Grace Lee Whitney will always be known to Star Trek fans, and the world, as Yeoman Janice Rand from Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS). It was, by far, the biggest role of her career. Though her time on the show was short, Whitney’s portrayal of Rand captured the hearts and minds of Star Trek fans. Both the character and the actress are beloved to this day.
Whitney is one of the few cast members from The Original Series who has died. She died in 2015 at the age of 85. Here’s what you need to know about her life after TOS and her death.
How Did Whitney Die?
Whitney died on May 1, 2015. Her death was first reported by StarTrek.com on May 3. According to the outlet, she died of natural causes while at her home in Coarsegold, California. Further reports of her death also stated that she died of natural causes. No further details of her death were given by her family or local officials.
StarTrek.com reported that Whitney lived on a 30-acre property in Coarsegold, which is just a 30-minute drive from California’s Yosemite National Park. Whitney told the outlet in 2011 that her son built a house on the same property so that he and his family could be close to Whitney as she got older. She spent the last years of her life helping to raise her grandchildren and indulging in hobbies like line dancing.
Life After TOS
Whitney only appeared in nine episodes of TOS. In her memoir, The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, Whitney revealed that she was fired from TOS after being sexually assaulted by one of the producers for the show. She never named the man who assaulted her, referring to him only as “The Executive.” At the time she penned the memoir, she believed that she was fired because the producer who’d assaulted her didn’t want her around anymore.
She also revealed that her character wasn’t supposed to be a supporting member of the cast. In her original discussions with Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, her character had been described as a core member of the cast. The show was supposed to focus on Captain Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Rand, not Scotty. So, Whitney was devastated when she discovered that her character wouldn’t be around long enough to be more than a minor character. She also held a huge resentment because of her belief that she’d been fired for her sexual assault.
However, in 2011, she told StarTrek.com that she spoke to Roddenberry years later and found out that he’d planned to write her off the show before the assault happened. In the book The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years, Roddenberry admitted that he “regretted” writing Whitney off the show. He revealed that the studio had pressured him to make the change and he’d given in because he’d “said no so many times” that he thought he should “give them a yes this time.” Roddenberry admitted that, in hindsight, he would have loved to keep Rand on the show and he was upset he didn’t push back.
After she was fired, Whitney’s drinking problem, which was previously manageable, got completely out of control. Her acting career was non-existent, and she told StarTrek.com that she ended up literally on Skid Row in Hollywood. Luckily, she got help and got sober.
Coming Back to ‘Star Trek’
Whitney’s journey in sobriety actually led her right back to the Star Trek universe. Whitney told StarTrek.com that the program of recovery she adopted required her to make amends to those she’d harmed. That process led her to a conversation with Roddenberry, to whom she made amends for all the times she’d been drunk on set.
During that conversation, Roddenberry acknowledged that writing her off the show was a mistake and said that he wanted to bring her back to the Star Trek family. At the time, he was working on what would become, Star Trek: The Motion Picture. True to his word, he wrote her into that movie and the following TOS movies.
After that, Whitney immersed herself in the Star Trek world. She became a fixture at Star Trek conventions and loved connecting with fans. She also appeared in one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, one episode of the non-canon Star Trek spinoff series Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and the non-canon movie Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.
Whitney retired from acting after her appearance in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. She continued to be a regular at Star Trek conventions all over the country. The rest of her time was focused on her family.
Whitney’s legacy lives on in the hearts of Star Trek fans all over the world.
READ NEXT: Star Trek Actress Was the Original Model for Chicken of the Sea Tuna