By Becca Gladden, Senior Writer.
May 15, 2018
Photo © Trek Continues, Inc.
Actors Vic Mignogna as Captain James T. Kirk and Todd Haberkorn as Mr. Spock (background) filming a scene in Star Trek Continues.
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.”
Photo © Trek Continues, Inc.
Co-stars of Star Trek Continues (from left) Todd Haberkorn as Commander Spock, Chuck Huber as Doctor Leonard H. McCoy, Vic Mignogna as Captain James T. Kirk.
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?
I wanted to expand the character. I wanted to make him more human. That’s another thing I wanted to do with Episode 4, “The White Iris.” I wanted to show a side of Captain Kirk who did not always have the right answer, did not always save the day, did not always rescue the maidens. I felt that if I could give him an added dimension of being flawed and having his own regrets, remorse, and guilt for things he’d done or not done, we would be able to identify with him more.
I wanted to honor the performance that Bill Shatner created and I wanted people to feel like they were watching that Captain Kirk. I had no desire or interest in recreating the role. The role doesn’t need to be recreated. I’m sorry, Chris Pine, but Captain Kirk doesn’t need to be reimagined. William Shatner did just fine creating and defining and making that character come to life.
My goal was, number one, to make people feel like they were watching a continuation of that character they loved so much; then, number two, starting to show another side of him that we could identify with more.
Some of the things that happened on the original series have to be looked at through the prism of time. The success of a network television show is measured in ratings, which drives the ability to sell commercials, which is the purpose of the show from a business standpoint. I’m sure things like fistfights and romances and miniskirts were mandated by the powers-that-be at the network who thought those elements would attract more viewers.
So, maybe there were times when it wasn’t the way the actor would have chosen to portray the character, but they didn’t always have a say in it because of the nature of the business.
Exactly. It was definitely a very different time. TV was very different, stories were very different, presentation was very different, and attitudes were very different. Again, I’ve learned so much reading these books by Mark Cushman. Do you realize that, in the original pilot, the women wore pants just like the men? After the second pilot, after the series got picked up, Grace Lee Whitney, who played Yeoman Rand, went to Gene Roddenberry and said, “Let me tell you something. I’m a dancer and I have beautiful legs. You better show off these legs!”
She takes credit for the short women’s uniforms being developed. My point is, if that is true, it was actually a woman who wanted to show off her legs that was responsible for why the women had miniskirts. Back then, in the late ‘60s, that didn’t bother anybody. Women wore miniskirts all the time; in fact, it was a big fad. Nowadays, people are like, “Oh, that’s so sexist,” but, had you lived 50 years ago, you might not have thought so.
Hearing you tell that story, I’m reminded of the scene in “Miri” where Yeoman Rand tells Captain Kirk that, back on the ship, she is always trying to get him to look at her legs.
Yes! Exactly. In the book, she even talked about how Nichelle Nichols would sit at her station and her skirt would ride up, and Grace Lee said, “She was trying to out-leg me!”
Photo © Trek Continues, Inc.
Cast and crew on the set of the multi-award-winning web series Star Trek Continues.
Shifting gears a bit, one of the best things about Star Trek Continues is the use of music from the original series, which is so iconic. The production values overall are amazing, especially for a web series. Tell me about your approach to the music and the production team you assembled for STC.
Let’s start with the music. I am a composer, singer, songwriter, and producer as well, and I have always felt that the music of Star Trek was a very, very important part of the series – a signature, identifying characteristic of the show.
When I started this series, it was always my intention to use the original series’ tracks. In my mind, that kind of stuff is not easily recreated. You certainly can’t recreate it with synthesizers and fake instruments, because, back then, it was a real orchestra being hired to play original scores.
When we started on the series, through the first three episodes, I was doing all of the music editing. I would cut the episodes and then work on choosing the music for every scene, every moment. In at least seven or eight cases, I even created some original music; it was very simple and it was just to highlight and underscore the emotional moments where I couldn’t really find something from the original series that did what I wanted it to do.
Then, something very exciting happened for Episode 4. I was contacted out of the blue by a guy named Andy Farber and he said, “I love Star Trek Continues and I love what you guys are doing. I’m a composer and I would love to write some music for your show.” It turns out, Andy Farber teaches composition at Julliard in New York, so he is about as good as they get. He’s a big fan and a big student of the original series’ music.
Andy wrote original orchestral scores starting with Episode 4 and we actually brought together a student orchestra in New York to play original tracks for Star Trek Continues. So, starting with Episode 4, we had a lot of original music interspersed with original series music and it’s that level of quality that I think really makes the series so special.
As far as the rest of the team – Star Trek Continues is my childhood dream project, right? As a little boy, if I could have done anything, it would have been to play Captain Kirk and to have a Star Trek episode and to be able to be part of that universe. So, when I decided I was going to try to do this, I didn’t want to just do it with a bunch of strangers or a bunch of hired guns. I wanted to do it with friends and, more importantly, I wanted to do it with friends who loved Star Trek – people who were fans of the original series, who would value and appreciate what we were trying to do, and the importance of what we were trying to do.
I’m very, very proud to tell you that, with only a few exceptions – which we weeded out early on in our production – everybody that was a part of this production was not only a fan of Star Trek, but we all became very dear friends and family. Every time we did an episode, the same 20 or 30 people came together to make that episode. It’s astounding! People don’t realize what an incredibly astounding thought that is.
If you go look at any fan production – if you can find a fan production that has made more than two or three episodes – you know what you’re going to find? You’re going to find three different guys playing Chekhov, four different people playing Uhura, two different Spocks, three different Sulus; you’ll see very few of the same names on the credit list. If people are doing something for no pay, if they’re only doing it out of the goodness of their heart, once they’ve done it one time, they’re kind of done. They’re like, “You know what? I wanted to do it and I did it and I’m not really interested in doing it again.”
But, as far as Star Trek Continues is concerned, we have had virtually zero attrition and, if you look at the names on our credits, you will see the same 25, 30, or 35 names over and over again, which is absolutely unheard of in a production over 11 episodes when nobody is being paid.
I think in the same way that Kirk was the leader on the Enterprise, you deserve some recognition for being the leader of this project and assembling a team of people who were so dedicated to doing quality work.
I appreciate you saying that. I would like to think that, if anything, I was able to impart my passion, my love, and my belief in the quality and the importance of what we were doing to the people around me. Whether it’s Matt Bucy, our cinematographer; Ralph Miller, our sound guy; Lisa and Tim Hansell, our makeup; Ginger Holley, wardrobe; James Kerwin, director; Scotty Whitehurst, assistant director; the production supervisors; these are all people I love dearly and people who I stay in regular contact with, even now, a year after our series has ended. We forged very deep relationships.
That camaraderie really comes across on the screen, just as a show with an unhappy set comes across on the screen as well.
You know what? A lot of people will endure an unhappy set if they’re making a good payday. There are plenty of people in the production world who hate the show they’re on; they hate the director they’re working under; they hate the supervisor of their department; but they’re making a good paycheck and so they go in every day and do their job. Nobody in our production was getting a paycheck, so that tells you how much they must have loved what they were doing.
Many of the casting choices on Star Trek Continues were brilliant, especially with the guest-star roles – bringing back guys like Michael Forest from the original series and John de Lancie from several of the subsequent Star Trek series. As a fan, it was surreal watching Chris Doohan portray Scotty, because his appearance and accent and mannerisms were so reminiscent of his dad. When you were doing scenes with him, did you ever stop and think how remarkable it was that you were playing Captain Kirk and there was the son of the original Mr. Scott?
I will tell you that the biggest “wow” moments I had were when I was standing there, face to face and toe to toe with Michael Forest. This is somebody who went toe to toe with Bill Shatner! You’re talking about a guy who did an episode with William Shatner, and here I am playing Captain Kirk with this guy; or John de Lancie. I had many surreal moments with those actors.
Chris Doohan is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He’s so kind and easygoing. A lot of people don’t know this, but Chris is not primarily an actor; that’s not something he ever intended to do. His dad was obviously an actor, but Chris was not really an actor.
When I approached him on Facebook and then met him for lunch and asked him if he would do this, he was a bit worried, because he didn’t consider himself an actor; plus, he was a bit worried about how good it was going to be, and, of course, you don’t want to attach yourself to something cheesy. But, he came down and did the first episode and he was a natural. It’s like it’s in his blood.
I’ll tell you a funny story. I directed the first episode and I worked on Chris very hard to get certain performances and certain dramatic, emotional moments out of him. I was there talking him through the scenes and directing him and he felt like I worked him pretty hard. After the first episode was over, he called me one day and said, “Listen, I know that I probably disappointed you in my acting ability, so if you want to recast the role of Scotty, I totally understand.”
I started laughing and I said, “Are you kidding? You were made to do this. If you’re doing this with no background or experience or training, you are channeling your dad and I’m quite sure your dad would be very proud.” His family is very proud that he did this and they feel like it’s an incredibly beautiful homage to his dad.
In every episode, you could see him getting more and more confident and comfortable in his skin as Scotty, and he just gets better and better. I was so proud of his work and so grateful that he agreed to be part of the series.
There’s a video on our website when we wrapped him in the series, and he’s talking about when I asked him to do it, and he starts getting choked up. He said, “This has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. I can’t imagine that I would have ever said no to it and I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s ended up being one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”
Photo © Trek Continues, Inc.
Executive Producer Vic Mignogna (left) meets with Michael Forest (right) to discuss reprising his role as Apollo for Episode 1 of Star Trek Continues, called "Pilgrim of Eternity."
It must have been very hard to choose which episodes or themes from the original series you wanted to revisit in Star Trek Continues. One of Trek’s favorite tropes was time travel, which allowed the crew to visit all sorts of historical periods. The STC episode “Divided We Stand” takes place in the Civil War. Out of all the time periods available, how did you choose that one? Is the Civil War a particular interest of yours? (Please go to Part Three for the answer!)
[END PART TWO]
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.