have you started watching Lost again, after burning out in Season 3?
My friend Andrew just looooooves Lost. You know that episode of The Simpsons where they're at Kamp Krusty, and the world is falling apart around them, and Bart is going, "Krusty will be here. Krusty will be here"? Andrew is like that with Lost through Season 4 and 5, and I was like, "Yeah, that's great. How about that four-toed statue? How's that working out for you?" ...I was really a jerk about it. So he finally said, "Just give it a try." So I did. I told the DVR to grab it, and I watched about three episodes from last season and found it to be really interesting. It didn't feel as much like they were making it up as they were going along, which is why I stopped watching. And I was like, "Yay, I'm watching Lost agai-- oh, the season's over." So I'm waiting until next year. I'll probably watch it again next year.

Any future projects you want to plug?
I am in talks with some people for a few jobs that I can't discuss the details of, but I'm real excited about, and I think people are gonna be real excited about when these things are revealed. So I guess I can tease that -- "There's big stuff coming up, but I can't talk about it." Yeah, that's useful.

Follow Wil Wheaton in exile at his increasingly non-temporary blog, watch him on The Guild starting September 1, and catch Leverage Wednesdays at 9/8C on TNT.