Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
July 29, 1972
Currently Known For:
Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory
July 29, 1972
Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory
“Found a dead body when I was 12, saved the Enterprise a few times, ran the Axis of Anarchy, broke up Penny and Leonard, currently running the non-lethal weapons lab at Global Dynamics.” An American actor, blogger, voice actor and writer, Wil Wheaton is best known for his performances as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, as Gordie Lachance in Stand by Me, as Joey Trotta in Toy Soldiers, and as Bennett Hoenicker in Flubber. He’s also recognized for his recurring roles as Aqualad in Teen Titans, as Cosmic Boy in Legion of Super Heroes, as Fawkes in The Guild, as Dr. Isaac Parrish in Eureka, and as a fictionalized version of himself in The Big Bang Theory.
One of three children born to an actress and a medical specialist in Burbank, California, Richard William Wheaton III made his debut into the world on July 29, 1972. Thanks to his mother’s own interests in acting, it didn’t take long for Wheaton to follow suit as the youngster made his acting debut at nine years old in the 1981 television film, A Long Way Home. The following year, he made his film debut as Martin Brisby in the animated film, The Secret of NIMH. Wheaton didn’t truly gain attention, however, until 1986 when he was cast as Gordie Lachance in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, The Body, which was featured in movie theaters around the world as Stand By Me.
Finally, Wheaton caught a huge break in 1987 when he was cast as the boy genius Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. As a longtime Star Trek fan, the role was huge for the young Wheaton, but he faced terrible criticism from Trekkies around the world who hated his performance and, by extension, Wheaton himself. “Later, I determined that the people who were really, really cruel… really are a statistically insignificant number of people,” Wheaton later said during a radio interview. “And I know just over the years from people who’ve emailed me at my website and people who I’ve talked to since I started going to Star Trek conventions again in the last five years, that there are so many more people who really enjoyed everything about the show including my performance, including the character.” So, what was it like for Wheaton to grow up on the Star Trek set?
“I was a huge Star Trek fan as a little kid, so getting to work on Next Generation was like getting to do what I used to do as a kid on the playground at elementary school and make it the best virtual-reality live-action role play I’d ever experienced,” he said. “At the same time, I was a teenager, and as we got into the third season, I felt like the writers just didn’t know what to do with my character, and more often than not I didn’t feel challenged as an actor and I kind of felt like part of the furniture. So, as I got to be around 16 years old, I just started to feel like, ‘Why am I even here?’”
Eventually stepping away from Star Trek, Wheaton snagged a role in the 1991 action film Toy Soldiers but ultimately left Hollywood and settled down in Topeka, Kansas where he worked with NewTek. Later returning to Los Angeles, he enrolled in acting school and appeared in several independent films throughout the late 1990s and new millennium including The Good Things and Jane White is Sick & Twisted. In 2001, he returned to television as a contestant on The Weakest Link and made cameos in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Numb3rs, and Criminal Minds before playing a fictionalized version of himself on The Big Bang Theory from 2009 to 2017. So, how exactly does that work?
All About Wil (The Character): Sheldon’s Mortal Enemy turned Frenemy
“Things every person should have: a nemesis, an evil twin, a secret headquarters, an escape hatch, a partner in crime, a secret identity.” On The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon is a huge Star Trek: Next Generation fan and adored Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher. However, Sheldon quickly moved Wheaton to his “mortal enemy” list in 1995 when he took a 10-hour bus ride just to see Wheaton at the Star Trek convention only to discover that Wheaton wasn’t there. So, why not invite Wheaton to guest star on the series just to mess with Sheldon?
Still holding a grudge, Sheldon enters the Mystic Warlords of Ka’a trading-card game to confront Wheaton and publicly out him as his hated rival, but things take a different turn after Wheaton tells Sheldon that he missed the convention because his grandmother died. Overcome with sympathy, Sheldon believes Wheaton and deliberately messes up his hand to help him in the trading-card game only to learn that Wheaton lied and took advantage of him. Comedically, this isn’t the last of Wheaton’s shenanigans when he teams up against Sheldon in a bowling game and, once again, uses deception to win the game while breaking up Leonard and Penny.
Wheaton returns to haunt Sheldon and the rest of the Big Bang Theory cast in the fourth season when he uses his celebrity status to jump ahead of a long line at a special screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sheldon dubs him the “Jar Jar Binks of the Star Trek universe” after Wheaton prevents Sheldon and his friends from getting into the premiere. Sheldon’s relationship with Wheaton improves by season five when Wheaton gives him a Wesley Crusher action figure to make amends. Over the course of the next six seasons, Wheaton continues to mess with Sheldon, Penny, and Leonard but his antics are somewhat kinder as Sheldon keeps him as a friend rather than his “mortal enemy,” an improvement by any standard!
The Dish on Dating and Relationships
“No matter what I do with my life or how successful I am, I will always be a socially awkward penguin inside.” An incredibly private actor after the backlash from his Star Trek: Next Generation performance, Wheaton has kept a tight lid on his life behind the scenes with his wife, Anne Prince, whom he married on November 7, 1999. Together, they live in Arcadia, California with Prince’s two sons from a previous relationship, one of whom asked Wheaton to legally adopt him when he was 19 years old.
Apart from his life at home in Arcadia with his wife and sons, Wheaton is outspoken about his ongoing battle with chronic depression and generalized anxiety disorder. He’s also a huge advocate of technology and is often praised as an icon or ambassador for more traditional nerd topics thanks to his roles on Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory. “I know that I’m a little bit of a spokesman for those things, and I know that I have a little bit of a high profile in that world,” Wheaton says, “and because I’m aware of that, I’m grateful for it. And it’s a privilege to have that voice, and it is important to me to respect it, not take it for granted. And every now and then when people want to hear me talk, it’s important to have something to say.”
Still an ambassador for nerd topics even today, the 45-year-old Wheaton is certainly grateful for his position in the industry especially since it allows him to pursue his other interests in writing, politics, gaming, voice acting, and technology. Although he hasn’t done much in films over the last four years with his last credits coming in Sharknado 2: The Second One and Video Games: The Movie in 2014, he stays incredibly busy on television with credits in Dark Matter, Powers, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Bill Nye Saves the World, and Whose Line Is It Anyway? On the internet, he’s been a presenter on TableTop since 2012 and has credits in Critical Role, Con Man, and Transformers: Titans Return. His animation credits include 10 episodes as The High Wizard in Fantasy Hospital and 11 episodes as Museum Security Guard Jonathan Rook in Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters. Apart from that, he’s also written and contributed to numerous articles including The Monster in My Closet, Hunter, Dead Trees Give No Shelter, and From a Certain Point of View.
With so many projects in the works, Wheaton is a big believer in following his passion and encourages his fans to do the same even when it involves taking a risk. “Sometimes we know in our bones what we really need to do, but we’re afraid to do it,” he says. “Taking a chance and stepping beyond the safety of the world we’ve always known is the only way to grow, though, and without risk there is no reward.”