Celebrities You Forgot Appeared On Star Trek
The “Star Trek” canon is massive, with over 800 episodes and 13 theatrical films and still more to come. Of the thousands of performers who have played bit parts on “Star Trek,” some of them were bound to hit it big. A number of future leading actors have played small roles in “Star Trek” episodes and films, sometimes under such heavy prosthetic makeup that you’d never even know it was them without sitting through the end credits or digging obsessively through Memory Alpha. (And of course, we did.) Conversely, the gravitational pull of “Star Trek” has drawn in a number of celebrities who have been willing to slum it on TV or play a bit part in a film for the honor of squeezing into a Starfleet uniform for a day.
From future movie stars to music legends to trailblazers in space science, here’s a few familiar faces who you may have forgotten made a voyage to the final frontier.
Dwayne Johnson fought Seven of Nine on Voyager
In 1999, the relatively young United Paramount Network (UPN) celebrated the premiere of “WWF SmackDown,” a new weekly show launched at the height of professional wrestling’s mainstream popularity. The following year, in the interests of cross-promoting SmackDown with UPN’s flagship series, the producers of “Star Trek: Voyager” cast Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, one of the WWF’s most popular stars, as a prizefighter in the 6th season episode “Tsunkatse.” Johnson’s character is a beloved martial arts champion booked to fight against the USS Voyager’s own Seven of Nine. The champion employs a number of The Rock’s contemporary trademarks, such as his signature “Rock Bottom” body slam and his “People’s Eyebrow” taunt, and triumphs over Seven in a non-lethal “blue match.”
Today, of course, Dwayne Johnson is a big-time movie star, one of the most bankable actors in the world, and potentially a future President of the United States. When “Tsunkatse” aired in 2000, Johnson was just beginning to dabble in acting outside of the wrestling ring. According to IMDb, his role on “Voyager” is only his third screen performance as a character other than “The Rock.” He’d previously appeared on an episode of “That ’70s Show” as his real-life father, wrestler Rocky Johnson, and as a deathmatch wrestler in an episode of the short-lived USA Network drama “The Net.” Johnson would soon make his big screen debut in 2001’s “The Mummy Returns” and begin a slow, steady climb to the Hollywood A-list, making “Star Trek” a funny footnote in an absolutely massive career.
Mick Fleetwood became a fish man for The Next Generation
Mick Fleetwood, co-founder and percussionist for the legendary rock group Fleetwood Mac, once made an appearance on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” though you’d never know it from watching the show. In the comedic Season 2 episode “Manhunt,” which aired in 1989, Fleetwood makes a guest appearance as an unnamed Antedian, a tall alien being with a fishlike face (Fleetwood stands an imposing 6’6″). Fleetwood doesn’t have what you’d call “dialogue” in the episode, as his character communicates in an alien language that, to human ears, sounds like nonverbal grunting.
According to “Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion,” Fleetwood was a serious “Star Trek” fan, and was so eager to have a cameo role on the show that he agreed to shave off his signature beard to accommodate the alien prosthetics, which required two-and-a-half hours in the makeup chair. Despite the prominent placement of the credit “Special Guest Appearance by Mick Fleetwood” towards the beginning of the episode, Fleetwood is completely unrecognizable in the role.
“I’ll shave my beard off if you promise me that I get to beam down or beam up,” Fleetwood told the producers, according to a 2015 interview with the Vancouver Sun. “The Next Generation” star Patrick Stewart had actually been a friend and college classmate of Fleetwood’s sister Susan, and Fleetwood says Stewart was very kind despite Fleetwood’s relative inexperience on set.
Big Show menaced the Enterprise crew
One of the most famous “big men” in professional wrestling, Paul Wight has performed on television since 1995 – first as “The Giant” with WCW, then as “Big Show” with WWE, and now under his own name with All Elite Wrestling. In 2020, Wight even starred as a fictionalized version of himself on the Netflix family sitcom “The Big Show Show.” Alongside his prolific wrestling career, he’s acted in feature films like “Jingle All the Way,” “The Waterboy,” and “MacGruber,” and television series such as “Psych” and “Royal Pains.” Most of his non-wrestling roles play Wight’s 6’11” frame for laughs, but occasionally he’s been called upon to represent real menace.
Once such occasion was Wight’s guest appearance on “Star Trek: Enterprise,” in which he plays a massive, muscular Orion slaver who attempts to sell some captured Enterprise crew members at auction. Wight’s character effortlessly lifts Commander T’Pol for display during the ghastly event, and it certainly doesn’t look like any wires were employed. Fans of Wight’s work in the squared circle would know that 100-odd pounds is barely a warm-up for the Big Show, who claims to have bench pressed 500 pounds at the height of his athletic prowess. Exaggerating physical statistics is par for the course in the world of professional wrestling, but we’re certainly not going to argue with him.
Padma Lakshmi played an alien princess on Enterprise
Padma Lakshmi has been the poised, insightful host of “Top Chef” since 2006 and one of the show’s executive producers since 2013, creator of her own food travelogue series “Taste the Nation,” and the author of five books on food, travel, and her exciting life and career. In 2019, she became a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador, with the goal of highlighting systemic inequality and discrimination across both poor and wealthy nations.
But before her life as a host, producer, author, and activist took off, Padma Lakshmi was merely — merely! — a supermodel looking to launch an acting career. For one of her very first television roles, Lakshmi guest-starred in the 2002 “Enterprise” episode “Precious Cargo” as Princess Kaitaama, who is kidnapped and placed in suspended animation on the eve of her ascension to the throne of Krios Prime. Kaitaama is rescued from captivity by Enterprise’s Chief Engineer, Charles “Trip” Tucker, and the two struggle to survive on a hostile planet where they quickly develop a brief “opposites attract” romance.
“Precious Cargo” is a weak episode overall, and Lakshmi’s performance doesn’t do it any favors. Kaitaama is the center of the episode and a pretty demanding role for an untested actor. While one might be hard-pressed to find anyone who could make this hackneyed script into something memorable, Lakshmi definitely wasn’t up to it. Thankfully, “Top Chef” would come calling just two years later, putting her career back on track.
Dr. Stephen Hawking is the only person to play himself on Star Trek
Despite being set in the distant future, the writers of “Star Trek” occasionally found opportunities for their characters to encounter real-life historical figures, either via time travel or the simulations of the holodeck. Actors have portrayed author Samuel Clemens, polymath Leonardo da Vinci, and US President Abraham Lincoln on various episodes. But only one person in the entire history of the “Star Trek” franchise to date has ever filmed a cameo as themselves — theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.
Sometimes called “the world’s smartest man” (a title he himself rejected), Hawking dedicated his life to the study of space and time, and to making these incredibly complex scientific topics digestible via books and films such as “A Brief History of Time.” It’s no surprise, then, that Hawking was a lifelong fan of “Star Trek,” a franchise that has long prided itself on the celebration of science.
In 1991, while visiting the Paramount lot, Hawking accepted an invitation to tour the set of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” According to an interview on the “Next Generation” Blu-ray set, Hawking even sat in the captain’s chair, which he called “rather more comfortable and a lot more powerful than [his] wheelchair.” During his visit, Hawking mentioned to executive producer Rick Berman that he’d like to do a cameo on the show. A scene was written in which the android Data (Brent Spiner) plays poker with holograms of Hawking and fellow scientific icons Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Naturally, Hawking wins.
Celebrity lawyer Melvin Belli made his awful acting debut on Star Trek
The third season of the original “Star Trek” is infamous for its sharp decline in quality. One of the season’s more embarrassing installments is “And the Children Shall Lead,” in which a group of children takes over the Enterprise with the help of an evil space entity called Gorgan. In an effort to boost the show’s ratings, producer Fred Freiberger sought out a famous face to cast as Gorgan and settled on attorney Melvin Belli.
Belli was known as the “King of Torts,” one of the first trial lawyers to take full advantage of the medium of television to make an impression on a mass audience. His notoriety expanded during the highly public trial of Jack Ruby, killer of presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Freiberger had already hired Belli’s son, Caesar Belli, to play one of the episode’s menacing children, and invited Melvin to play the primary villain despite his lack of acting experience. According to “These Are The Voyages – TOS: Season 3,” this casting decision frustrated just about everyone on the production. Belli arrived on set apparently unaware that he had to read the lines as written, intending to make them up for each take. His performance was so bad that the post-production team was instructed to obscure his face and voice with as much special effects trickery as possible.
Despite Belli promoting the appearance, “And the Children Shall Lead” failed to boost the ratings for “Star Trek.”
Seth MacFarlane cameoed as an engineer on Enterprise
Seth MacFarlane, best known as star and creator of the animated comedy “Family Guy,” is also a life-long “Star Trek” fan. According to a featurette included in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” Blu-ray set, MacFarlane was introduced to “Star Trek” at a young age by his father. MacFarlane would go on to create and star in “The Orville,” a series that is heavily inspired by “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but combined with elements of a workplace sitcom.
Before he invested his money and reputation what is essentially in his own, big-budget “Star Trek” fan series, MacFarlane also cameoed in two episodes of the real deal. In 2004 and 2005, MacFarlane appeared on “Enterprise” as a Starfleet engineer, only receiving a name — Rivers — on his return visit. Ensign Rivers serves on Commander Tucker’s engineering team in the Season 3 episode “The Forgotten,” and then evidently transfers along with Tucker to the starship Columbia in the episode “Affliction,” one year later.
These TV appearances took place during a career nadir for MacFarlane — “Family Guy” had been canceled after three seasons in 2002, and while it was building a cult following in reruns (not unlike “Star Trek”), it would not return to the air until 2005. MacFarlane’s cameos on “Star Trek” were filmed during this period, when MacFarlane was not yet a recognizable on-screen face to anyone but die-hard fans of his work in animation. In the years since, MacFarlane’s fortunes have reversed, to say the least.
Kirsten Dunst was just a kid on The Next Generation
In 1994, Kirsten Dunst appeared in the film “Interview with the Vampire” in a prominent supporting role as Claudia, a child who is turned into a vampire at the age of 10 and then lives for a century in the body of a child. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture. This propelled her into a long and prosperous acting career as a teenager and into adulthood in box office smashes like “Bring it On” and the Sam Raimi-directed “Spider-Man” trilogy, as well as critical darlings like “Melancholia” and the FX series “Fargo.”
But before the release of “Interview with the Vampire” put her on the map, Dunst made a guest appearance on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as Hedril, a member of the telepathic Cairn species. In her episode, “Dark Page,” Hedril’s appearance and telepathic communications unearth a repressed memory in visiting dignitary Lwaxana Troi. Hedril bears a resemblance to Troi’s deceased daughter, Kestra, whose existence Lwaxana has willfully forgotten. Dunst also plays Kestra in a series of nightmares as Lwaxana’s memories come to the surface, though once the memory is fully recovered, the real Kestra is played by another child actor.
While “Dark Page” aired in December 1993, before “Interview with the Vampire” hit theaters, it’s likely that it was shot afterwards, as the television production cycle is significantly shorter than that of a feature film.
Blink and you'll miss Jeff Bezos in Star Trek Beyond
At the time of this writing, Jeff Bezos is the second-richest person in the world, often jockeying back and forth with rival industrialist Elon Musk. The two mega-billionaires have launched a private space race with their companies Blue Origin and SpaceX, so it’s no surprise that both men have confessed an affection for “Star Trek.” Bezos in particular is a massive “Trek” fan, going so far as to shoot “The Original Series” star William Shatner into space aboard his Origin New Shepard rocket. It no doubt irks Bezos that the first season of “Star Trek: Discovery” wagers that, by the 23rd century, Musk will be the name more closely associated with sending humanity to space.
But while Musk gets name-dropped in dialogue, Bezos has actually been in a “Star Trek” movie, however briefly. In the 2016 film “Star Trek Beyond,” Bezos portrays an unnamed Starfleet official who configures the universal translator for use by distressed alien visitor Kalara. Bezos admits to have begged Paramount for a speaking part in the film and did receive one line of dialogue. But he is barely visible during his scene, shown only from a distance and mostly from behind, in shadow, and under heavy prosthetics. The only clear image of Bezos as his character from “Star Trek Beyond” (seen above) comes from Justin Lin’s Twitter account.
Dr. Mae Jemison went to space, then went on Star Trek
In 1992, physician Dr. Mae Jemison traveled aboard the NASA shuttle Endeavour, making her the first African-American woman in space. During her 190 hours as part of shuttle mission STS-47, Jemison conducted experiments investigating the effects of space flight on bone cell function. Since leaving NASA, Jemison has continued to pursue humanity’s advancement towards practical, long-term space travel. In 2011, she became the leader of the 100-Year Spaceship organization, a combined effort between NASA and DARPA to identify and develop the technologies necessary to send humans on a voyage beyond Earth’s solar system by the end of the 21st century.
Jemison achieved another, much smaller milestone in 1993 — becoming the first real-life astronaut to appear on “Star Trek.” Jemison makes a brief cameo in the Season 6 “Next Generation” episode “Second Chances” as Ensign Palmer, a transporter operator. Jemison had been inspired as a child by seeing Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura on the original “Star Trek,” and felt that appearing on “The Next Generation” after her actual mission would bring her story full circle. Nichols, a longtime supporter of the NASA space program, came to visit the set during Jemison’s day of filming.
Christian Slater stole his uniform from Star Trek VI
Actor Christian Slater was a star on the rise in 1991 when he made a one-scene cameo as a communications officer aboard the USS Excelsior in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.” He’d made a splash in 1988 as the sinister J.D. in the dark teen comedy “Heathers,” and more recently had appeared in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” as Will Scarlett. However, his burgeoning acting career had little to do with his getting to live out a boyhood fantasy of appearing on “Star Trek.” By his own admission, this was pure nepotism — his mother, Mary Jo Slater, was the casting director.
In “The Undiscovered Country,” Christian Slater gets a short, one-on-one scene opposite George Takei as a junior officer who awakens Captain Hikaru Sulu to deliver orders from Starfleet. But Slater enjoyed an additional treat on set: getting to wear the actual costume that William Shatner had worn in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Slater was so thrilled, in fact, that he was unwilling to part with it and simply walked off set still wearing his wardrobe. As of 2017, he’s still got it stashed away.
In recent years, Slater has become a mainstay of cable and streaming dramas like “Mr. Robot,” “Dirty John,” and “Dr. Death.” Could an appearance on a Paramount+ “Star Trek” series be far behind?
Gabrielle Union is unrecognizable on Deep Space Nine
Gabrielle Union broke into Hollywood by playing supporting roles in teen comedies like “She’s All That,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” and “Bring It On,” as well as the sports drama “Love and Basketball.” Her film career led her to more prominent roles in “Bad Boys II,” “Top Five,” and “Think Like a Man.” After a string of guest and recurring roles on television, Union finally took the lead on BET’s “Being Mary Jane” from 2013 to 2019, and in the short-lived “Bad Boys” spin-off series “L.A.’s Finest” in 2019. She also served as a judge on “America’s Got Talent” for one season in 2019.
Before any of this, however, Gabrielle Union appeared on one episode of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” In 1997’s “Sons and Daughters,” Union appears as N’Garen, a young Klingon warrior on the crew of the IKS Rotarran under the command of General Martok and Lieutenant Commander Worf. N’Garen is a bit part, with only seven lines mostly consisting of procedural dialogue like “We’ve lost target lock, switching to manual.” Nevertheless, the small role was a big hit with her family.
“My mom is and was a massive Trekkie,” Union told NPR years later. “So being a Klingon in my family was akin to winning the Oscars.”
David Cronenberg is sticking around on Discovery
If you’ve been watching “Star Trek: Discovery,” then you’ll certainly remember Kovich, the stoic Starfleet Intelligence operative who first appeared in the Season 3 episode “Die Trying.” Kovich goes head-to-head in a battle of wits and wills with Emperor Philippa Georgiou, who finds herself blasted 930 years into the future along with the rest of the Discovery crew. What you may not have realized is that Kovich is portrayed by David Cronenberg, legendary director of such films as “The Fly,” “Scanners,” and “Eastern Promises.”
How did Cronenberg, who has also acted on and off throughout his film career, end up involved in “Star Trek”? In his own words: “I’m cheap and I’m available.”
Jokes aside, Cronenberg is a fan of the original “Star Trek” and a resident of Toronto, where “Discovery” is produced, and was invited by executive producer Alex Kurtzman to appear on the show. Cronenberg will continue to appear in another three episodes on the fourth season of “Discovery.”
Kelsey Grammer got lost in time on The Next Generation
In the early 1990s, there was no bigger show on television than “Cheers,” the NBC sitcom whose series finale drew an unreal 80.4 million viewers. Among the show’s most popular characters was Dr. Frasier Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer, who would go on to star on his own long-running spin-off. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was a pop culture phenomenon in its own right, but “Cheers” was on a whole other level, so it must have been a real treat for fans when Grammer made a somewhat comical cameo at the end of the 1992 episode “Cause and Effect.” He appears as Captain Morgan Bateson, the commanding officer of a starship that’s been caught in a time loop for nearly a century.
Grammer is the third “Cheers” actor to appear in a “Star Trek” production, the first being Kirstie Alley, who made her acting debut as Saavik in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” five years before her first appearance on the hit sitcom. The producers wanted Alley to appear in the episode with Grammer as well, reprising her role as Saavik, but Alley’s schedule did not allow for it. Not only would this have been a cute in-joke for fans of “Cheers,” but it also might have finally answered the question of what the hell happened to her character.
In the years that followed, several members of the “Star Trek” ensemble would make appearances on “Frasier,” including “Next Generation” stars Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner.
Iggy Pop's Deep Space Nine appearance was due to an injury
Iggy Pop is arguably the biggest music legend ever to appear on “Star Trek.” He is widely considered to be the “Godfather of Punk,” who innovated the genre as a member of the proto-punk band The Stooges as well as in his solo career, with hits like “Search and Destroy,” “Lust for Life,” and “The Passenger” making him a household name. In 1997, Iggy Pop appeared in the “Deep Space Nine” episode “The Magnificent Ferengi” as Yelgrun, a Vorta holding Quark’s dear mother Ishka prisoner.
Unlike many celebrities who have appeared on “Star Trek” shows, Pop wasn’t a fan who approached the producers for the chance to appear. It’s actually the reverse — according to “The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion,” producer Ira Steven Behr had been trying to cast Pop, a personal hero, on one of his shows since before he even came to work on “Star Trek.” Behr had previously tried to book Iggy on an episode of “Fame,” where he’d served as a producer in the late 1980s. During the third season of “Deep Space Nine,” Behr and his team wrote a part for him in the two-part episode “Past Tense,” but Pop was on tour and unavailable for shooting. (The role went to Clint Howard, instead.)
When “The Magnificent Ferengi” went into production, Pop was recovering from a shoulder injury that forced him to take a break from touring. His loss was Behr’s gain — he agreed to take the gig, which made Behr positively giddy.
Adam Scott pilots the Defiant in Star Trek: First Contact
Adam Scott began acting on television in 1994, 15 years before breaking out as the star of the comedy series “Party Down” and joining the cast of “Parks and Recreation.” Though a recognizable TV mainstay today, Adam Scott was just a struggling day player when he landed a bit part in the 1996 feature film “Star Trek: First Contact.” In his one scene, Scott plays an unnamed Starfleet officer at the helm of the USS Defiant under the command of Lieutenant Commander Worf. The Defiant is on the ropes in its battle against the ominous Borg cube, leading Worf to order a suicide run. Scott’s character gets to deliver the good news that the USS Enterprise has come to their rescue.
Scott spoke about his experience shooting “First Contact” in a 2013 podcast interview with The Nerdist. He’d auditioned for another, larger supporting role — presumably Lieutenant Hawk, the role won by Neal McDonough. He was on set for only a few hours, had his two lines, and was out before lunch. In 2015, however, while promoting “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” Scott joked that his “Defiant Crew Helmsman” was the one character he’d want to reprise in another film.