Star Trek: The Next Generation actor John Paul Steuer dies at 33

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Jan 5, 2018, 4:12 PM EST (Updated)

It was a sad week for the Star Trek universe as Jon Paul Steuer, the actor who played a young Klingon on Star Trek: The Next Generation, passed away from undisclosed causes at the age of 33 on January 1. Born and raised in Escondido, California, Steuer's acting career began when he was four-years-old.

When he was six, he starred as Alexander Rozhenko, the Klingon son of Michael Dorn's Worf in The Next Generation Season 4 episode titled "Reunion" (1990). The episode was a big moment for Worf's character as he was previously unaware that he even had a son. Speaking with The A.V. Club in 2015, Steuer says he got the role because of his patience with the makeup process.

"I was the only kid up for the part who could sit down at that age—I think the casting process started when I was still 5—and sit still long enough to have a plaster cast made of my face," he said. "They needed to do that to make the molding for the Klingon prosthetics ... They completely mummified my head. They stuck two straws up my nose, one in each nostril, so that I could breathe. It was lights out. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t move. I sat like that for, I think, three and a half hours while the cast set."

Steuer's death was announced by his Portland-based punk band, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S., on Facebook where they paid tribute to their fallen member (pictured on the far left).  Before joining P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S., he created the band Kill City Thrillers in 2003, which later changed its name to Soda Pop Kids. Steuer played under the name Jonny P. Jewels until the band was dissolved in 2009. While in Oregon, he also opened the vegan restaurant Harvest at the Bindery. Unfortunately, it closed down permanently upon his death. 

While he had roles in The Wonder Years and Little Giants, Steuer stopped acting in 1996 after leaving the show Grace Under Fire. His main reason for retiring from the acting world was that he didn't like all the attention and scrutiny he was getting from the public, mainly because of the stories surrounding the unpredictable behavior of Grace's main star Brett Butler who struggled with substance abuse. 

Still, acting on that one Star Trek episode was a source of major excitement during his childhood. "At that age I was mostly intrigued by the idea of acting in horror and science fiction. Not for the content, honestly, but for the makeup," he said in the above-mentioned interview. "I just loved that fantasy element. Being a child at that age, I just gravitated toward that." 

Then there was his getting to hang out with LeVar Burton who played  Geordi La Forge. "Reading Rainbow was actually way more important to me than Star Trek when I was that age. I was flipping my lid about being able to hang out with him."