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SYFY WIRE Interviews

'Firestarter' actor Kurtwood Smith on that time he met Captain Kirk in 'Star Trek VI'

The That '70s Show and RoboCop actor shares behind-the-scenes stories from the set of the last movie to feature the entire original Enterprise crew. 

By Phil Pirrello
Startrekvi Kurtwoodsmith

December 2021 marked the 30th anniversary of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the final big-screen voyage of the original Enterprise crew under the command of William Shatner's Captain Kirk.

The thrilling sequel centers on Kirk, Spock, and McCoy's struggle to stop conspirators and assassins from thwarting the fragile peace talks between the Klingons and the Federation. Star Trek VI, directed and co-written by Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan helmer Nicholas Meyer, culminates in a race against time that finds Kirk literally diving into the path of an assassin's bullet (er, phaser blast), to save the life of the Federation President, played by Kurtwood Smith. It's one of the most thrilling scenes in all of Star Trek, and it proved to be a very memorable moment in Smith's career as well. While promoting his new movie, Firestarter, which arrives in theaters and on Peacock this Friday, Smith shared with SYFY WIRE his experience shooting that tense scene and how he was cast in one of the best Star Trek sequels. 

"As far as that film went, [director] Nick Meyer, I had worked with him on a film just prior to [Trek VI], he said 'Hey! Want to do Star Trek?' I said 'Sure, why not,'" Smith explains.

The actor went on to say that, despite his limited screen time, working on Star Trek VI was a fun and exciting time for him. Especially when he met Shatner moments before shooting the aforementioned climactic scene. 

"The first time I met Shatner, they introduced us. [Someone] said 'Bill, this is Kurtwood.' This is the scene where they were going to try to shoot me and [Kirk] saves me and knocks me on the floor. They said 'OK, Kurtwood, can you get on the floor so that Bill can lie on top of you?' I said 'Wait a minute, what kind of movie are we doing here?' So, that was my introduction to Bill Shatner."

Smith would later appear in Star Trek again, this time playing a time-traveling villain on Voyager's famous two-parter episode, "Year of Hell." Not one to worry about being pigeonholed within the venerable franchise, Smith considers the opportunities Trek afforded him as an actor to be on par with those that actors can have when performing Shakespeare, which is ironic, considering how many of The Bard's references appear in Trek VI.

"When I started out as an actor," Smith recalls, "When I was an actor in college, I started working at a Shakespeare festival and I continued working that Shakespeare festival for about seven seasons. You know, playing a variety of roles. I see Star Trek in that same sort of way. It deals with larger-than-life questions and answers. The characters seem a little bit larger-than-life. It’s always smelled of Shakespeare to me in a very positive way. Consequently, it’s fun."

Firestarter hits theaters and Peacock May 13.