Star Trek fans understand that if a character is wearing a red shirt, they're likely expendable. It has become a running joke among the Trek fanbase for decades that "Red Shirts" are killed, often in large numbers, in the various Trek films and television episodes over the years. And that was supposed to happen to one Star Trek Beyond actor, only, he didn't learn that his death scene had been cut until he watched the full movie at the Comic-Con world premiere.
Jason Matthew Smith has been a part of the rebooted Star Trek saga for the better part of eight years now, having appeared in all three dating back to 2009's relaunch. He's affectionately known by fans as "Cupcake," as that's what Chris Pine's Kirk calls him in one of his scenes (above). And during an exclusive interview at San Diego Comic-Con, I found out that "Cupcake" was supposed to bite the dust in Star Trek Beyond, only when Smith saw the finished film, all of his scenes had been cut.
Thankfully, for him, that included an elaborate death scene. He tells me:
I went and I talked with Justin [Lin] and J.J. [Abrams]. Justin explained to me that he had some rewrites, and the story wasn't coming across the way that they wanted it to. Once they did the rewrites, the story changed, and [my] stuff didn't make sense in the story that they were now telling. Which is good news. He said this is good news because, this is the second time. My character was supposed to die in Beyond at the hands of Krall. Relatively early on, it's once the ship... we have a situation happen, it was probably 20 or 30 minutes into the film. When we get captured [after the Enterprise is attacked].
We shot that death sequence. It never ended up in the final version of the film. And this also happened to me during Into Darkness. I got beheaded by a Klingon when we went on the mission in to rescue and capture Khan. So twice, I have had these big time, three month period where I'm telling everybody, 'Hey, I'm going to have this big part!' And then I go to see it, and it's cut out.
But J.J. said, 'Dude, we can't kill you. We have tried to kill you twice now. You are a glitch in The Matrix. You're the Indestructible Red Shirt.' I said, 'Why don't we do a series about that? The Indestructible Red Shirt. The guy that just can't die. He's got some kind of dumb luck.'
I think it's hilarious that Jason Matthew Smith has found a way to cheat death in the Star Trek universe, not once, but twice. I understand his pain and frustration at thinking he'll be on screen for a movie, and then finding out you are not. But as he tells me, "As long as they don't show me dying, or bring me back from death, then it's all good."
In the day and age of deleted scenes and extended cuts, I asked Jason if he thinks we'll ever see the finished footage of his death scenes in the Trek movies. His answer was unexpected:
We shot for three days. We had helicopters, green screens, body scannings. We had extensive shots up in Vancouver. So that footage exists. I hope they don't ever show it, though, because that means my character no longer exists.
But really, they're bringing Chris Hemsworth back for Star Trek 4, and he reportedly died in the 2009 Star Trek. So don't worry, Jason. With Trek, anything is possible.