Newcomers may not realize it, but the "Star Trek" franchise is rife with some truly bizarre casting choices, particularly within the film series. Kirstie Alley, John Larroquette, Alan Ruck, Kim Cattrall, F. Murray Abraham… lots of folks you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see popping up in a sci-fi feature, particularly one with "Trek’s" devoted fanbase.
J.J. Abrams’ just-released "Star Trek" continues on in the same tradition, with a number of the director’s friends and colleagues appearing in various extraneous roles.
Even the most sharp-eyed fans can be forgiven for missing this one. That’s because Abrams’ longtime friend Greg Grunberg, who most know these days as Matt Parkman on Tim Kring’s "Heroes," only lends his voice to the film. Grunberg pops up in an early scene, angrily reprimanding his young stepson, one James T. Kirk, for stealing his beautifully restored sports car. That same car is destroyed shortly afterwards, when Kirk sends it sailing off the edge of a cliff. Abrams apparently decided that no one needed to watch Grunberg giving his stepson a good walloping in the aftermath. Good call, J.J.
Everyone knows about this one. Tyler Perry is an acclaimed playwright, filmmaker and TV producer. He’s also Admiral Richard Barnett, head of Starfleet, in Abrams' "Trek." Notably, this is the director’s first film appearance outside one of his own films. Perry shows up several times throughout the "Trek," first seen reprimanding a brash, young “Mr. Kirk” for his dishonest approach to defeating the unwinnable "Kobayashi Maru" simulation. We see him again later on, congratulating Kirk for… well… see the movie and then you’ll know.
In addition to calling J.J. Abrams a friend, Akiva Goldsman is an accomplished screenwriter/producer. Even if the name is unfamiliar, you’ve definitely seen or at least heard of his films. Goldsman wrote the screenplays for “The Da Vinci Code” and its sequel “Angels & Demons,” which drops this Friday. He also wrote “A Beautiful Mind” (for which he won an Academy Award) and “I Am Legend,” among others. Goldsman produced “Legend” as well, along with “Hancock,” “Poseidon,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” and a considerable number of other well-known blockbuster films, extending all the way back to 1994’s “The Client.” Goldsman appears in “Trek” in a cameo as a Vulcan council member.
Longtime “Trek” fans have some issues with Nichols’ appearance in the film, but it has nothing to do with who she is as a person. Nichols plays Gaila, a green-skinned Orion who also happens to be a member of Starfleet. This is a no-no in canonical “Trek” lore, as Orion women tend to be sold into slavery, relying on their unique body chemistry to exert control over their ostensible “masters.” Nichols’ appearance shouldn’t be terribly surprising to Abrams fans, as she played a major character in the director’s “Alias” TV series. Nichols has a busy summer ahead of her; in addition to “Trek,” the actress will also appear in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” as Scarlett.
Like Greg Grunberg, Zachary Quinto – who plays Spock in “Trek” – made a name for himself on Tim Kring’s “Heroes” television series. Joe, an L.A.-based photography, is Zachary’s brother, and he is credited for performing stunt work in “Trek.” Gee, do you think it involved serving as a stunt double for his pointy-eared brother?