Face To Face With The Masters
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
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?
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
Oh, it's more than a bit. [Laughs] It's pretty bad. I got it geocaching.
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?
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
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
CH: Thanks to your
website though, people
have been throwing up tons of remedies for the itching
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
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?
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
CH: Have you and
your family enjoyed Episode I and II so far?
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?
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?
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
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?
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?
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?
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
what exactly happened on Weakest Link? People say
that you were acting really weird and immature
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
CH: When you got
the call that the scenes were cut, you didn't take it too hard
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
There are a couple different events that are close to that story,
wow; I'm an urban legend. Later on I'll
tell you how I created the Great Lakes with my Big Blue Ox. (Both
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
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?
(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
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
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
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
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
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.
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