Long before I was hired to write a column there, I gave an interview to a reporter for the LA Weekly. The piece never ran, which made me sad. I spent a lot of time sitting in the corner, listening to The Queen is Dead and crying softly while I wrote 88 kinds of bad poetry with a crazy kind of urgency. On a Pee Chee folder, of course.
It’s three o’ clock on a weekday afternoon and I’m in an Old Town Pasadena bar having drinks with a former child star. Were this person a faded pop tartlet, or perhaps named Corey, we might be planning a trip to a nudie bar or recollecting days spent riding the silver bullet. But this star is Wil Wheaton, and instead of strippers and blow, we’re talking science fiction with the bartender — a squirrelly looking but pleasant British fellow who looks as if he’s been playing this moment on loop in his head for a decade, waiting for it to finally come true.
“I’d have to say the past two seasons of DSN [Star Trek: Deep Space Nine] are as good as anything I’ve seen on television,” he tells Wheaton provocatively. “The storyline with the Cardassian war is unparalleled.”
For many former Star Trek actors — Wheaton played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, or TNG in today’s parlance — I imagine this is the kind of conversation they dread getting sucked into. Out for a quiet afternoon drink when suddenly a nerdy fan-boy wants to talk phasers and Cardassians, the stuff of Galaxy Quest parody. But for Wheaton, such a statement can’t go unchallenged.
“No way!” he responds with genuine incredulity, jumping to his Chuck Taylor–clad feet to lean over the bar. “Better than Battlestar Gallactica?”
Wheaton, you see, is an unabashed geek. “It’s like high school,” he tells me later, “you’re either one of the cool kids or you’re not — and I am definitely not.”
I irrationally despise the term "child star." It conjures up images of total fuckups who are complete failures as adults. I could have easily followed that path, but I worked very hard to stay off of it. Sure, I was an actor when I was a child, and for a brief time in my early teens, I was one of the stupid famous kids who was in the damn teen magazines, but I don't think I was ever a child star in the common understanding of the words.
Nevertheless, it's a great interview that was a lot of fun to do, and to my great delight, Matthew Fleischer captured the moment perfectly.