Clint Howard is the very definition of a character actor – and a “Star Trek” favorite. Unmistakable in appearance and voice, Howard can stake claim to a career that spans portions of seven decades – and he’s still only in his 60s – and encompasses more than 250 film and television credits. He’s popped up in massive hits and Oscar-winners and, without apology, grasping that work is work and bills must be paid, Howard’s CV includes dozens of deliciously cheesy B-movies. Among his credits are “Gentle Ben,” “Winnie the Pooh” (voice of Roo in several iterations), “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” “Apollo 13,” “The Dentist,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “3 from Hell,” and “Pam & Tommy.” Several of those projects were directed by his brother, actor-turned-director Ron Howard. Clint and Ron most recently collaborated on a memoir, “The Boys.”
A Galaxy of ‘Trek’ Appearances
Also among those 250-plus credits are four official visits to the “Star Trek” universe. Howard started in 1966 with the role of Balok in the first-season “Star Trek” episode, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” followed by his roles as Grady in the “Deep Space Nine” episode “Past Tense, Part II” in 1995, Muk in the “Enterprise” installment “Acquisition” in 2003, and an Orion in the “Discovery” hour ‘Will You Take Me Hand?’ in 2018. Howard, in fact, is to date the first and only actor to shoot scenes for an episode of “The Original Series” and an episode of “Discovery”; Leonard Nimoy appeared on “Discovery” via archive footage.
Howard already was a veteran child actor when, at age seven, he auditioned for and won the role of Balok. The character, an adult, but childlike in appearance, commanded and was the sole occupant of the Fesarius, flagship of the First Federation. After making First Contact using a fearsome puppet to threaten the Enterprise, Balok revealed his true self, ultimately inviting Kirk, McCoy and landing party member Dave Bailey (Anthony Call) aboard his ship. There, they shared tranya, and Bailey agreed to stay aboard the Fesarius to keep the lonely alien company. “The Corbomite Maneuver” routinely – and deservedly – ranks among the top 10 best episodes of “Star Trek,” lauded for embracing “the other” and celebrating exploration. The episode was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1967 in the “Best Dramatic Presentation” category.
“I remember getting the skullcap put on,” Howard told StarTrek.com. “They’d asked me if I wanted to shave my head, and at that time I was going to a public school in Burbank and I said, ‘No, thanks.’ I’ve got pictures of the makeup guy, stills of them putting the piece on me. I remember vividly putting on the skullcap. More than anything, I remember preparing for the job. My dad (actor Rance Howard) was always about preparation. So, as a young actor, I always went in being very prepared. They were originally going to use my voice, but they ended up using a synthesizer (along with the voice of the late Walker Edmiston). That was a brand-new thing, a synthesizer.
“Anyway, I had to learn the scene and, for a little guy like me at that time, it was a mouthful,” he continued. “So, I remember all my preparation. Then, I remember being on the Bridge. I made sure my dad took a picture of me standing there, and sitting in the captain’s chair. Everyone was real friendly. But the experience of shooting it, that was like doing any other scene. You have your lines and you do it and the next thing you know you’re done.”
Howard never saw the popularity of “Star Trek” coming but reports that he’s been happy, even honored, to ride the wave for 55 years and counting. He still attends autograph events and “Star Trek” conventions, and he reprised his role as Balok for Comedy Central’s roast of William Shatner in 2006. His cameo as a shady Orion – who seems to have tranya-esque booze nearby – occurred as a direct result of his friendship with “Discovery” writer-producer Akiva Goldsman, who directed “Will You Take My Hand?” and co-wrote the story.
“At the beginning, when ‘Star Trek’ started to have legs, it was really surprising,” Howard admitted. “I’ve never actually been a big sci-fi guy, and although I was really happy to be on the show – because of the cool devices and because the ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ and all that stuff was fascinating to me – it was just another job. The fact that has stayed in the public’s consciousness for such a long period of time, it just goes back to my theory that you cannot take this business too seriously.”
Ready for More
And if the “Star Trek” team approaches Howard about acting in “Strange New Worlds” or lending his voice to one of the current animated adventures, “Lower Decks” and “Prodigy,” he’d listen. “Oh, sure,” Howard said. “I’m an actor and I love gainful employment. Virtually every job offer gets a legitimate consideration from me, but the fact that it’s ‘Star Trek’ is a ‘Yes’ at the drop of a hat. How many people have been on shows (55) years ago and are still being asked to be in incarnations of the same franchise?”