For Ben Vereen, stepping into the 21st century was an emotional moment.
Recovering from a serious accident, Vereen welcomed the chance to appear on Star Trek: The Next Generation. “It was LeVar’s idea. I was out of rehab after my accident in 1992,” said Vereen. “I got this letter from Paramount saying that they wanted me to do The Next Generation. And I flipped out. What they didn’t know was that all through my recovery I was watching, every day, episodes of The Next Generation that a friend had given me. When I was working my way back, I’d been putting on Star Trek, and now I was being asked to do an episode. It was overwhelming. Then I went to Paramount and they gave me a uniform and bars, and I was Dr. La Forge, Geordi’s father. I was honored and, to this day, I thank LeVar Burton for that. It was a great, great gift.”
Seeing himself in Dr. La Forge’s blue command uniform was an emotional moment for Vereen. “I cried,” said Vereen. “Tears. Tears. Real tears. I looked in the mirror and I wept. I walked out onto the set, LeVar saw me, and he said, ‘Welcome to the 21st century. Welcome to Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ It was beautiful. It was a beautiful moment.”
Years after his Star Trek appearance, Vereen still hears from Star Trek fans, both at conventions and via the US Post Office. “You know what’s wild? I’ve gone to a few conventions and people have my (trading) card,” he said. “I get cards mailed to me from Germany, from Switzerland, from Africa, from China, and they’re from people who want me to sign my character card and send it back to them. I’m actually on a Star Trek trading card. That is too cool.”
Vereen has a new album out, Ben Vereen: Stepping Out Live. He also has a recurring role on How I Met Your Mother. Vereen’s website is located here.