The Next ‘Final Frontier’
Bobby Quinn Rice plays gay in space. Twice.
by David Goldberg
You don’t have to wait until 2013 to get your fix of multicultural Star Trek goodness. Star Trek Phase II: Blood and Fire, the fan-made web series, delivers all the action in the meantime. Before he arrives in Houston for the Space City Con in August, Phase II star Bobby Quinn Rice spoke with OutSmart about playing two gay characters in the Trek universe, fan reactions, and his career goals.
David Goldberg: Have you been to Houston before?
Bobby Quinn Rice: No, I haven’t. I lived outside of Dallas for a time, in Plano. I haven’t experienced Houston yet.
There’s a vibrant sci-fi community here, so they’ll be nice to you.
I like hearing that.
You’ve played two gay characters in the Star Trek universe. How did that happen?
When I first came out to L.A., one of the first auditions I had was for Hidden Frontiers, which is an online Trek fan production. I got the role of Ro Nevin. The character was already kind of gay-curious and experiencing some questions that needed to be answered. The young actor who was playing the character didn’t want to play him anymore, so they asked me: “You know this character, part of his story arc will be his sexuality. Are you okay with that?” I said yeah, I have no problem. So it was interesting at that time to be able to take what had already been established and get to deal with the transitional time for that character. After that, James Cawley from Star Trek: New Voyages saw me and contacted me to tell me that he and David Gerrold were working on an adaptation of Blood and Fire, which was something he wrote for Next Generation, and was curious if I would come onboard and play that character, who incidentally was gay as well.
Do you find it strange that one actor plays two gay characters in one universe?
It’s definitely unique, especially going from one Star Trek production with a gay character to another and saying, “Guess what? I’m a gay character.” It’s a story that needed to be told, and it’s a really prevalent social issue nowadays. Especially with gay marriage and gay rights and the struggle for equality, I think fans can look at it as something that needed to be addressed. Within the Star Trek universe it probably already had been addressed, but there was no definitive representation of gays on board the Enterprise. It was a story that was waiting to be told, and people who are fans of Star Trek are fans of it because of the message of equality and love that it sends, and that aspect fits right into it.
Has there been positive feedback and fan support?
Oh, definitely. Wonderful fan support, especially being my first role out here. I got these awesome e-mails from people saying, “I really enjoyed your performance, I really like seeing somebody I can identify with onboard the Enterprise, and that we are finally represented openly as members of the team, and not closeted.” And I think what was positive, especially from younger fans or people who weren’t that into Star Trek but [could identify with the struggles] of the character, whether it’s Ro Nevin coming to terms with his feelings about his sexuality, or Peter, in Blood and Fire Phase II, who was open about it but had to deal with his relationship with his uncle, Captain Kirk.
What are you up to now?
Currently, I’m still very active in my improv. I perform around the L.A. area with different groups and am still studying and performing at the Groundlings, which is an amazing theater with some of the most talented people I have ever met. I’m working on some sketch series and a web series as well. And there are a couple films in the works. I’m grateful to have a lot of people who support and believe in me—producers and filmmakers like Zach and Shane O’Brien. I love working with creative and passionate teams like that. Recently, I joined the rest of the world on Twitter, so I’ll be updating upcoming performances and films there [@BobbyQuinnRice].
Do you see a place for characters of “deviant” sexuality in the sci-fi genre, whether in TV, comics, or film?
Ha, that would depend on your definition of “deviant.” In terms of equal rights for people of different sexual orientations, it is an interesting and important time. It seems gay characters have been introduced to TV shows and movies more comfortably and accurately in recent years, compared to the past. I’m a fan of balance. I think there will always be a place for accurate representation for people of all backgrounds. It’s great to see more and more stories and a greater diversity of stories being told. I love comics—the other day I went around to my local comic store in Burbank and saw two dudes on Archie being married and a mixed-race kid playing Spiderman. Pretty cool! Sci-fi, comics, TV, and film all have the great opportunity not only to expand their markets, but to also reinforce the ideal that we are all in this together and have the right to live free and happy.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Has that been used yet? If not, I want to coin it!
See Bobby Quinn Rice at Space City Con (spacecitycon.com), August 10–12, at the Westin Galleria Hotel, 5060 West Alabama.
David Goldberg is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.