Written by Steve Krutzler
Anthony Montgomery will arrive at Paramount studios Wednesday morning at six o’clock to take a stab at the newest helmsman of the Starship Enterprise once again. As ‘Travis Mayweather’, the early call is as relaxing as the zero-g his character is so fond of. Well, almost.
”For me I only have base make-up because you guys know what I look like,” he says over the phone in Los Angeles, just a day before heading back for more work on the ENTERPRISE third season premiere. “It’s really easy for me to be in the make-up chair. It takes, what, twenty minutes for my make-up, unless it’s one of those famous episodes where Travis gets beaten to a pulp by someone!” he exclaims humorously. “Producing the play this summer, that was bonkers!"
The newest actor to follow in the footsteps of George Takei’s ‘Hikaru Sulu’, piloting the crew of the intrepid titular starship through danger and daring refers to his stint in the racially-charged play DUTCHMAN earlier this summer in Los Angeles. Aside from an opportunity to stretch as an actor, the Indiana native also accepted the challenge of producing the theatrical turn.
“I have not been in a play in six years, and I missed the theatre," he bursts enthusiastically. "This director Cedric, who is out of the Bay area, said he would love to direct the show and would for me to play the lead and then I offered to produce it because I wanted to get my feet wet under that cap.”
Montgomery says the experience will be very useful as he stretches beyond acting in his career.
“It was really difficult, I mean that—oh my god!—it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done!” he says. “It was difficult but it was incredibly rewarding because once everything came to life, this was my show. Not just that I acted in it, but that I brought it from its beginnings. It’s a very intense, a racially-charged piece, written in the 50s, performed in the 60s, it’s a very intense piece. But it’s definitely twofold. They don’t write things like that for me out here because I have more of that clean-cut image, I don’t get to play a lot of parts like that. On ENTERPRISE, oh god, there’s no way they would ever write Travis saying some of the things that Clay said, so as an actor it was definitely stretching my legs, but as a producer, I know that I’m going to do that. I already own a book option and I’m working on optioning another book, so I’m definitely getting my feet wet... at some point I’m going to be giving other people, some other newcomer, the opportunity that I was given, and you’re not always going to be able to do that as an actor.”
His quest as an artist doesn’t stop there. In addition to theatre, Montgomery has dabbled in singing with a group and stand-up comedy, which he started in Indianapolis in 1996. Next weekend in Los Angeles the actor will perform a one-time only comedy show at The Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. He promises that FROM MIDWEST TO WILD WEST will be an entertaining, and surprising, night out for the 300+ that pack into the club’s main stage.
“I’ve gone to some shows and the comedians, it seemed like they were only on stage to try and get a sitcom, to get some kind of deal out of it,” he says. “I do stand-up because it’s fun. I was really bad my first time on stage and I got better and I literally haven’t done a show since being on ENTERPRISE, but I’ll make sure you put this in writing: the show is not a STAR TREK show. It’s not an ENTERPRISE show; actually I don’t think I have one joke about the franchise. It’s about my transition from the midwest to California. ‘From midwest to wild west’. Again I’ve undertaken that producer cap and I’m producing this entire thing and I figured let’s just go for it. I’ve got a special little bonus for the people at the end of the show, and this is something that’s going to be completely unexpected and definitely something that’s never gone on within the STAR TREK franchise. It’s going to be fun. I’m just going to enjoy myself.”
Anthony says the club atmosphere of a comedy show means it’s probably a little easier to motivate people to attend.
“I think it’s going to be easier to get people to go out to a comedy show than to go see a play. I think from the people that I’ve talked to, and I’ve talked to quite a few, they like the fact that you actually can get there and get a couple of drinks! You can’t really do that in the theatre, it’s much more communal.”
Tackling a live audience for an evening out isn’t as daunting as one might think. Montgomery says it’s pure fun for him, but he’s always open to additional opportunities. Bringing an audience to fill the house is a challenge he’d love to leave to someone like, say, HBO.
“Being on stage for me, that’s the easy part for me,” he says with ease. “I didn’t like being on stage when I was younger, but I grew up and realized who it is I truly am—that’s simple. The hardest part for me is sitting down at my desk and writing jokes going ‘ok, they’ll like this, they’ll like that.’ If I had writers like Eddie Murphy’s writers, oh my god!”
With all his off season projects, it’s hard to remember he pilots a little ship named Enterprise, and that’s a gig Anthony says should get a lot more intense this season.
“I can tell you that it is much grittier,” he says with conviction. “There’s actually going to be other people onboard with us. We’ve already started going out with them in this first episode and they get in and mix it up a little bit with an alien faction and you start to see a little bit of tension between them and our security on the show. It’s going to be interesting. I’m curious myself to see exactly where it goes, but I know it’s a lot edgier. A lot edgier.”
But wait a minute—with more characters, does that mean we’ll be seeing less of Travis or the other regular characters outside the “Big Three?”
”You know, we have not spoken about that,” he says, referring to producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. “I have not concerned myself with it because I’ve busied myself with other work, quite honestly. They know that I fly the ship and they’re not bringing in other pilots for the show, and for all of our jobs, it’s not like they’re bringing in people who are going to replace us and what we do. I have a feeling it’s going to work out fine. I’m going to, when I’m not so insanely busy, go and sit down and talk with them myself. We started back up, we’re off and running, everybody is excited. I’ve already spoken to Rick, he’s energized about the season, ‘It’s going to be a great year, Anthony’. I spoke to Brannon and he’s really excited about it so I’m really not too worried about it.”
The wind is blowing in a new direction for many ENTERPRISE crewmembers this year, with characters like ‘T’Pol’ (Jolene Blalock) and ‘Trip’ (Connor Trinneer) reportedly undergoing significant arcs from day one. Could the intrepid Boomer be headed down a similar route?
“They haven’t told me much about what we’re going to do with Travis,” he admits. “I know personally I want to see more confidence. As the actor I’m going to bring that to the screen and bring that to Travis. It was fine being a little timid before in different situations but he needs to have more behind him, more of a foundation behind him. I don’t even want to assume anything, because when you assume you make an ass out of you and me! I’m going to continue to do exactly what I’ve done and bring 180% to the set every time I’m called to work, and where it goes is where it goes.”
Being a part of STAR TREK means being part of a series that has historically endeavored to bring minority representation to the screen, whether it’s African-American, Asian-American, Russian, or Japanese characters. Montgomery says that kind of effort is perhaps even more important today than in 1966 when Gene Roddeberry first challenged racial conceptions.
“I feel like today it’s more of a façade,” he says of the state of racial relations on television and in today’s society. “I think we need to make sure that we are still showing the positive outlook for the future and the positive interaction of everybody. In our own world today, look at our own race relations and what it is we face on a daily basis. If we can get back to the simplicity of Gene Roddenberry’s theory that there is a better future and everbody can peacefully coexist, by accepting the differences—you don’t have to like somebody’s differences, just accept them—then we actually have a chance as humanity, as people.
“I wish we could all get along better,” he says acknowledging the cliché. “I’m not like Rodney King from years ago; I’m being on a completely real basis. I wish that we as people, as humans, black or white, it doesn’t matter what color you are, it doesn’t matter what nationality you are or what your background is, I just wish we could all get along as people. Say, ‘Ok, I’m different from you, Steve, and you’re different from me, and I’m fine with that. You go live your life and I go live mine.’ It’s really not that hard, I don’t have to go out of my way to be nice to people. I think when people start getting it in their heads that they have to go out of their way to be nice, that’s when it messes up.”
Some argue that STAR TREK has lost its magical ability to challenge the status quo and push the limits, perhaps reflected in dwindling ratings and criticism that seems to have permeated even the major media. News of a lawsuit by a major Viacom TREK licensee claiming that the franchise is in “decline” has only exacerbated such feelings. But Montgomery says as an actor, it’s not all on his shoulders.
“‘It’s up to us to change the series, and change the franchise, and we can bring it back!—no,’” he jokes. “But honestly, until you just told me that we’re a ‘punching bag’, I didn’t even know it, that’s how much I follow the press about it. Seriously, I did not even realize that we are apparently fodder for people right now. I can’t speak to what my cast mates follow but this franchise has been around for 35 years and I personally feel like it’s going to be around long after we are all plant food.”
No matter the future for STAR TREK, there’s no doubt that Anthony Montgomery is making the best of it.
“Even if it lasted only to the end of this season, just me being a part of it, it’s already been an incredible lift to my career, coming from Indiana,” he says earnestly. “All of a sudden when people realize that I’m on the show I am usually a part of their family somehow, because they had a grandfather that grew up with the such and such, and their uncle still watches and he still walks around in his TREK outfit, and people are much more receptive... [People] say ‘what do you do?’ and I say ‘I’m on ENTERPRISE.’ And they say ‘ENTERPRISE, the STAR TREK tv series? Oh my god, that’s you?!’ It’s funny because I look exactly like this, except Travis is a lot more serious than I am! I laugh a lot because life is good, are you kidding me? I’ve got an action figure! Life is good!”
FROM MIDWEST TO WILD WEST
See Anthony Montgomery Friday, July 18th @ The Comedy Store at 8433 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles.
Main stage, doors open at 8p
For tickets, call 323-656-6225 or visit www.comedystore.com.
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