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.