Last night I watched an amazing episode of TNG called Family.
It is a truly wonderful episode that focuses on the human element of Star Trek. It is very dark and very heavy. It deals with the consequences of some very serious events from earlier in the series: Picard’s assimilation by the Borg and subsequent stint as Locutus, Worf facing his parents for the first time since his discommendation in Sins of the Father, and Wesley’s first face-to-face meeting with his father, Jack Crusher, via a holographic message which Jack made for him when Wesley was born.
It is a fantastic opportunity for the Patrick, Michael and me to take a brilliant script, filled with wonderful dialogue and complex relationships, and show the world what we can do as actors.
Partick and Michael are brilliant. They make the very most of every single scene, especially when Michael deals with the conflict between Worf’s need to
suffer for his discommendation with his obvious love for his parents,
and when Patrick finally lets Picard’s fall completely
apart as he acknowledges how helpless he felt at Wolf-359 and deals with its aftermath. It is a Ron Moore script that previews the depth and pathos that I have come to love on Battlestar Galactica, and they are absolutely outstanding in it.
And me? Ron gave me a chance to really shine, to explore some complex emotion and take Wesley beyond the two-dimensional caricature I often complained he’d become. I finally had a chance to explore and perform a human side of Wesley as he sees the face of his father and hears his voice for the first time in his life. I finally had a chance to really do something after years of saying "Aye, sir, warp six, sir" . . . and I fucking phoned it in. I sat there and I made all my stupid little faces and acted like I cared, but It’s painfully clear that I was halfway out the door. I totally and completely blew it. I was ashamed as I watched my eighteen year-old self last night, and rather disgusted by the time my scenes were over.
I looked extremely tanned, so the episode was probably shot in summer, and I’m sure I would have rather been at the beach with my friends instead of wearing a spacesuit on stage nine, but it’s no excuse. I was expected to be professional and do my job, and instead I was a bullshit hack who didn’t show up for work. I suppose the director could have knocked me into shape, but who knows what was going on at the time for him? And who knows if I would have even listened to him? After all, I was eighteen and I knew everything. I had the whole world figured out.
There were so many opportunities in that scene: opportunities to look at him and try to see myself in his eyes or hear myself in his voice; opportunities to make a rare emotional connection with a scene that didn’t involve a lot of techno babble and opportunities to just be simple and honest and truthful. As an actor, I should have thought about all the things we never got to do together, I should have done everything I could to stretch the moment out as long as possible, so the audience is left thinking that Wesley is going to sit in that holodeck and sob and miss his dad and watch that thing over and over for the next several hours. At the very least, I certainly should have allowed myself to feel the resulting sense of loss, but as a fucking douchebag teenager I didn’t feel anything. I’m pretty sure I walked into stage nine completely full of myself, and didn’t stop checking my watch until I was done with the scene.
Jesus, what a pathetic waste. What a complete and total fucking waste. On that day, I didn’t deserve to wear that uniform, and I certainly didn’t earn the right to call myself an actor.
It is such a great episode, and I’m so ashamed and disappointed that I didn’t realize it at the time.
Ron, if you happen to read this: I am so sorry. When I saw you at Grand Slam, I thanked you for all the gifts you gave
me over the years; I’d forgotten about this one (probably because I
didn’t appreciate it at the time, in all my teenage arrogance and I am so sorry that I disrespected your work and didn’t honor the gift you gave me. Your work deserved better, and I was too much of an idiot to live up to the material. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to create something so wonderful, only to watch it destroyed by an arrogant and entitled teenager. I am so, so sorry.
I have learned much since I was eighteen. In fact, I became aware of what a douche I was about a year after I filmed this episode, and realized that I need to get the hell out of Hollywood and find out who I really was and who I wanted to be. I spent the next three years working all that shit out, looking at myself in the mirror every day until I could truly say that I liked the person I saw reflected back.
These days, I don’t take anything for granted, and I always do my very best to rise to the challenge of the material I’m lucky enough to be given. I wouldn’t change anything about my life, because the person I am today grew out of the person I once was . . . but I’d sure like a chance to take that wonderful material and do it justice.
Hopefully, I’ll get to watch an episode tonight that I can feel proud of.
Afterthought – I put a version of this in comments, but here it is for the rest of all y’all (or is it all y’alls? all of y’alls?): It is important to me to examine and reflect on my life, whether it’s something I’m fiercely proud of, like my performance in Best of Both Worlds I & II, or something I’m not proud of, like the things I’ve written about here.
When Family was over last night, I had a visceral feeling of shame and regret as strong as the feeling of terror I had writing about my first day of high school yesterday. It’s lived in me all day, so I finally decided to write about it tonight.
I don’t intend for this to become some sort of big pity party for me or
anything, and by writing this, I don’t feel that I’m sitting in a funk,
dwelling on the past, wasting he present (I’ve done lots of that in the last few years, and I think I’ve hung on that cross enough, thank you.)
I absolutely love who I am today, both as a creative writer/actor and as a person. When everything is stripped away and I am left with nothing but my naked soul, I am very comfortable with what I have. I wouldn’t have that if I didn’t reflect on all the peaks and valleys of my life, including moments like these.
Now that I think of it, if I didn’t have such respect for Ron Moore, and if I hadn’t just seen him two weeks ago, I may not have had such a profoundly powerful reaction to my performance (or lack thereof) in his episode.
Anyway, if I didn’t tear down the wall from time to time, I’d just sit here and wait for the worms to come, and nobody wants that. Trust me.