"Individually we can get angry. Together we can, and will, make a diference."
I wrote those words recently, hoping to rally and inspire people to action.
I was talking about the rapid erosion of our free speech and parody rights on the internet, but that phrase applies to any movement, really.
One voice is easily ignored or silenced, but when other people add their voices to yours, you become a chorus not easily ignored.
It turns out that a lot of people got angry that I wouldn't be attending the 15th anniversary of TNG celebration next month. It turns out that those voices joined together in emails, phone calls, internet postings and FAXes. It turns out that those voices became a chorus not easily ignored.
Thursday afternoon, I had a message on my machine from Adam Malin, president of Creation. He told me that he'd been "flooded" with emails, phone calls and FAXes. He said he'd read the internet postings, and he wanted to talk with me. He told me that he felt terrible, sick, and was very upset that I felt the way that I did. He was apologetic, and hoped I'd call him back so we could speak directly and if nothing else, clear the air.
When I set the phone down in it's cradle, I was surprised to feel my hands shaking.
I was, quite honestly, stunned. Shocked. A phone call from a lawyer I would have expected. An angry phone call, maybe, given the rage people were expressing on message boards at my own site and elsewhere. But a personal, cordial, apologetic call? I just didn't think it would happen.
I didn't have a chance to call him back until yesterday, during my lunch hour at work. See, we've been busting our asses at Arena to pull together this HALO National Championship event, and yesterday was the culmination of weeks of 12 hour days, of hundreds if not thousands of individual hours of work.
So lunch comes, and I phoned him.
I apologized for not calling him back right away. I explain to him that we're working on this special, and it's maxed out my internal CPU.
Before I can say anything, he apologizes again for not talking to me directly, and letting his underlings deal with me instead.
He tells me that he has never thought of me as "not part of the family."
I tell him that I have been given the impression from everyone at Creation, even the people with whom I am friends, that there are "levels," and it (rightly) goes: Captains, Data, everyone else...then there was me.
I tell him that I've felt marginalized, and treated like my contributions to Trek weren't important to him, Creation, the fans, or Paramount.
He apologizes again, tells me again that he doesn't feel that way. Tells me that he wanted to make it right. He wants to have me at that convention.
I am stricken by how genuine he seems. I am beginning to feel badly for not going over the heads of his employees and speaking directly to him, myself.
I also notice something that is a new feeling to me, as far as Star Trek goes: I'm being treated like an adult. Treated with respect, spoken to fotrhrightly and candidly.
This may seem like an overstatement of the glaringly obvious, but even though I am thirty years old, I still feel like I'm "the kid" where Trek is concerned. Not feeling that way is something new to me, and I'm not sure how to deal with it.
Adam tells me that he has heard great things about my sketch group. He's heard that they are fabulous, and the fans really love the show we do. He tells me that he wants to hire them for the show, wants me to speak at the show, and he really wants to make it work out.
I tell him that there wasn't time to get the group together now, and produce a quality show. He is really upset about that. He asks me if I'd be willing to get my group together for Grand Slam 2003.
I notice that we're having a cordial, comfortable conversation. It's like we've both been stung. Me by the posture taken during the previous negotiation, and him by the vitriolic rebuke from the fans. He seems to genuinely feel badly that my feelings were so hurt, and I get the palpable impression that he wants to make things right.
He asked me again if I'd be willing to do the show for a very reasonable fee, just a little bit below what I was asking for before negotiations broke down last month.
I am immdediately torn.
I think about this thing that someone said in the comments yesterday: "If you turn your back on Trek one more time, I'm buying you a revolving door."
I think hard about that. It burns inside me.
I dont know what to do.
On the one hand, I want Trek behind me.
On the other hand, it will never be behind me no matter what, because, let's face it: Trek was and is HUGE. Bigger than me. Bigger than I will ever be in my (stalled and slowing) acting career.
After I'd gotten the first phone call from Adam, I talked it over with Travis (from Arena) who is a very good friend of mine. Knows me very, very well.
Told him I'm having mixed feelings about it. I can think of reasons to do the show, and reasons to not do the show.
He asked me why I didn't want to do it.
I gave him some reasons, pro and con.
He asked me if I was happy writing.
I told him I was.
He asked me if I liked being on stage.
I told him that I did.
He asked me why I could possibly not want to be onstage in front of people who want to like me, and read my work to the same. He reminded me of the sketch shows we've done together at conventions, and how we have always felt great afterwards.
He asks me again why I can't embrace Star Trek as something wonderful that I was part of, and at the same time continue to move forward as an actor and writer.
I couldn't answer him.
I don't fucking know.
The people on the 'net have rallied around me about this. The fans have raged at Creation, and Creation listened.
But there's that revolving door. I'm stuck in it, big time.
I think of this email I got where a guy said he felt like I was trying to convince myself that it is okay to be booted from Star Trek things. He's right.
I think of a comment where a guy criticizes me for being so angst-ridden about Star Trek, accuses me of being full of shit, says he can see right through me.
He has a point too. I meant what I said about being cut from the film. But having the safety bubble burst? Well, I'm still standing in it's remains, hoping I can find a way to refill it, just in case. Setting Wesley free, embracing a sense of freedom? I meant that, as well.
I feel like I have grown older, and changed. But I feel unfulfilled, unsure, and I know that the last few months of entries here have focused on that. Maybe I'm giving way too much weight to the comment of one random person who didn't even have the courage to put an email address with the anonymous comment. For all I know I could be biting on the biggest troll ever.
But there is truth to what that anonymous poster said. I'm torn. I am caught in a revolving door, and I don't know what will happen, and I am filled with angst, and that feeling is burning inside of me, keeping me awake at night, distracting me every minute of every day. It's burning in me so fiercely, so hot and insistent, that I have lost perspective. I can't make objective decisions and weigh the pros and cons effectively.
So I seek counsel from some very good friends of mine. Some people who I really trust and respect. I write to them what I've written above, with the following pros and cons:
- Fans will be ecstatic that Creation listened, that they fought for me and won.
- Fans will be happy to see me in person.
- I'll earn money for my family and be able to perform what I love to do for an audience who *FINALLY* wants to like me.
- That revolving door feeling, and the fear of a massive backlash from...well, I'm not sure who, but backlash nevertheless.
It seems pretty slam-dunk, right? I should do the show and feel great about it. But it's not that easy for me. I am extremely conflicted, until I get the following responses:
"This could not be easier, but that's really because I'm not you.
You don't have a choice, man. When you just had a few little tiny hairs, something in you nailed that part of the "kid that was to be forever hated"(tm).
I honestly believe that you were hated because everyone wanted to be like you and because you were a fucking kid in an adult world and there was a new crowd suddenly attracted--nevermind that we've got the black guy with the hairclip on his eyes and a Klingon on the ship...not to mention that fucking hot Martina bitch.
No, you were the biggest oddball, and you didn't have a clue what was happening to you, no matter how fucking smart you were--and Wil, you're no dumb guy.
Hell, you know I know that you're a million times harder on yourself than anyone else could be in a single day.
You've managed to take all the asshole things you did when you were younger and attempt to make right on them.
Again, if you're at all like me, you probably get irate if you catch yourself littering because of the Karma Train that'll come back to hit you if you cause some old guy somewhere some extra effort to clean up your mess, even if it's his job.
Damn, man. I know what you're doing...I do it, too.
So, you think you'd be compromising or something if you went and changed your mind and went back to the show.
I don't. You're going to enjoy it. People like you.
You looked in the face of a thousand-million internetters and said, "Hey, I'm a fucking human like you, I've been a dick, it's not right, this is what I did and this is what I think now. Sorry; won't happen again."
People like you, man. In fact, you're probably not even capitalizing off of all the Internet Momentum(tm) you've gained in the past year. Shit, Wil, people all over the place NOW LIKE YOU. Let's face it, you've only gotten limited access to those auditions, but how many magazines, newspapers, tv shows, etc. have you been on because you're a fucking computer geek-boy now?
You want my point-blank, in-your-fucking-face opinion right now?
Too bad, I'm giving it to you anyway.
For starters, go there.
Go there in a big fucking "in your face, but I'm still just lil ol' Wil" way. Have the fucking time of your life--do it FOR YOU for the fans, not for the fans. These people want to see you--and even if they say something negative, just laugh it off like water on a duck and say, "Cool, but you know, you really don't know me" and know that you've won in that statement alone.
Then, Mr. Man, I think you need to start doing something to have the voices of these hundreds of thousands of souls who, together, are not only fucking bright when they're not trolling, but who are also strong-minded and very likely to do something about making you an actor.
Yeah. You've got a fucking posse, man.
Truer words could not be said. Now, what does it fucking take to get all of these people together to say in a single voice, "We Want Wil" and have them get you back on screen?
I don't have the answer there, but I guarantee you that I'm going to be the first person to try and figure it out...people want to see you. People are rooting for you all over the place and you don't even know it because you've let yourself become accustomed to not being quite so famous.
But, dammit, man, you're the movie-star guy that's "just like me...holy shit!" and you're an underdog. You're the guy that people want to see get some momentum behind and get to the top--and then remember each and every one of them on the way up and once you get there, because, no one does that. Everyone forgets that one little geek that didn't have to show up at the con and ask for your autograph...who made it there for you and saved money to go.
If you forget him, he'll take you down as quickly as he put you up there, and you know that very well, my friend. They taught you that already.
You're a blessed man. Don't forget that. I'll never be on a G4 network or on a game show, and that's cool, but believe me, I'd want to do it in a heartbeat. You, on the other hand, can do it with your eyes closed--and that's true. G4 is your stepping stone, in case you hadn't noticed that just yet.
Let me wrap up with something that Michael Jordan once said: "Every night when I go out on the court, I think about that father and son out there who are seeing me play basketball--and that's the only reason they're here. This might just be their only chance. Sometimes, I even wish I could trade places with them because of the great feeling--the great moment this is for them. Every night when I go out on the court, I play my best...for them."
So, get your black-ass out on the court. Hit the fucking circuits and get busy busy busy, man. No fucking infomercial is going to be your death, so get that fucking preconceived notion out of your head and put the rubber to the road.
Dunno; maybe you'll be pissed at some of this, but the truth is, I don't care about that. I care about the fact that you SEEM to be letting some of your potential wash-away from you, and you're too good for that.
Look, I don't know all that goes on, so that obviously makes me very uninformed, but if this is my opinion of you, then imagine what other people must feel if they're your fans? You've become an icon all over again, believe it or not."
Another friend said:
"I just talked to [his wife, who is very wise] about it, who had this to say:
First off, she thinks you should do it (for reasons I'll get into in a second).
But the big thing (again, still her talking) is that you should do this for you.
Whatever you decide, right now, it's gotta be for you, and not because X amount of people will judge you for doing it or not doing it.
If you feel it's right for you, and will benefit your family, and your writing, and gain some recognition for you, AND you'll get to see some old Trek buddies again, and that's what you want, then you gotta do that thing.
But don't do it if you now feel pressured by the fans to do it.
And don't NOT do it because you're afraid of what the fans will think.
Whatever you do, do it because you, you personally need to.
Okay, here's where I start talking.
To put this in some perspective, I remember a time when Shatner wouldn't do the con thing. There was a period between the cancellation of the series and the first movie where he wouldn't even mention Star Trek in interviews (which was actually kind of surreal).
That said, he came back, did the movies and lives very well off of them and off of the additional fame from a new audience not as familiar with the series.
Because I think there comes a point where you have to acknowledge that This Thing You Did Back When is a part of you that's always going to be there. It's like Sue Olson (the actress who played Cindy Brady) once said--you have to accept that people will always think of you as that character, because only then can you really move on.
Once you accept that, the audience accepts you...and paradoxically, on your own terms.
See, this whole "Turn Your Back On Trek" thing, if you let thatget to you...how do I put this?
If you don't do it because you have to Turn Your Back On Trek, well, then you're not really turning your back on Trek--you're still letting the Trek thing dictate what you do.
And, while we're putting our cards on the table, here, I think that you shouldn't look at not turning your back on Trek and finding your own voice as being mutually exclusive. As a former convention-goer, the Trek (or otherwise) speakers who I thought were the coolest were the ones who accepted that Trek was the reason they were there and why we were there, as opposed to the guys who seemed weirded out or perplexed that anyone gave a shit.
Not that you'd be that way--I'm talking about an initial attitude going in, not the handling of the experience from that point on.
As far as you feeling that you're renegging on what you said in your post...and here's some perspective:
The situation is different now.
It's not that they called you, snubbed you, and you're going back anyway to eat shit for the peanuts.
It's that they contacted you, snubbed you initially, then realized they misjudged your appeal (and ability to bring in a LOT of new people) and finally were willing to meet you on terms you could accept.
I'm not gonna lie and say that some people won't be assholes and call sour grapes on you for "singing a different tune."
Expect it. I know you are.
You've been down this path before. We all know you have.
I mean, it's great publicity for the website, and for Arena, and for you. You will have an ability to connect with the fans again--but this time it'll be a little different, because you're probably going to see more people you know you from the site--and Malin knows that."
Mixed in with all of this, I got an email from a really nice woman who organized fans to share their outrage about this. Creation reverses themselves ... PLEASE do go, otherwise IMO Creation will win, as they can say you turned THEM down after they met your (original) terms or soemthing like that. Then promote the hell out of the convention on your website. Perhaps if Creation and the others see how powerful you and your website is, they just MIGHT sit up and take notice, and I'm not just talking about conventions here, but perhaps it might help you in other ways (as yet unseen) as well.
I'm calling for a campaign here to do right by you ... 'cause I think it stinks. NO one messes with the Wil Wheaton, or they'll find that they have the 'Possee' as you call us, to contend with, and I suspect we are a much MORE powerful together, than Creation realizes.
I'm doing this for you, cause I think you are a neat guy ... but also mostly because, remember, I've been a Trekkie longer than you've been around (before you were born), and this is now really got me STEAMED how on their High Horse that Creation has gotten of late."
So. I think long and hard about these things, and still I feel heavily conflicted.
I revisit those pros and cons, and think to myself:
I'd love to have a chance to read some of my stuff for an audience who would really "get" it.
I'd love to go in front of fans who, for the first time EVER **LIKE** me.
But that revolving door is spinning, and I don't know how I can face the people who said "Good for you! Leave Star Trek behind you forver!"
Well, right now, the absolute truth is, as my friend said:
"Because I think there comes a point where you have to acknowledge that This Thing You Did Back When is a part of you that's always going to be there. It's like Sue Olson (the actress who played Cindy Brady) once said--you have to accept that people will always think of you as that character, because only then can you really move on. "
That's the freedom I was referring to in the last part of The Wesley Dialogues.
"If you don't do it because you have to Turn Your Back On Trek, well, then you're not really turning your back on Trek--you're still letting the Trek thing dictate what you do... you shouldn't look at not turning your back on Trek and finding your own voice as being mutually exclusive."
Well, I'm going to wrestle with that last one for awhile, I think, and WWDN readers can expect more angst in the months to come. Sorry, it's just part of the process. There are hundreds of great weblogs to read, and lots of pretty trees to look at outside if you'd rather not read that stuff here.
Well, this is 9 pages now, so I think it's time to get back to the point:
Adam and I talk.
It is a good, long, honest, respectful talk.
We clear the air.
He tells me that his profit margin on the Vegas show was not several million dollars. He tells me that it was very, very slim, relative to his investment, which was nearly half a million dollars.
He tells me that he didn't want me at the Grand Slam on stage because he wanted to hold off until the 15th show. He thought it would be cooler if he waited to have me come on then.
He tells me that he had no idea about my website, or about how the fans felt about me now.
He asks me if I'd reconsider.
I reconsider. I replay all those emails in my head, I balance the pros and cons, and I say to him,
"Adam. I am really conflicted about this. I feel like each time I do a Star Trek event, it's...well, it's not necessarily a step backwards, but it certainly isn't a step forwards, but I feel like I should listen to the voice of the fans. We should all listen to the voice of the fans, because that voice has been increasingly silenced over the last decade.
I love to perform, and I would like to give something back to the fans. I would love to attend the event, and be part of the celebration, but I'd also like to share some of my writing with the fans. Would you be able to put me in an evening spot, so I can read somet things that I've written?"
"Is it funny?" He asks me.
"It's funny, it's sad, it's bittersweet...it's really a reflection of the person I am, and people seem to respond to it."
"Can I book your comedy group for Grand Slam in 2003?"
"Yes. I'd love to bring my guys out. We love to perform."
We talk about fees, and we agree on a very fair fee, which is right on par with the rest of the actors.
I will do a question and answer session at the convention, and I will bring selections of my writing, and read them for the audience during and evening program.
I ask him for one more thing. I tell him that I have more in common with the fans now than I do with the actors, and I keep hearing how the fans are getting the in-person-autograph shaft these days.
I want him to put my autograph table in an area where I can sit for a few hours, so all the fans can get their stuff signed, so I can talk with people who are so inclined.
He tells me that he'd really like that. Many actors just won't do that, and he thinks it would be great.
I feel very good about this conversation, and I feel very excited to be part of this celebration.
Resolution? It's a long ways off. That's why they call it "angst."
But there is something wonderful buried in all of this:
I doubt I would have gotten this phone call if there hadn't been such a loud and immediate response from the fans.
You spoke up on my, and your, behalf, and your voice was heard.
Think about that for a moment.
Your voice was heard. You made a difference. Creation is the 800 pound gorilla of conventions. They don't have to listen to anyone.
But they listened to you. They listened to us.
That, my friends, is huge, and everyone who is reading this gets to own part of that.
I strongly suggest that you take a moment, and phone, write, FAX, or email Adam or Gary or whomever at Creation, and thank them for hearing your voices.
And if you come to the 15th show, please, please, please seek me out and introduce yourself. I'd like to know you.