Richard Herd is an actor in television and film, well known in the science fiction community for his roles on the miniseries V, its sequel V: The Final Battle, SeaQuest DSV, Star Trek: Voyager/The Next Generation and Quantum Leap. In addition to his science fiction roles, he also appeared on T. J. Hooker, M*A*S*H, The Rockford Files, Starsky and Hutch, The A-Team, NYPD Blue and Seinfeld as Mr. Wilhelm, George Costanza’s boss. We are honored to present our exclusive interview with this science fiction icon as part of our month-long Star Trek celebration TREKAPALOOZA!
BLANKMANinc: You’ve appeared in countless television and film productions over the past 60 years. How did your career in show business begin?
Richard Herd: Well a long time ago in Boston, Massachusetts in the 7th or 8th grade I heard them rehearsing a production… So I signed up for the singing group and I signed up for the pipe and drum corp. So I got into music real early on, then we moved back to Boston, I went to Boston English high school. I was backup drummer in the band, we used to play weekend dates like proms, rallies, weddings and there were some people there going to Emerson College, Boston University, Harvard, places like that, and they were rehearsing a radio show in Quincy, Massachusetts. I bumped into them a few times, they invited me to audition and I did and they put me on their radio show.
I went into the army in 1953, I did my tour, I came out, I went to New York and I studied and I studied and I starved and I studied and I starved. I started getting work and I slowly worked myself up to small parts to middle parts to some major roles. Finally they offered me TJ Hooker with Bill Shatner, I stayed on that for two and a half years… ever since then I’ve done over 300 TV shows, about 41 films, over a hundred plays and I am fortunate I continue to work. I tell you there is a lot of struggle, I wouldn’t advise anyone to go into the business at this particular time. I was very, very fortunate because when I went in there was plenty of work but now we’ve lost 50% of the work so there are very, very few opportunities for new people coming in.
BMi: You and Arnold Schwarzenegger share the same big screen debut with Hercules in New York. What was it like working with the young Terminator?
RH: He couldn’t speak the language too well. It was the very first film he ever did and they called him Arnold Strong. He was a good guy and as you know that’s the great American story there. A businessman comes to this country and ends up being governor of the state of California. He was a good guy. When they re-released it when he became a movie star the guy that owned it made a fortune, he re-released it, gave it a new title, it was called Hercules Goes Bananas starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
BMi: With roles on shows like V and V: The Final Battle, SeaQuest DSV, Quantum Leap and your appearances on Star Trek, of course, you are a bit of a staple in the science fiction community. What has led you to so many science fiction roles?
RH: What happened there, you do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and after 40, 50, 60 years you look back and say, “My God, I do have a science fiction background.” I really enjoy doing science fiction, it gives you an opportunity to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily get a chance to do in weekly episodic television. My experience with Michael Dorn on “Birthright 1 and 2” was a great experience and my experience as Tom’s dad, Admiral Paris, on Star Trek, including the final one, that was a wonderful experience. It’s been good and if they call me tomorrow I’d be happy to do my tap dance, go in again, play a Klingon or whatever they ask because I always had a good time, met a lot of wonderful people.
BMi: I’ve heard that you will be reviving your roll for the fan film Star Trek Renegades directed by Tim Russ. Can you tell me anything about this project?
RH: I was just speaking to Walter Koenig yesterday as a matter of fact and I will be revising my role on Renegades which I think they’re hoping to start sometime in July or August.