Saturday morning. 8:05 am.
I’m driving on Corridor X with my two best friends. Beside me is hot coffee in a paper cup with a lid. I like coffee. A lot. My Ipod is in the passenger seat. We go way back. It’s a few years old but it still plays great tunes.
In the rear-view mirror, the morning sunlight has painted my face a warm, golden orange hue. I sip on the coffee and silently thank Juan Valdez and his mule for their contribution. U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name is playing on the speakers. I love U2. I think I could be mates with Bono and The Edge.The Joshua Tree ranks as one of the best albums by any artist or group ever recorded, in my humble opinion. You can disagree, but it’s true.
On most Saturdays, you’ll fine me either sleeping in or brewing a fresh pot of Juan Valdez’s dark elixir. Today I am en route to Potemkin Studios in Pelham. The brainchild of Mr. Randy Landers, Potemkin produces several short fan films each year, all set in the Star Trek universe.
There are two main sets for filming: a Klingon ship bridge, located inside his garage, and a starship bridge, constructed inside a boathouse. Pretty impressive for a shoestring budget. A large green screen hangs in the living room for shots that require other locations.
My association with Potemkin began three years ago with The Chronicles of Lanclos, filmed at Tannehill State Park. Captain Lanclos (Lewis Stockham) is being held prisoner by the Klingons. He escapes by stabbing Kosco, a Klingon guard (me), in the neck with a pin. When Randy called, “Action!” Lewis “stabbed” me, I cried out in pain and slid down the wall—landing right in a mud puddle. We got it all in one take. Even with muddy pants, it was a lot of fun.
My call time today is 9 a.m. but I arrive fifteen minutes early. My friends Larry Fleming and Jack Zumwalt, both who have driven in from Georgia, are already there. Although he plays Kesh, the gruff captain of the Klingon Battlecruiser Kupok, Jack is actually a really nice guy off camera. Larry also acted in Lanclos, and has been in several feature films and TV series. Most recently he was in the new MacGuyver TV show and several episodes of The Walking Dead.
The last two times I was here, I wore pointed ears to play Serrek, a Vulcan. Today I’ll be playing a Klingon character, Lt. Commander Kredok. I change into my uniform, remove my glasses, and take a seat in the makeup chair. Ann Drew slips the headpiece and wig on my head and begins applying makeup. She is also kind enough to laugh politely at my corny jokes.
Ann’s husband Lee is here to run camera. Lee has directed and acted in many of the Potemkin fan films and helped built sets as well. As Ann works on my face, Randy steps in occasionally to apply glue or adjust makeup. After half an hour or so I’m done.
When all the actors are in makeup, we take our places on the bridge set to begin shooting. We’re about an hour behind schedule but Randy doesn’t seem worried. I’m busy brushing back tiny hairs from my wig that are tickling my face. If that’s not already annoying, my glued-on Klingon headpiece is sliding forward, half-covering my eyes.
We shoot for a couple of hours, and between takes I brush back the tiny hairs and adjust my “forehead.” By lunch, I’m not only famished, but half-blind. Every time I lean over to take a bite, the headpiece slides down over my eyes. I’m relieved that nobody seems to notice a deformed Klingon with no eyes munching on a hot dog.
We return to the bridge set and resume filming. Late in the day we get the last shot. Randy calls a wrap and we pose for group photos. Jack leans over with a twinkle in his eye and whispers, “Stick out our tongues.” As the cameras are snapping away, a small band of Klingons screw up their faces like mischievous schoolboys and pose with tongues out. What can I say? He’s the captain.
Exhausted, I amble back to the dressing area and pull off the headpiece. My hair looks like a mop dipped in cooking oil. Still, it’s a relief to feel fresh air on my head.
Dressed in my own clothes, I bid everyone a goodbye and nose the car back onto I-65 North. What remains of the coffee is cold. I’m tired, I’m aching all over, and look like I’ve been sleeping under a wool blanket for two days straight. As Bono sings about streets with no name and crooked crosses in God’s country, I nudge the car in and out of the endless lanes of traffic, smiling to myself because I’ll soon be home. Home, where food and a hot shower await. Maybe later, I’ll relax and have another hot cup of coffee.
It’s been a good day to be a Klingon. 78