in which a fairly major secret is made secret no more

Back in the old days, before Twitter exploded into the phenomenon that it is now, I got a message from Greg Grunberg. Greg plays Matt Parkman on Heroes (this information, which most of you don't need, is provided as a public service to the seven of you who do), and has been in every JJ Abrams project since JJ started making movies in the pre-old days.

Greg and I traded several messages about a bunch of different things, and then he sent me a private message that said something like, "JJ needs voice actors for Star Trek. Would you be interested in doing that?"

"Well, let me think about this for .00005 seconds," I thought. "I love Star Trek, I love voice acting, and … why am I still thinking about this?!"

I replied in the affirmative as quickly as my fingers could get the thoughts out of my head.

Shortly after I sent my reply, I had a different series of thoughts that went something like this: "This is way too good to be true. This has to be a prank. Someone is fucking with me and I'm going to be the butt of a pretty mean joke." But then I had still another thought: "I'm not famous enough to be Punk'd, and Greg Grunberg doesn't seem like the kind of person who would do something mean, anyway." I was, as they say, cautiously optimistic.

About 24 hours later, JJ Abrams called me. It was an entertaining conversation; I couldn't believe he wanted me to do work on his film, and he couldn't believe that I wanted to do it. He asked me if I'd be interested in playing some Romulans, and I think I held my hand over the phone so he couldn't hear me squeal in delight before I calmly told him that, yes, I thought I could do that. I don't recall precisely why, but we agreed that it would be extra cool to keep it a secret until the heat death of the universe, an uncredited bit of awesome that only a handful of people in the world would know about … unless we told them. (In fact, as far as I know, only a dozen people in the world knew about this until some meddling kids and their dog at Viacom found out about it this summer, and said we had to give me credit and stuff.)

I met JJ at an ADR stage a few days later, where he told me the entire plot of the movie (and, for the record, hearing JJ Freakin' Abrams tell you the plot of his Star Trek is even more awesome than you'd expect) and showed me some of the scenes that I'd be dubbing. I ended up providing voices for all the Romulans on Nero's ship, including the guy who tells him that "it's time" at the very beginning of the movie. (Yeah, how cool is that?)

I was distracted for the first 15 or 20 minutes before we started work, because I kept expecting someone to come out from behind a screen with a camera to laugh at me, but when I was given my dialog and recorded my first take, I knew that it was really happening.

I thought it would be really hard to keep my squee under control, but when I stood there in the darkened ADR stage, three pages of dialog in front of me, sitting in the soft glow of a single dim light clipped to a music stand, I was able to put my inner awkward superfan into check long enough to be a professional actor. I mean, I was working for JJ freakin' Abrams on Star frekin' Trek, so maybe I could rise to the occasion, you know?

We recorded dialog for about an hour or so, I guess, and when we were finished, JJ invited me to come with him over to the mixing stage, where he was going to watch a reel of the film.

Um. Okay. Yeah, I think I can do that. I texted Anne something like, "Probably never coming home again. I'm going to stay here with my new best friend JJ Abrams and watch as much of Star Trek as he'll let me."

So you know that scene where Kirk climbs out of the pod, runs away from the monster, and eventually meets Spock Prime in the cave? I got to watch that scene over and over, as they made the wind sound colder, then warmer, then colder and more fierce. I got to hear the roar of the monsters deepened, softened, made more terrifying, made louder, made softer. I got to hear the fire in Spock Prime's cave crackle more, then less, then more again, because the wind outside was now colder and more fierce, so it should probably be a warmer fire.

It was one of the coolest things in the world to watch, not just on screen, but in the room, too. The way JJ interacted with the other creative people in the room as they mixed the sound, the music, the foley, and everything else that we tend to just take for granted when we're in the theatre watching a movie was just fascinating. I don't know if all directors are like this, but he didn't let a single second go by like it was any less important than another.

Sooner than I'd would have liked, though, I began to feel like I was just hanging out, and even though I knew I could have stayed longer and watched more, I decided that it was best for me to leave before I overstayed my welcome.

JJ and I thanked each other, talked the way you do in Hollywood about maybe working together again in the future (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease oh please, Steve the Fruitbat, please make that happen) and I walked down the now-dark streets of the studio toward my car. I kept it under control until I drove out of the lot, at which time I bounced around in my chair like … well, like a guy who loves Star Trek and just got to work on Star Trek would bounce around.

They digitally-altered my voice to sound like different people, but when I saw the movie, I could definitely tell that it was me underneath the effects. In fact, there's one moment near the end of the movie where one of the Romulans is yelling at Nero, and it's my plain old voice without any alterations. I bounced in my seat when I saw that in the theater just like … well, you know.

140 thoughts on “in which a fairly major secret is made secret no more”

  1. I would have to agree with that, Wil. When I watched it in the theater, I was 100% immersed in the story.
    A side story: My wife and I went together to see this movie. She is 100% NOT a Trekkie. We left that movie and she told me that if TNG was made anything close to that, she would have been an instant fan. That says something about how incredible JJ’s telling of the story way. I am SO looking forward to ST v2.2

  2. Sweet! Yet another reason to get this film. I really like Greg. He’s a great actor in his own right and, from all I have heard (and now verified by this post) a helluvaguy.

  3. How totally cool! This, *this*, is your good karma paying off, Mr. Wheaton, sir.
    :: refrains from pointing out that @wilw was in the movie and WFS WAS NOT AHAHAHAAAAAAA::

  4. No love for the Jawas, sir? I’m hurt… But very awesome, sir. Now, please excuse me while my NERDRAGE burns off. How did you manage to be the one geek every geek wishes he could be, and the geek every geek girl wants to be with?

  5. My friend Marcia, who is all things Trek, was asked about her opinion on the newest movie. She declared it awesome in all ways.
    Of course I had to lament to her on the lack of Wheaton. Now I don’t have to anymore. Now I feel awesomed.
    BTW, my sixteen year old son watched your Big Bang Theory and now knows why I squee’d about your appearance. At least he did up until the Monty Python-a-thon got to him.

  6. So, to recap the last few days, Katee Sackhoff announced that she had a crush on you/Wesley & you announced your contributions to the Star Trek movie…
    I think that qualifies under “Life is Good.”
    Congratulations & buy a lottery ticket while you’re on a roll like this!

  7. Congrats and thanks for sharing.
    But I didn’t create an account to just comment about your story. :)
    I wanted to say “thank you” for using “back in the old days” correctly instead of “back in the day” that’s so pervasive today–kinda like its for it’s, your for you’re, etc. You may want to write about it. Or not as I suppose the existence of this new form means English is not dead yet.
    Well, on second thought, was there a reason why all the Romulan voices needed redubbing? Were they all foreign actors not able to speak English without any unintelligible accent?

  8. Not exactly likely, since Wesley was about 14 years old in season 1 of TNG, and in that season, there are references to Kirk’s Enterprise and events of it taking place 62 years prior. Its more likely that Wesley is the grandchild of a Romulan.
    Also, I find it apt that the most identifiably Wheaton delivered line was non-hostile and particularly precautionary. “But sir, if you ignite the red matter…” almost certainly falls in line with Wheaton’s Law, methinks.

  9. Wow. How cool! I’m squeeing for you!
    And btw, You’re credited in Nemesis right? I’m pretty sure you are, because I remember seeing your name in the credits and thinking, “What?!” and thought maybe I had gone crazy, because I definitely had not seen you in that movie. So I guess now you’re credited in a Star Trek film you were cut out of, and not credited in a Star Trek film you, well, your voice, is actually in.

  10. Oh I know you can *kind of* see him briefly if you have the widescreen version, or something, but you don’t typically get your name in the credits for that.

  11. I had the biggest grin on my face while reading this post. I wanted to say Coolest. Thing. Ever. And then I realized that there will probably be more geek outs over cool things happening to you in future blog posts! Way to go Wil.

  12. Chalk me up as another one who had no idea. But then I can rarely hear you behind your VO work even when I know it’s you. Personally, I think that is a sign of good VO work.

  13. :D #1 Congrats and AWESOME!!!!!!!!!! job on being able to be apart of it!
    #2 I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that Majel was able to play the voice of the computer (as it should be) I always felt that anything Star Trek should have HER blessing and no one else’s. I’m glad JJ made sure to get her blessing. Now knowing that you were a part of it too makes it that much more awesome!
    #3 LOL at Kevin Hansons comment about how Shatner was snubbed and not you.
    I think Shatner has had his glory and success, let other people shine and have fun too.
    #4 I thought it rocked when I saw you in Nemesis. But they only showed you for like 5 seconds (If that) and then the rest of the movie kinda went down hill. So you were the best 5 seconds of that movie lol.
    #5 Keep Trekking, this is the dawn of the geek revolution and YOU ROCK!!!
    (((((HUGS)))))

  14. I’m not sure which is more awesome. That you got to do it or that they managed to keep a fairly tight lid on for this long.
    Either way, wicked cool, dude!

  15. O.M.G!
    When we talked to you on preview night at PhxCC, someone had asked you if you’d seen the new movie. Persistent little bugger too, because you didn’t say anything until he asked you three times in the course of two minutes. You closed your eyes and took a breath (it looked very much like the ‘patient parent’ expression), and said none of you were allowed to talk about it.
    My husband and I always wondered if that meant that you’d seen it and loved it, or really hated it and were contractually obligated to hold your snark in check. When you made the post in May with the thumbs up photos, we just assumed that you hadn’t seen any of it until then…
    You sneaky little bastard!
    LOL
    It makes my geeky heart sing to see you included this, the second greatest Trek of all time…
    What? Like anything’s ever gonna top the oiled-pecs glory of Wrath of Khan. ;^)

  16. Dude, I totally remember that Red Matter line! Wil Wheaton WIN!!!!
    My friend had some Red Matter at his house one time. But then he lost it behind his couch and it totally ate up his planet.

  17. I’m a little late replying but I just had to say WOOHOO!!! And now I shall have to listen very carefully when I watch the movie next time. lol! :)
    Love the behind-the-scenes stuff too. Most wonderful. :D

  18. My god, that’s just wonderful. I liked the Star Trek movie but I didn’t love it — what draws me into Star Trek is this utopian dream that people working together are going to build a better world, not the character study that is the K/S relationship. but I think this has tipped me to being positively fond of the film. Enough to buy a copy and listen hard to the Romulan voices at least!

  19. Hey, Wil, you can confirm this with Grunny, and please do, but my name is Ken Lowenberg, and I am Greg’s partner on http://www.TalkAboutIt.org (and a huge Trek fan). When Greg first started Tweeting, I said to him, “Dude, you need to tweet Wil Wheaton. He has tons of followers, and many would likely start to follow you, too.” So, he did. And apparently, the rest is history.

  20. Holy carp, Wil! How in the hell that you’ve kept this a secret for so long is beyond my scope of comprehension. And I’m speaking for Thirty-six-year-old me, not for Six-year-old me chilling over there in my userpic. Grunny’s VO work was leaked about a month before the movie came out, so I totally expected that, but YOU…seriously…YOU doing VO work for the movie and not telling a soul (besides your lovely wife Anne, of course) until now kicks about 16 different kind of ass! Oh boy, I cannot wait until My brand-spanking-new copy of it to arrive in the mail now. Okay, so I was looking forward to that, anyway, but now it’s going to be like I just unlocked a secret level on a game: “Hey, there’s Wheaton’s voice there!” and “There it is AGAIN!” Bravo for keeping this a secret for as long as you could, you freaking brat! Dude, you do realize that 2009 has totally been Teh Year of teh Wheaton, right?
    Oh, and let’s not forget about something even more memorable here: I hope that you and Anne are partying like it’s 1999 today for your 10 year wedding anniversary! Congrats to the both of you :]

  21. Hahaha. Leonard Nimoy did an interview right around the time the new movie came out and he said something to the effect of “Oh, Bill’s been trying to climb out from underneath those rocks for the past 15 years!” which made ma laugh, and laugh, and laugh…even though Nimoy made it very clear that he and Shatner are still good friends and he was only joking around about him trying to crawl out from underneath the rocks Picard buried him with in Generations. But at the same time, I also think that it is true that Shatner tried like hell to get a “Kirk Prime” role out of this movie. I guess he’s probably kicking himself now that the “kid” he would have never allowed on his bridge actually had dialog in this movie, even if it was as several random Romulans. The altered timeline does kind of make me nervous because if Pine’s Kirk never rendezvous with Soran, are we going to get a freaking Kirk Prime via a time/space/deus ex machina device? God, I really hope not, because when the two Spocks face one another at the end of the new film, I took that as a “passing the torch” gesture and felt that it was very tastefully done. If I find out that anyone walking around with a dead cat on his head is a part of the next film, I’m boycotting it. Dead serious.

  22. That is so awesome. I am glad you shared this story with me because when I watched the movie, I subconsciously swore that I heard your voice and then told myself,nah that was not him. Now I read this and I am so glad I was not imagining it. Made the movie more enjoyable than before. Best movie of 09.

  23. Wil, A friend directed me here, and have to say with this post, I am thoroughly assimilated. You’re so much more than awesome, and I have yet to SEE the Star Trek movie, so I’m going to go out tonight and find a way to do so. COngrats on such a fun job, I can’t wait to see how great you did. I see I have to hit Amazon.com too to pick up some books. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (couldn’t help myself- geek girl moment!)

  24. This is why I am going back to reading your blog every day. (Instead of every couple days and catching up on a few posts.)
    In my defense, it was my birthday when you posted this… but I feel like the last ant at the picnic!
    Congrats!!

  25. Having just watched Star Trek again (God bless play.com delivering early), and knowing what I now know, ZOMG it so is you, and that is so awesome!!!! (Dad needed to check the football/soccer scores before I got chance to check all the credits though. Sorry.)

  26. Ok, this is driving me crazy, but aren’t you the crew member who’s sitting next to Scotty in the transporter room when he beams Kirk, Pike, and Spock back to the Enterprise right before the Narada is hit with the ship containing the red matter? Because that guy looks just like you!

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