The anonymous team behind the Twitter Account @trekdocs regularly reveals documents from Star Trek’s long history (see TrekMovie interview from earlier this year on more about them). Today they posted notes from a 1992 UK casting session for main characters in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The list includes Alexendar Siddig (under his real name Siddig El Fadil) who landed the job as Dr. Julian Bashir (called Amoros at the time). But what grabs even more attention are some of the names who auditioned for Benjamin Sisko, the starring role which eventually went to Avery Brooks.
— trekdocs (@trekdocs) September 7, 2017
The UK actors who auditioned for Sisko include Anthony Head (Rupert Giles of Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and Peter Capaldi, who plays the soon to be departing Twelfth Doctor on the BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who. This documents tweet was followed up quickly by the Twitter account of for the What We Left Behind DS9 documentary, which showed screen caps of the auditions of Capaldi and Head.
— The DS9 Documentary (@DS9Doc) September 7, 2017
Was The Doctor almost The Sisko? – probably not
Capaldi, while best known for his more recent roles in Doctor Who and The Thick of It, has a career going back to the 80s and would likely have been able to deliver an interesting performance as Benjamin Sisko. The same is true of many of the actors listed on the UK call sheet. But how serious was Paramount with these auditions? Were they really going to hire another white British actor to lead a series which would run concurrently with Star Trek: The Next Generation, starring Patrick Stewart?
In my recent interview with Deep Space Nine executive producer and showrunner Ira Steven Behr I asked about the casting of Sisko. Here is the exchange.
TrekMovie.com: When the show was cast, was Sisko always going to be an African-American, or did you guys just like Avery?
Ira Steven Behr: When [co-creator] Michal Piller started his insidious plan to bring me back into the fold – so sitting together at baseball games, when he mentioned it to me, he mentioned to me as an African-American captain. Some people say that is too specific and that it was definitely going to be a brown person, definitely not a Caucasian. They hadn’t necessarily locked in to that person being African-American.
I actually have some of the auditions and some were sent in from England from some very good British actors. So they were covering on all fronts, but I think that was all just due diligence. It was always going to be a brown captain.
It may be that this interview and Ira’s mention of auditions sent in from England inspired the @TrekDocs team to dig up this sheet and post it online. And it appears that even though there were many strong British actors auditioning for the part, DS9 creators Rick Berman and Michael Piller were just doing “due diligence” and were determined to cast a non-white actor.
UPDATE: Just a coincidence
Turns out the recent TrekMovie interview talking about Sisko auditions from the UK and this document reveal was just one of those coincidences.
Total coincidence we posted so close to Ira interview. Great quote though – when casting lead you go all out even if already have a plan.
— trekdocs (@trekdocs) September 7, 2017
DS9 doc looking into including audition clips
Hopefully we will be able to see more of these auditions in the What We Left Behind documentary or maybe in some bonus features. Documentary co-producerKai de Mello-Folsom tells TrekMovie that they “are still early in the approvals and licensing process to see if we will include segments from these auditions in the film, and if they will serve our story at large, but our team has had a great time watching these alternate takes from other great performers and hope we’ll be able to share at least a selection with the DS9 fanbase.”
He was also able to share an additional image of Capaldi’s audition which comes are courtesy of a VHS tape from Ira Steven Behr’s personal collection which was recently uncovered through the project.
That What We Left Behind doc should arrive by this time next year. For more infomraiton visit ds9documentary.com.