Whoopi Goldberg makes her long-awaited return to science fiction in FEARnet's latest online original series, Stream, and she spoke exclusively with SCI FI Wire about the project.
Goldberg stars as Jodi Quinn, a woman who's lived her entire troubled life thinking she's a schizophrenic. But she soon meets other people in similar situations, people who "stream," or appear to be simultaneously channeling portions of their past, present and future.
Stream, executive-produced by Goldberg and featuring Shamika Cotton as the younger version of Jodi, will premiere tonight and run as six episodes of approximately five minutes each.
SCI FI Wire spoke to Goldberg, who memorably played Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation and won an Oscar for her role as the psychic Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, on Thursday. Following are edited excerpts of the interview.
It's been a long time since we've seen you do anything in the SF&F vein. What was it about Stream that enticed you to executive-produce and star in it?
Goldberg: Well, they asked me. Let's just start with the basics. No one's asked me to do any SF since I'd finished Trek, which disappointed me greatly, because I love it. This seemed like a really interesting project that no one else was doing. And, also, I was quite interested in doing this for the Web. So it all worked out. These are friends of ours that we produced Stream with. It was fortuitous all around.
Jodi thinks she's schizophrenic. Did you play her that way or play her differently, knowing in advance what was really going on?
Goldberg: No one knows what schizophrenia feels like, but you know something is different, vastly, vastly different, and what Jodi sees is vastly different. She knows she's ill, but she doesn't know what to call what she has. She knows what other people have called it. And she's let people dictate what it was [called]. And it's not until she meets the others who are like her that she discovers that she's not crazy, or maybe she is crazy, but it's not "lock me up in the hospital" crazy anymore. Once she gets an idea that there is an explanation for it, it's a lot easier for her. But this has been happening to her since she was a kid, so it's very hard for her.
What did you make of the idea of breaking this one story into six short episodes?
Goldberg: I love it. I love that. I love one-minute things, and I think it's because I grew up with Schoolhouse Rock, and those were just a minute or two. Do you remember those?
How much talking did you with Shamika Cotton in order to make sure you were both on the same page so far as playing two versions of the same character?
Goldberg: I think we had one big conversation, but it would have been hard to have played her any other way. I thought it was well written, and so you know the direction you were going in. And the director knew what he wanted in terms of a through-line. So we were always in good hands.
Did your experience on Stream pique your interest in doing more Web work?
Goldberg: Yeah. I would love to. Listen, I thought it was terrific. I can't thank FEARnet enough for saying, "We'll do this. We'll take this on." It's such a great way to do stuff. I saw Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible. Webisodes are wonderful, and I think they fit beautifully in the fabric of our entertainment. We've watched the evolution of radio to movies and we never lost the radio. And we never lost the movies in the evolution of movies to reality [TV], and we've never lost the sitcoms. So everything evolves and new platforms appear, and it's a great thing. And it's great for science fiction in particular, which is fantastic to me, because I believe that science fiction writers write the future, and then we make it.
Speaking of the future, you spent a good deal of time in the Star Trek universe. How pleased are you that the franchise will be getting the reboot treatment with J.J. Abrams' new film?
Goldberg: I love it. I can't wait to see it. And J.J. Abrams, I love him. So I'm just really excited. I'm antsy to see it.
Everyone knows that you did Star Trek because it meant so much to you as a child to see Nichelle Nichols on the original show playing a woman of color in space, in the future, with an important job. Any idea if Zoe Saldana, who takes on the role of Uhura in the new movie, feels similarly about you?
Goldberg: Well, I don't know. It's possible, but I'll tell you this, the ability to take up the mantle that Nichelle Nichols took up first, which was to be the first black person in the future, ... because if you look at any SF or any horror prior to Star Trek, there are no black people in it.
And, honestly, just 20 or 30 years ago, Barack Obama becoming our president would have been the stuff of SF.
Goldberg: Well, it was! There are a couple of books with a black president. We actually were prepared by 24 and all of the presidents that James Earl Jones has played.