By Becca Gladden, Senior Writer.
May 15, 2018
Photo © Trek Continues, Inc.
Actor, writer, director, editor, composer, and Executive Producer of Star Trek Continues, Vic Mignogna as Captain James T. Kirk.
Vic Mignogna is an abundantly talented man, equally gifted in front of the camera, behind the scenes, in the recording studio, and addressing crowds of admirers at comic and anime conventions. He is also an accomplished musician whose skills include composing, arranging, producing and performing original music.
Beginning in 2013, Mignogna fulfilled the wishes of legions of Star Trek fans around the world, as well as his own childhood dreams, by creating the multi-award-winning web series Star Trek Continues (STC). The project’s goal – to boldly complete the five-year mission of the original Star Trek ship and crew – was beautifully realized in 11 high-quality webisodes, supported by crowdfunding campaigns that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Vic tackled multiple roles on the web series, most notably Executive Producer and actor in the lead role of Captain James T. Kirk. His additional STC credits include director, writer (story and teleplay), film editor, composer, music editor and more.
Star Trek Continues has been praised by critics and viewers, including Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. After attending an episode screening in Las Vegas, he said, “I'm pretty damn sure my dad would consider this canon. The fact that you do stories that mean something, that have depth, that make us all think a little bit, I really think he would applaud you guys, and I applaud you guys.”
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I feel like somewhat of a kindred spirit because I grew up watching and loving Star Trek like you did and still adore it to this day. I’ve heard you talk about what a big impact the show had on your life, especially during your formative years. Can you identify what it was about Star Trek that made it so meaningful to you?
I was thinking along these same lines a couple of years back, as we were in the middle of shooting Star Trek Continues. I was deep, deep in the middle of the production of the series and I was feeling the stress of all of the decisions I needed to make and what we were trying to accomplish. I wanted it to be so good, but there were so many challenges, and a little voice inside my head said, “Why in the world are you so in love with this show? Why in the world are you pushing yourself so hard? You have a full life. You have plenty of things to do with your life and your time and your money. Why is this so important to you?”
I remember coming to the realization that I discovered Star Trek at almost the exact same moment that my parents divorced. My dad left and was not really a significant part of my life at all, and my mom and I moved into an apartment together. Right when that happened is exactly when I stumbled across this TV show that was on at five o’clock after I got home from school every day. I quickly gravitated to this strong, handsome, brave leader of men who loved his friends and made these important decisions and ventured out into the stars. I think Captain Kirk very much became a father figure to me.
Then, as I would watch the shows, the stories, themes, and moral lessons they would teach really resonated with me. In many ways, the imagination of the show – the phasers, the communicators, beaming down, the uniforms, the ship itself – so many things about it really jumpstarted my own personal creativity. At that point in time – I was 10, 11, 12 years old – and I didn’t know whether I had any talent or skills. I didn’t know what I was good at or what natural abilities I had. I didn’t know what I liked. Star Trek got me excited about wanting to build things, make prop replicas or uniforms or build ship models – all these things that I had this fire to do that I had never been inspired to do by anything up to that point in my life.
I would say it was those two things: the combination of my parents divorcing and there not being a dad in the house and latching onto Kirk as a father figure and a role model; and the creativity of Star Trek and the way it inspired me, both in its stories and its imagination.
Photo © Trek Continues, Inc.
Co-stars of Star Trek Continues (from left) Chuck Huber as Doctor Leonard H. McCoy, Vic Mignogna as Captain James T. Kirk, Todd Haberkorn as Commander Spock.
So, Star Trek was the initial spark for this great career you now enjoy in acting, filmmaking, voice work and more. When did it first occur to you that you could actually portray Captain Kirk? I think for it to be successful, there had to be at least some physical resemblance between yourself and the original actor.
It’s funny you should mention that, because I’ve thought about that myself. I’ve thought about the fact that I fell in love with this show and this particular character, and the actor who played him, when I was 10 years old, and I could love Captain Kirk with all my heart, but it’s not going to change the way I look. It’s not going to change how I grow up and what I look like as I grow up. It’s purely a coincidence that he is the character I loved and wanted to play, and that I just happened to physically bear a close enough resemblance.
There are other fan productions out there where people try to play Captain Kirk and they don’t look anything like him. That does not in any way diminish their love for Captain Kirk; they want to be Captain Kirk. I’ve had hundreds of emails and letters from fans saying, “I feel like I’m living vicariously through you. I wanted to play Kirk when I was a little boy and my friends and I would dress up and I was always Kirk.” They don’t look anything like Shatner, but it didn’t change their love for that character and wanting to play him, and I feel exactly the same way. It’s just a coincidence that I happen to look like him.
When I first heard about Star Trek Continues, I was a little bit skeptical…
If you don’t nail the Kirk character, the rest of it falls apart, because he is arguably the franchise. I thought your portrayal of Kirk was brilliant and I understand you weren’t trying to do an impersonation of William Shatner as Captain Kirk, but were paying homage to both the actor and the character. I have been disappointed through the years about the way Kirk is described as this womanizing, impulsive space cowboy who just goes around hitting people and making out with beautiful women. People who believe that miss so much about the character as he actually was on the original Star Trek.
Absolutely! I couldn’t agree with you more, and I must tell you, that is exactly the reason I wrote and produced Episode 4, “The White Iris.” That is completely the reason why we crafted that story and shot it – because I never liked the perception or the stereotype of Captain Kirk as a womanizer; that he just flew around banging women left and right, wherever he went, with no feelings for them; no sense of any kind of love or any weight of the importance of what he was doing. I never thought that was consistent with his character as a noble leader – a moral, upstanding, conscientious human being.
The whole reason we created Episode 4 was to say: Captain Kirk did not fly around banging women with no feeling at all. He loved these women he encountered. Captain Kirk is very lonely in his position of command and he is desperate to find love. He jumps into it head first wherever he thinks he may find it, and it doesn’t work out, but he genuinely loves these women from his past. Not only that, but he buries a great deal of hidden remorse and shame and regret about these relationships and how they ended – so much so that he begins to be haunted by these women from his past and must deal with these buried emotions before he can move on.
Photo © Trek Continues, Inc.
Actors Sarai Duenas (left) and Vic Mignogna (right) in a scene from Episode 4 of Star Trek Continues, called "The White Iris."
That was a beautiful episode and really well done. Overall, in your portrayal of Kirk, I like the fact that you made him more cerebral and more introspective, which I think is actually true to the original character, although that has gotten diluted over the years. People make fun of William Shatner’s “overacting,” but where would Star Trek be without William Shatner?
There wouldn’t be any. William Shatner was the star of the show; I’m not saying that he became the star of the show. I’m currently reading these books by Mark Cushman called These Are the Voyages. When you read about what was going on with Gene Rodenberry and the networks and production people – pitching the idea of the show and then trying to cast the roles – William Shatner was a very respected, admired actor back then. He was classically trained on stage and his acting was a little larger than normal because he was a stage actor. Back then, that acting style was applauded and was very well received.
They were extremely excited when they got Bill Shatner to agree to play Captain Kirk. He was the star of the show. The show was about Captain Kirk and his adventures and, had Shatner not been able to carry the show, it never would have been successful and we wouldn’t be talking about this right now.
I loved Shatner’s style of acting. I started auditioning for school productions and community theater and church productions because I wanted to do what he was doing. People who try to distill William Shatner’s Captain Kirk into an overacting womanizer cowboy – they don’t even get Star Trek. Anybody who says that is completely ignoring the deeper elements of his character and the stories they told. In fact, I would dare say, the people who propagate those kinds of stereotypes probably didn’t even watch the original series very much, or they would have seen that there was a lot more to it than that.
There’s a wonderful little scene in the original series between Kirk and McCoy in the episode “Balance of Terror,” where Kirk is doubting himself and his decisions. Do you know the scene I’m referring to?
I certainly do.
Kirk is telling McCoy that he looks around the bridge and sees the crew waiting for him to make his next move…
And he says, “Bones, what if I’m wrong?”
Yes! To me, that’s the type of scene that occurred throughout the original series which seems to have gotten lost over time in people’s perception of Kirk. There were a lot of times when they showed the more introspective side of the character, and you did an amazing job carrying that through on Star Trek Continues.
Thank you so much. That was certainly my desire. There was an interview Shatner did some years after the original series, when they were briefly talking about doing another series. In the late ‘70s, they came very close to relaunching Star Trek, and, at the last minute, they shifted gears and decided to do a motion picture. But, at the time, Shatner said that had they done another series, one of his primary goals would be to make the character more relatable, more introspective, and flesh out the character more, so you saw a more vulnerable, less certain-of-himself Kirk.
I was struck by something I saw on the documentary For the Love of Spock, when Leonard Nimoy was talking about portraying Spock opposite Jeffrey Hunter’s Captain Pike versus William Shatner’s Captain Kirk. He said that Hunter was a very internalized actor, which put Nimoy in the position of trying to play up Spock in order to bring more excitement to their scenes together. When Shatner joined the cast, bringing what Nimoy described as “energy, and a sense of humor, and a twinkle in the eye,” Nimoy was then able to become the more understated Spock that we all know and love. I thought that was a brilliant point.
It is a brilliant point. Another very important point about Spock’s character is this: People who are not actors, fans who want to play Spock, or people that don’t dive any deeper into acting, think, “Well, how hard can it be to play Mr. Spock? You’re just deadpan all the time and you don’t have any emotions.” No. It’s not that Spock doesn’t have any emotions; it’s that he keeps them buried under the surface – and that, in and of itself, is much more difficult.
In these books I’m reading by Mark Cushman, Nimoy said that, early on in shooting the show, literally the very first episode or two, he was really questioning whether or not he should have taken this role, because he’s an actor and he likes to play emotional things. He was like, “Why in the world did I take this role of this character who has no emotions? This is going to be so boring.”
Then, he came to exactly the same conclusion I just articulated to you. He suddenly realized it’s not that Mr. Spock doesn’t have emotion; he feels all of the things we do, possibly even more intensely. But, he keeps them buried and pushes them down under the surface to give his logic the center space. When you consider that, it is a much harder challenge than just letting your emotions fly and run rampant all over the scene overtly.
Our actor, Todd Haberkorn, who played Spock, did a really good job with that because Todd is a good actor. A good actor will understand that Spock may be the hardest role of all to play.
Photo © Trek Continues, Inc.
Actors Vic Mignogna as Captain James T. Kirk (left) and Todd Haberkorn as Mr. Spock (right) during a scene in Star Trek Continues.
Todd did an excellent job with Spock, which, as you said, is a very challenging role. What was your biggest challenge in playing Captain Kirk? (See Part Two for the answer!)
[END PART ONE]
About Vic Mignogna: An actor, producer, musician and composer. Vic is a prolific voice actor for over 200 anime and video games, most well known as Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist. He portrayed Admiral Isaac Garrett (in both the "Prime" and "Kelvin" timelines) in Star Trek Online. He is Executive Producer of Star Trek Continues and stars in the lead role of Captain James T. Kirk. Discover more about Vic at his website www.VicsWorld.net and at the official fan club of Vic Mignogna called Risembool Rangers at www.RisemboolRangers.com.
Star Trek Continues is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning, fan-produced webseries. From “Where No Man Has Gone Before” to “Turnabout Intruder,” TOS chronicled the first four years (2265–2269) of James T. Kirk’s historic five-year mission before the series was prematurely cancelled. Star Trek Continues is proud to be part of Trek history, completing the final year (late 2269 – early 2270) of the original adventure. Vic and the team of talented film professionals raised the bar in the quality of stories and overall production on one of the most recognized, popular fan productions ever made.
Learn more about Star Trek Continues, by clicking here.