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Chalťwood No. 7: Clifton Collins Jr.

Clifton Collins Jr. Ė Star Trek


By Kiko Martinez

San Antonio Current contributing writer



Line up the characters that actor Clifton Collins Jr. has portrayed during his nearly 20-year career and itís no wonder people might not recognize him once heís off the set.



In Star Trek, Collins Jr. (second from the right at the L.A. premiere), who is the grandson of the late comedic actor Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez (Rio Bravo), plays Ayel, the right-hand Romulan henchman of Nero (Eric Bana). The Romulans are the alien race who threatens the crew of the Starship Enterprise.


During an interview with me, Collins Jr., 38, talked about what itís been like playing a variety of roles over the years and why he thinks weíll soon be living in a world full of Trekkies.


The last time I interviewed you was for your amazing work in Capote. How has your life changed since that breakout role?


Iíve just been branching out. Iím even directing music videos. Iím diversifying my talent and doing different things across the board. And then I still go after these [acting] roles. I still have the same work ethic. I love acting. I love pounding the pavement and getting in the room and doing the dance. For Star Trek, J.J. [Abrams] offered me the role. I think everything else Iíve ever been in I had to audition for.


In the span of two months Iíve seen you in Star Trek, Sunshine Cleaning, and Crank: High Voltage. Do you ever worry about a Clifton Collins overload?


Not yet. I donít really look like Clifton Collins in most of my films. I think Iím pretty safe right now. I think if I was one of those actors that always wanted to play himself then I would definitely be afraid of that. I do think that Iím starting to run out of disguises though. (Laughs)



Is that something your conscious of when preparing for your next role?


Totally. I try to find ways to make characters original and different and interesting. Doing this brings me growth as an actor. Thatís been one of the joys of acting Ė playing all these different types of people.


Is that something you learned from your grandfather since some people might say he wasnít as lucky in terms of landing diverse roles?


Iíd have to disagree with that. A Mexican American Tejano who couldnít read or write and who became a contract player for John Wayne I think would be considered incredibly lucky. Itís hard enough to get work in this town. Also, the roles that he took, I donít see anything wrong with playing the common man. Itís like Johnny Cash singing about the issues of the common man, the middle class, the lower class. He played to people he grew up with. [My grandfather] wasnít Ricardo Montalban. He wasnít Josť Ferrer. He was not privileged and didnít live in Beverly Hills. He was very poor. To be able to be the hit that he was and be the only person to one-up Groucho Marx, who at the time was the greatest comedian living, is pretty sensational.


Is it safe to say that you were not a Trekkie before landing this role?


Iím not the kind of guy thatís going to watch all the episodes of Star Trek and become a Trekkie overnight. But this movie is an amazing ride. Whether youíre a Trekkie or not itís a great film. It would actually make a great Western.


Iím sure you know there is a stereotype associated with people who like Star Trek. A Trekkie wouldnít be considered the coolest guy to know. Do you think this film is going to change that?


Letís just throw that out the window right now because that idea is goooone! If to be a fan of this film is to be a Trekkie then I think the whole world is going to Trekkies. (Laughs)



Does it worry you at all that this film already comes with a huge fan base, some of whom may examine this new movie with a fine-tooth comb?


I donít really think that way. I think doing a job that people will microscopically dissect is not really exciting for me. Whatís exciting for me is knowing if people enjoyed the piece. I want to know if they get lost in it. If people want to be meticulous, I think itís more of a personal thing for me.


What role in the early part of your career would you tell someone to revisit if they want to know more about who you are as an actor?


Theyíre all crazy and different. I donít think I could choose. Iím an actor. You tell me what kind of movie you want to see and Iíll tell you which movie to watch.

Posted by kiko martinez on 5/8/2009 3:42:38 AM
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