Grace Lee Whitney found that even in the jungle that is Hollywood; people were more than willing to meet her halfway once she got past her own personal demons.
Best-known to Trek fans for her role of Janice Rand, the character she played on Star Trek reminded Whitney of another female character airing on a popular western. “Rand was willing to learn to be a secretary to the captain, whom, of course, I immediately had a crush on,” said Whitney. “But, it was unrequited love, like Kitty and Matt on Gunsmoke. It could not be consummated. It had to be love from afar, an unrequited love between the captain and me.”
Whitney had a drinking problem, which worsened after she was let go from Star Trek. “I started drinking heavily after that,” she said. “I used to go for a lot of counseling, and the counselors tried to get me to differentiate between the character of Janice Rand and Grace Lee Whitney, and I could not do it. I could not not be Janice Rand. It was Grace Lee Whitney that got fired. Janice Rand was just the character. It was me they didn’t like. They threw me out. Blah, blah, blah.”
For a long time, Whitney believed that she was fired after a sexual assault from an unnamed executive at Desilu, but she realized later that that was not the case. “I was fired from the show, but I found later that it was in the works before the assault. I’d been blaming the assault for most of my life, until about thirty years ago, when I got sober.”
It was Yeoman Rand’s closeness to Kirk that was the problem, not anything having to do with Whitney herself. “There was a scene that Shatner and I did,” Whitney explained, and I remember when it happened, that scared the producers, because they said, ‘Uh-oh, they’re getting too close. This is getting too hot. We have to remove her because he’s going to look like he’s cheating when he falls in love with other women on other planets.’ So if she’s waiting for him on the ship and he’s out there cheating, Yeoman Rand would be the sympathetic part on the ship and he’d look like a cad. So they said, ‘Why don’t we just remove the yeoman.’ Of course, this went on behind-the-scenes.
That discovery changed Whitney’s attitude towards acting, men, and life. “Finding out that I was (already) being written out of the show changed my whole life,” she said. “It made it easier for me to go back there because I did not have to hold a resentment against any male, against any producer, against anything. It’s show biz, honey.”
And once Whitney was sober, she wanted to make amends for her past behaviors while under the influence. “When I got sober I had to go to Paramount and make a lot of amends and talk to a lot of people over there, including Gene Roddenberry,” she said. “I had to make amends to them for drinking. I didn’t drink that much (during the show). Really, I didn’t. But I did it because I needed to stay sober and I needed to get back in their good graces.”
Roddenberry told Whitney that allowing Janice Rand to be written out of Trek had been a “big mistake” and he made his own amends, putting Whitney in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Whitney went on to have parts in several other Star Trek films, as well as a Star Trek: Voyager episode, Flashback.
Today, Whitney lives near Yosemite, California, where she enjoys being near her family (her son lives nearby), and she still does the occasional convention. “My life is happy, joyous, free, sober and saved and a lot of fun, too,” she said. “I have a lot of fun.”