Phoenix Comicon 2016 – Part I: Tony Todd and Larry Nemecek

This June 2-5, over 100,000 people braved the 110+ degree heat to attend Phoenix Comicon, which hails itself as the signature pop-culture event of the southwest. It was my first experience of the Phoenix convention, and I was delighted at the plethora of Star Trek events to cover! Hit the jump for Part I, in which Tony Todd and Larry Nemecek delighted fans on Friday, June 3rd.

Tony Todd Spotlight

Tony Todd at PHXCC 2016

Tony Todd is best known to Star Trek fans for two prominent roles: as Worf’s brother Kurn and older Jake Sisko from one of the most acclaimed episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, ‘The Visitor’. As Tony took the stage, he greeted the crowd with that instantly recognizable voice of his. He came across as charming and engaging and related that this is the first time he has been able to attend this con as a guest after trying for 10 years.

Of course, to the fans, his first introduction was as Kurn, Worf’s long lost brother.

“I loved playing Kurn”, he told the audience. “I was very proud to be a part of [The Next Generation].”

Todd said that he loved playing a Klingon in particular because they “are fearless and they make their own rules”. According to Todd, it was this role on Star Trek that led to him landing the gig that he is perhaps the most famous for. He related to the crowd that his work on TNG led to him guesting at conventions, which in turn led to him getting the role on Candyman.

As soon as Todd mentioned his work on Deep Space Nine’s “The Visitor”, he instantly got a huge ovation from the crowd. I was part of that, as “The Visitor” was one of my favorite episodes of all time. While some actors detest the prosthetic make up that goes into parts such as Kurn or the elderly Jake Sisko, Tony found this to be fun and exciting. “It transforms you into the character”, he said.

Todd says that he took on his role on “The Visitor” after reading the script, which brought back memories of being an only child raised by his Aunt. He received the script shortly after she passed away, which served as a large part in his motivation in taking the role, and much of the emotion that he portrays in that episode is as a result of the emotional connection and fondness he has for his Aunt.

When asked about his work on fan film Prelude to Axanar (yes, that Axanar… the one that’s currently being sued by Paramount and CBS), he had no more updates than what has already been announced. When news of the lawsuit broke, Todd made it abundantly clear that he had severed ties with the production. Todd told the crowd in Phoenix that, while he enjoyed playing Admiral Ramirez, saying that he was the “compete opposite” of what a Klingon is supposed to be, he isn’t much of a fan of crowd funded projects and would rather have a project in hand to work on.

Todd also spoke of his friend and Star Trek actor Michael Dorn saying, “Michael is a big friend of mine, and I will do anything with him, except fly. I’m afraid he is going to have some form of ‘Klingon flashback’ while flying!” He also stated that both he and Michael are ‘chomping at the bit’ to “reinvestigate the Klingon thing”. It wasn’t clear if he was talking about the much discussed Captain Worf project that keeps making the rounds, or perhaps another project that might be in the winds, but certainly there is something afoot here.

That led naturally into his potential involvement on Star Trek: All Access. He recalled what we already knew saying once again that he is on a ‘very short casting list’. He apparently couldn’t add anything else to that, either because he didn’t know or because he was obligated not to. All he would say was that “Star Trek is coming”.

Podcast Circuit 42 talks with Tony Todd at PHXCC 2016

Larry Nemecek

Larry Nemecek at PHXCC 2016

Many of you know Larry Nemecek as the editor of the fan favorite magazine Star Trek Communicator, as well as the author of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion and his latest work on Star Trek Stellar Cartography. He has also recently portrayed Dr. McCoy on the fan funded production Star Trek Continues. Mr. Nemecek was on three separate panels at this convention. The first was titled “Star Trek: A 50th Anniversary Retrospective” in which he was joined by Dr. David Williams, Jeff Taylor, Jennifer Wirtz and Vinny Alascia.

“Star Trek: A 50th Anniversary Retrospective” was a fascinating look at the history of The Original Series. It started with the origins of the show, with Larry noting that he had been telling people to start the 50th celebrations a few years early as The Cage was shot in 1964. Perhaps one of the more interesting facts from this time was regarding Lucille Ball. As many fans know, Lucille Ball’s Desilu was the company that produced TOS. What many may not know, is that after the second pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the board of Desilu did not want to press forward with Star Trek. It was Lucille Ball herself that stood up to the board and overruled them, and hence Star Trek was given the green light.

Ever wonder whose idea it was for the women to wear mini-skirts and high heels? If you were thinking that was Gene Roddenberry, you might very well be mistaken. In fact, the idea came from none other than Yeoman Rand, the late great Grace Lee Whitney. So you can either blame or thank her, depending on your perspective! This opened up a friendly debate amongst some audience members about the objectification of women, and how that uniform might well be an act of objectification, however Larry noted that in the 60’s, women wearing short skirts was a very feminist thing to do – a sort of “you don’t get to tell me what to wear” idea.

Larry also provided some insight into the “Number One” character as portrayed by Majel Barrett during Star Trek‘s pilot episode “The Cage”. As is well known, NBC was uncomfortable with the idea of Barrett’s character being the ships second in command. It is generally thought that it was because of her being female, however, it may have had more to do with Majel’s relationship with Gene Roddenberry (who was at the time married to someone else). The studio felt that Majel had gotten the role as a result of her relationship. As it was, the studio was happy to see the role recast, however, it was Gene Roddenberry who couldn’t bear to see someone else in the role. Hence, no Number One in the second pilot.

For fans of TOS in particular, this was an amazing, interactive event. There were clips of various favorite episodes, including a look at a remastered episode preview for “The Ultimate Computer”, edited as if it was to appeal to a crowd today, which was cool and slightly amusing. It also detailed the strife between Gene Roddenberry and the studio, who were looking to distance him from the show as early as the hiatus between season 1 and 2. There were trivia questions for the fans, and some prizes in the form of various Star Trek novels.

You may have already read my previous article regarding the hiring of Aron Coilete and Joe Menosky onto the writing staff of Star Trek All Access, which was the reason Larry was running late for this panel. Telling the audience that he had an announcement regarding the new show, but waiting until the end of the panel to announce it was a bold strategy to keep the audience captivated until the end, worthy of a Romulan. Well played, good sir.

That concluded the events for Friday. Stay tuned for a report of Saturdays events, featuring more from Mr. Nemecek, and a report on the Glen Morshower and Gates McFadden.

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Great wrap-up!!