In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, Brian Thompson talks about the Star Trek: The Next Generation role that he nearly lost out on.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator stole his clothes, Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra tamed his Night Slasher and as Conan the Librarian he miscalculated when facing the omnipotent Dewey decimal system. Actor Brian Thompson has been defeated by heroes as well as demons, but his Herculean physique and Shakespearean soul have allowed him to emerge victorious from his greatest battle yet, that to become an actor. A music lover, this gentle giant takes a curiously lyrical approach to his job and continues to seek fresh rhythms for each new role. “I can hear how each character sounds within the entire tapestry of a scene,” he explains.
While his towering presence may have helped Hercules in fighting against his mythical enemies, Thompson has found his muscular frame to occasionally be a double-edged sword when it comes to auditioning for roles. This was especially true when he was asked to read for the part of the Klingon officer Lieutenant Klag in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode A Matter of Honor.
“They gave me the audition material on a Friday,” says Thompson. “I remember being so excited because it was a nice juicy part. It was also the first episode of The Next Generation to venture into the Klingon realm and to give audiences more of an in-depth look at this unique warrior race.
“On Monday my agent called and said, ‘Brian, we’re sorry but your audition has been cancelled.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ They told me, ‘We weren’t given a reason. All they said was that your appointment is not being rescheduled.’ I thought that was very unfair considering I spent the weekend preparing for the part. It’s like an artist who paints a picture and is then forced to hide it so that no one gets to see it. I spoke with the receptionist at my agent's office and asked her if she could please find out what happened and if my reading could be rescheduled. She called me back and explained to me, ‘Brian, there’s absolutely no way they’re going to be able to see you. Apparently, the character needs to wear Christopher Lloyd’s costume from the movie [Star Trek III: The Search for Spock] and you’re much too big.’
“I phoned Herb Tobias, who was the head of the agency at the time, and told him what happened. I said, ‘Herb, would you mind calling the Star Trek office and figuring out a tactful way of asking them, “Who casts this program? The directors and producers or the wardrobe department?' "He called me back a little later and said, ‘Brian, your audition is on.’ So I went in and read and I got the job. That was the first of four auditions that I’ve had for Star Trek and they’ve hired me every time.
“You’ve got to listen to yourself when you get angry,” explains the actor. “When you get upset about something you have to ask yourself if there’s a place where you can constructively stick that anger. If not, then you’d better go to the gym and work out. Sometimes asking “Why?” gets people killed, but in this case it got me a job and made me part of the Star Trek legend.”
In A Matter of HonorCommander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) becomes the first Starfleet officer to participate in a new exchange programme which requires him to serve aboard a Klingon vessel. Although he familiarizes himself with Klingon culture and cuisine prior to his mission, Riker must still struggle to win the respect of his new crewmates, including their captain. Lieutenant Klag is the first of the crew to challenge Riker’s authority when he arrives, but, ironically, he is also the one who ends up befriending him.
“Klag taught Riker how to eat gagh,” says Thompson proudly. “Jonathan Frakes is a true professional and I loved working with him. For some reason I always remember the scene in which Riker is eating with the Klingons. Klag tells the commander that he didn’t know how deal with his Klingon father and Riker answers, ‘Well, yesterday I did not know how to eat gagh.’ Jonathan spoke with such sincerity and generosity that to this day that scene still sticks in my mind. I can be working in my garage, for example, and suddenly, for no reason, I’ll flash back to that moment as I reach down to pick up a hammer,” he jokes. “I’ve seen Jonathan several times since then and he’s often told me how fond he is of that episode.”