Brian Bonsall earned a place in entertainment history with his role as the impossibly cute Andy Keaton in the final few seasons of the classic sitcom Family Ties, but he also holds an important spot in Star Trek lore. Bonsall portrayed Worf’s son, Alexander Rozhenko, in seven episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Bonsall quit acting in 1994 and eventually ended up in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. These days, however, he’s healthy and happy, and performing music with his bands — Lowjob and Bootjack & Bonz — out in Colorado. He’ll venture to Los Angeles in a few days to appear at The Hollywood Show, an autograph event that will be held April 8-10 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel in Los Angeles; go to www.thehollywoodshow.com for details. In advance of his appearance, the amiable Bonsall chatted with StarTrek.com about his music, his memories of playing Alexander and more. Here’s what he had to say:
Let’s start with Star Trek. How did you land the role of Alexander and how aware were you of Star Trek in general at the time and specifically of The Next Generation?
From what I remember, I tried out with a lot of other kids, because I do have a strong memory of the casting office being very crowded. I had definitely seen the show a fair amount and the stage ended up being around the corner from the Family Ties stage, so there’s a little fun fact.
The producers wanted Alexander to be a recurring character. How often were you expecting to play him?
I think at the time, all we knew was that it was recurring. I was very busy around that time with other roles, too, so I was always running around to different jobs.How hard is it to believe that this October will mark the 25th anniversary of your first day on set, which was October 8, 1991, for “New Ground“?
Wow, that’s craziness. I feel old. (Laughs) That is so cool, though.
Which of your seven episodes do you feel made the best use of the character and gave you the most meat on the bone to chew as an actor?
Definitely when Worf was seriously injured and his fate was unknown. “Ethics” is the episode, I believe. It was very emotional for me, as I was young and took on imagining the reality in my own circumstance. I couldn’t stop crying for like a half hour afterwards. I think it showed the 1/4 human side of Alexander well.How did you enjoy working with Michael Dorn?
He was always great to me. He had such a strong character role in the show, which called for strong Method acting, but he would break that to make me feel comfortable and I remember us joking around at times. I actually spoke to him on the phone recently and it was really nice to hear his voice. It brought back a lot of good memories from the set and I hope we can catch up more in the future.
Worf always felt that Alexander’s Klingon side had been neglected as a result of Alexander’s upbringing. And, of course, the writers wrote to that. How did you go about making that element believable in your performances?
I showed the emotion that was underneath the warrior I was training to become. Alexander was half-human so that needed to shine through his rugged exterior.
Did the makeup help you get into character? Was it a total pain in the butt? Or… both?
As you can imagine, the makeup could get a bit irritating at times, but they were always there to help me figure out how to scratch an itch or repair a wardrobe malfunction. It was an awesome experience. It definitely helped me stay in character, as much as a kid that age could. I felt like a warrior. The $4,000 wig of real hair was probably the biggest pain in the butt, though, because it was so much money and I enjoyed running around like a madman at times.We’re guessing that “A Fistful of Datas” was probably the most fun to shoot. What do you remember of the experience, of the cowboy costume, of being directed by Patrick Stewart?
It was amazing to work at the Disney Ranch, for a start. There’s been so many great movies shot there. The western set was quite elaborate and set up for big stunts. It was really neat to see the characters in their western costumes rather than the normal Starfleet uniforms. The western outfits were very realistic, so I got to feel like a real cowboy for the shoot. It was an honor to be directed by Patrick Stewart, and to work with him in general.
We also wanted to ask you specifically about “Firstborn.” It was a full-on Klingon episode, with the Rite of Ascension. It was your final episode of the series, which must have been bittersweet. Please talk a bit about those aspects of the episode.
I remember it was so much fun using the Bat’leth Klingon weapon and getting to play a Klingon in warrior training. I actually had to do a little training myself first as well. I think any kid would love to do that. At the time, I’m not sure I fully realized that my character’s days were over.Switching gears completely, you play guitar and sing in your current bands, Lowjob and Bootjack & Bonz. What kind of music are you guys playing, and where can people buy it and see you perform?
I’d say Lowjob is punk/alternative, if you had to give it a label. It’s fast, melodic rock music, constructed with care. We just finished recording a 6-song EP at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado. We named it “We Share,” because we’re sharing it online for free. You can find the two songs that we have released on Youtube, but we’re still making finishing touches on the final product. People can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and we have a tour in the works for summer time around Colorado’s surrounding states. I also have an acoustic duo called Bootjack & Bonz with Lowjob’s other guitarist, Erik. We’re gonna start recording another EP soon for that project and the one we released last year, called “Vultures,” can be found on Bandcamp.com. We have social media pages for Bootjack & Bonz as well.
You’ll be at the Hollywood Show this weekend. How do you enjoy meeting the fans, signing autographs, posing for photos?
Honestly, it’s kind of new to me again after being away from that environment for so long. It was definitely super-neat to sign so much Star Trek memorabilia and to see the positive response from the fans. I even caught a glimpse of a couple of Family Ties tribute tattoos, and that was cool. I’d have to say I do enjoy it a lot.What are the the shows/characters people most want to talk with you about and have you sign photos from?
Star Trek is definitely up there, along with Blank Check and Family Ties.
Off-screen, you had some bumps in the road in the past. How far behind you is all that, and how are you doing now?
Yeah, unfortunately as far as the media goes, I’ve never had the opportunity to tell my story. I should probably write a book about it like everyone else with similar issues. My drunken run-ins with the law are about 10 years behind me, so I’m pretty happy about that. I’m not proud of my past mistakes but you live and you learn, I guess… hopefully. I’ve learned a lot about myself, that’s for sure. I’m deeply in love with my girlfriend, who is a huge, positive support for me, I dig my job, and I’m excited to release some new music and head out on tour again. So I’d say I’m doing pretty well.
The Hollywood Show will be held April 8-10 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel in Los Angeles; go to www.thehollywoodshow.com for details. Also, follow Bonsall on Twitter at @mrbrianbonsall, and check out his bands at facebook.com/lowjobmusic, facebook.com/bootjackbonzmusic and bootjackbonz.bandcamp.com.
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