Wheaton On Living In Wesley's Shadow

By Caillan
December 12, 2001 - 6:13 PM

Playing the character of boy genius Wesley Crusher has brought Wil Wheaton a fair amount of criticism over the years, but the actor feels that he has finally managed to shed the stigma of his fictional alter ego.

"What used to really hurt when I was younger was that no one would draw that distinction between Wil Wheaton the person and Wesley Crusher the character," the actor told Damien Cave at Salon.com. "What a lot of people needed to do was stop and consider that I was 14 years old when that show started. I had zero input into what the character was going to do."

By establishing his own web site, Wheaton was able to let viewers see the man behind the character. "I still get a little bit of flak, but since I've really made my presence known online, since people have gotten to know me instead of my character, a lot of that has cooled off. I get at least one e-mail a day saying, 'I really hated Wesley Crusher, but I've sort of gotten to know you through your site, and you're sort of an OK guy.'"

Wheaton has some thoughts on why Wesley was such an almost universally hated character. "He was a person who could be easily identified with - young, smart and socially awkward but intellectually able to hold his own with all these adults around him. And this guy who sent [an] e-mail said to me that basically that was how a lot of the people who watched Star Trek were.

"So the show starts out with Wesley walking out onto the bridge and he's got this amazed look on his face; it's like Wesley's living the dream. He's doing this thing that we all thought would be so cool. And then, two episodes later he turns into Superman. People felt betrayed. The writers had made this promise to the audience that Wesley would be complex, and they broke it."

Despite less than positive viewer reaction to his character, Wheaton has nothing but good things to say about his time on The Next Generation. "We had people come and do guest-starring roles on Next Generation, and there would be people who had worked on other shows, and they all said that they couldn't believe how much we liked each other," he recalled. "I always held onto that because I just took it for granted. I just assumed that everyone working on a series would be so happy to be there so they'd be cool. I've since learned that that's not the case. I've since learned that Hollywood is swimming in complete A-holes, but at the time, I just assumed that's the way it was."

The full interview, in which Wheaton also talked about the Electronic Frontier Foundation, can be found here at Salon.com.

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