Interview with J.G. Hertzler

The 1701st Fleet PR Officer, Master Chief Petty Officer Phil Cherry, recently caught up with J.G. Hertzler and got to pick his brain a little. Don’t recognize the name? That’s OK. We will tell you a little about J.G.

In Star Trek, you would know him as the Klingon General Martok. He also appeared in Prelude to Axanar and will be appearing in Axanar, as Captain Samuel Travis. He played Koval in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and he also appeared as a Klingon in Star Trek: Enterprise! He made an appearance in Star Trek Voyager and a few other Star Trek related things as well. But his career goes far beyond just the Star Trek characters we all know and love, he has more than 50 acting credits to his name in popular shows, movies and video games such as General Hospital, Six Feet Under, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Charmed, Seinfeld and many more!

PHIL: How are you today, other than busy?

JG: Yeah, it’s busy. It’s been a busy day. Lots of meetings because in my quasi political life, I have lots of meetings in places to add my two cents.

PHIL: I’ve been known to do that too. It’s hard being a liberal in Texas. Trust me.

JG: Oh man, I bet.

PHIL: Okay, I’ve only got a few questions, but I think they’re interesting. How does it differ playing a human in Star Trek to playing a Klingon?

JG: It’s a lot more peaceful. Klingons operate in the extremes of human behavior. It requires a little more back story, I think, for me to figure out basically who Sam Travis is. How does he talk and where is he from? Does he have a problem with sugar or alcohol? These kinds of human problems that we deal with.

PHIL: Yeah.

JG: Those things don’t seem to be a problem for Klingon.

PHIL: Klingons change a bit. I have to say DS9 was my favorite trek show mainly because the characters were more developed than the other shows.

JG: They had a lot of good actors. Armin and Rene and these people have been in the theater for fifty years. It makes a difference.

PHIL: Yeah and I believe the writing for the characters was somewhat better too.

JG: Absolutely. With Ron Moore for the Klingon back story and culture. I think the world of Ron. He cares about the drama. He cares about the quality, the minutia of the characters. It’s great.
PHIL: Are you looking forward to starting filming on Axanar now?

JG: Yeah, basically we can’t wait. We would have liked to start yesterday. When I say we, I’m talking about Kate and Gary and Richard and Tony. We had such a good time doing Prelude. We hung out together and it was only a weekend of our time. Then, we went to a couple of conventions I think or maybe one. Seems like we’ve known each other forever and it’s a great group.

PHIL: Well, I’ve heard the rumor that some of you will be at the Space City Con in Houston this July?

JG: Yeah, first week down there. The Space City … No, Comicpalooza is where I’m going to be.

PHIL: Comicpalooza?

JG: Yeah, the Space City Con may be taped. I’m not sure if it’s going to be. I was there with George. We were there last year, I think.

PHIL: Yeah. I like that. We were discussing Shakespeare the other week.

JG: That’s right. I’m writing a book right now called Acting Shakespeare and it’s not really anything to do with Acting Shakespeare. It’s basically my own autobiography. I tell a lot of stories that bounce off of, I’d say a lot of kings and dukes and thugs. Well, kings that had their heads cut off. In fact, I had my own extra head for a few years there. I did so many roles that needed an extra head.

PHIL: We’re [The 1701st Fleet] going to be at Comicpalooza too. They sent us a con kit, so we’re going to have leaflets on our table as well.

JG: Oh good. Good.

PHIL: Were you a fan of the original Star Trek series?

JG: Yeah, after the fact. I don’t think I watched it when it first came out. Maybe I did a little bit, but that was right in the time that I was graduating from high school, going into college. I had my hands full with the rock and roll band and getting ready for football. I didn’t watch much TV back in those days right in that little transition period because I was a senior in ’68. Yeah, ’67, ’68 and then I started school. Those were my junior and senior years in high school, ‘66-‘67 and I was basically playing football and Lord knows what else I was doing, but it was very busy, didn’t watch much TV.

PHIL: Yeah, I remember my first years in college. I didn’t watch a lot of TV either.

JG: I think it’s different now. I think people actually have groups to get together and watch the Big Bang Theory and watch Game of Thrones. Too bad we don’t have Star Trek on now. We’d be watching that.

PHIL: Yeah I know. I think it’s sad that they cut Enterprise. I thought it was finally getting somewhere. After the second series, I was like, “Hey, this is really good!”

JG: Yeah, I know. I loved it. I actually loved the fact that they had … It was a combination of present day technology with the future. One of my favorite things in that show was the fact that you go on the way into the medical bay, you pass a real hallway with a roll of paper towels on the left-hand side. I said that’s great. I love it.

PHIL: What’s your favorite thing about going to conventions?

JG: I think it’s just letting go for a while because you know life is … Actors have a real life as well. It gets pretty mundane sometimes. I’ve got a fifteen year-old daughter. I’m usually chauffeuring her around. Conventions are a way basically to relive those wonderful moments during the show and see a bunch of old friends. The actors, the guests as well as the fans love to see their friends. We don’t get a chance to see each other very often. I think that’s one of the big draws for conventions is for friends that were made there, for people to reconnect after a year. I think that it’s important to the actors as well.

PHIL: Absolutely. I know you’re one of the few actors that still wears a costume every now and again and make-up to the conventions.

JG: Bob and I started doing that for a FedCon convention and we said, “You know what? This is a lot of fun. Why don’t we do this more often?” We have. It’s tapering off now. People have really had enough of us, I think, which is fine for me. It is a commitment to get in to climb into ridge. There used to be a lot more Klingons in ridge in conventions than there are today.

PHIL: There were a lot of fight scenes in DS9. Did you do your own stunts and how did you prepare for those?

JG: Well, I didn’t do a lot of my own stunts. I did some of the sword fighting or dog fighting. I would do most of it and for anything especially strange, they have Tom Morga double me a few times. I do a lot of staged combat on a live stage. A friend of mine, we were rehearsing for the Count of Monte Cristo and I did in the Count of Monte Cristo, I was playing the Count of Monte Cristo and he has three large sword fights and the third fight is with an epee in one hand and a saber in the other. You’re fighting with two swords and it’s beautifully choreographed. If anybody makes a mistake and somebody would get a cut. We would do eight shows a week. A friend of mine comes up and says in the middle of that and says, “Oh, have you seen Mandy Patinkin on Princess Bride? He does his own fights.” I said, “Rich, that’s bull. They could make a thousand cuts. Cut of the blade, you know. I do eight shows a week, twenty-four fights a week. Come on Rich, wait for me.”

PHIL: I have a lot of friends who choreograph fights and I work at Renaissance festivals.

JG: Oh, wow. You know then. You know.

PHIL: I’ve seen a couple of nicks and scrapes.

JG: Absolutely, I got my knuckles smashed. I was doing in Henry IV Part II, or no, Henry VI, Part II. I was playing the Duke of York. He is beaten by Clifford. That’s just about the end. He gets his head cut off by the queen and she puts his head on a pike at the gates of York. I broke my knuckle. The guy came down. He came down real hard. I had leather gauntlets on. Broke that knuckle. I was laying on the floor right after that with the hilt in the palm of my hand and he decides that day to stomp on my hand as to really make a point. I made the most truthful groan I have ever done on stage at that point. He smashed my broken index finger knuckle into the stage floor.

PHIL: Wow.

JG: It was really bad.

PHIL: I believe you. I played Jake in the Threepenny Opera and I bruised a rib.

JG: Oh!

PHIL: Oh my goodness, that was bad pain on the stage for the next week after that.

JG: Yeah, you can hardly get a breath.

PHIL: Yeah, a little. Well alright, JG. Thank you. I don’t want to take up too much of your time.

JG: Well, that’s good. Short and sweet. Always leave them wanting more.

PHIL: This will be on our website and I’d like to offer you an honorary membership to the Fleet. You’re a big favorite. Trust me. Everybody loves you.

JG: Your fleet is 1701, right?

PHIL: It is, yes.

JG: Well that is a Starfleet number that I have a particular dislike for, being a Klingon, but I’ll make an exception in your case.