Walter Koenig Interview

To enthuse about his appearance at Destination Star Trek in London next month, Star Trek’s Walter Koenig – aka Pavel Chekov – gives Lee Harris an exclusive interview for SFX.

SFX: You’re coming to London for the Destination Star Trek event in October.  What do you most look forward to at these events?

Walter Koenig: “Well, you know, I look forward to meeting old friends who are fans, and making new friends who are fans, and of course getting an opportunity to meet a lot of the actors who I’ve worked with over the years. It’s a celebration. It’s a coming-together. The nice thing about these events is that most people who come share the same – without getting maudlin about these things, or too sentimental – they share the same kind of beliefs and value-system and that’s really nice because you have people who genuinely like other people and have a stronger sense of humanity than you’d find at an NRA (National Rifle Association) meeting, for example.”

Will you get the opportunity to see anything of the city itself, or will it be a fleeting visit?

“My wife and I are trying to find a way to stay a few extra days and take in some theatre. As a matter of fact, I don’t know what’s playing in London, so if you have any recommendations, please let me know.”

You’re best-known for your role of Chekov, of course, but other than Star Trek, what work are you most proud of?

“Well, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. I did play the recurring character of Bester on Babylon 5. That was a very rewarding role. It was multi-dimensional, and the character was pivotal to the story each time he appeared. It was a learning process. It was an adventure, because the writer/producer – Joe Straczynski – kept giving me more to do, probing the depths of his character with each episode, so I kept finding things to work on and it was very insightful. And working with all those folks was just wonderful. They were very professional and co-operative and I felt totally welcome and satisfied at the end of each turn that I took with them.

“But I’ve also done theatre, and theatre is the source of the best experiences I’ve had. I’ve done plays like The White House Murder Case, Steambath, A Christmas Carol and about two dozen others. They generally went well, and when they did it was a very uplifting experience for me. When you work on-on-one, with the audience right there, and their response reinforces that the work that you’re doing is capable. That’s really what I think acting is about.”

You write as well as perform and direct – what’s the favourite thing that you’ve written?

“Well, I’ve written three or four screenplays that are really good, but they still remain in my desk drawer. I have written for television but the work is perfectly unrecognisable by the time the contributions of other writers are included.

“I did write a screenplay – an independent film called Inalienable – which we did get produced and I had a good time. I think I made some cogent statements about life and philosophy and civil rights and what constitutes being a human being. It suffered a little from having a low budget so the special effects were not nearly as good as they might have been, but if you put that aside, I think the story is very well worth seeing. And the acting was brilliant – all the actors I used were genre actors and without exception they all performed marvellously.”

You received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this month (see the video above) – how did that feel?

“Well, it feels good, you know. It feels good, when I see names like Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud and Marlon Brando on that same Walk of Fame, I wonder what the hell I’m doing there! On the other hand there’s Big Bird – who also has a star – so I take some solace in that.”

And the future? What does that hold for you?

“Well, I’ve just finished a graphic novel called Things To Come. It’s about vampires after the apocalypse and the fact that they’re the only sentient beings on earth. They live in a poisoned world where only mutated animals exist and they find themselves asking questions about why they are there and what their purpose is and where do they go from here? In one sense it’s a coming-of-age story for vampires – and it’s not a romance. It’s not a romantic graphic novel – although I do have a little bit of that and it’s not a throat-slashing vampire novel, although I have a little bit of that, too – you have to keep true to the form.
It’s going to be released in October from Bluewater Publications. It’s done very well on amazon.com [click to have a look and order] in terms of advance orders and so I’m looking forward to the audience reaction for that.”

Walter Koenig along with a bewildering array of the other biggest Star Trek actors, will be at Destination Star Trek London from 19-21 October