Our own Jonah Bergan, author of Off-World, offers a great interview with Manu Intiraymi of Star Trek Voyager. Voyager was actually one of my favorite series in the Star Trek Universe, and I understand that Manu is back in the new fan-funded Star Trek Renegades. It’s a great interview, and we’re thrilled to be hosting it here at QueerSciFi .com– they talk about Renegades, diversity in the ST universe, and much more.
My first exposure to Star Trek was watching the episodes of the original series in reruns with my mom, who I blame for getting me interested in sci-fi. Back then I didn’t notice the lack of LGBT characters, but it has become more glaringly obvious over the years. But you have to remember that the original series debuted in 1966, and it was radical enough to include a racially diverse cast. An LGBT character was a bridge too far. But this is not the 1960’s. And it sounds like there may be hope for a little LGBT color in the Trek universe. Enjoy the interview!
Diversity in Sci-Fi: An interview with Manu Intiraymi
by Jonah Bergan
Jonah: With us here today at Queerscifi.com, we have Manu Intiraymi, perhaps best known to us queer sci-fiers as Icheb from Star Trek Voyager. Manu, Thanks for joining us. You’re reprising your role as Icheb in Star Trek Renegades. Tell us a little about that. Will Star Trek Renegades be a series or a film or…?
Manu: It looks, right now to be a film. They’ve announced their plans to make it a series. I think it’s going to be a series, but if so, it’ll need to be backed by crowd funding to see the episodes made. I think that’s the plan, hopefully they’ll find some investors outside of crowd funding. I’m not a producer of the film, or series, but I think it’s a strong story and I think it’ll be up to the fans if Renegades is going to continue.
Jonah: How about gay characters? Will there be any gay characters in Renegades?
Manu: In the pilot the characters Shree (Andorian) and T’Leah (Romulan) are lovers. At least when we first meet them they seem to be having a sexual experience, and they seem to be a couple, but I’m not sure. It seems to me that’s the inferred relationship, but I wouldn’t swear to it. At the end of the pilot, Chekov has them join the crew, so there’s room for a development along those lines.
To the best of your knowledge, was there ever a discussion about having a gay character on Star Trek Voyager?
Manu: Yeah, to the best of my knowledge it happened quite frequently. I think there were a lot of writers pushing for that. Even back to Next Gen, it’s been an issue that’s been on the Star Trek table a lot, but to the best of my knowledge the battle was never won. When I think about Star trek I think about these characters… they’re not necessarily gay, but there is closeness there. Think about the relationship between Kirk and Spock, Data and Picard, there’s an intimacy there that just never crossed over into anything overtly sexual, but they are very loving relationships. I know that were certain writers on staff in each of the series that fought for it, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a Star Trek Series was to come along which had a gay character. It wouldn’t be shocking. I think it’s about time.
Jonah: What if they had wanted Icheb to be gay, how would you have felt about it?
Manu: Some people saw Icheb as a teen. I personally think he’s more like young twenties, anyway, who would he have gone with? I think it would have been difficult for Icheb being the only gay character. You know, maybe the time to explore that might have been during Q2, when Q’s son came aboard. He and Icheb were running around causing trouble. They were having fun. It might have been a fun way to do it. I remember there was a You Tube video along those lines. It’s called Teenage Dream (Icheb/Q Junior) and it’s great! I think it’s really cute. It made me laugh.
Jonah: Have you ever played a gay character?
Manu: Yes. Just recently, in a film called the “Green Fairy” about the history of absinth, I played Oscar Wilde’s gay lover, Robert Ross. It’s just one scene with Roddy Piper who plays Oscar Wilde. The film is great and comes out this year. It was cool seeing Roddy Piper, who is so macho, playing Oscar Wilde. We flirt a little bit and hold hands a little bit. It was a great day. I was a fan of Roddy—remember “They Live” what a great film. Remember that film? That’s a great film. I think it’s a classic. I got word recently that he passed away. I was sad. I felt as if we’d work together again and he’d passed away. I really hoped to work with him again. I mean, when you play gay lovers, even with another straight man, you go to this place, you know?
Jonah: You’re talking about being intimate with another man, but in a way that’s not necessarily sexual.
Manu: When we were shooting, we were brushing our legs under the table, holding hands, definitely there was intimacy there—that’s how you do it. That’s how you make it real on film. I don’t think anyone’s one hundred percent straight or one hundred percent gay. I think it’s a spectrum. I don’t think it’s about gender or even preference, so much as it’s about… intimacy, yeah, that’s really it isn’t it? It’s about being intimate and connected—really connecting with another person.
Jonah: Fair enough. Since Voyager, you have been working a lot, in front of the camera and behind. You produced a science fiction film recently, the “5th Passenger.” Can you tell us a little about that?
Manu: I co-produced it with Ryan Husk, Morgan Lariah and Scott Baker. The script was written by them and I read it two years ago and really liked how smart it was, particularly the ending. We spent a couple of years working with other writers to flesh the film out. When we had a script that was ready to go, we shot a trailer just to raise money for the film. I was out of it a while, then Scott found a space ship set that we could use. It looked seventies, but the art department was able to update it. With these new sets, we could afford to shoot the film. We got Tim Russ, Marina Sirtis, Armin Shimerman and Doug Jones. We drew up a Kickstarter and raised 82 grand. Luckily we found some additional investors and were able to get it done. It’ll be ready in December. It’s a smart sci-fi thriller and should be out sometime next year.
The one thing I do want to say about “5th Passenger” is that it’s a miracle movie. It didn’t look like it was going to get made, but then all the sci-fi fans and the actors came to support the film and that’s what allowed us to make it happen. I want to thank the fans of sci-fi and specifically Star Trek for helping make it happen. It’s not a Star Trek film, it’s set in its own universe, but it has a lot of familiar Star Trek actors in it.
Jonah: What are you working on now?
Manu: The project I’m most excited about is tentatively titled “The Circuit.” Its 10 stories, 5 fiction and 5 based on true stories, and all of them making up one anthology film about what happens behind the scenes at Star Trek and sci-fi and pop culture conventions. I got started on it because I’ve been to a few conventions and so much goes on behind the scenes that people don’t get to see. Five of the stories will be about the actors and presenters from behind the scenes and five will be submitted by fans. We want their own stories—we want to know about you, the fans. I think it’s about time to tell the best of these stories.
I have so many people involved in the project already and I think it’s important to get even more people involved. Right now we have, Robert Beltran (Voyager), Terry Farrell (DS9) Nana Visitor (DS9), Vernon Wells (Road Warrior), Cody Saintgnue (Teen Wolf), Rob Archer (Defiance), Doug Jones (Hell Boy), Jerry Doyle (Babylon 5), Walter Koenig (Star Trek), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek) Armin Shimerman (DS9) Tim Russ (Voyager), Gary Graham (Alien Nation), Gigi Edgley (Farscape), Corin Nemec (Stargate SG1), Vaughn Armstrong (Star Trek), J.G. Hertzler and Robert O’Reilly, and many more including a couple of big names I don’t want released yet.
Jonah: Wow that’s quite a list.
Manu: What’s important I think, is that we want to get both perspectives, the stars and the fans. We want to get five stories told from behind the scenes—behind the curtain. We’re going to bare our skeletons and we want the same thing from the fans. We want the best stories about the best things that ever happened to them at the conventions. I don’t think anything like this has done before. The actors will tell their stories… and the fans too. Fans will be actively involved in the creation of the film. They’ll work right alongside the writers and crew, be involved in the production. This is our story. We are the Circuit.
Jonah: Manu, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We really appreciate it.
Manu: You’re welcome. I had fun. I am thankful for all my gay fans and I appreciate the chance, through this interview, to say it. I’ve never had the chance to thank my gay fan base for their interest and their acceptance of my art. Thank you all. I love you guys.
To learn more about the “Green Fairy” follow the film on twitter @greenfairymovie and the Green Fairy Movie page, and Upward Rising. For more information on the 5Th Passenger Please visit: http://www.5thpassenger.com/ and to follow and support Star Trek Renegades, please visit http://startrekrenegades.com