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John Ary Talks To Wil Wheaton About STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE, Web Videos, And More!!


John Ary here with an interview with Wesley Crusher himself, Wil Wheaton. I had the opportunity to chat with the youngest member of The Next Generation crew last night about his experiences on the show, his time away from Hollywood, and his plans for creating new content in a digital world. He gives some very candid insights into the best of and worst episodes of season 1, working for producer Rick Berman and Youtube.
I've uploaded the audio, so if you would rather hear his responses, just click on the questions.

What episode are most looking forward to watching off the new Star Trek Blu-Ray set?

I think that Farpoint is the one I’m most looking forward to seeing because that was the first episode of Next Generation that I saw when I was a kid.  And that was sort of my first exposure to what Next Generation was going to be on television.  And being able to see it again now in high definition about as close as possible to get to sort of seeing it again for the first time.




In your opinion what did that first season do right and what did it do wrong?

We really struggled to figure out who we were and what we were about in the first year. I don’t think anybody really knew. And the entire first , almost first two seasons have some incredible high points like The Big Goodbye and some really embarrassing low points like Code of Honor. I’m really grateful that we were given the time to sort of find ourselves and figure out exactly what this show is about because by the time Next Generation gets to season 3, 4 or 5 I think its some of the best science fiction that’s ever been on television.



What was your experience as the youngest member of the Star Trek crew?

It was an emotional experience for me.  I was working all day, 5 days a week with people who I loved and admired and I thought were so, so cool.  There were people that I wanted to be like.  I wanted their approval.  At the same time I was a kid and they were adults.  We couldn’t hang out after work and I always felt a sense of loss because of that.  I always felt that somehow I was getting ripped off because everyone else got to hang out and they got to goof off and they got to do things together .  At the end of every work day I went home to go to bed. I had homework to do.  I was interested in Nintendo and Sega and listening to Depeche Mode and they were going out to do cool grown up things.  They were going to concerts and going out to dinner and that stuff.  So it really felt like I missed out on a lot of things and it’s been very recently within the last couple of years that I’ve gotten together with some of the members of the cast.  And it’s been fantastic to go out and have dinner. And go out and have drinks.  And talk about the things our respective children are doing and kind of relate to each other finally as adults. 



When will we get Memories of the Future: Volume 2?

I wrote that in 2009 and my plan was to write and release Volume 2 by the end of 2010 and after making those incredibly amazing well formulated plans I started working so much on Leverage and Big Bang Theory and Eureka that I just didn’t have time to sit down really and do it and in my time off, the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and write after I had been working as an actor all day long, after spending all day creating a character I didn’t want to go back and so of switch gears and do the humor and the reflection that I think makes Memories of the Future a book that people will enjoy.  So I’m about ⅔ of the way through it and as I had said for the last three years... working very hard to get it out by the end of the year.



What can we expect for Memories of the Future: Volume 2?

I have some things planned for the Starfleet Academy episode Coming of Age that I have read in public a couple of times.  I am most looking forward to re-watching the episodes like Contagion just because I remember thinking it was really really cool and the "drugs are bad" episode because I remember thinking it was really really bad.



After you left the show, what lessons did you learn from your time away from Hollywood?

By the time I stopped working on Star Trek, when I was 18, I had already been working full time as an actor for 11 years.  I had never really known what it was like to be just a normal person with a regular life and I had a lot of conflicting emotions at the time.  I was really excited to jump back into the world and go back into working in film and I was excited to have some time to myself to do some regular things that regular people do. And I was kind of getting tired of the entertainment industry.  All of those things together created a great deal of turmoil for me.  I was invited by the owners of Newtek to go to Kansas for one of their Christmas parties and while I was there I got to see the Video Toaster and the Video Toaster 4000, as well as a prototype of the Video Toaster 4000.  I saw Lightwave 3D.  I met a bunch of people that were very committed to disrupting the way that television was made and the way that television was released.  And that was fundamentally disrupting the way that creative people approached being creative in a film and television medium.  And that was really really exciting to me because I had spent my entire life up to that point doing what producers and directors had told me to do.  And Rick Berman was NOT the greatest producer in the world to work for and at that time I was under the impression that there was no such thing as a good kind nurturing producer.  

I was thrilled at the opportunity to be involved in something that was going to make it possible for creative people do creative things without having to interact with people that were just were not honest and honorable and that weren’t awesome.  At the same time I was feeling like I need to get out of the world that I knew because it was time to experience sort of the real world I guess. I didn’t want to be trapped in this insular world where I would grow up to be this cliched Hollywood douchebag.  And going to Newtek and spending time in Topeka and with everyone from the company, those were some of the greatest years of my life... I grew so much.  I learned a lot.  I matured a lot.  I am incredibly proud to be part of the Video Toaster’s development and every time someone uses iMovie to make a video that they post to Youtube they are in Newtek’s legacy.  And we often joke that we were so far ahead of our time that we were making hardware and software and tools that anybody could use, there was just no way for them to be distributed.  If we had made the Video Toaster around the time that Youtube existed we would be having this conversation on yacht on the Mediterranean somewhere.


It sounds like what Newtek did with the Video Toaster, you are doing with Youtube and Tabletop?

When I did my first episode of Leverage, John Rogers is a good good friend of mine... When I did my first episode of Leverage two years ago John and I were out to dinner and we were talking about the show and I said to him “I am really surprised that you came back to television because you were real happy writing comic books and living up in Canada” and he said “Yeah, but I got this offer, this opportunity to do a show that I’m proud of and that I love.”  And that’s the thing I zeroed in on and he said “I’m at point now in my life where I only work with people I like.  I don’t want to work with people who are idiots.  I don’t want to waste time with people who are jerks.”  

And that really resonated with me and when Felicia asked me if I would be interested in developing a show together to put on Geek and Sundry I was really excited because I saw an opportunity to continue working with people that I love.  Every show that I’m on right now is an amazing cast, with a great crew, and I’m only working with people that I love.  And I wanted to continue that and do it independently with Tabletop the same way that I saw Felicia do it with The Guild.  And I’m really proud of it and I hope that we are sort of blazing a trail for other independent creators and producers to come along in the next few years and continue to disrupt the system, so that ultimately the goal is to get better.  When there’s more competition for people’s time there’s more bandwidth to distribute different types of programming, then there’s going to be something awesome that everybody likes.  

Maybe that will be on broadcast television.  Maybe it will be on the internet.  Maybe it will be in some medium that we haven’t figured out yet.  But it’s fun to be part of something that feels like, we’re sort of playing Oregon Trail but in real life.



Do you foresee yourself making any more Youtube shows in the future?

Yes, I have a couple of ideas for short films or for something that would be a like a 5 to 10 episode web series that sort of like... I love those BBC series that are 5 episodes and they are out...  They don’t do that thing that happens to most American series in their 3rd season where they tread water and nothing really happens... I can’t think of a series that I’ve watched that I haven’t stopped watching in its third season... Really really good shows that I loved in the first two years that just kind of fell apart in the third season.  

So I have a couple of ideas and I’m working on them with a friend of mine who is a writer and rather than try to take them into Hollywood and have to do the meetings and pitch meetings... and have to worry about a big budget and have to support a big studio infrastructure and that stuff... The idea of doing these sorts of things on a smaller independent scale and putting them online is a really really attractive thing.  I think that you can sort of split the world into people that understand that web video is not in any way significantly different than broadcast television in terms of audience and things like that.  Its the people that are determined to make it something completely different and sort of view it as a ghetto... it’s the same thing that I saw happening with blogging started to spread around the year 2000, 2001.  

Back then you could split the world into people who understood what was happening and saw how things were changing and moved into a new world and then the other people who sat there and are still trying to catch up.  So I’m really excited about producing anything for Youtube or Vimeo or whatever comes along. 




The new Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1 Blu-Ray set is now available on Amazon and at your local retailer.
For more interviews, features and reviews subscribe to the AICN Youtube channel and follow me on Twitter.


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