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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Star Trek’ legend talks acting, writing in fundraisers for Interplayers

Interplayers’ Reed McColm sees John de Lancie as a bit of a Renaissance man.

Veteran actor de Lancie had done a lot of everything. His film credits include “The Onion Field,” “Fearless,” and “Reign Over Me.” He spent four years on “Days of Our Lives,” did a multi-episode arc on “Breaking Bad” and guest-starred on shows as diverse as “The Six-Million Dollar Man” and “The West Wing.”

There’s that whole “Star Trek” thing. He’s one of the few actors to appear as the same character – the omnipotent, immortal rascal Q – on three different shows in the “Trek” franchise beginning with “The Next Generation.” Add in the character he voiced for the cartoon series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” and you have the makings of a busy and successful 30-year career.

Ask de Lancie, and he’ll tell you he’s most proud of the work he’s done directing opera, of creating with Leonard Nimoy the production company Alien Voices, devoted to radio-style dramatizations of sci-fi classics, of writing shows for symphony orchestras around the country.

See? Renaissance man.

The 64-year-old de Lancie thinks of himself as a “bread-and-butter” actor who has been “able to have a very comfortable life and been able to accomplish many of the things that most people who started out as actors were not able to accomplish,” he said in a telephone interview last week.

De Lancie will be in town the next two days, headlining fundraisers for Interplayers. McColm, Interplayers’ artistic director, met de Lancie in 1988, when McColm was a graduate student at the University of Southern California and de Lancie directed his student play. The relationship deepened in the two years McColm worked as an intern on “Star Trek: TNG.”

“He’s a very good director. I really liked him. He’s insightful, compassionate,” McColm said. “I can see why he has so many friends in the industry. He is a good man to work with.”

In talking about coming to Spokane, de Lancie said he told McColm “just appearing is not of much interest to me because there’s no real interaction.” So there will be interaction.

Friday’s event is “A Q&A With Q.” De Lancie said he expects to tackle a wide range of questions. He knows he’ll hear from “Star Trek” fans young and old.

“Now when I’m going to these things, I’m seeing three generations,” he said. “Gene Roddenberry built it, and they came, and they created something far more than what Gene had in mind because they created a community out of it.”

Then there’s “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” a cartoon for little girls in which de Lancie voiced the character Discord in a two-episode storyline. He said he thought nothing of the project until after it aired, and his email box filled up with notes from people who weren’t little girls. Turns out the show has a good-sized fan base of teenage and adult males, dubbed “Bronies.” He started to get stopped on the street by fans of the show.

“I recognized these kids as 20-year-old kids. They didn’t come off as pedophiles in training,” he said with a laugh. “They came off as a little shy.”

His experiences with Bronies and the criticism they get prompted de Lancie to make a documentary about the fans of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” He expects to finish it this year.

He’s not a fan of the show, by any stretch. But he is intrigued by the fans themselves.

“It’s the people, the fact that where do 20-year-old guys go who are not into sports or NASCAR, where do they go?” he said. “What I found to be wonderful, or at least very interesting, is they are willing to brave ridicule, of being called all sorts of unpleasant things to watch a show which is about being kind, considerate, loyal, generous.”

Saturday’s program, “Flying Without a Net” is one that he developed out of talks he’s given at several colleges, presented to young actors who wanted to know how “one operates as a freelancer in a world where you want to follow your passion, do what it is you want to do, and still be able make some money and have a family if you choose and yet have a successful and fulfilling life.”

One piece of advice he offers: “I understand you have to make a living, but being a waiter will never ever get you closer to your goal. Even if you have to teach 10-year-olds at the YMCA how to act, that’s getting close to your goal because you are still in the business.”

Which he did early in his career, for a short time.

“It was a class of 10-year-old girls. One day I thought myself, ‘What am I doing? I graduated from Julliard and I’m teaching 10-year-old girls how to act,’ ” he said. “I didn’t stay at it for very long, but I found it very interesting because I had to take all this highbrow, highly analytical technical stuff about acting and try to put it into one line.”

Even as finding work as a 64-year-old has become more challenging, de Lancie stays busy.

Just don’t expect him to put on the Starfleet uniform for another run as Q – J.J. Abrams hasn’t approached him about appearing in the new “Star Trek” movies. As it should be, he said. Because what would be the first thing people notice?

“Oh my god, he’s older,” de Lancie said. “Q ages!”