One famous actress from the Star Trek franchise almost had a very different career path. Here’s the story of how she could have become a lawyer, if only she hadn’t flunked one very important class. Read on to get the details, in her own words.
Majel Barrett Went to Law School, But Flunked ‘Contracts’
In a turn of events that’s a bit ironic, given how important contracts are for working actors, a young Majel Barrett flunked law school course on contracts.
The story, which first appeared in an interview published in 1988, was uploaded to StarTrek.com in 2019, where it was re-packaged as “The Retro Interview” with Majel Barrett. In the interview, Barrett recalled:
“I went to law school for a year, but I had been doing acting all the way through. I finally decided that, after flunking Contracts, a six-credit course, I really didn’t want to take it again, and I wasn’t going to be a very good lawyer anyway. So, I went up to New York and gave professional acting a try.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Majel Barrett not only went on to appear in various roles in both Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. On the former, she played both “Number One” and Nurse Chapel. On TNG, she lent her voice to the shipboard computer, and occasionally guest-starred as Deanna Troi’s overbearing mother, Lwaxana.
According to her bio on StarTrek.com, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry was born Majel Lee Hudec in Cleveland, back in 1932. She also performed under the name M. Leigh Hudec.
In the interview, she doesn’t state which school she was attending during her short time in law school. However, given her comment about moving to New York after making the decision to quit school, it’s fair to assume the law school was not located in New York City or New York state. According to the Miami New Times, both Majel and future husband Gene Roddenberry were both dropouts from the University of Miami, though the two did not meet while in school. It wasn’t until later in life that the two met in California, and eventually realized they had attended the same school.
While Majel never got a law degree, the show she starred in certainly inspired at least one viewer to pursue the career she abandoned. In a special opinion piece for the Montreal Gazette, lawyer Gavin MacFayden cited Star Trek: The Next Generation as his inspiration for entering the legal field.
Other ‘Trek’ Actors Went to Law School
StarTrek.com notes that actor Eric Menyuk, who was in the running to be cast as Data at one point during the show’s development, eventually appeared on The Next Generation multiple times as The Traveler. After appearing on TNG, Menyuk went to law school, graduating in 1998. His online bio jokes that he is “one of the few lawyers with his own ‘action figure’”.
Additionally, fans of TOS may recall that Melvin Belli appeared in the episode And the Children Shall Lead, as Gorgan. In addition to working as an actor, the New York Times notes that Belli was also Jack Ruby’s lawyer. Ruby was the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963.