Bridge to Engineering: HDD Attends 2012 Calgary Expo Q&A with Star Trek's Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, and Wil Wheaton

Posted Wed May 30, 2012 at 01:40 PM PDT by

By Tom Landy

On the first day of the annual Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo that took place April 27-29 in Alberta, Canada, we checked in with 'Star Trek: The Next Generation's Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby (you can check out that coverage here). Join us for Day 2 of the Expo where we catch up with Mr. Data, Geordi La Forge, and Wesley Crusher!

Brent Spiner has starred in several films including 'Introducing Dorothy Dandridge,' 'Independence Day' and 'The Aviator,' and has also guest starred on many TV shows such as 'The Simpsons,' 'Leverage,' and Disney's 'Gargoyles,' but most certainly is best known for his role as the emotionless android on 'Star Trek: TNG.' More recently, Spiner has launched a new witty web series (of which you'll hear a lot more about in a moment).

Actor/director LeVar Burton got his big break starring as Kunta Kinte in the acclaimed 1977 TV miniseries 'Roots' before becoming the Enterprise's blind engineer. Burton has also hosted the long-running educational series 'Reading Rainbow' and has directed numerous projects including episodes of 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' 'Star Trek: Voyager,' and 'Star Trek: Enterprise.'

And finally, everyone should remember Wil Wheaton from 'Stand By Me' (based on the novella 'The Body' by Stephen King) and also as Dr. Beverly Crusher's prodigy son on 'TNG.' Wil Wheaton also currently has a recurring role as himself on the hit sitcom, 'The Big Bang Theory.'

Below is a transcript of the panel which was once again moderated by Teddy Wilson from "Innerspace" on Space (Canada's sci-fi network).

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TW: Are you having a good time so far?

(Cheering)

TW: My name is Teddy and I'm the one of the hosts of Innerspace on the Space Channel (inaudible) this weekend so far and your con is about to get a whole lot better (inaudible) especially for me, I fell in love with TNG. Many of you did I'm sure as well back in 1987...

(Cheering)

TW: With the first episode 'Encounter at Farpoint...'

(Cheering)

TW: (inaudible) and the three gentlemen I'm about to bring out are such a huge part of that. Please welcome Wil Wheaton, LeVar Burton, and Brent Spiner!

(Applause)

BS: Hello. (As Patrick Stewart).

(Laughter)

BS: I can't believe this. So many people. (Still as Patrick Stewart).

(Laughter)

BS: So... many... flashing lights.

(Laughter)

BS: Stop it!

WW: He has his Patrick Stewart filter on his microphone today.

(Laughter)

BS: What's wrong with this thing? Hello? (Still as Patrick Stewart).

(Laughter)

BS: I have no emotion.

(Laughter)

TW: You guys see each other a lot, I know the cast stays in touch. How does it feel to be on the stage again? Is it surreal? Or is it just another day at the office?

WW: I have to tell you that it's a little weird for me to be in the same place as the entire cast of the Next Generation and I am not wearing a muscle suit under my clothes and my hair doesn't feel like a helmet that's a separate part of my body.

(Laughter)

LB: I could say it's weird knowing that Brent is not wearing any underwear.

(Laughter)

TW: And LeVar you got your cup of Tim Horton's this morning I noticed...

(Cheering)

LB: I've had my cup of Tim's. It's been a long time. It's been a long time. But -- a long time in between Timmy's. God bless Timmy.

(Applause)

BS: I had a cup of Timmy myself this morning. It was delicious. I drank it. I injected it. (In another funny voice).

WW: I woke up in bed next to Tim Hortons as long as we're playing pandering to Canadians.

(Laughter)

WW: Your move guys.

(Laughter)

LB: Wheaton wins.

BS: Maybe (laughs).

TW: So audience we're about to take your questions and we're going to take as many of your questions as possible so if you put up your hand there are some intrepid mic runners out there so put up your hand high and proud and a mic runner will find you and let us know where you are. This is Microsoft Word I believe that we're using (pointing to the screen on stage), its like Star Trek. The future is now! So just stick up your hand--

LB: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa...

WW: Whoa, Microsoft Word is NOT the future.

TW: Are you kidding me? This is high tech, Microsoft Word...

WW: No, Open Off (inaudible) is NOT the future.

(Cheering)

WW: Now I'm playing pandering to the nerds. A game I will also win.

(Laughter)

BS: As opposed to what? (Laughs)

(Laughter)

BS: Let me ask you -- may I ask a question?

TW: Please do.

BS: Are any of you going to be here tonight?

(Cheering)

BS: Okay, so don't ask us anything you would ask tonight. Because it would just be redundant later on answering. No? Okay, do what you want. I don't...

(Laughter)

TW: Let me ask you, going all the way back to 1987, do you remember the first time you met each other? Or is there an early memory that sticks out in your first read through or scene together? Is there anything that kind of jumps out at you from that first year on the show?

(A long pause)

BS: When was that?

TW: 1987.

WW: 25 years ago.

BS: (To Teddy) Do you remember something that happened to you 25 years ago?

(Laughter)

BS: No, nothing jumps out, really.

WW: I remember being outside of Stage 8 in my school room -- or Stage 9 -- and you were (to Brent) going in and out of Stage 9 because you were doing make-up tests for Data.

BS: True.

WW: And I remember you having different colored contacts in your eyes and different colored paint on your face...

BS: Yep.

WW: And I remember thinking that it was really cool that you came by my school room every time to show me what -- how Data was changing.

BS: Well, I... I... I... enjoy amusing children.

(Laughter)

WW: And I was! I was amused.

LB: And it's clear that as a child you were easily amused.

(Laughter)

BS: I remember meeting Patrick on the lot the very first day I walked on. I didn't know who he was I didn't know how long the show was going to go, I met Patrick and he says (as Patrick) "I'm playing the captain..." and I thought give this about a month and then it's canceled.

(Laughter)

BS: But I was wrong, obviously. Right?

(Cheering)

BS: (Turns to the audience to his right) You know, I'm going to play to you guys...

(Cheering)

BS: Ah, maybe not. (Turns back to the other panelists). So anyway I...

(Laughter)

BS: I know you're there. (Turns again and points at the audience to his right)

LB: Oddly enough I do remember meeting Wil Wheaton...

WW: I love that guy.

(Laughter)

LB: You had been in 'Stand By Me....'

(Cheering)

WW: Thank you.

LB: And I'm a big fan of that movie and I thought wow, that's the kid from 'Stand By Me.' And I was very impressed.

WW: I didn't know that. Thanks man.

LB: Which was short lived.

(Laughter)

WW: I know (sighs). I felt the same way.

BS: I thought you were going to say you thought he was Corey Feldman.

(Laughter)

WW: Happens a lot. Yeah, I hardly remember anything about working on 'Lost Boys' but I know it's a good movie.

(Laughter)

WW: I remember the first time I walked around on Stage 9 -- Stage 9 was where engineering, the transporter room, sickbay, and the corridors for the Enterprise were, and ever since I was a really little kid working as an actor I loved going to sound stages because you get to cross the barrier from reality to imagination. And it's a really solid barrier. Once you're inside it, it's really easy to believe that where you are is real. And the sets on Star Trek -- because I was already a fan of the original series. I was already a science fiction nerd. I was 14 and had a really, really active imagination and I was easily entertained...

(Laughter)

WW: Walking around those corridors just going back and forth, from the transporter room, down the corridor and turning right to engineering, and the lights are on and the engine is going, and then coming back and turning left to go to sickbay and thinking this is where I work. This is where I get to live. And it was AMAZING!

(Cheering)

WW: As cool as you think it would be to actually be there, it was so much cooler.

(Laughter)

TW: Let's go to the floor for mic #3, uh... Rose? Where are you?

Q: Hi guys, it's nice to see you out here. I met LeVar in Edmonton a couple of years ago which was a pleasure.

(Applause)

Q: My question is for Brent. (Inaudible) "Fresh Hell" -- I was wondering about your process and what is going on with that right now?

BS: Well thank you so much for mentioning that. Do any of the rest of you know what "Fresh Hell" is?

(Cheering)

BS: Those of you who don't... please find out.

(Laughter)

BS: FreshHellSeries.com -- it's one word -- FreshHellSeries.com. That will take you there. It's a web series that I've been doing. LeVar guested on the show. I don't know if you saw that one, but it was hilarious. It's -- I call it a (inaudible) because it is presented in a comedic way, but it's a really sad story. But it's funny and I would love it if you would watch it. We've had two seasons, which are really short, the episodes are really short too so it's not a big time commitment for you.

(Laughter)

BS: The first season is like a 1/2 an hour long, the second one we started about six weeks ago and we've aired five of them, we've two weeks off, and we've got five more coming starting next Friday and the next one -- is hilarious. Promise me you will watch the next one.

(Cheering)

BS: Thank you so much. You promised, so... I'm going to hold you to it.

(Laughter)

WW: And you'll never hear the end of it if you don't uphold your promise.

(Laughter)

BS: Exactly. I will come after you...

(Laughter)

WW: That's actually the incentive for them to not uphold their promise.

(Laughter)

BS: If you don't watch it, I will not come after you...

(Laughter)

BS: If you do watch it... I'm confused now...

(Laughter)

BS: Just watch it. Will ya? Thank you. Thank you for asking, though, I appreciate it. This is me (pointing to his shirt) in "Fresh Hell."

TW: Can we see the back of the shirt?

BS: The back of the shirt just says (as he stands up and turns around) "At least I'm not Brent Spiner."


(Laughter)

BS: Which you'll find out why if you watch the show.

TW: Uh mic #4 it's Patrick -- I don't think it's Patrick Stewart -- let's look there. Patrick?

Q: Hi, we saw you guys last night at dinner, and we just noticed -- I wanted to ask you is that the first time all of you have been together? Because you were all like hugs and hands out, so was that the first time you have been together?

BS: In 25 years... that's the first time we've ever seen each other.

(Laughter)

WW: That... you liar.

(Laughter)

BS: We had a little contest... to see which one of us looked the worst.

(Laughter)

BS: I won. (shrugs)

(Laughter)

BS: I'm a winner. What can I say? Right? (Laughs) You guys answer this. I'm in trouble.

LB: It wasn't -- the first time we've been together, you know, Christmas parties we try and get together as often as we can. Patrick lives overseas now, but what was great about last night -- and we are so sorry that you were not able to make it Wil --

WW: Yeah, I'm so jet lagged from being in Australia for three weeks so I was dead at 10:00 PM last night. But we'll make it at 2:00 AM! Thanks Brent!

(Laughter)

LB: It's just great when we get an opportunity to really hang together. We're, it's like hanging with your high school friends. Right? And all of your jokes are inside jokes and you know, they're all stupid...but they're yours. Right? So it is good when we have a chance to see each other. It's a really small club that we are a part of.

WW: When we see each other now it means so much to me because when we were working on the show I was a kid and I just wanted so bad to hang out with you guys. I wanted to be so cool like you guys were and I just couldn't do it because I was a kid and I hadn't...

BS: Still.

(Laughter)

WW: I hadn't leveled. I just didn't have enough XP.

(Laughter)

WW: So nowadays when we're together... pandering to the D&D nerds. That's another game I'm always going to win. But when we get together now, I don't feel like I'm that sort of -- I don't feel like a little kid anymore, because I turned 40 this year. And I love it. And I love to be with you guys. And I'm so grateful to the part of a cast that after 25 years -- wants to get together.

BS: It's true. I mean...

(Cheering)

BS: It is rare. I mean you don't see Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard out...

(Laughter)

TW: They don't moonlight together?

BS: No...

WW: A-hahhhhh...

(Laughter)

BS: Well, (to Teddy) you've got to have one. Right?

TW: Let's go down up in front. Alexis? Mic #5?

Q: Hi. All three of you use social media very effectively and I was wondering what effect that has on your careers?

TW: I counted about five million Twitter followers between the three of you, and that's pretty amazing.

LB: Anybody follow Wil Wheaton on Twitter?

(Cheering)

WW: I'm sorry...

(Laughter)

LB: Wil is a large part of the reason that I'm on Twitter...

WW: You're welcome!

(Cheering)

BS: Wil's dog is the reason that I'm on Twitter.

(Laughter)

WW: He also says you're welcome.

(Laughter)

WW: It has had a profound effect on my career because I'm just an early adopter of things that I think are disruptive technologies and I think that Twitter is a wonderfully disruptive technology. Since I started using Twitter just a few months after launch I have not received a breaking news events from traditional news media -- I get it from Twitter. And I was just using it to just be a jackass and entertain myself and I was talking about how much I love the show 'The Big Bang Theory.'

(Cheering)

WW: And I got an e-mail from one of the writers on the show, Steve Molaro. Steve said, "hi I'm a writer on 'The Big Bang Theory' and I'm wondering if you ever want to come down to the set for a visit?" And I said god I would absolutely love to do that. And a couple of days later I got another e-mail that came from Bill Prady's assistant and she said, "Bill Prady would like to talk to you about being on 'The Big Bang Theory.'" And a couple of fun things happened and they put me on the show. And Steve said, "you know the reason that I reached out to you was because I heard through Twitter that you were a fan of our show." So that, in like you know, seven years ago, Steve and I would have to be in the same physical place for him to hear that from me. And that's just not possible. I don't go to places that big fancy famous people go to. I do not fit in. And because we were able to communicate on Twitter, this disruptive technology, I have a job as a recurring evil guy on the greatest show on television.

(Cheering)

WW: That's just one example.

BS: You know, I have been tweeting often about how much I love the show 'Game of Thrones'...

(Laughter)

BS: And as a result, I have not heard a word from them about that.

(Laughter)

BS: But if you write (to Wil), and tell them how much I enjoy...

(Laughter)

WW: The thing is you'd be such a popular character they'd just kill you anyway.

(Laughter)

BS: Well, that's true. Like 'Star Trek' did...

(Laughter)

WW: At least they didn't send you off in a white van with the Traveler.

BS: Well, that's true.

(Cheering)

BS: I love a good Eric Menyuk joke, don't you? You kill 'em everywhere.

(Laughter)

TW: You guys also did 'The Big Bang Theory'...

BS: We did.

LB: We did.

BS: Both LeVar and I were on 'Big Bang.'

LB: Once again -- Wil Wheaton leading the way.

BS: Exactly. I'd just like to--

WW: Hey, what do you guys want to do next?

BS: Yeah. 'Game of Thrones.'

(Laughter)

WW: Me... too. Me... too. So... much.

BS: I'd like to be -- I just like to be around Wil these days just to learn from him, you know?

(Laughter)

BS: Just to study with him.

WW: Shut up (laughing).

BS: There was A time you wouldn't have said that to me.

(Laughter)

BS: Or maybe you would... I don't know. (laughing)

TW: Um mic #3 down in front, Seedy??

Q: Hi!

BS: Seedy! Hey...

Q: Oh god.

(Laughter)

Q: You were supposed to forget that.

BS: How could I ever forget that?

Q: Oh Jesus...

WW: Should we all leave?

(Laughter)

BS: Should they, Seedy? It's up to you.

(Laughter)

Q: My question is for LeVar... (laughing hysterically)

LB: Is that alright with you, Brent?

BS: Your question is for... LeVar?? (Shaking his head)

(Laughter)

BS: Alright. You know what Seedy? Just for that -- Seedy... but not heardy.

(Laughter)

Q: So my question has to do with 'Reading Rainbow'...

(Cheering)

Q: I was a huge -- I love it...

LB: Butterfly in the sky... (singing)

(Cheering)

LB: I can go twice as high... (standing up). Take a look.. It's in a book...

Crowd: Reading Rainboooow.

LB: Wow.

(Applause)

LB: That was fun.

TW: The band even played the theme song before you came out, too.

LB: Did they? Really?

TW: Yeah.

Q: So my question is this...

LB: Oh Seedy! You're still there!

(Laughter)

Q: I am. Sad, but true. My question is this: I remember there was one episode where you actually went behind-the-scenes of Star Trek...

LB: Yep.

(Cheering)

Q: And I was wondering how did you feel about that? I remember being so excited as a kid and I just wanted your thoughts on it.

LB: I was very excited to share my two jobs and not have to commute anywhere for a week

.

(Laughter)

LB: And do you remember the name of the book? The Bionic Bunny Show. And one of the things I will never forget was being shown by Academy Award winner Rob Legato, who recently won an Academy Award for...

BS: 'Titanic'...

LB: 'Titanic'...

BS: 'Aviator'...

LB: 'Aviator'... Rob Legato showed me, and I did not know what the process was achieved before, but he showed me how the the transporter effect was done by pouring sparkles into a bowl of water and stirring it...

(Laughter)

LB: Photographing that, and in that you had one element of beaming. And he ruined... Star Trek for me from that day forward.

(Laughter)

BS: As you just did for all of them (pointing at the audience).

WW: Spoiler alert, dude!

(Laughter)

LB: Payback is a bitch.

WW: Do you know that the behind-the-scenes clips that you did, they're on YouTube?

LB: They are?

WW: Yes. I have watched them many times.

LB: Seriously?

WW: Yeah. No, it's awesome.

LB: It is awesome.

TW: (inaudible) 'The Aviator.'

BS: Thank you. A very brief moment with... Marty. As I call him.

(Laughter)

TW: Mic #6 on the left, David?

Q: Hello, I just have a question for Wil Wheaton. Now that you're a recurring character on 'The Big Bang Theory,' what is it like having people come up to you and they'll say "oh my gosh you're Wil Wheaton!" Or they're wearing the T-shirts "Wil Wheaton Crushers"? What is that like compared to when people would come up to you in comparison to when you were recurring -- I'm so sorry I see you all the time. Dear god you're real, you're here...

(Laughter)

Q: What is it like when fans come up to you and say they see you all the time in their living rooms?

(Laughter)

BS: Tim Horton was in your living room (pointing to Wil).

(Laughter)

WW: That's true. It's... awesome. I mean, it's great. I'm so happy and so grateful to be on a show that people really like. Playing a character that people really seem to look forward to seeing. A funny story about 'The Big Bang Theory,' I was in San Francisco (inaudible) and I was waiting for a taxi and this guy comes up to me and says, "I'm so sorry to bother you but are you on 'The Big Bang Theory?'" and I said yes I am. And he says, " You play Wil Wheaton on 'The Big Bang Theory'...

(Laughter)

WW: And I said yeah, yeah I do. And he says, "Oh! I love -- you're so funny I love the things you do with Sheldon." So I talk a little bit about working with Jim Parsons and then he says, "I'm so sorry I feel so awful, but... I don't know what your real name is."

(Laughter)

WW: And I said, it's LeVar Burton...

(Laughter)

WW: It's really nice to meet you.

(Laughter)

WW: True story. Mostly (laughs).

TW: Zack to the right, mic #4.

Q: I have a question for Wil. Now that you have that table top gaming show on YouTube...

(Cheering)

WW: Oh thank you, guys.

Q: That popular table top gaming show on YouTube...

(Laughter)

Q: Are you going to take the opportunity having the whole cast here, forcing them to play a game with you?

TW: Settlers of Catan!

(Cheering)

WW: Excuse me (in a funny voice), there's eight of us and there's no expansion...

(Laughter)

WW: (Inaudible)...play a game like "Bang," "The Resistance" or "Werewolf."

(Cheering)

WW: I'm sorry... (to LeVar)

LB: W-w-what is he talking about???

(Laughter)

WW: Felicia Day and I co-created a show together called "Table Top" and we play nerdy tabletop board games, like the kind I've been playing all my life, and we get our friends to come over and play the game with us. So it's sort of like Celebrity Poker plus Dinner For Five -- with nerdy board games instead of a poker game or dinner...

(Laughter)

WW: And it's really, it's a lot of fun to do. There's 20 episodes and we shot 20 episodes in 10 days and they're coming out every other Friday on her YouTube channel geekandsundry. So if you want to see it go to YouTube.com/geekandsundry. And honestly, to answer your question, it would mean the world to me if I could get all these guys to come play on our show, but I think that is logistically very unlikely to happen.

BS: It's not even about logistics, really.

(Laughter)

TW: Um mic #5 on the left side of the floor, Sandra? I think. Right there.

Q: Hi my question is for Brent...

BS: Hi Sandra.

Q: First I just want to say --

BS: Do you know Seedy?

(Laughter)

Q: No, but you did make my son cry the other day...

BS: Oh yes you did I remember that. I didn't make him cry... he was moved.

(Laughter)

BS: Right, Sandra? Moved.

Q: Very. I just wanted to say how a awesome it is that I could bring my son to something like this and that there is still a show out there and he could watch it has good moral components to it. But my question is for you: now with Twitter and Facebook we get to see your personality. How the hell did you suppress that while being Data?

(Cheering)

BS: You know, I only suppressed it when they said "action."

WW: Isn't that the truth?

(Laughter)

BS: Yeah. These guys saw it all the time. But you know, we rehearsed and we laughed all the way up to the word "action"... and then we became professional.

LB: Some of us.

(Laughter)

BS: Exactly. (Inaudible) but it was hard. It really was. But now I'm glad I have the opportunity to let you all know.. just who I am.

(Laughter)

BS: Let me begin with an apology...

(Laughter)

BS: Sandra, thank you so much for watching the show and encouraging your son to watch the show. I hope that Star Trek in some form is on forever and ever and I think it will be.

(Cheering)

TW: (inaudible) day-to-day life when you weren't shooting, not using contractions?

BS: No. I always use contractions. Except when I was reading the dialog from the show. Yeah, because I was able to make this distinction between this is a fictional character... I am a real person.

(Laughter)

BS: It was easy for me, really.

(Laughter)

LB: I think they call that "acting."

BS: There you go!

TW: We'll take mic #3 on the left for Chloe.

Q: Hi my question is for Brent Spiner about your background with musical theatre and whether when you started your career if that was what you wanted to do and how you got into it and all that sort of...?

BS: You know, I went to a high school in Houston, Texas and I had a teacher named Cecil Pickett who was a genius. And in my high school drama class, I had so many people that -- the Quaid brothers Randy and Dennis were in my class, Tommy Schlamme who produced 'The West Wing' and directed 'The West Wing' was in my drama class, and our teacher Cecil Pickett he encouraged us to do everything. So we did Shakespeare, we did musicals, we did Moliere, we did contemporary things, and it really was just the best foundation possible and set me up for what I later found in New York which was its best if you can do it all. That being said (standing up), I'd like to do a little song for you now, Tracy...

(Applause)

BS: Let me -- if there was only a drum set here I could probably (looking back at the drum set on stage) -- Oh! Maybe I'll just head on back to the drums...

(Cheering)

BS: I've just set you all up for such disappointment.

(Laughter)

BS: I'm so sorry. I wish I knew a song. LeVar do you know a song? What about the "Reading Rainbow" song? Could you do that?

LB: I think we've already done that one, Brent.

BS: We have? Where was I when you were doing the "Reading Rainbow" song?

LB: You were asleep, as always. Taking a nap.

BS: I always nap when they don't start with "I have a question for Brent Spiner..."

(Laughter)

BS: Anyway, I hope that answers your question Tracy. It is Tracy, right? Yeah. Chloe! Oh man. Where's Tracy? Where did you go?

WW: Tracy is in the back you can see right there (pointing into the floor seats).

BS: Oh there you are, Tracy. Anyway, so I hope that answers your question, Chloe.

TW: LeVar can I ask you about the first time putting on the visor and how much you could see or not see when you had that thing in front of your eyes?

LB: For the record, putting on the visor was a pain... in my head.

(Laughter)

LB: The visor tended to restrict my vision by about 80-85 percent.

TW: Really? Wow.

LB: The first season I bumped into everything on the set, including the other actors.

(Laughter)

LB: It was necessary to learn how to navigate without actually seeing my feet. And by the end of the seven-year run I came to loathe its very being.

(Laughter)

WW: Be honest.

LB: However, I do have a daughter going to college next year and I intend to auction that sucker on eBay.

(Applause)

WW: That could be called "The Visor Scholarship." The "Geordi La Forge...

LB: ...Visor Scholarship."

BS: So I take it you stole the visor?

LB: "Steeeeal"... is... such a harsh word. Right?

(Laughter)

BS: "Borrowed?" (laughs)

WW: I think "forgot to return."

LB: Well as you know -- payback is a bitch.

(Laughter)

TW: Brent, Wil -- did you "forget to return" anything from the set of 'TNG?'

WW: I have two -- well, I had two communicators that were given to me by my costume designer because she knew how much I loved them. One of them I have in my office at home, the other was cremated with a friend of mine who died way too young who was an enormous Star Trek fan so I gave that communicator to him.

(Applause)

WW: I have (inaudible) I have dozens of sheets of stickers that Mike and Ricky gave me, and one day behind Stage 9 -- I don't know why it was there -- but there was a cardboard box and it had in it from the original Star Trek, these little square things, that sort of look like floppy disks that didn't exist in the sixties, and they are these little square pieces of wood that they would put into things on the bridge and they were just sitting there. And it seemed like an unbelievable crime -- they were trash! So I gave them a good home where they would be appreciated.

(Applause)

BS: I, you know when we were making -- I think it was 'Generations,' the first feature -- we got to the studio one morning to start shooting and we were informed that the captain's chair had been stolen.

LB: Right.

(Laughter)

BS: In the middle of the night. I don't know how they got away with it. But if you come to my living room...

(Laughter)

BS: And I charge very little to take your photo in that chair...

(Laughter)

WW: There's easier ways to get them to watch "Fresh Hell."

BS: I guess.

(Laughter)

BS: If you will watch "Fresh Hell..."

(Laughter)

BS: I will give you that chair.

(Laughter)

TW: On the right --Clinton.

BS: Clinton! Hi, how are you doin'?

Q: Good! My question is for LeVar Burton: I wanted to ask what the hiring process was like when you were getting the job on 'Roots'?

(Applause)

LB: The hiring process? I was a student. Second year at university studying theatre. They had pretty much exhausted normal means of finding professional talent in Los Angeles and they had seen everyone who had an agent who was black and male. And they started beating the bushes. They did a casting session in New York, one in Chicago, then they came back to Los Angeles and then they just sort of started casting the net wider. And as a drama student at the University of Southern California I went out on what they call a "go see" -- you go to an address and see whoever answers the door.

(Laughter)

WW: That's also called "outcall."

(Laughter)

LB: No, I think that's an adult... magazine... personal ad situation.

(Laughter)

WW: Really?

LB: Yeah. Yeah.

WW: So I should have been paid a lot more?

(Laughter)

LB: A lot more. A lot more.

WW: Damn It.

LB: Sorry.

(Laughter)

BS: Well that's depending--

WW: No... More...

LB: Have you seen it? E-le-ven inches.

(Laughter)

WW: Stop it.

LB: What? I'm just sayin'.

(Laughter)

WW: Finish your 'Roots' -- you went to the place, to the "go see"...

(Laughter)

LB: Went to the place, went to the "go see," and read for the director, David Greene. He told me I was terrible. He did, because I was a theatre major because I had no concept of acting for the camera so I was trying to project to the balcony and he thought it was awful because it was inappropriate. However, he said to me later that in the adjustment that I made, when he explained to me that acting for the camera is very intimate activity, that he believed he had found his Kunta.

(Applause)

TW: (inaudible)... of all time.

LB: I think the final episode of 'Roots' is #3 on the list of most watched television events in the history of the media. Yeah.

(Applause)

LB: Thank you.

TW: I wanted to ask you: all of the different technical devices that you used on the show at the time, you know, this stuff was science fiction, but now in a way the producers were pressing it -- you had things like iPads and tricorders -- does that surprise you at all now? That you're sometimes holding in your hand these things you had as props 20-25 years ago?

LB: It doesn't surprise me at all. I don't think the producers were necessarily pressing. I think there has always been a link between science fiction literature -- that which we imagine and that which we create. And I believe there was some kid who in the sixties watched the original 'Star Trek' series, grew up and became a designer, an engineer, and was inspired by those scenes of Shatner, you know? Pulling out that thing, you know, in that velcro place on his hip because apparently there are no pockets in the future.

(Laughter)

WW: There are noooo pockets in the future. When there's not a pocket in the world in the 24th century...

(Laughter)

LB: Right.

WW: Act surprised... when it happens.

(Laughter)

WW: Enjoy them now.

(Laughter)

LB: And he flips that thing out and calls Scotty on the ship and asks him to be beamed up, that child became a designer, a product, an engineer, and is responsible for a technology more prevalent than the toaster. By a show of hands, how many of you have either used or are in the presence of someone using a flip cell phone?

(Pretty much everyone raised their hands)

LB: See what I mean? There are a lot of technological innovations that I think their roots can be traced back to 'Star Trek.' The iPad -- we carried pads all over the ship.

BS: The Captain always had a pad in his Ready Room...

LB: Right.

BS: Geordi always had a pad...

LB: Yep.

BS: How did they come up with that? The iPad?

(Laughter)

LB: Google Glasses. Wow! What a really...

(Applause)

LB: ...interesting idea. That is totally unique! I have never seen anything like that before!

(Laughter)

WW: I tried to save the world from Angry Birds but I was just too slow.

(Laughter)

WW: Wait -- that's one you're gonna have to wait for. It's gonna come back around. That was extraordinarily clever.

(Laughter)

WW: I was helping Frakes fix his computer and we were doing it via text messages, and I was doing it with my Android phone...

(Cheering)

WW: Which makes the original series communicator sound whenever I get a text message because that's the only sound it should make. 'The Next Generation' communicator sound is too quiet. And we were making 'Star Trek' jokes to each other while we were doing it and I thought it was remarkable that he and I were communicating in a way that did not exist when we worked on the show that inspired the devices that we were using to communicate with each other. And it was one of the most satisfying, meta-moments of my life.

(Applause)

BS: Why is everybody looking at me?

(Laughter)

BS: What is that phone called? An Android phone? Where did they get that???

(Cheering)

WW: It's constantly correcting my contractions. It's really annoying.

(Laughter)

BS: I have nothing else to say...

(Laughter)

BS: I'm just... (to Wil and LeVar) STOP LOOKING AT ME!

(Laughter)

TW: We're gonna wrap it up in a sec... any final words, was there any question that you've never been asked in life that you wish you would have been asked and would like to answer now? Or a favorite question you've gotten? I'll leave it to you.

LB: The answer is... yes.

(Laughter)

WW: If you take just one thing from spending time with me today I hope that it would be this: Please be kind, be honest, work hard, and be awesome.

(Cheering)

BS: Did I -- have I mentioned... "Fresh Hell" yet?

(Laughter)

BS: Oh I have, okay. If I can leave you with anything (grins)... ah, you know, you've got your own stuff.

(Laughter)

BS: I'm glad you were here. This was really fun.

(Applause)

LB: Thanks for having us.

BS: We'll see you tonight if you're here, okay? We'll have some more people with us.

LB: We'll see you next time, but you don't have to take our word for it.

(Cheering)


Don't forget to check out our previous 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Q&A transcripts with Jonathan Frakes (2011 Central Canada Comic-Con), Michael Dorn (2012 Winnipeg Comic and Toy Expo), and Gates McFadden/Denise Crosby (2012 Calgary Expo).

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Tags: Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Wil Wheaton, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Calgary Expo, Fun Stuff, Tom Landy (all tags)