Friday, May 03, 2013

Flashback Friday: Robin Curtis beams down

(Once upon a time, I interviewed actress Robin Curtis prior to her visit for a small sci-fi convention in Panama City. The actress was best known to me as the second "Lt. Saavik," having taken the role over in Star Trek movies 3 and 4. She was fun to talk to, very open and uninhibited, the polar opposite of her half-Vulcan character. This article is dated Friday, Feb. 24, 1995, meaning it went to press on Feb. 23.)

'Trek' star to appear at local Trek-O-Rama

Her face may not be familiar at first — minus the characteristic pointed ears and arching eyebrows — and her effervescent personality would embarrass her repressed Vulcan counterpart.

But Bay County Star Trek fans will be pleased by the person beneath the makeup as they get the chance to mind-meld with Robin Curtis — "Saavik" from the third and fourth Trek films — at the Trek-O-Rama convention.

"I enjoy (conventions) so much, but I haven't done one in a while, so I'm a little rusty," Curtis said in a telephone interview from her California home Tuesday evening.

Self-described as "effusive, expressive and full-of-life," it wasn't easy for someone like Curtis to play a coldly logical Vulcan.

"I spill all over everybody, excitement leaks from every pore," Curtis said. "(The fans) realize how difficult that must have been for me."

Curtis took over the role of Saavik after Kirstie Alley (of Cheers) had played the part in Star Trek II. Curtis said her status as a replacement was never an issue among the cast or the fans.

"It's interesting how, in life, the obvious problems are the ones that never materialize," she said. "The fans appreciate me for me."

Her role was pared down in the fourth Trek to give more screen time to the ensemble of original players. She said that was fine with her because that group of actors deserved the attention.

"My association with Star Trek has been nothing but beneficial, really. To think I'm still generating income from a job 11 years ago is astonishing," she said.

According to Curtis, her body of work could only be considered "a career" if it were put together with "some paste and Duco cement." Star Trek conventions — she appeared at 17 of them last year — have helped pay the rent.

"I've kind of let fans in on the fact that actors spend most of their time unemployed or looking for work," she said. "And they have let me in on what I have become a small part of."

The positive message behind Trek — that the future is bright and full of adventure — took Curtis a while to comprehend. She had never been a real Trek fan before landing the Saavik role, but has since immersed herself in the lore of future history.

"Who knows why the hell these things come to us? I'm just pleased to be part of something I consider to be a good thing," Curtis said. "I like what I've learned and how these people think. I hate to stereotype, but on the whole, I find the fans to be interesting, thoughtful, fun-loving people."

Curtis compares favorably her experiences on the movie sets with those on the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which she guest-starred as a Romulan spy.

"It's viscerally very much the same," she said. "Star Trek is very stylized. The pace is slower and more thoughtful than most TV. There's that upright, military stance, straight as a beam right up your butt."

Curtis catches some good-natured ribbing for her stint hosting an infomercial for the Braun Handblender, but she doesn't apologize for blatant hucksterism. After all, in some ways, that's what conventions cater to.

"As long as it doesn't go up an orifice, we'll sell it," she said. "Actually, I wish I had a nickel for every one they sold (through the infomercial). Sales quadrupled and they renewed my contract for another year."

Curtis also has made a few commercials recently, but she hopes infomercials don't become her bread and butter.

"I'm hoping I haven't found my niche. That's not the goal, here, but I do thank God I'm capable of doing these kinds of things and maintaining a modicum of integrity," she said. "Work begets work."

During the interview, her new agent interrupted to tell her Dove Books wants her to do another science fiction book-on-tape reading for them — a job that no doubt came her way because of her Star Trek recognition value.

"It never stops. It never ceases to amaze me," she said. "Star Trek is like this monster machine that just won't stop."
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