Bruce Horak Interview, Part 1: Imminent Trek
(Disclaimer: This interview took place before the current SAG-AFTRA strike.)
The second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds establishes that several of the show’s characters have clearly been affected by the death of Hemmer in the first season. Is this true of the actor who plays him, Bruce Horak? And how does he feel about the future of Star Trek? Does he have any Trek-related plans himself? In this interview article, we find out.
Having portrayed Hemmer’s demise in “All Those Who Wander”, how do you feel about the Gorn nowadays?
It may just be PTSD from shooting that episode, but I think I’ve had dreams about the Gorn. Three or four weeks ago, I started drawing cartoons from my Instagram account where it’s called “Hemmer @ Home”, and it’s a whole cartoon series of Hemmer — what happens after the Enterprise leaves and he’s on this planet. Eventually, he makes friends with the Gorn. So, you can see that. There’s a little cartoon figure of Hemmer holding hands with a little baby Gorn and they’re watching the Enterprise fly away. So, I sort of imagine a utopia where the Gorn can be understood or at least sort of made peace with.
Maybe part of Hemmer is still out there and wants to be a captain!
Yeah, he would have worked his way up [the chain of command] eventually.
How much of a say did you have in the character of Zombie Hemmer?
What a riot! I mean, it was so cool to see how they had envisioned, you know, what Hemmer would look like reanimated and, yeah, get him all bloody and gory. That was really great, and I particularly enjoyed that sort of green makeup they put on my nose, ’cause I haven’t seen it yet but apparently there’s gonna be quite the visual end to what goes on inside Hemmer’s mind, brain, head, whatever.
And when they brought Hemmer back to be Zombie Hemmer, did they do so because of the love for the character, or was that always planned?
Well, if it was part of the plan, that was unknown to me when I finished shooting Season 1. When it was announced or when it premiered and everything, I thought that was kind of it for my role in Star Trek. I was starting to do some of the press for it and they just let me know at that point, “Well, you can officially say that the Star Trek career of Bruce Horak is not over,” so at that point, I was like, “Okay, so they’re going to have me back. I don’t know in what capacity.” So, when I got the script and got to go in for the makeup test, it was like, “Oh, great.” It’s totally interesting then that Hemmer gets to come back as this bit of grossness.
I have to admit I kind of hit the roof when I saw the scene!
Is it good?
Yeah. When you first pop up, I just about hit the roof, screaming! You got me!
You seemed like you had fun playing the part.
Oh, yeah. Well, years ago, I was in a production of Evil Dead The Musical, which was a musical based on the Evil Dead. I did get to play a dead guy in that, and that was a lot of fun. So, getting to work on the [SNW] episode with the director, Dan Liu — who had also worked on The Walking Dead — there was a lot of expertise in how to move like a zombie, which was great.
There are a few instructional scenes that are supposed to take place in Season 1, where you see Uhura and Hemmer. Were they filmed in the first or the second season?
The flashback scene was shot in the second season. So, that was brand new for that script.
According to Costume Designer Bernadette Croft, the costume department designed, especially for Zombie Hemmer, really small “maggots,” and they didn’t ask for approval for that — they just went ahead and did it. That’s pretty cool, the little details in the costume.
Yeah. There was a lot of goo on that, as I seem to recall as well, putting all sorts of smudgy, bluey grossness coming out of me.
So showering’s probably your favorite part of the end of the day, when you get to clean all that stuff off.
That’s right. I think that was the costume I was wearing when I met Carol Kane actually, which was kind of an odd thing of like, you know, you meet your hero but you’re dressed as the dead version of a character from the season before. I don’t know what to say to this person, and you’ve also got to remember what you look like when you’re saying, “Hi!”
Pelia has become a favorite this season. What’s it like working with Carol Kane?
She’s a Titan. She’s an absolute Titan in the world of film and TV. I mean, god, Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies for sure, but I was a Carol Kane fan from watching Taxi, and I’d come home from school and Taxi would be on. Yeah, she’s just delightful. She’s probably been working on TV sets for a very long… I don’t want to say how long, ’cause I don’t know, but a while now certainly. She just handles herself like an absolute pro. Getting to sit next to someone like Carol Kane between takes, I just kept pinching myself.
Past what we know of in Season 2, do you see a chance that Hemmer could come back again in some form, or perhaps yourself as another character?
Well, as Jonathan Frakes says, in sci-fi, no one ever dies.
If you could pick a race other than the Aenar, what race would you want to play in Star Trek?
Oh, I’ll take any of them. I just love them. All of the designs are fantastic, so any of them, except that black sludge monster that killed off Tasha Yar. I think that one should just be stricken from the record!
You know, any one of the Xindi would be great. I don’t know if they’ll be showing up, but that would be awesome to do. A little callback to Enterprise.
So you wouldn’t mind a few Xindi episodes, then?
Yeah, just a few more.
Which Xindi race would you want to play?
What’s an underused race in Star Trek you’d like to see them bring back?
This month, you’re slated to be on the schedule for Vulcon, which is the 30th Anniversary. How do you feel about getting to be involved in that?
Pretty thrilled. My family is from Lethbridge originally, so summer holidays we would drive from Calgary down to Lethbridge and sometimes would stop off in Vulcan and see the Starship Enterprise. And so, actually to get to go back and be a part of that convention is pretty exciting. I really have no idea what to expect, other than I remember the Enterprise model, but it feels like I got the hometown advantage.
I was born and raised in Calgary, I lived there until I was twenty-five and I’ve been coming back and doing shows quite a bit there, so it really does feel like coming back to Alberta. I mean, it’s in my blood, you know? It’s such a beautiful province, beautiful place and great people. So yeah, I’m very much looking forward to doing Vulcon, and Las Vegas.
Vulcon tends to be more of a laidback sort of party-in-the-desert type convention. So, what’s one thing you’re really excited to do while you’re there?
I’ve got family coming, so that’ll be nice. Spend some time with the family who I haven’t seen in a while and or at least in-person. And then, of course, the best part of the conventions is hanging out with the attendees and meeting the fans. All the details are up on the site — there’s my shameless plug for Vulcon. Get your tickets today!
What other projects do you have in the works that you can talk about?
Well, I’m off to Vancouver in the middle of August. So after Vulcon and the Las Vegas convention, I will be going to Vancouver, BC, and presenting a show called Goblin:Macbeth at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver. We open August 19th and run until the 17th of September. Goblin:Macbeth will also be playing in Stratford, Ontario, at the Stratford Festival in October.
It’s a show that I created with my collaborator Rebecca Northan. The central premise of Goblin:Macbeth is that three goblins have discovered the complete works of William Shakespeare and they know nothing about theatre. So, they decide to steal the theatre, hijack an audience and force them to watch a goblin version of Macbeth. They decide to do Macbeth because it’s the shortest and the bloodiest. It’s got some improvisation in it, but I think kind of the crowning jewel of it is that we found these incredible goblin masks which were built by a company in the States called Composite Effects. They are like Hollywood-grade masks and quite delightful. So, we premiered it last year in Calgary at The Shakespeare Company in March and then they brought us back again in October. It was such a wild success, so we’re taking that on the road this summer. You know, it’s irreverent for sure. We still get the story of the play, but there’s just a bit of a twist on it.
It’s interesting you say Macbeth, because one of the most recent episodes of Strange New Worlds has a Macbeth title: “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”.
Yeah, my goblin actually says that speech. It’s funny how many of the Star Trek episodes have Shakespeare references.
Would you ever want to appear on Lower Decks as a voice actor?
Oh yeah! God, I love Lower Decks. It’s so funny.
People seem to either love that one or hate that one because of how irreverent it does get.
Oh, yeah. And I mean, just the basic premise of it is irreverent enough. I mean, second contact. It’s awesome! I love it, yeah. So many Easter eggs, so many great things in that show for Trek fans.
How do you feel about the Section 31 movie coming out, considering Section 31 has been something that’s been sort of above ground, underground, above ground, underground the whole time in Star Trek?
Yeah, cool. I’m in. I’m totally into it. I mean, there really hasn’t been an announcement for a Star Trek thing that I’ve been like, no, I’m not interested in that. I’ll eat it all up, for sure.
With the cancelling of Prodigy and of course this season coming up is the last season of Discovery, do you think we need to worry about Strange New Worlds? Or do you think Strange New Worlds is going to be here for the long haul?
I can’t really say. You know, I just generally worry, I’m a worrier. So yeah, I’ll chew my nails off even at good news.
Next time, Bruce Horak will discuss his origins as an actor, his experiences of playing Hemmer in the first season of Strange New Worlds, his feelings about conventions in general, and other topics.
A Canadian musician and artist specializing in working with special/exceptional needs students, Eve Zellick plays multiple instruments, composes, and arranges music transcriptions through an online publishing house – including the amazing music of the Star Trek Universe. Eve loves cosplay and has been a fan of Star Trek since her early teens, watching episodes in syndication while completing homeschool and university studies. A crush on a certain Ensign inspired her to pick up clarinet. Eve’s favourite characters include Lwaxana Troi, Elim Garak, and Phillipa Georgiou, her favourite soundtrack is TNG’s “The Inner Light”, and her favourite series are DS9 and Lower Decks. Eve’s other hobbies include Legend of Zelda games, exploring the outdoors with her dog Mushu, and finding herself in random situations and adventures.