National Geographic : 2017 Feb
70 years it misses us. That’s how you’ve got to do this. If it’s on the last path in to the Earth, forget it. You’d be hosed. WG: I have to tell you, with the an- nouncement recently of finding—what did they say—1,200 new exoplanets out there, that didn’t make me feel bet- ter. Because I don’t know where those planets are. What are they doing? Who’s on them? NT: Your interest in science fiction—did that influence you to take the gig on Star Trek: The Next Generation? I remember growing up, we would see science fiction stories and I’d say, “How come there are no black aliens?” WG: Because they were green, Neil. They were green. NT: Does that scare you, that there were no black people in anybody’s vision of the future? WG: Well, I realized as a kid that I didn’t understand that, because I loved sci-fi. So when LeVar Burton comes to my house and tells me, “I’m getting ready to do Star Trek,” I was like, “Dude, I want in.” He was like, “I’ll tell them.” I saw him about eight months later and said, “Dude, did you tell them?” He said, “I told them, but they didn’t believe it.” I said, “Call them right now. Set up a lunch” [with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry]. Gene says, “So, you want to do Star Trek?” I said, “Yeah. You don’t under- stand: This was a huge part of my life because as a kid who loved science fic- tion, not until Lieutenant Uhura did I realize that I was in the future.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Gene, if you look at science fiction movies that predate Star Trek, there are no people of color anywhere. Anywhere. Unless you go to Japan, where you see the Godzilla movies, but we’re nowhere else.” He was like, “I don’t think I knew that.” I said, “Well, you know now.” So he created my character, Gui- nan, and he built this bar for me on the starship U.S.S. Enterprise. I may be the last creature he created. [Roddenberry died in 1991.] NT: Do you still have a little bit of sci- ence fiction in you? There’s some movies | STARTALK PHOTO: PARAMOUNT TELEVISION/PHOTOFEST you might want to be in? WG: I would love to do any science fiction that’s happening, and also all of the superhero movies. Because you know, I’m a woman of a certain age who’s grown up with Superman and Batman and Supergirl and all of the DC and Marvel Comics universes. And there’s nothing out there for women of a certain age. I want to see somebody who saves the Earth who looks a little bit like me. Whose behind is a little bit bigger. Whose chest is on the floor. But when the superpowers kick in, whew! She could slap a whole nation of people on the way to taking care of business. NT: Here’s a question I have. How come if humans bite zombies, the zombies don’t become human? That’s what I want to know. WG: Because there’s some enzyme that messes you up as a zombie. NT: I know, but why can’t I turn a zom- bie back into a human if I bite him? WG: Because you don’t have an enzyme in your teeth or in your saliva that will work that way. It’s a one-way thing. NT: Oh, OK. You’ve thought about that. WG: Clearly, I have too much time on my hands. And I’ve watched too many zombie movies. NT: Thank you for solving all that. WG: I try. You do the universe, I do the zombie world. In 1988 Whoopi Goldberg (back row, far left) joined the cast of the television show Star Trek: The Next Genera- tion, which ran from 1987 to 1994. She played Guinan, an alien who ran a bar on the starship U.S.S. Enterprise.