Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand) only appeared in 8 episodes in the first season of Star Trek before being let go amid some controversy. But fans remembered Yeoman Rand and she came back (as Lt. JG Rand) for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. She went on to appear in three more Trek films (III, IV & VI) and even an episode of Star Trek Voyager (‘Flashback’). She is again reprising her role for the new independent Trek film ‘Of Gods And Men’. TrekMovie chatted with the actress about playing Rand again as well as her thoughts on a new Rand for Star Trek XI.
TrekMovie: I know some actors are playing their original characters and others have new roles for ‘Of Gods and Men’, what can you tell me about your character?
Grace Lee Whitney: I am my original character, but in the beginning I am kind of different, and then at the end I am me again with Pavel.
TM: do you mean with Pavel or ‘with Pavel’? You guys aren’t an item are you?
GLW: Oh no no no. No it is just a nice scene with him at the end, and I also have a scene with Uhura
TM: You never got to play an ‘alternative’ version of your character before have you?
GLW: No not until this one, I was always so ‘goody goody’ I was the girl next door type, except for the rape scene in ‘The Enemy Within’
TM: What was it like doing that scene?
GLW: It was very difficult. Roddenberry was there and he wanted it to be real but glamorous. And I thought ‘how can you do that?’ I was very black and blue for a while. Shatner threw me around for a while and I did all my stunts. We did many takes. Then to make it even harder, afterwards I had to do just the opposite scene when I go cry to Spock. But I was very happy with the work.
TM: How did you get involved with Sky Conway (producer for Of Gods and Men)
GLW: I met Sky through Star Trek Voyages and James Cawley, then we did Jimmy Doohan’s convention. The next thing I got a call from them asking if I wanted to be in a movie with Walter and Nichelle, and I said ‘yes, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the New Voyages.
TM: What are you doing with New Voyages?
GLW: They want me to play the mother of the new Rand. We also talked about Sulu on the Excelsior
TM: Regarding a ‘Captain Sulu’ how, that was something that George Takei was lobbying for. How serious did Paramount take the idea?
GLW: The idea was going to be a mini series, every three or four months they would do a 2 hour show. This was being talked about before Enterprise, there was a big campaign on the internet. I actually gave George (Takei) the idea. It was going to be ‘George and Gracie’ on the Excelsior. But in the end they went with Enterprise.
TM: What do you think about this fan film movement, did you think this would be happening?
GLW: A lot of people want to be part of this whole movement. Look at John Tesh, he played a vulcan on Star Trek The Motion Picture because he wanted to be a vulcan all his life. He is a big fan, which is the reason I got interviewed on Entertainment Tonight. Now other people still want to be involved, it’s great.
TM: Have you seen any of the new Remastered Original Series shows CBS is doing?
GLW: Yes I saw ‘Balance of Terror’ I liked it.
TM: That is the episode where you get act afraid and Kirk has to comfort you…
Yah, it was very campy, it was almost like Batman but there was no POWs and WOWs, I did Batman too right before Trek. It was hard not to be campy with Shatner, although he was very dramatic. He is a Shakespearean actor
TM: What was he like on set, was he funny?
Oh god yes, he was phenomenally funny, I thought it should have been a comedy. The old show was much funnier than the new shows, the new shows are much too serious.
TM: You were also in many of the Trek movies, including the first one Star Trek: The Motion Picture, what was it like working with Robert Wise?
Well he was a great director, but he didn’t have much of a sense of humor. I didn’t like my costume it was too austere, and he took off all my make-up, so there was no Yeoman Rand stuff, no sex appeal. He was very straight, but years later I got to be friends with he and his wife Millie, who was an extra with me on the movie. She is a wonderful woman and a big fan of Trek, and so was Robert.
TM: Which of the films you were in was your favorite?
GLW: I love ‘(Star Trek) The Motion Picture’, but (Star Trek) IV was my favorite. I loved the direction of Leonard Nimoy, who was my drama coach and it had a lot of comedy in it.
TM: As you may have heard, there are rumors that JJ Abrams may set the next Trek film in the Original series era and would be recasting some of the original characters. How do you feel about that?
GLW: He did Alias and Lost right? those are very good, he knows what he is doing. I don’t have a problem with it.
TM: …and what do you think of a new actress playing Rand?
GLW: As long as she was young and beautiful that would be fine, of course.
TM: There are also some rumors that Abrams is interested in Matt Damon as the new Kirk, what do you think of that choice?
Wouldn’t that be something? Oh my gosh yes.
find out more about ‘Of Gods and Men’ at the official site