Adam Nimoy is not Spock’s son. Rather, he’s the son of Leonard Nimoy, the man who played Spock. Just as there’s no separating Leonard Nimoy from his half-human/half-Vulcan alter ego, however, there’s no separating Adam Nimoy from his father… or Star Trek, for that matter. Adam’s life was forever impacted by his father’s fame, by the countless hours the elder Nimoy spent shooting the show in the 1960s and by the machinations of the publicity machine. There were drug and alcohol addictions, as well as a lengthy father-son estrangement, followed by recovery and reconciliation. Adam also carved his own niche as a director, calling the shots on many top TV shows throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s, including Babylon 5, Ally McBeal, Party of Five, Gilmore Girls and Veritas: The Quest, as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Outer Limits. His two TNG episodes were “Rascals” and “Timescape,” and for The Outer Limits he directed “I, Robot,” which starred Leonard Nimoy.
StarTrek.com had wanted to interview Adam Nimoy for many years, and the stars aligned because his latest project is the upcoming documentary For the Love of Spock. It started out as a father-son project that would be timed to Trek’s 50th anniversary, but it morphed into something different upon Leonard’s death in early 2015. For the Love of Spock, which will premiere this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival, examines Leonard’s time as Spock, the life and legacy of the actor and his iconic character, the fascinating father-son relationship between Leonard and Adam, and also Adam’s personal evolution. It also features interviews with the elder Nimoy’s family members; many of his colleagues, among them William Shatner, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, J.J. Abrams and Zachary Quinto; and admirers spanning from fans to Jason Alexander, Jim Parsons and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Below is part two of our conversation; go HERE to read part one. What did you learn about yourself or your relationship with your dad from making this film?
I learned a lot, but something I discovered as a filmmaker making a documentary is that there’s a fine line between what to share and what to leave alone. I think it was very important to tell the truth, the truth of my relationship with him. More and more people urged me to do that, to be honest about my own ups and downs in the journey with him, along with his ups and downs. But I don’t need to tell everything. We had a group of people within the film’s production always monitoring how much of myself to interject, what was enough, and how much to just leave alone. It’s a very fine line because I had so many big experiences with Dad and so many ups and downs. So I had to be very selective and try to be honest, while still being respectful and circumspect and getting our ideas across, and while not overdoing it and not being too overly sentimental. It was interesting to try to find that balance and, again, I had a lot of feedback that from the editorial staff and the producers.
There’s some essential conversation in the film about father-son competition. Looking back, as a kid with a famous father, were you competing with your dad or, really, with Star Trek itself, with the show, the media, the fans?
You can’t compete against a guy who’s so successful. I never felt there was any point in it. My only feelings of competition were to try to keep in his world and stay close to him and keep his attention, because he was so distracted by his career and his desire to succeed and his work ethic… all of which I admired, by the way, and tried to emulate in my own way. But my path really wasn’t that much different from his own; it was just a lot smaller. I was just as passionate about what I wanted to do and just as goal-oriented as him, but, like I say, in a smaller venue.What do you hope the audience will take away from watching For the Love of Spock?
A lot of people know who Spock is without really understanding what it is about him that’s had such an impact on people. I hope people will get an education about Spock, a crash course about what he’s all about, and what The Original Series was all about, in terms of the characters, the relationships between the characters, particularly Spock, McCoy and Kirk, and about what Spock stands for, why people still respond to him. And then I hope they walk away understanding the talent of Leonard Nimoy, who was truly a renaissance man, had a lot of interests, had a very hungry mind, a very fine mind, although not a lot of formal education, and he had great interest in the arts. I hope people come away understanding that this was a guy who wanted to continue challenging himself. He loved Spock, always went back to Spock and was always willing to play Spock, but he wanted to find ways to other ways to express him artistically.
Then, finally, I hope people come away with some understanding of the challenges families go through when they have a member who is a celebrity and who has an audience with a demand for that celebrity’s attention. That family has trials and tribulations they go through because of that member’s fame, and it can be very difficult and there can be conflict. But my father and I, we had conflict resolution. In our case, it was through recovery work for my dad and myself that really helped bring us back together, to the point that, when there was a crisis in the family, the understanding was that family comes first and we have to support each other. I think Dad really realized that in the last act of his life. He talked a lot about the fact that family really was his priority. So he bookended his life in a way that was of benefit to all of us in the family.
What do you hope your dad would think of the film?
I think he’d be impressed with the caliber of work. And it’s not just me. It’s not in a vacuum. I had a lot of help and support from the producers and editorial staff and research people and all the interviewees. We had to sit through a lot of material, but, at the end of the day, I think we distilled a lot of the essence of what he was about. There are many elements of his life that are simply not in there because we just didn’t have the time. But I think he’d appreciate the story we’ve told and the craftsmanship of this film. Let’s switch gears. You forged your own career as a director and were a go-to guy for a full decade. What did you feel you brought to the table as a director?
The unique aspect that I tried to bring to the table was something I’d learned from Jeff Corey. Jeff was my dad’s mentor in Los Angeles, and he was a very fine actor, in large part a character actor. He was teaching in the late 50s and early 60s because he’d been blacklisted. Dad was in his class and later took over his class. And then Jeff was teaching at the end of his life out at his home in Malibu, and I ended up in his class for a couple of years. The thing about that aspect of filmmaking was that Dad was very much an actor’s director, meaning he’d been on both sides of the camera. I thought that was a very unique approach to directing that I wanted to emulate, too. A lot of what I did in the TV industry was very focused on performance. When directors go into TV there’s only a limited amount of creativity that’s allowed. TV is really not our medium. It’s a writer-producer medium. And one of the ways you can soar is to work with the talent on performance issues. It was the tools that I learned in Jeff’s class, much like the tools my dad had from being in Jeff’s class, in terms of how to help actors with performance and how to collaborate with them on a performance, that I applied to directing. I think that helped fuel the success of those 10 years that I was working in the TV industry. You directed two episodes of TNG, specifically “Rascals” and “Timescape.” They were actually your first two TV credits. What do you remember of the experiences and how satisfied were you with the episodes?
I think it was a logical, if I can use that word, beginning to my career, that I started with Star Trek. I had apprenticed on Star Trek VI under Nick Meyer, and I learned about the filmmaking process and all about the world of Star Trek. Then Dad suggested, when that movie wrapped, that I talk to Rick Berman about finding out about the world of The Next Generation. I was on the sets of that show for an entire season, watching directors and learning and apprenticing, and trying to figure out how episodic TV worked. It was a great education for me. There’s nothing like actually being thrown into the pot and feeling the heat.
And I was very fortunate that I had the opportunity to direct those two episodes. They were very interesting episodes. They were unique episodes. There was a very big learning curve. That being said, everyone was very deep into the life of the show by then and it was a very fast-running locomotive train, and you really had to have a running start. Some of it could be daunting and challenging and overwhelming as a first-time director, but it was a good way to really get my feet wet. I had a lot of support from the talent and the producing staff there. It was a very fast education and I’m really grateful to everyone who helped me along. So I’m very proud of my work on The Next Generation.
Why did you not direct more Trek?
I think a lot of the impetus was for me to branch out on my own and to do stuff that was not necessarily Trek-related. Much like Dad, I had a lot of varied interests in drama and storytelling, and I started to focus time on trying find other genres I was interested in. So I apprenticed on other shows before I was given the opportunity to direct them. I was with David Kelley’s company, watching on Picket Fences before I directed The Practice, and I was on NYPD Blue for months, watching them make that show, before the next season came along and I was given an opportunity there. So I really wanted to focus my attention on expanding my vocabulary and not necessarily being a Star Trek guy, because I had other interests.You, in your anti-memoir My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life, and also in For the Love of Spock, address dealing with your own issues, with your wife’s sudden illness and death, with your addictions. How are you doing these days? Are you in a good place?
Yeah, I am. I’m doing very well. I have a lot of support. We have a very strong family base. My kids, my nieces and nephews, we are all very closely knit. We continue to have family gatherings with Susan (Bay, Leonard’s widow) and Aaron (Bay-Schuck, Nimoy’s stepson). We’re just one big family. We still have the struggles and the ups and downs that any family faces, but we’re a supportive, tight-knit family unit with a lot of love and we’re all doing well. Everybody is in a really good place, and I think Dad would be smiling down on us that we are all moving forward in our various careers and in our personal lives. But we continue to celebrate his life. We just had a big family dinner on Dad’s birthday, at Susan’s house, and he’s still very much with us. His spirit is still very much with us. We’ll all be together in New York on April 16 for the premiere of For the Love of Spock, and that’s very exciting because it’s the culmination of all this work. Finishing things was very important to Dad, and that’s exactly what we intend to do with this film. So, we’re inspired and pleased by how far we’ve come, and there’s so much more to do.
Go to www.fortheloveofspock.com for additional details about For the Love of Spock.
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