Hello Reddit, I'm Walter. Fans of Star Trek will recognize me as one of the cast members from "Star Trek, the Original Series" and the many movies that followed. Since then, I've acted in other films and TV shows, taught classes in acting, directed plays, wrote books, and gotten involved in some charitable work.

My character is coming back for one final appearance in Star Trek: Renegades Episode 2. We're over 2/3 of the way to having it funded on Kickstarter. Support the show here.

If you missed the first Renegades, it is a fan-created Star Trek series featuring original Trek actors and characters. It's an interesting time with the recent announcement of a new, online-only CBS produced Star Trek series. So, Reddit, ask me anything.

I'll be answering between 11 and 12am PST.

My Proof: https://twitter.com/GineokwKoenig/status/668925422327889920

Well, I've got to sign off for today. First of all, I have very much enjoyed speaking with you all on this level. It's been very pleasant experience for me, and I'm happy that I was asked. Second of all, there's no denying that the purpose for starting this conversation at this time is to promote Renegades. Those of you who of a mind to help see this happen, please learn more about the project here.

Comments: 593 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

troggbl589 karma

You played Bester so well in Babylon 5 that everytime I rewatch it I still really hate him.

What was it like working with Andreas Katsulas? Any good stories from your time at Babylon 5?

GineokwKoenig523 karma

My experience at Babylon 5 was an unqualified success, extremely rewarding. I know it sounds like I'm a 'company man' saying it, but I loved it.

When I started with Star Trek in the 60's there was a real caste system in the industry. There were the stars, then there were the supporting characters. It was a climate that crept into the set as well. There was a separation based on the size of your role.

Babylon 5 was 25, 30 years later. I believe all of television moved towards more of a balanced sense of equality, it was a better atmosphere.

Having said that, I didn't get to work with everyone on Babylon 5, mostly the command on the space station. While I spoke to Andreas many times, we didn't work together. However, he was incredibly talented and skilled, loved by his castmates and the front office, and his passing was a terrible loss.

14thMarines219 karma

Do you have a Russian accent in real life?

GineokwKoenig408 karma

No, I was born in Chicago, grew up in New York. My parents both had an accent, my mothers was an amalgamation from all over, born in Lithuania but lived in England. My father was multilingual, and had what sounded like a Russian accent.

I didn't even have a 'Russian' accent on the show!

phedre206 karma

Where did you come up with Chekov's accent? I read an interview with Anton Yelchin that said he had a very tough time imitating it, as a kid that grew up speaking Russian, but that your accent was so identified with Chekov that he HAD to do it that way or he felt it just wouldn't capture the character properly.

GineokwKoenig353 karma

First of all, evidently I got the role despite the accent. It's been quoted to me several times over the years that Gene hated it, but thought i had the right look for the character.

I tried to recall how my father spoke who had passed away several years earlier, and I bought a book. It told me how to pronounce the words, but didn't give me the... melody of the language. I think that's where I failed in my representation of the language. It didn't have that melody.

BringJadziaBack64 karma

I heard you might be saying "nuclear wessels" in Renegades, might you say that anything was "inwented in Russia"? :D And I really hope Chekov survives and retires, perhaps even to live in Russia :)

GineokwKoenig92 karma

The script still has room for edits, I can't address specific dialog at this time. Let's see the film get funded first!

EvilOttoJr197 karma

Way back in the day, you voiced your own head in the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". Were you a fan of the show prior to being asked to appear on it, and if not, did you become one afterwards?

GineokwKoenig288 karma

I wasn't a fan of the show prior to appearing on it, and actually I didn't become part of its audience afterwards either. That notwithstanding, it was a fantastic experience. The show is very cleverly done, very entertaining, and I think that all of the Star Trek actors who participated had a great time.

It's one of the best experiences I've had on something Star Trek related in any form.

localgyro184 karma

Thanks! Bester was an amazing character, and I've read that you came up with his "frozen hand" mannerism as a part of his back story, to hint at how tough he really was. That's just... Lovely. Did you use it as a mnemonic for yourself ("this is who Bester is" as you got into character at the beginning of a scene) or mostly as a cue for the audience?

GineokwKoenig227 karma

Actually, I use it as part of the acting process. When I met Bruce and Jerry who would be my principle opponents in the stories, the height difference was so great that I felt I needed something physically to make me feel their equal, or their superior as the case may be. I decided that if I could overcome a handicap of such magnitude, and still be a leader among my own people then it would show that Bester be a strong force to be reckoned with.

That's a deep statement, but I incorporated into a sense of who I was as Bester. It was a part of getting into my character, part of what made me feel and portray his sense of strength and character.

upnorth77112 karma

I really enjoyed your take on Bester in B5. Which is more fun to play, the villian or the hero?

GineokwKoenig235 karma

Ultimately, the appeal of playing a hero or a villain is based on how well developed the character is. It's more accurate to say that it's more fun to play a dimensionalized character, whether it's a hero or a villain. It's the challenge of digging into strong feelings, strong attitudes, and giving them voice. It's the creative process that's the most engaging.

I don't qualify the value of a character based on their positioning in the story, but rather how much I can explore who that character is, and express myself as that character.

It's quite true, in general, more attention is paid to the role of the hero. They make the decisions, they are put in conflict, their actions have greater consequences. As a result, that's usually where the better to play characters are. However, occasionally, a villain is so vibrant, has enough baggage of their own, and enough screen time that there's the opportunity to give them all of the shading usually reserved for the hero.

It depends, as always, on the script. Usually, it's the hero role that's the most fun, however. If you are given a flat character, you add what you can.

RedArremer99 karma

Do you think your appearance in Star Trek: TOS had any impact on US-Russia relations? In particular, do you think public perception of Russians was softened by the likable Chekov among American viewers who might otherwise have been distrustful of anyone from Eastern Europe during a time when competition between the East and West was pitched?

GineokwKoenig150 karma

My audience was fans from the ages of, mostly, 10-14 year olds. They weren't necessarily aware of the larger social-political ramifications of having a Russian onboard. The fan mail I got never really expressed anything of that nature, it was more about being the character that the pre-teens could most identify with. Maybe they just grew up thinking that was normal.

troggbl81 karma

Over the years theres been quite a few Babylon 5 spin offs and films. Were you ever approached about a spin off based around Psi Corp and Bester?

GineokwKoenig120 karma

Yes, as a matter of fact there was a point when JMK came to me and asked how I would feel about a Babylon 5 movie. It was to be about the telepath wars. I thought it was a sensational idea, I was all for it.

Alas, as happens in Hollywood continually, it fell through. But, I did get the chance to entertain the idea for a few days.

BCSWowbagger280 karma

I am sure you get this all the time, but how much did you know about Bester when you started playing him? Did you know from the get-go he was to be a major character for the rest of the series?

Chekov often gets boiled down to just one trait: Russia jokes. The Original Series and even the movies used him to move the plot in some effective ways, but never gave him all that much beyond that and comedy (often Russia comedy). What do you see as Chekov's defining, most important trait, beyond the Russia jokes? His determination? His cleverness? His independence? What makes him special to you?


EDIT: One more: you are doing a lot of fan projects this year -- Renegades is one, Captain Pike another, Excelsior, and more beyond that ... you are undoubtedly the most active member of the original cast today, as we go into the 50th anniversary year, in terms of reprising your original character. Why retire? Did it just get to be tiring? One too many nuclear wessel jokes?

GineokwKoenig123 karma

I certainly did not know that! Michael, the writer/producer/creator approached me about doing one episode. We decided on a script and a character. In one of those silver-lining on a dark-cloud situations, I'd just suffered a heart attack soon before the show was supposed to be shot. Someone else did the role I was supposed to do. He called me in the hospital in Chicago and said he'd find something else for me. I was thankful but didn't really think it would come through, as some things discussed never come around.

He did find the character Bester for me, though, and the audience response was sufficiently positive that Michael decided to make him a recurring character. With each season, I enjoyed filming more and more. It's one of the best experiences I've had on television.

Chekov, I don't think he was thoroughly examined as a character. He was an expositional device. They didn't probe who he was, so it's hard to talk about him in dimensional terms. The characteristic I enjoyed playing the most was his 'spunkiness'. As a very young actor, my first reflex was to look for something sad and introspective in the performance, I had not presented to the world the kind of spunkiness and energy Chekov had.

In my own life I was kind of withdrawn, I didn't exhibit that kind of quality. I loved having the license to do it as a character.

Why retire? I'm not retiring as an actor. I hope to continue to work in the film industry. As a matter of fact, I have been cast in a funded production with a mainstream theme. It's a small part. I adore scifi, but I want the rest of the world to know I can act as well.

troggbl29 karma

Do you remember the part JMS original had you pencilled in for?

GineokwKoenig60 karma

I don't remember the name of the episode in the first season, but the character was the one that entered the brain of the captain of the station. The British actor who played the role ultimately did a better job than I likely would have.

AdmiralPiet59 karma

Mr. Koenig, can you tell us something about your role in “Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time” and what that film is about? Last month a redditor posted a little about the film and the trailer looks like this is going to be a cool sci-fi comedy. Glad to see you having fun with the Russian accent again too ;)

GineokwKoenig84 karma

It is a comedy, where evil, ugly alien muppets invade an enchanted valley. It was a lot of fun, good actors, and I had a chance to 'overdo' my performance a bit. I come in late in the film, after the actors are exposed to some evil gas. A young Russian man gets gassed, and comes out as me.

I went to Oregon to shoot those scenes, a bunch of young folks (mid 30's is young to me now...) were producing it. They took real delight bringing this project to fruition.

partyonexcellent65 karma

Hey Walter, this is Brett, I was the DP on that shoot. Nice to see you doing an AMA! We all had a blast with you that day, hopefully you can come back up for the premiere early next year. First round of drinks is on Nic!

GineokwKoenig57 karma

You were all great guys to work with!

UbiquitousBiscuit49 karma

What is one piece of advice you would give to my generation, having recently graduated highschool and now entering adulthood?

GineokwKoenig212 karma

We live in turbulent times, and the sad truth is that our ancestors lived in turbulent times. It's always been a fact in the lives of all of humanity.

Star Trek talked about a time when people, at least on this planet, could work together, and embrace each other regardless of race, nationality, creed, etc. My advice is to try to create that future in the present. Try to love each other, put away the intolerance and the prejudice that still at this late juncture in the worlds existence seems to dominate in much of our thinking and actions.

I believe that humanity has a manifest destiny to continue to evolve, and ultimately to explore other worlds. We can only do that if we're good to each other, and make sure that there is a future to look forward to.

ElDuderino10347 karma

When you wrote "The Infinite Vulcan" for the Animated Series, you became the first Original Series cast member to write an episode for TV. How did that come about? Was that something you tried to do for the Original Series? If so, did you ever pitch any ideas to Gene Roddenberry or any of the other Original Series writers?

GineokwKoenig66 karma

No, it was all quite accidental. I had asked Gene's secretary to type up my manuscript for a screenplay I'd written that had nothing to do with science fiction. But, I didn't type well, and we didn't have computers at the time. I wanted someone who didn't have to keep erasing.

She really liked the script, and gave it to Gene to read. He read it, and sometime later before the show went on the air, I was approached by the writers at the front office to modify the script.

I did pitch to Gene for the Next Generation. I pitched first to the two story editors for the first season. They all liked my story ideas, and said one of the scripts would likely make it. Gene, however, found fault with each of the stories. Things I think we could have fixed easily, but that was the end of the conversation.

kovu15947 karma

What made you decide to come back for another episode of Renegades? Were you happy how the first turned out?

GineokwKoenig119 karma

I'm pretty happy with the way the first one turned out. The money from the first Kickstarter was used as efficiently as it could have been. We all want things we're involved in to be better than anything that's been done before, and I take pride in the work that went into making that first Renegades episode.

I think it can be improved upon, and that's one of the reasons why I signed up to do another episode.

The other reason I agreed: I want to give finality to Chekov. I've played that character more than any other over these past 50 years, on and off most of my life. I've touted publicly on several occasions that the character was never really dimensionalized and explored, and I want to fix that. The way the character is shown in this final episode is the position I told Sky I wanted to end my character on. I want him to go out with the audience understanding a bit more about how he saw life, his work, and what was important to him.

I stipulated that I wanted Chekov to have a very dynamic ending. I was very disappointed with Kirks demise in the TNG film. I had a feeling that his death was almost subverted in the production of the film. Kirk was an extraordinarily heroic character that audiences had great respect and love for, and the way they portrayed his passing was almost... inconsequential. It didn't befit the magnitude of his character. I told Sky they better do a damn better job with Chekov.

We came up with an idea that's very exciting to me. If we get a chance to realize it in the production, it will be memorable, and will make my whole 50-year story arc as this character much more worthwhile to me.

That's why I hope we can reach our goal here to make this happen.

writer-lane46 karma

I've enjoyed all of your projects, Mr. Koenig.

The power of your resilience has kept me going in my own world. At one point I almost walked away from film making in the early 00's because there was a threat of a writer's strike and the work dried up as a result. I was worried about paying rent, and about to give up.

One day during this mess, I was walking down Franklin Ave in an apathetic stupor and passed by a theater next to the Bourgeois Pig. I noticed a flyer for a play you were appearing in (and your wife was also working on this project). I stood there and stared at the flyer, because here was one of my childhood heroes working... 'getting it done' so to speak and letting nothing stand in his way of his passions.

You kept me afloat that day and every day thereafter. Thanks!

My question is: What's your favorite city to visit when you travel? What is it about that place that makes you want to come back?

GineokwKoenig46 karma

Thank you.

I can't pick just one best place. Venice comes to mind. Also, I was invited by a group of Babylon 5 fans to come to Moscow and St. Petersberg, the home of my parents. I was able to put myself in my parents shoes and see through their eyes, what they loved and what they left.

Going to Berlin was an amazing experience. I grew up during the second world war. I remember when the wall went up. There was just so much history that I could experience first hand that left me with very profound feelings about mankind in general.

KansasCityCharlie46 karma

What's Mike Dorn like IRL? He was on the Russ Martin show and seemed like the most down to earth cool mother fucker in the world.

GineokwKoenig82 karma

I don't know Michael well, but can certainly attest that he's a down to earth cool person.

ElDuderino10333 karma

What's your most memorable convention experience?

GineokwKoenig88 karma

My most memorable experience is certainly not the most successful. In fact, it was a bit of a disaster.

A great convention is one where the dealers, guests and fans all band together to make things happen. At this convention in Houston back in the mid 80's, things were falling apart. There was a threat of the convention being cancelled before it opened, people locked out of hotel rooms, bills that hadn't been paid, etc.

To keep the show going, dealers offered their credit cards to the managers. The actors were willing to work for a fraction of their agreed upon fees, guests paid twice for tickets they'd already bought, and the show went on.

It was really a kind of a reflection of what Star Trek was supposed to be about. People working together to work as a unit to make something happen. There is actually a documentary being shot by Larry Nemecek about this that very convention, it was amazing.

kimby61022 karma

I've been watching the different Star Trek tv shows on Netflix, but I've never heard of Renegades. Why should I find it and watch it, besides the fact that you're in it?

GineokwKoenig57 karma

The objective behind making Renegades was to provide fandom with Star Trek type stories that would both be entertaining, and fill a void that had been left after the last of the old series motion pictures had finished. The idea was to revive and revitalize a show that had brought joy to so many people.

In the 70's, there was a lot of underground literature written by fans who wanted to keep Star Trek alive in some form. Technology has advanced so much now that we can do so much more, fans now of modest means can create their own Star Trek stories and capture them on film. As this technology improves, craftsmanship improves, and we're now at a point where people who don't have a history of professional moviemaking can now produce Star Trek in a form that closely approximates projects that used to cost 50-100 more.

Renegades is an expression of the Star Trek fans themselves, contributing to the chronicle of this science fiction universe.

Stoooooooo18 karma

What would be your dream project (film/tv or stage)?

GineokwKoenig39 karma

While I'm not sure if I'm actually up to it, my dream role would be acting as the title character in 'Death of a Salesman' in a stage production. It has a modern day Shakespearean feeling to it. The character is profound, and would be a massive challenge, but it's the character I've seen others perform that I aspire to.

jackhawkian16 karma

Do you think Renegades will be more true to the spirit of Trek in episode 2? As in, less dark and gritty and more of a hopeful glimpse of the future?

GineokwKoenig24 karma

I don't know the entire story of Renegades 2. I do know that the creative forces behind it are determined to continue Gene Roddenberry's dream. I'm not sure it's proper to say that there won't be dark elements, but ultimately we all do dream of a better future, and that will be expressed as the Renegades story evolves.