James Horan is no stranger to the world of Star Trek, having appeared in all four Star Trek spin-off television series: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. He’s also lent his voice to the video games Klingon Academy and Starfleet Command III. In addition to his time with the Trek franchise, James has appeared in countless commercials, films and television series as well as lent his voice to dozens of popular cartoons and video games. We’re pleased to kick off our TREKAPALOOZA event with a few words from Mr. Horan himself.
BLANKMANinc: You’ve had a successful career in commercials, television, theater, film and voice work, but how did you get your start in show business to begin with?
James Horan: I was a sophomore in high school–in Louisville, Kentucky, my home town– and heard an announcement on the P.A. one day for anyone who was interested in helping to build theater sets and learning stagecraft should come down on a Saturday morning to Actors Theatre of Louisville, a very highly respected professional regional repertory company. So I decided to show up. I had seen a couple of plays there on school trips, and was very impressed by what I’d seen. Being in the atmosphere of the theater was very enticing to me, and the actors I met who were working on plays seemed so otherworldly. I think I decided then that it was something I wanted to somehow try and be a part of, but I didn’t really know how. I was a jock–played football and ran track–but I tried out for a play at my school, and was cast, but I was so put off by the kind of pompous,”thespian” types in the play, I decided to drop out and continued in athletics through the rest of high school.
It wasn’t until I got to college, at Centre College of Kentucky, a small liberal arts institution in the heart of the Bluegrass, that I was truly impressed by the level of acting, and the commitment of the actors in the plays I saw there. Still, I continued to play football and run track for the first two years at Centre, not trying out for a play until my junior year, when I was cast as the Marquis de Sade in Marat/Sade. Well, the bug definitely bit then, and I stopped being a jock and devoted all my energies to theater for the last two years of college. Well, I should clarify–I was an English major, with a minor in theater, and got certified to teach high school English, but I decided to go on to grad school at the University of Iowa, and pursue an MFA in Acting, which I got two years later.
As for my first real acting gig, that came when I moved to LA after grad school, and was cast in a little theater production of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. My role was just a walk-on, but I got to meet Mr. Bradbury, who was around quite a bit to supervise the production, which had been adapted by the play’s director. I was thrilled to be working in the theater–not being paid, mind you–in fact, paying dues to the company for the privilege of acting–but it was pretty amazing to get to work with one of the best science fiction writers who ever lived! Interesting side note: Exactly 30 years later, in 2009, I got to work in another play by Ray Bradbury, called Falling Upward, a comedy set in Ireland. This time I was one of the leads, and it was great to re-connect with the legend, who was confined to a wheelchair after a stroke had partially immobilized him. He got a kick out of the fact that I had been a part of one of his first plays so many years ago. He passed on just recently, and is greatly missed by all of us who had the pleasure to know him.
As for being PAID to act, that happened when I was cast as Jesus for a Christian film company soon after I arrived in LA at 24 years old–imagine me with a wig of dark, long hair and a fake beard, being interrogated by Pilate… I looked pretty silly, but I was thrilled that someone considered me good enough to get paid! After that, soap opera contracts followed–on Another World, All My Children, General Hospital, and Loving. Then guest stars on prime time TV. I got into the voice-over world in about 1994, which has been very good to me, having created characters in over 80 video games. I can currently be heard as the voice of the Autobot Wheeljack in the animated series Transformers Prime on the HUB network. The new season starts March 22–hope everyone will tune in!
JH: Well, I happened to audition for it one day, and lo and behold they cast me! I actually had read for the role of Riker when they were doing the pilot, but alas, did not get that plum. My first part was an alien–Jo’Bril, a Takaran scientist in the episode “Suspicions”. Later I played a human, Lt. Barnaby, supposed to be a veteran officer, who helped Dr. Crusher defeat the Borg in the episode “Descent, Pt. 2”, when most of the crew were being held prisoner on the Borg planet. It was rumored he would recur, but that didn’t happen, unfortunately. I went on to create two more alien characters in Voyager–a baddie named Tosin—and also in Deep Space Nine–the Jem’Hadar leader of the penal planet, Ikat’Ika. Lastly, I played the recurring role of the “Humanoid Figure”, or “Future Guy”, in Enterprise.
BMi: You’ve appeared in all four of the modern Star Trek spinoffs multiple times, each as a different character and race from Takaran to Jem’Hadar. Was there any role in particular that you favored the most?
JH:I enjoyed most playing the Jem’Hadar in DS9. It was a two-parter, and I had the time to really explore the character; I thought it was great that he evolved over the course of the arc–he started out as a typical emotionless member of that race, but then became so impressed by Worf’s prowess in battle, that he decided to let him live at the end, thereby insuring his own death. He just couldn’t bring himself to kill a fellow warrior whom he respected.