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In the twilight of his career, longtime actor Walter Koenig can look back at a lengthy resume that has included a number of starring and guest roles on television and in the movies. However, he’s still probably best known for his stint in the Star Trek universe, which has given him continued work over the years. Koenig couldn’t have known Star Trek would become the phenomenon it did when he first signed on for the series. But, according to the actor, he at first didn't think he'd landed the role at all. Here’s what the actor had to say about his wild first audition for the series:
They told me it was a very serious character and that I needed to bring a lot of intensity to the role. All the while they had me dressed up in any number of different colored whigs… The most important thing was, after I finished reading this with all this great intensity, they asked me to make it funny and I had to totally reverse on the character, which in no way was part of what was written. It worked, they all laughed and as a consequence I became immediately one of the two people in the running for the role… Finally, the costumer came by, didn’t introduce himself, just asked me to follow him. I went to wardrobe and he dropped to his knees in front of me, put his hand on my crotch. I said, ‘What are you doing, please?’ He said, ‘Well, I have to measure you for a costume, don’t I?’ And that’s how I found out that I became a member of Star Trek.
In the recent interview with Whine at 9 the Star Trek veteran also recounted how he had tried out for a part as a Russian on another show and gotten it. So, when the time for Star Trek came around, he already had the experience for the gig. However, of all the weird auditioning experiences, this one might take the cake in terms of finding out how you got the role.
Obviously, in Koenig’s case, dealing with the odd requests paid off. The actor ended up playing the Russian character Chekov on the show during its second season on the air, joining the likes of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner. The role in the show led to a gig in the next seven subsequent films and even video work and some fan productions later on, plus countless conventions, appearances and other opportunities that directly or indirectly sprung from being associated with one of the most beloved franchises of all-time.
Star Trek hasn’t ever been the most popular franchise in existence, but thanks to its willingness to push boundaries and think beyond what’s possible today, it developed a rabid fanbase. As more and more movies and TV shows have been created, the fanbase has grown and invested even more of themselves into the deep space explorations of the characters who never stop talking about big ideas and the universe beyond. Walter Koenig will always be a part of that world, and it’s nice to know he looks at it just as fondly as ever.