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Any citizen of the galaxy may be summoned to answer to the Jedi Council. Here you may read the transcripts of such sessions.

Cellblock 1138 - 1997-1999 - 2000 - 2002 - 2003+


Know Thy Enemy

An Interview with Wesley Crusher's Alter Ego, Wil Wheaton


Strip by Ben Classen - www.bendependent.com

In the first of a series of interviews with sci-fi personalities not of the Lucas influence, Chris Hanel takes on the character Star Wars fans love to hate - Wesley Crusher


Studies have shown that people have a definite problem separating actors from the characters they portray in films and television. Of course, the common person doesn't need a study to know that. Watch Galaxyquest and the pain on Alan Rickman's face as geeks approach him shouting, "By Grapthar's hammer, I will avenge you!" and you will know what that pain is.

But it can become worse, especially when the character is not well-liked by the general public. Andrew Robinson, who was the actor who played the Scorpio Killer in Dirty Harry, received death threats after his portrayal and had to get an unlisted phone number.

Then there is the character that seems to get taken on by the entire viewing audience - one that is universally hated to such a degree that if you don't bash them, there must be something wrong with you. One man who can speak to this is Wil Wheaton, who played the oft-flamed Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Star Wars fans especially love to berate the man. But how much do we really know about him?

A trip to his self-published website, www.wilwheaton.net, is a fun read, as Wil routinely adds entries to his blog on the page. Reading his FAQ and stories from the past, the man forgotten behind the character shows that people quick to judge him may have spoken too soon. And soon, we'll be able to know more - the 30-year-old is publishing his first book, an autobiography, in the next month. The now writer/actor took some time off to talk to TFN's Chris Hanel on a Sunday afternoon to talk about life after Star Trek, his love/hate relationship with Star Wars, and why people are slowly but surely thinking twice about him.

CH: I take it you're a night owl, being a self-proclaimed Internet geek?

WW: I used to be. I'm really not anymore, just because I have the kids and everything. With the wife out of town and the house empty, I sort of fall back into old habits, especially when I'm writing. I write best really late at night and very early in the morning.

CH: Looking at your latest blog entries, I see you're suffering from a bit of poison oak.

WW: Oh, it's more than a bit. [Laughs] It's pretty bad. I got it geocaching.

CH: Geocaching?

WW: It's like a global treasure hunt. All you need is a standard GPS unit. You go the Geocaching website (http://www.geocaching.com -Ed), put in your zip code or area code, whatever to let the website know where you are, and it lets you know where other people have hidden these Geocaches. It's usually a Tupperware box or an ammo container with treasures or toys in them, and when you take something you leave something of your own behind, sign the logbook, and then go back to the website and recount your experience finding it (or not finding it, which is more often the case for me).

CH: So the journey itself is more the point?

WW: For me it is, yeah. It doesn't really matter to me if I find them or not. When I take my kids, I wanna find it, because it's more exciting for them if we actually get what we're looking for. For me, it's so much more about the journey. It's a really wonderful metaphor. There are so many places that I've lived near for my entire life and I never would have known they existed if I hadn't gone Geocaching looking for them… I've lived in Pasadena my entire life and the San Gabriel Mountains are within walking distance of my house. You just sort of take things like that for granted.

As for the poison oak… I'm not a complete idiot; I know what poison oak looks like. I grew up playing in the woods in this area. The thing is when I'm Geocaching, I get so interested in the coordinates and looking at other stuff that I just forget what's going on around me, which I think is worse than not knowing what poison oak looks like. If that were the case I could just claim ignorance, but for me it's just carelessness. At least I haven't found any rattlesnakes yet.

CH: Thanks to your website though, people have been throwing up tons of remedies for the itching…

WW: It's really nice. It's one of those unintended consequences of having the website. I get to take advantage of this brain trust on the Internet. It's one of those situations where I'm very fortunate. People are willing to share their stories and their experience. And since it's a public forum, everyone gets to benefit from that sharing of knowledge, which I think the original idea of the Internet was.

CH: I wanna rewind a bit, say to 1985-86. Star Trek: The Next Generation is still a twinkle in Roddenberry's eye. The name "Wesley Crusher" sounds like a lame pro wrestler to the average human. At this point in your life, were you a sci-fi fan? And if so, where did your loyalties lie?

WW: Well… this answer could easily incite a holy war. I was a Star Wars fan. I was a huge, huge, huge, epic, screaming, geeky, owning all the toys Star Wars fan. I know some of the purists say Star Wars is "Science Fantasy" or that it's a "Space Opera". As far as I was concerned, it had cool spaceships and weapons, so it was Science Fiction for me as a little kid. And it absolutely captured my loyalty. I owned all the action figures; I've seen the original movies I don't know how many times. I was at that age where I thought the Ewoks were really cool; I was 11 when Return of the Jedi came out.

Going back further, I can clearly recall going to the Tapanga Plaza Mall, about a half mile from the house where I lived until I was 5, and waiting in line for a very long time to meet Darth Vader and to get his autograph. And of course it was a guy in a suit, but looking back through the eyes of a five-year-old, I mean… the costume must have been on loan from 20th Century Fox. It was perfect. My mom took a picture and just recently gave it to me. It's old and faded now, but it's me with Darth Vader. (Pause) It's Rad. (Laughs)

But yeah, I liked the Original Star Trek too. I remember playing "Star Trek" on the playground with friends. I always wanted to be Mr. Spock. But the real hardcore sci-fi nerd really didn't start until I was on Star Trek:TNG because it exposed me to a LOT of science fiction. I was going to conventions, I was meeting authors, other fans, and I was being exposed to a lot of sci-fi things I never would have seen otherwise. It was reading Ringworld that finally pushed me into the hardcore, complete never-to-return-to-normalcy sci-fi fandom.

CH: Have you and your family enjoyed Episode I and II so far?

WW: Well, listen… I hated Episode I. I hated it so much that I didn't see Episode II, and I have no interest in seeing Episode II. (Pause) Isn't that terrible?

CH: Well, you might have people that agree with you on Episode I, but you might find Episode II to be a step in the right direction and definitely helps show what Episode I was trying to accomplish. (Pause) So you haven't seen Episode II a single time?

WW: No. I mean I've seen the commercials and I've seen Yoda fight… see, here's the thing. Here's the reason I won't watch Episode II (and why I hate Episode I). Well, everyone knows why I hate Episode I, it's just a bad movie. I just don't like it. It's got a couple interesting things in it, but overall, a crushing disappointment. My little brother and I sat in line in Burbank for 12 hours playing Magic: The Gathering waiting to get into the midnight showing.

CH: Did anyone recognize you and question you being at a Star Wars opening?

WW: No. When I go out I don't get recognized nearly as much as people think I do. Nobody recognized me in line. My wife found out though later on that I was there, she makes fun of me for it.

While we were in line, there was this palpable sense of excitement. It was electric in the air, you know? I remember the total anticipation. We'd seen the Special Editions, and we were ready for this, you know? So we go inside, and the music starts, and we scream as the crawl goes by, everyone's going insane, and then the movie starts. About half an hour into it, it's like, this is going nowhere. I don't care about these characters, this isn't interesting to me, there's the whole Jar Jar Binks thing, which remains inexcusable to me. All of my friends agree on this fact; that you have to see Episode II to appreciate Episode I. Well, I call shenanigans on that; I think each movie should be able to stand up on their own. You don't have to see A New Hope to appreciate Empire, and you don't have to see Empire for A New Hope to be a great movie either. You don't have to see Two Towers for Fellowship of the Ring to be a great, GREAT movie. It is inexcusable to me with all the time, the money, with the power of the franchise, with the millions of hardcore fans, for Lucas to put out a sub-standard movie that requires viewing ANOTHER movie for it to be worth your time.

So I refuse to see Episode II. All my friends say I absolutely have to see Episode II, that after watching it Episode I's not so bad. "Not so bad"?! It's a f---ing STAR WARS movie, it should be perfect! It should be amazing! It should be like Fellowship, which I watch over and over and still can't get enough of!

So that's why I never saw it, I'm sure I'll be flamed for saying it. Thanks for letting me go 'Comic Book Guy' on you there. I'm not trying to insult people out there who liked it, I'm sure there's people who enjoyed it, but that's my two cents on the whole issue.

CH: Taking all this into account, would you still count yourself as a Star Wars fan?

WW: Absolutely! If I wasn't a Star Wars fan I wouldn't care. If I didn't love it so much, if it hadn't been such a major part of my development as a person or shaped my childhood the way it did, I wouldn't care. The Special Edition was on TV a couple of weeks ago, I happened to tune in around the time Luke finds the murdered Jawas, and I just dropped everything I was doing and watched the whole thing. I also realized that I know almost every single line of dialogue in that movie. (Major laughter)

CH: Having been on both sides of the Star Wars/Star Trek fence, isn't there some times where you just wish both sides could just get along?

WW: You know I've been really lucky, I've never been around Star Wars and Star Trek fans that have decided to have it out and throw down. My opinion is that Fandom Wars are the dumbest f---ing thing in the world. It's so unbelievably stupid. At our core, we're all geeks. We were all the total nerds that were picked on in school, and most of us have gone on to bigger and better things, and very nice paying jobs… just because this one likes Star Wars and that one likes Star Trek… I just don't get why they have to fight over which one is better. They're just different, big deal guys.

Now, I have been caught in Federation fans vs. Klingon fans. Those are the people who take it way way WAY too seriously. Every now and then you find people who [argue SW vs. ST] in good humor and it's just talking a lot of good-natured trash, and it's fun to be a part of. But occasionally you'll find the people who go way too far.

CH: Like the people who actually learn to speak Klingon?

WW: Uh… yeah. (Laughs) I was asked last night, which is geekier: knowing Klingon or knowing Elvish. Myself, I honestly don't know. My friends and I were watching the new Lord of the Rings DVD and we joked that the hardcore geeks must be really pissed that the company subtitled the Elvish.

CH: You got to go back and join the crew again on the set of Nemesis. Was it something that was really nostalgic, or had everything changed since you were last on board?

WW: It was both. That's a great question. I didn't write much on my website about being on the set of Nemesis, because I decided I was going to keep that experience for myself. I don't know why. There are some things I just can't wait to share with the world, and there are others that I say that it's just mine for the keeping. Going back there for me was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I'll have to give you a little bit of history so that this makes sense. After being away from Star Trek for a few years, I really hated it. I felt like it was a giant shadow that loomed over every single thing that I did, and I was never going to be able to get away from it. In 2001, I went to this big convention in Vegas and stopped at the Star Trek Experience. They had completely rebuilt some of the sets from Next Generation. It was so accurate, for me it was like going back home. I go back to Paramount a lot and when I walk around the sound stages it's nostalgic for me, but at the same time it's changed so much. The Star Trek Experience was different, nothing had changed. I looked around and remembered how much I loved being on that show. At that time my friends had been saying that I was never going to be escape Star Trek, and I realized that it's stupid to try. I needed to find a way to embrace it, not run away. I also realized that it wasn't Star Trek that I hated, it was the way I acted when I left. I was a stupid, arrogant, loudmouth, brash, unsophisticated 18-year-old who thought he knew everything and behaved like an idiot. And thinking about it, that's all I remembered. Having my website now, I've had a chance to publicly kinda apologize to people that I knew around that time and put a positive focus on working on the show around that time. Shortly after going through this, I was asked to go do the Star Trek Weakest Link thing.

CH: Speaking of which… what exactly happened on Weakest Link? People say that you were acting really weird and immature…

WW: It was entirely a big joke. My goal was just to f--- with Anne Robinson and see if I could get one over on her and make her laugh. I did, but of course they didn't put it on TV. She's a really nice person in real life. I really had a good time with it. A lot of people got the joke, some people didn't. NBC made it worse by making it look like Roxanne was really mad at me, which she wasn't, we're friends. It was all a joke. It had some unintended consequences as well. Because of that, LeVar [Burton] set it all up and got me a part in Nemesis. I couldn't have been more excited. Like I said, it was like going back home again, but the big difference was that not many people get to relive their teenage years again 'the right way'. Most teenagers are idiots; it's part of being a teenager, it's okay. It's not until you're 30 that you realize it. Going back on set, I got to go back to that part of my life that I was so regretful about and do it the right way, and enjoy it, embrace it, and really cherish every moment of it. It was only two days, but I really enjoyed it. It was so wonderful to be around those guys who I so genuinely like and be an adult and be able to relate to them and talk on that level. Jonathan Frakes said, "We've all just gotten older and fatter, you've grown up."

CH: When you got the call that the scenes were cut, you didn't take it too hard then?

WW: No, not at all, it was really unimportant to me. The scenes were so small; it's not something that I was counting on to help my career at all. It wasn't something that was there to resolve some unanswered question about Wesley. I was just there. And whether or not my scenes were in the movie wasn't going to change the great time I had filming them.

If you go back on my website to late 2000/early 2001, it's like I'm a mountain climber who has to stop 100 feet from the peak, every single time I try to climb it. I'd get close on movie roles that wouldn't pan out, I'd get promised jobs by friends that wouldn't materialize, it just sucked. When I got cut out of Nemesis I could have chosen to be really bitter and hurt about it, it fit the pattern after all. But that wasn't important, being around my friends again was. It's amusing that some of the Star Trek fans were more upset about the cut than I was. That's kind of a surprise that the people that used to dump on me are now mad I'm cut from the film.

I don't know what the exact number is, but the Wesley haters are now vastly outnumbered in the sci-fi world by people who just don't care or people that have read my website and realized there's a person behind that character that's real and isn't like what's on screen. That's sort of the biggest fringe benefit about my page. I've been able to go from an unfulfilled, unhappy struggling actor to a happy but still struggling writer. I was able to exorcise those demons I dealt with when I was younger. Star Trek was my life at that age and it was so hard to take a lot of that s--- from so many people who didn't know me, and I took it personally, and a lot of it was directed at me personally. It really tarnished whatever great achievement I had for myself, all that anger and cruelty. Now people take a look at things and realize who I am rather than whom those characters were… I've been able to put a lot of that to rest. I get email from people writing to say that they were apologizing for the way they acted, even if I never met them or knew who they were.

CH: There's an urban legend that you once drove to a convention to defend yourself after other cast members (Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis) phoned you to let you know that there was some major Wil Wheaton bashing going on, and that when you arrived you defended yourself quite well.

WW: There are a couple different events that are close to that story, almost combined… wow; I'm an urban legend. Later on I'll tell you how I created the Great Lakes with my Big Blue Ox. (Both laugh)

The main story is that there was a convention in Los Angeles in 1987, right when Star Trek first got started, and they had a panel called "Solving the Wesley Problem". The idea was to talk about how Wesley was being written and ways to improve the character, but it quickly and rapidly generated into a bashing of the character and a bashing of myself. Patrick Stewart was at that convention and he phoned me, knowing I lived close, and said, "You really ought to come down here and speak on your own behalf," and I did. Stood in the back of the room for about 15 minutes listening to people raging against me personally, which is really stupid. I mean, think about the logic of that. What kind of stupid moron blames a fourteen year old for a character written by and for adults? It's unbelievably stupid. It's one thing if there's an actor that's rich and powerful and has the ability to influence the writing and they do selfish things that violate the truth of the scene or the truth of the character, but… hello?! Fourteen-year-old kid? They wouldn't even listen to me about where I wanted to stand on the set, much less input into the character.

So I finally go up front at this panel and as I'm walking up, there were some people actually booing me. By the time I got to say my side, people were applauding.

The other side to that urban legend was one I wasn't at, Marina and Jonathan were at a panel where someone was really bashing me, and Marina got really pissed off and told this person off.

CH: Patrick as once quoted as saying that given the time commitment to Star Trek, on hindsight he wouldn't have signed up for it. On a slightly different angle, given the reaction to your character and where it's led you, would you still have done it?

WW: (large sigh, pause) If I had known that Star Trek was going to be this huge thing, and impacted my career the way it did, would I have done it? Yeah. I can't think of a good reason not to. I was very ill advised when I made my decision to leave, and I didn't do so on the best of terms. I was convinced that if I were to stay on Star Trek, I was just going to be this complete loser. I was convinced that I was never going to be able to do anything else in my career, and I don't know why I bought into that so much.

CH: Was that fueled at all with the casting conflict with Next Generation and Milos Forman's film? (Read more about that on Wil's website… -Ed)

WW: That was a big part of it, that was really upsetting to me, and still is. But there are people who have been a part of Star Trek and have gone on to do great work and have been able to have Trek as a line on their resume and not the entirety of it. It never occurred to me that it could be that way for me. When a character is really typecast and really pigeonholed because of Star Trek, it's a reflection on their choices as an actor, not a reflection on Star Trek. It's really easy, when you're a part of a cultural phenomenon, to just sit back and be lazy and not work anymore, to just be 'that guy' forever and ever. I didn't want that to happen. Had I gotten better advice, things would have been different, I would have stuck around. What's extremely interesting is that would I have stayed there, and I wouldn't have struggled as I have after leaving, I would not be the content and happy person that I am.

CH: Final question, lemme set the stage… Wesley Crusher vs. Jar Jar Binks. What happens?

WW: I've been asked this before, and I wrote an answer that's pretty funny, lemme look it up and see if I can find it…

[rummages around the net for five minutes]

…well, it's not here. Lemme see if I can remember this. If you start this out as squeaky voice, lame sweatered, Acting Ensign Wesley, first and second season TNG, who is sort of annoying... versus Jar Jar, who is completely annoying and never does anything productive… the only time I was ever glad about Jar Jar was when he zapped his tongue. I was thrilled about that. Now I know how some people felt when Wesley got injured on the Q planet… "Yayyyy! Finally!"

But Wesley eventually became kind of cool. When he became "Cadet Crusher", and getting to come back and nail Robin Lefler, he was cool then. Jar Jar will never be cool. EVER. So I'm going to have Wesley win this one, no matter what.

I think Wesley uses his magic Traveler powers to zip back in time to prevent Jar Jar's creation. He goes to 1998, and he goes to Skywalker Ranch, finds Lucas, who's got Kleenex boxes on his feet, living in a hermetically sealed room, like Howard Hughes, and when he gets the thought for Jar Jar, Wesley pops in, touches him on the forehead, and says, "No, don't do that." So Jar Jar is never created and Wesley saves us all... Again.


Copyright Paramount Pictures... never thought you'd see those words on THIS website, didya?

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