Warren Fitzgerald - guitarist, Vandals / Oingo Boingo
San Diego Comic Con - San Diego, CA - July 2000
 
Star Trek is one of those rare phenomena that seem to go on and on forever. It is amongst the largest grossing entertainment franchises in history with all of its TV shows, films, amusement park rides, video games, merchandise and much more. Many people were skeptical when Star Trek: The Next Generation launched. There was no way that the original "true" Star Trek could ever be replaced, let alone continued. But, as it turned out, it became immensely popular and split the Trek fans into two camps many times.
 
Wil Wheaton joined the cast as Dr. Crusher's son, Wesley. He was a fresh-faced kid with an enormous yearning to learn and be part of the crew. Wil's own personality lended itself to adding life to the character. We had a chance to speak with Wil at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2000 where he was appearing for the first time. Wil had plenty to talk about with his new comedy projects as well as his opinion about the SAG strike going on. A very pleasant and funny guy, Wil was more than happy to chat about his goings-on.
 
K2K: What was the first thing that you ever did [in acting]?
WW: The first thing that I ever did was a commercial for Jell-O Pudding Pops with my mom and Bill Cosby, when I was 7. The first non-television commercial thing that I did was a movie called "A Long Way Home" where I played Timothy Hutton as a child. It was an ABC Movie Of The Week that was extremely well-recieved when it came out. That was around 1980, 1981. Then I did a movie called "The Buddy System", also in 1980-81, that was my first feature film. Richard Dreyfus, Susan Sarandon, Nancy Allen, Jean Stapleton.
 
K2K: When did you join Star Trek [TNG]?
WW: When I was 14. We started that in 1987.
 
K2K: How many seasons did that run?
WW: Well, Star Trek [TNG] ran for about ten seasons. I was only on it for five.
 
K2K: What was the last major film that you've done?
WW: I just did "Flubber", for Walt Disney, a remake of "The Absent-Minded Professor". I played one of the bad guys in that. I was also in a movie called "The Girl's Room", an independent film that's currently getting rave reviews all over the independent film circuit. There's another independent movie called "Foreign Correspondence" and a short film called "The Good Things", which will be finished by the end of next month.
 
K2K: I saw you in some stuff recently within the last year or so.
WW: Oh, I've done a couple of silly B-movies. One called "Python" and one called "Deep Core 2000".
 
K2K: And of course you were in "Toy Soldiers".
WW: "Toy Soldiers" was about 10 years ago when I was about 18.
 
K2K: What are your current projects?
WW: Well, I do sketch comedy, improv, and a lot of live theater up in Los Angeles. Every Saturday night I do a show called "J. Keith van Straaton Show" at the Acme Comedy Theater. It's a late night talk show in a theat. It's a live show like the Tonight Show or David Letterman with a live audience, celebrity guests, a band, a sidekick and all that.
 
K2K: Is that on TV?
WW: It's not on TV. You have to go to the theater to see it. You can find out about it at www.jkeith.net. I do that show every Saturday night. It's really been a lot of fun. This is my second season of the show.
 
K2K: So you've been more comedy inclined lately?
WW: That's what I've been doing. I think it's very likely that you'll see me on a good, quality sitcom or sketch show in the next couple of years.
 
K2K: What do you prefer to do - TV or movies?
WW: I like them both. It really depends. On a TV show, you get the opportunity to do - if it's well written and the people who created it are really intelligent - you get a chance to have a character who has a really beginning, middle and end. You have a nice character arc. In the movies you get a lot of time to create a character in depth with a good director and other actors and that sort of thing.
 
K2K: So how do you like being here at the San Diego Comic Con?
WW: I'm having a really fun time. I used to go to Star Trek conventions. Well, I haven't been to a Star Trek convention in about six years. I used to go all the time. This is much more laid back than the Star Trek conventions. I have a lot of free time to myself and I don't feel like I have to be "on" all the time. At a Star Trek convention I have to work really hard. I make sure that everybody gets entertained, everybody has a good time, everybody leaves happy. It's hard to do that and inevitably somebody's going to be unhappy. At something like this, it's totally laid back. I get all kinds of free time. If nobody's coming up to my table for a while, I just go downstairs and buy comic books, talk to celebrities and stuff like that.
 
K2K: Do you ever want to shed the Star Trek image?
WW: Well, I think that I have shed the Star Trek image. I think that through the movies that I've done and through the live work that I do, anybody who sees me at a sketch comedy show or an improv show always says, "I couldn't believe that you could do this." I think that I've really shed that image. I've worked hard enough that I've grown beyond being limited by it.
 
K2K: Oh, in looking at a lot of those "bios" that are coming out about The Brady Bunch and other TV shows, was there ever any "mother / son" romance off the screen?
WW: No. (laughs) No there are not.
 
K2K: What has been your favorite role?
WW: One time I needed to roll an 18 or better on 3B6 and I had a minus-1 modifier and I actually made it. My favorite role that I've played that I'm most proud of? Probably "Mr. Stitch", for Roger Avery of the Sci-Fi Channel. I'm extremely proud of it and I worked hard to create a compelling character.
 
K2K: How did you like doing the film "Stand By Me"?
WW: I loved doing "Stand By Me". It was extremely rewarding work.
 
K2K: What was the best part about it.
WW: Just getting to be up in Oregon for an entire summer. Being a 12 year old kid up there river-rafting, fishing and getting to do what I love, which is making movies.
 
K2K: Wasn't it weird how that movie pretty much launched all your careers?
WW: Yeah. When we were making that movie, we knew that we were going to be part of something special, but we had no idea it was going to be this huge.
 
K2K: What about doing "Toy Soldiers", any memories about that one?
WW: It was like doing "Stand By Me" with 18 year olds instead of 12 year olds. We were older and had a little band that we all played in. It was a lot of fun. It was that same summertime kind of fun.
K2K: Oh, you play music as well?
WW: I play bass guitar and blues harmonica.
 
K2K: Are you in a band currently?
WW: Uh, no. I play with myself.
 
(The topic of clothing came up with one of the fans who came up to meet Wil.)
 
K2K: Speaking of clothing, where did you get that bitchin' shirt?
WW: My wife gave it to me.
 
K2K: You're married?
WW: I've been married since November [1999].
 
K2K: How old are you now?
WW: I'm 28.
 
K2K: What is your connection with Troma Films?
WW: I just really like Troma's movies. They absolutely crack me up. I love them. I love the Toxic Avenger, "Surf Nazis Must Die", "Chopper Chicks In Zombie Town", "Class Of Nuke 'Em High", I just love them. I think they're great. I went down there to talk with them yesterday. My friend Damien made a movie called "Fag Hag". It's really like this offensive movie that I think is incredibly funny. It's like, the people who are offended by it, they're the people who need to be offended. Damien wrote and directed this movie that my friend Stephanie - who actually introduced me to my wife - he asked me if I would do a scene in the movie and I said sure. I play this Christian bookstore owner. Every other word out of my mouth is the "F" word. It's really vulgar and awful. One of my lines from the movie is, "Hey lady, Jesus Christ died on the cross for you. The least you can do is buy a fucking bumper sticker." I mean, it's really funny. I'm in the movie for about 90 seconds. Troma picked it up to see if they could get any interest to distribute it. I went down to thank them. [Troma founder] Lloyd Kaufman was down there and said, "Hey. You're in one of our movies." I just have a good time with them, so I said "Give me fliers. I'm going to promote you at my table."
 
K2K: They have a lot of famous stars now in their films.
WW: Yeah. Everybody loves them. They're just cool people. They have fun and they don't take themselves seriously. It's great.
 
K2K: So, what's the next project for you?
WW: I don't have anything nailed down absolutely for certain. I'm still...
 
K2K: (faking writing notes in book) Unemployed actor Wil....
WW: Yeah. Actually, Screen Actors Guild is on strike against commercial advertisers. I do a lot of commercials.
 
K2K: So it's not so great for your jobs right now.
WW: No, it's unfortunate but they're trying to fuck us and we're not going to put up with it. They're trying to break our union and we're not going to let them. We've been out since May 1st and we'll be out until next May 1st if we have to.
 
K2K: How's it looking?
WW: It's looking like it's going to keep going on because the advertisers are not interested in negotiating. They're not interested in being fair and honest. They want to destroy the union. They want to take away our Class-A network residuals, they refuse to talk about Internet and they won't give us Pay-For-Play on Cable. It's stupid. Actors get less than 2% of the average commercial budget. Commercial advertisers spend more on flying themselves to LA or New York, staying in a $600. to $1,000 per night hotel, spending money on food and drinks and women, than they pay actors. They spend more money than they spend on actors and they're quibbling over what is 'donut money' to them. They only reason they're doing it is because they know that it's a ton of money to us and it's nothing to them and they're trying to break the union.
 
K2K: My opinion on this is that you get all these big time actors coming out to "support" the union and the actors and yet I don't hear anyone like Arnold or Tom Cruise saying, "I'm willing to cut my wage in order to point this thing out."
WW: It works differently for them. The people who are getting killed by the advertiser's proposals and roll-backs are the working-class actors, people who work really, really hard and hope to make one commercial per year. It's not going to put a dent in somebody who gets a $100,000 and $200,000 buy-out or a million dollar ad campaign. Sela Ward could care less. It's not going to affect them at all. Who it's going to affect are the guys like the Tootsie Roll guy. You don't know his name, but you sure as hell know his face because he sells the product to you. The Gatorade guy, the Pepsi girl, those people are getting killed by the current contract.
 
K2K: What about the guy, the hunk, for Coke or Pepsi whose career was launched due to the commercials? How does that work out?
WW: Those guys get the real s**tty buy-outs. They run a commercial on Network about six or seven times, then they put it on Cable where they give you a really s**tty buy-out. You get about $11. per day for it to run every day for 13 weeks and you become so identified with one product that you can't work anywhere else. So it doesn't affect big celebrities because they have their own thing. It's the commercial actors, the working-class actors, people who rely upon residuals to feed their families, afford their head shots, and meet their mortgage payments. It's those people who are absolutely getting screwed.
 
K2K: I support your angle on it. I just got a bit miffed when I read an interview with Tom Cruise where he stated, "I make $20 million because I'm worth it."
WW: You know, Tom Cruise is an asshole.
 
K2K: With actors striking, he has no right to make that kind of comment.
WW: No, not at all. The thing is is that the reason Tom Cruise makes $20 million is because all the little Scientology drones go out and see his movies to try to pump up sales in the same way that they try to pump up sales for "Battlefield Earth".
 
K2K: Yeah, I had a 'discussion' with the "Battlefield Earth" people yesterday about the film.
WW: Yeah, don't even bother. You're wasting your time.
 
K2K: Oh, I got what I wanted out of it.
WW: Well, now you're a subversive person and you're on their 'special list'. So those big time actors, we need their support because next year the TV and theatrical contract is up and the producers are going to do the same thing to the theatrical actors that the advertisers are doing to the commercial actors.
 
K2K: Hopefully it will all turn out for the best. So, to wrap it up, do you have any last words to your fans?
WW: Hey, I really appreciate people who have come down to see me. I understand that there is a lot of interest to see what happens to Wesley [Crusher on Star Trek:TNG] and people are interested in seeing me in further movies. There are going to be more movies. If fans want to see me, I don't make that decision. The producers make that decision. I recommend that the fans send letters to Paramount and let them know that they're interested.
 
K2K: Is anybody going to be dropping out of the cast of the next Star Trek film?
WW: Not that I know of. I'm so not plugged into that anymore.
 
K2K: Do you guys ever hang out?
WW: Not really. I love them all very much and see them as often as I can which is unfortunately not enough.
 
And with that, we were off and running as the next onslaught of fans were gathering en masse to meet with Wil. Look for is current comedy projects online and check out the theater talk show he is currently involved with (www.jkeith.net). In the meantime, make a mess of the postal system by flooding Paramount's mailbox with snail mails asking for Wesley Crusher to return to the next Star Trek film.
 
Written by Philip Anderson / Photos © 2000 by Tara Hauff and Erik Gilbert 

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

All rights reserved © KAOS2000™. No portion contained herein, either text or graphics, may be reproduced anywhere or reposted on any other website for any purpose without the expressed permission of the publisher. All violations shall be punished as the law allows.

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