In the recent issue of Infinity Magazine, Sean Kenney talks how he was cast and the transformation into the most iconic iteration of the Enterprise’s first on screen captain.
It’s well-known that before William Shatner stepped into the role of Captain Kirk and took command of the USS Enterprise, there was another actor looking to boldly go where no one had gone before. Jeffrey Hunter was cast as Captain Christopher Pike for Star Treks first pilot ‘The Cage’ which was ultimately rejected by the network and a new cast was brought in after Gene Roddenberry’s ‘Wagon Train to the Stars’ was given a second chance.
’Where No Man Has Gone Before’ Treks second pilot did enough to convince the network that the show had potential and the journeys of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of crew was given the green light and 54 years later we are still enjoying these adventures. However, never one to waste anything, Roddenberry and his team looked at how they could still utilise the footage shot in the original pilot and what they came up with is two of the best episodes to appear in the franchise, ‘The Menagerie’. There was one stumbling block to this plan. Jeffrey Hunter did not want to return to the role of Christopher Pike.
After a stint in the Air Force which sent him around the world, Sean Kenney gained an interest in theatre and it was while he was performing on stage, he was spotted by a talent scout from Paramount who made him an offer
“It was a labour of love for me to be in the theatre at the time. I really enjoyed it. A talent scout from Paramount came to my play and saw me, took me aside afterwards and said “I would like you to meet someone from Paramount, I think they would like looking at you” I said what do you mean looking at me? He said “well you look like another actor – Jeffrey Hunter – I think a producer there would like to meet you” so they brought me in to meet him”
That producer was Gene Roddenberry, someone that Kenney confesses he had no idea who he was. During the meeting, Kenney states that Gene gave him some inspection, walking all around him and studying from all angles. Eventually, Gene spoke “you sure look like a guy we wanted to use in the show and he’s not available! Would you mind dying your hair white? We’re gonna stretch your face about three inches and you’re gonna look 85”. For a 25 year old just starting out in the industry Sean considered it a weird request but that’s how he landed the job as Christopher Pike.
The transformation into the burned and disfigured figure that was Pike was a process that initially took five hours in the make department, but by the 4th day of filming that time was down to 2.
“The makeup artist Fred Philips warned me that I could get claustrophobic in this prosthetic and wheelchair. Fred said “they will probably shoot you for about an hour then pull you out of the wheelchair”. The chair had a little door at the front so I could get out if I had to go to the bathroom. I could get out if I needed to. I was sitting in that thing, my shoulders couldn’t move. I would operate the joystick that would move the wheelchair and I also operated the light, which was one-beep/two-beeps for yes and no. Doing these things became second nature for me”
Not only were they unhappy with the plaster mask they had created which the makeup team thought looked very fake, frustratingly the scar on Kenney’s face which was in place to really sell his injuries, kept melting.
“This make up guy on the show with Fred, Ray Sebastian, got so frustrated with it, he cut off a part of his Levi jeans and literally taped it onto the side of my face as the scar. That scar is literally a piece of denim from Ray Sebastian’s jeans”
In preparing for the role Sean Kenney was shown clips from the original pilot ‘The Cage’ and explained a little bit more about Pikes backstory.
“I saw Pike as a man who was trapped. Trapped inside himself. He’s a man that truly needed to escape from his thoughts, but he was essentially trapped, he could not speak”
Following his stint as Pike in ‘The Menagerie’ he was cast in the role of Lt. DePaul and appeared in two further episodes of Star Trek, ‘Arena’ and ‘A Taste of Armageddon’ and is proud that he is one of the Redshirts on the show not to have been killed. The part in ‘A Taste of Armageddon’ coming about because George Takei was off filming ‘Green Barets’ with John Wayne.
It’s not an understatement that although Captain Pike has been portrayed by four different actors, and even though Sean Kenney couldn’t utter a word in the role, his version of Pike is without doubt the most iconic.
“If the Pike character made that much of an impact on people, I am very flattered. Not to get heady over it but for Pike to reach that kind of iconship as it has. I am just flattered for fans to feel for Pike, for a guy who is not speaking, sitting in his chair, only communicating through his eyes. I am very satisfied I did a good job”
Read more about Sean Kenney in the latest Infinity Magazine which is available now and can be purchased in store or online at https://infinitymagazine.co.uk/