Sci-Fi has never been so hot.
Hitting theaters across the universe this weekend is that little action epic called Star Trek. You may have heard of it: Captain Kirk. Spock. Exploding spaceships. And some mission about boldly going where no dude has gone before...
Ellis, a seasoned stage actor who has a ton of film (Pirates of the Caribbean, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) and TV (24, Trust Me, The Riches) credits, once performed in Starlight Express at the Las Vegas Hilton, a tourist destination known for its Star Trek Experience attraction. Coincidence? Perhaps mere foreshadowing. Sonita, on the other hand, didn't get "the bug" right away. After appearing in The Fifth Element, Sonita (fun fact) worked at a toy store at Heathrow Airport and didn't give acting much thought. It was after moving to New York and taking some classes at the Herber Bergoff Studio when she felt the urge to jump in her car and drive cross country to L.A. to pursue - what else - a career in "the biz."
HIH: What was it like coming on to such a hugely popular and classic franchise like Star Trek? Were you nervous going in?
GE: I really think the nerves came from a place of really trying to stay true and respectful of what's gone on before, to retain those elements of authenticity the people before you have laid down.
SH: At the time I think I was just really happy to book another gig. I think I was way more excited about the fact that I got to work JJ Abrams. I mean, the guy is a friggin' genius. I've been a fan of Alias since the first season.
HIH: Us too!
SH: Ha! Excellent...And I had wanted to work with him for so long. So, I get the call saying I had booked it, and I was basically freaking out about that. And it really didn't sink in that it was Star Trek until the first day on set, and you're wandering around, and things are blowing up, and I'm wearing this weird eyebrow cover, and I got these dots on my face and they're talking about CGI-ing my face. And I'm like, "Oh, okay, it's that movie." It's a big movie. And the Trek fans - they're all friends of mine or family - they suddenly come out the woodwork and they're like, it's Trek, you don't realize this is Star Trek. And that's when I was suddenly like: Oh yeah, that's right.
HIH: Sonita, you have a pretty vital role in the film. As a Starfleet doctor, you basically bring our main man (James T. Kirk) into the world. Were there any baby wranglers involved? How was shooting that chaotic delivery scene?
SH: I think three mothers turned up that morning with three different babies, and then we had to choose one. But I believe there were two fake babies and then one real baby. I don't really hang out with kids, I'm not around babies, so I kept thinking I was going to drop someone's [child]. And these babies are ten days old! Brand new babies. Time to not drop a child. It wasn't chaotic. It was extremely quiet on set. And the problem was that the scene itself had to be very chaotic, so it was a very interesting dynamic, keeping your energy at that level but, at the same time, on a set where you could drop a pin and hear it.
HIH: Did you go through any huge preparations for your roles before meeting with J.J. [Abrams, the director]?
GE: Before I actually got to set, there was some wirework that I had to practice with over at Paramount, getting on up on the wire and feeling comfortable dangling up in the air.
In one of the most suspenseful scenes of the movie Kirk, Sulu (John Cho) and Greg's character, Olsen, spacedive out of a ship in an attempt to safely land on a giant Romulan laser drill.
HIH: Everyone seems to love working with J.J. What was it like meeting him, working with him?
GE: He really is a joy to work with. When you have a director who has a big-budget movie, they have a bajillion tings flying at them from all different angels every second of every day...and to be able to deal with that and then still focus on the task at hand at any given moment -- and do it with a smile on your face and be courteous and be fun to be around -- it's a rare feat, and JJ Abrams does that.
HIH: What do you guys have lined up for the future?
GE: Foodfight is [an animated film] with Eva Longoria Parker, Hilary Duff and Charlie Sheen, and it's about a supermarket that comes to life in the evening. All the brand name products are threatened by the generic brands, and there's a huge battle between the two.
SH: I have a bunch of commercials running right now, but I'm doing a computer game, which I've always wanted to do, but I don't know if I could talk about it.
HIH: Are you lending your voice to one of the characters in the game?
SH: It's my voice, and it's also going to look like me and move like me. I get to do all of the motion capture. I guess I've sealed my fate in the sci-fi genre, which is fine by me.
HIH: Finally, we have to ask, since it's what we're all about...What do you guys think is "Hot" in Hollywood right now?
GE: Clearly I'm bound to say Star Trek [laughs]. But I think Hollywood itself is hot right now, the actual town, the new bulildings, the new restaurants, the W Hotel, the businesses, the condominiums. In a time of economic downturn, Hollywood is surviving and continuing to thrive...The Hungry Cat (at Sunset and Vine) is a restaurant I like to frequent every once in a while. It's one of the best seafood restaurants in town.
SH: I think my neighborhood is freakin' hot right now. I just moved to Mount Washington (near Eagle Rock), just north of Dodgers Stadium. I lived there for a few years, and in the last year or so I've seen such a growth and a such cool vibe enter this part of the city. Gastropubs (like The York) are opening up and coffeeshops everywhere. That's what I think is hot!
HIHers, buy your Star Trek tickets now.