Interview : Wil Wheaton

As a star of 80’s hits like “Stand by Me", Wil Wheaton went onto become quite a searing little artiste. But after a stint on TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, everything kind of came to a screaming halt. Wheaton seemingly disappeared from our screens. Did Trek ruin Wheaton or was it more to do with the Hollywood machine itself? Renowned for spitting out celebrities once they mature. CLINT MORRIS Talks to Wheaton, while the actor’s on break from updating his popular official website, WilWheaton. Net.

So you’ve got your own website. What prompted this?
The extended story is at http://www.wilwheaton.net/warning.html, but here’s the short version: I felt like people all thought I was either 12 years old, or in outer space. And I was really tired of being constantly associated only with my characters. I wanted the world to know that I was more than Wesley, and more than Gordie. I was tired of people thinking they knew who I was, so I thought a website would be a good way to introduce them to this guy who is NOT TV’s Wil Wheaton.

How was it growing up as a star of the screen – ie. being the kid from "stand by me"?
This is the hardest question for me to answer, and it’s asked all the time. See, the thing is, I don’t have a normal reference point of comparison. I was always an actor, from the time I was 7 years old. I have very few memories of being a normal kid, actually.

Now that I’m an adult, however, I can see that my childhood was about as far from normal as anyone can get. All the attention and fame and money and power gave birth to this monster I call "TVSWILWHEATON (I hate that guy)." TVWW(ihtg) was my Tyler Durden. VWW(ihtg) consumed me for about 6 years, from 14 to 20. I spent the five years that followed trying to escape TVWW(ihtg), and was pretty angry most of the time. It’s not a surprise to me that as I tried to achieve escape velocity from TVWW(ihtg), my career slowed, then stalled, and finally crashed and burned. Fortunately, TVWW(ihtg) didn’t survive the crash, but I did. Now I am introduced as "Author Wil Wheaton" instead of "That Guy Who Used To Be On TV." And now that I’ve decided that I’m really not that interested in passionately chasing acting work, and have instead chosen to pour my creative energy into writing, I am getting more calls for auditions than ever. Go figure.

So as a star of the 80′s – is it harder to get jobs nowadays or easier because folks know you?
It’s beyond hard — it’s impossible. The big problem I run into with Hollywood is that I don’t fit into their mould. I was an actor when I was a kid, and ended up being sort of famous as a teenager, but I’m not a fuck up like the Coreys, or a mess like the cast of Diff’rent Strokes. I’m just this guy who had lots of success when he was younger, worked his ass off to develop his Acting abilities, and wanted to make it as an adult actor. It’s like all that stuff I did when I was a kid doesn’t count, or finds some way to work against me.

How do you feel about being part of the "Star Trek" legacy?
It’s awesome. It took me many years to come to terms with the fact that Star Trek will always be a big part of my life and career, regardless of how the fans or TPTB treated me. It was a long journey for me (documented in two different books, even!) before I ultimately decided to embrace that reality, and own how cool that is, rather than try to run away from it for the rest of my life.

How did you feel being cut from the film ‘Nemesis’ though?
Surprisingly, it didn’t upset me. I knew that there was a good chance my scene wouldn’t make the final cut: it was the last scene to be added, and it didn’t add much to the main plot. When I found out I was cut, I was a little sad, but not making it on the screen doesn’t change any of the really wonderful aspects of getting to work on the film for two days: putting on a TNG uniform for the first time in a decade, getting to hang out with the cast again, and being able to *enjoy* being part of something really cool, free from the teenage angst that consumed me when I was younger. I wrote all about it at my website: http://www.wilwheaton.net/mt/archives/001089.php

Did you have much to do with River Phoenix?
Yeah. I was all, "Hey, River, you’re cool . . . but if you used heroin, you’d be, like, REALLY cool, and maybe we’d finally get some pussy." Wait. That’s not true at all. That’s what I told the Coreys. And Courtney Love. And Jason Mewes. Hold on. That’s all bullshit, too. Here’s the truth: I really liked River, and we had fun working on the film [Stand By Me] together, but we were very different people, with very different upbringings, and we sort of drifted apart in the years that followed the movie. I was very sad when he died, but pretty angry, too. He was ridiculously talented, and his death was a tragic and totally avoidable loss.

Any roles you so desperately wanted over the years but missed out on?
Yeah, but they’re all in porn, and that was just so I could get Jenna Jameson to touch it.I would have loved Matt Damon’s role in "Rounders," or pretty much anything Ed Norton has done in his entire career. I had a great series of auditions for "I, Robot," but nothing ever came of them. That really bummed me out, because I’m a HUGE fan of pretty much everyone involved with that project.

So how have your web designing skills progressed since doing the site?
The fundamental design remains the same as it was shortly after I opened the site in 2000. The main differences are transparent to all but those who compulsively dig through my source. Those people will find a more logical and streamlined CSS, and nifty commenting all over the place. If you did a diff on my "about" page now, comparing it to the same page in 2001, you’d probably find some cleaned up tags and formatting things, too. I’ve done everything I can to keep the focus on the content of my site, which is really my weblog. Because of that focus, I haven’t had the time to screw anything else up . . . though I think some nice animated gifs and embedded midi songs would really spice things up.

Career-wise, what are you up to at the moment?
I’m pouring all my time and energy into writing. I write for my blog, I write for my books, I write stupid comments at fark.com and hopefully +5 comments at slashdot.org. When I’m not writing, I’m handling the practicalities of running my publishing company, and learning that I hate the business world. I honestly expected to maybe sell 300 books in a calendar year . . . I ended up doing that in about 36 hours. It’s been just over two months since Dancing Barefoot became available, and we’ve already sold close to 1300 direct-orders, and another 300 or so to bookstores, including Amazon.com (where its average review is 5 stars!! Cool!). If any publishers are reading this, and are interested in carrying it, gimmie an e-mail or something. I’d really like to get back to writing and leave the business to someone else.

Ay chance you’ll ever get back on-board the Starship Enterprise?
If they asked me, I’d do Trek again in a heartbeat. I’d give just about anything to work with that cast again. Or maybe just a 7 page scene with T’Pol on some sort of porn-planet. Yeah, Wesley spends some quality time with T’Pol and Alexa Rae. I think that could be its own fucking TRILOGY, man. That’s my idea, so don’t even think of stealing it, or I will reverse the polarity on the sensor array to go medieval on your ass.

Check out Wil’s site here