Billy Blackburn spent three years as a background player on Star Trek, playing Lt. Hadley (pictured right) along with a number of other characters. Blackburn appeared in 61 episodes of the series and while he was there he shot some 8mm and Super 8 home movies. Blackburn ended up with a little over an hour of behind the scenes footage which has kept in a box for forty years. Some clips were used in a BBC documentary a few years back and it was the YouTube version of those that got the Trek Remastered producers interested. It turns out that Ryan Adams who works on the Trek Remastered project is Billy Blackburn’s neighbor. After watching the clips on YouTube he went to over to Billy’s house and asked if they could take a look at the stash…and now they are on the new HD-DVDs. I had a chance to chat with Mr. Blackburn at Comic Con.
TrekMovie.com: How did you first get involved in Star Trek?
Billy Blackburn: I got on Star Trek through the assistant director Tiger Shapiro. We worked together on My Favorite Martian and I saved his job for him, so he called me. He told me to come down to this new series and I showed up and he said “sit there” and I said “OK” and I sat there and nobody said a word. Actually, I was told to not make so much noise when I was pressing the buttons so the sound guy can overlay the ‘meep meep’ effects.
TrekMovie.com: So did someone tell you what the buttons did?…like which one was warp, or impulse?
Billy Blackburn: Not really no. We just sat down and he always said “warp factor five” and we would look down and after a while you got into your own thing.
TrekMovie.com: Could you have imagined at the time that you would even be talking about this job 40 years later?
Billy Blackburn: No
TrekMovie.com: I know that since Trek you moved on to other things and really haven’t done much with Trek
Billy Blackburn: I have never even been to a Star Trek convention.
TrekMovie.com: After Trek you went on to work as a costumer right?
Billy Blackburn: Yes, in fact I worked with Shatner again on T.J. Hooker. I will never forget when I came on the set he came running up to me saying “Billy!” and I said I was going to be on his show and he wanted to know what kind of part I was playing. I told him I was his new costume supervisor and he just didn’t understand. He couldn’t get it through his head. But it was a delightful show to work on.
TrekMovie.com: When you were working as a background player, did you ever want to do more acting?
Billy Blackburn: Sure…I never got a good agent, but I was working all the time.
TrekMovie.com: Did you ever have a line that got cut out on Star Trek?
Billy Blackburn: Well I did some voice overs like “landing party one, two, three and four report to transporter room.” And I did the rabbit (“Shore Leave”). By the way an article stated that it was Jimmy Doohan, but it wasn’t Jimmy. There was one time when Kirk said “Lt. Hadley?” and I said something like “Sir, there is something up on the screen and I have never seen anything like it” If it was cut, I don’t remember.
TrekMovie.com: When people watch your footage they are going to wonder if this is how people really were, or is it just how they were when you pulled out your camera.
Billy Blackburn: It is how they were [laughs] That was a goosey company. The fun was constant.
TrekMovie.com: So did you ever capture any tense moments on the set? Maybe some tension between some of the actors?
Billy Blackburn: No…nope. BBC asked me the same thing. Let me get this straight. We never saw anything between Jimmy Doohan and Shatner. Or with George. Didn’t see anything. Didn’t know there was a tension there. None of that. Stand-ins and doubles are closer to stuff because we are closer to the stars all the time and we hear things…but no.
TrekMovie.com: Which producer from the show was on the set the most running things?
Billy Blackburn: Bob Justman. Rod Roddenberry just asked me if I got to know his father, but no he never came to the set…which is why he is not on the film. D.C. Fontana did come down.
TrekMovie.com: How did Bob Justman feel about you shooting?
Billy Blackburn: He is on camera. It was no problem
TrekMovie.com: So what actors did you capture? Do you have them all?
Billy Blackburn: No, I never got George [Takei] or Walter Koenig or Jimmy [Doohan]. I got Nichelle all over the place…doing wonderful things. I have Majel and Bill and Leonard. I have a wonderful thing Jay Robinson [Petri “Elaan of Troyius”] playing in the bed after he has been stabbed.
TrekMovie.com: Over the years have you watched these movies often? Did you have friends or family who wanted to see your old days with Shatner and Star Trek?
Billy Blackburn: Maybe three or four times. I was a professional skater and my friends were skaters. None of my friends were impressed with anything I did.
Twelve minutes of Billy Blackburn’s unique footage (with a narration by Billy) is on the Season One of Remastered Star Trek on HD-DVD coming out November 20th.