Star Trek Veteran Remains an Unbelievable Actor Even with the Pandemic
by Brad Balfour
In the Star Trek universe, British actor Dominic Keating established himself as a significant player once he joined the Star Trek: Enterprise cast as Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, one of its core members. As the Enterprise’s armory officer, he was in the senior command and appeared in 96 episodes where his presence was felt in this benchmark franchise. And even though it’s nearly 20 years later, his role as a 22nd century Starfleet officer serving on board Enterprise NX-01 under Captain Jonathan Archer’s (Scott Bakula) command – the first Warp 5 starship – is as memorable as ever.
Recently, in one of those incredible alumni opportunities of being part of the greatest franchise in history, actors from the original Star Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise found themselves working with Snoop Dogg in the parody / comedy Unbelievable!!!!. When it made its first appearance it featured 40-plus actors who have been in some version of Star Trek – and it was created by the husband and wife team of director Steven Fawcette and producer/co-star Angelique Fawcette.
The film has been screened several times on the convention circuit and recently enjoyed a day-long virtual premiere for Star Trek con on August 1, 2020. (For more info, go to Archangel Films’ website: http://www.archangelfilmsllcla.com/)
A long-time veteran of film and television, Keating first made his name in England starring in Desmond’s, a hit Brit series. Born in Leicester to an Irish father, his grandfather, a brigadier, was awarded an OBE. From primary school, he started acting; to obtain his Equity card, Keating worked in a drag act called “Feeling Mutual.” He went on from Desmond’s to a role in Inspector Morse, as well as other guest-starring roles.
Once he moved to the States, he became the demonic warrior Mallos on the short-lived 2000 series The Immortal. He also made guest appearances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, G vs E and Special Unit 2 as well as on several other series prior to his role on Star Trek: Enterprise. Since then, he had guest roles on other series such as the hit show Heroes for its second season playing an Irish mobster in a four-episode arc. He also did three episodes on the Fox TV series Prison Break. In 2010 Keating guest starred in the FX original series Sons of Anarchy. But this list is eclipsed by his four-year stint from 2001-2005, in Enterprise – a tough experience to replicate, but certainly life-changing and full of insight.
Doing a weirdo parody like this gave you an opportunity to play more with humor. When you were doing Enterprise, you enjoyed doing a little bit with humor there as well. Was this fun, to get an opportunity to exploit your humorous side?
Yeah, God bless. My first big job was a sitcom in England. I did five years in a show called Desmond’s which was a huge hit there in the end. It was set in a West Indian barber shop. I played one of the “pokin’ honkies.”
G: That must have been fun.
It was a lot of fun. It was the time of my life, actually. That show was the first of what was called a “black show”. It crossed over into just the general lexicon of British TV viewing. I was just as likely to have two white lads in a white van screaming out the window at me “Hoy, Tony!” – which was my character’s name on the show – as I would a group of black kids [doing the same].
The day after that show aired, I was in Brixton at the time. I used to go swim at the Brixton rec [recreation hall] every morning after being on TV the night before. I went down to the pool, took a swim and was in the shower when a bunch of school kids, mostly black – all turned to me and went, “You were on last night!”
So, you racked up some props even before hitting the Star Trek universe. But that provided you a platform to work from.
Yeah, no kidding. The power of TV. I’m quite a funny fellow, so I let that come through quite quickly.
Luckily, I recognized that playing Malcolm Reed to the three-line characterization in the bio that they gave you was going to get pretty dull quite quickly. I think it was by the end of the second episode of the pilot, I thought, you know what, I should let a lot of Dominic come through into Malcolm – within reason, because obviously I’m not him. I did, and you know what, it worked out.
I think the writers saw that quickly. They loved the conflict and the contradiction that he was this buttoned-down, stiff-upper-lip Brit, but he had a right sense of humor in the end. They started writing for that and they loved it. They gave me a lot of leeway. It was fortunate for me as a British actor on an American TV show that I could ring up the writers and go “A British guy would never say that.” They gave me quite a lot of free rein to just be Malcolm. I actually rewrote quite a lot of my sections. I wrote quite a few of my little speeches myself, and they were very cool about that.
They weren’t so cool with some of the others. [One guy] didn’t get any leeway. They wrote what they wrote, and he had to say it.
There was some good interplay between you and Tripp, Commander Charles Tucker (Connor Trinneer), for example.
Yes, we got on straightaway. We’re still very dear friends. We hang out a lot together — some twenty years – I can’t believe it. It will be 20 years next year that the show opened. We started in 2001. Imagine that.
It’s been a pretty amazing turn. Scott Bakula has a charm – he has helped some shows take off in some way.
Yeah, I can’t say enough about him. He’s a charming, lovely, generous – we couldn’t have hoped for a nicer [person]. Hollywood sets cannot always be – how should we say – friendly places to hang around. They’re like armies, you know: a lot of it comes from the leader. If the leader, the No. 1 on the call sheet, is twitchy or egocentric – or an asshole (laughs), that all trickles down through the ranks.
I’ve worked on many sets where I cannot wait to get in the car and drive home. But luckily, thank God, he made those years at Paramount – and being at Paramount for that time, you know, when they were still very much a “studio,” the last of its kind, really – they were joyous years. They really were. I am so lucky and fortunate to have that experience here in Hollywood. I just watched that show Hollywood on Netflix – I don’t know if you’ve seen it…
No, but I’ve been meaning to see it.
Oh, it’s delightful. It’s an absolute joy. They show a lot of Paramount, so it was doubly joyful to see that place so beautifully portrayed on screen. I recommend it. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in, frankly, years. There’s The Crown, there was The Night Of, which was that wonderful thing that John Turturro did with Riz Ahmed. I’m very picky about my viewing pleasures. I recommend Hollywood wholeheartedly, it’s a treat. It really is.
I’ve been watching a channel – Heroes & Icons – that has all the different Star Trek series. When you start to watch them consistently, you understand what they’ve done to create this ultimate universe. It’s a complete universe.
Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that. CBS has now got their own streaming channel; they’ve let these episodes go. Do you see the Next Gen episodes?
I have. It’s fascinating because you see how these producers and show runners had to conceptualize this thing, so it all makes sense and fits together. You must remember certain histories. With the JJ Abrams’ produced movies, it’s in an alternate universe so it doesn’t have to be subject to those things. But all the TV series somehow fit together in various ways.
Yes, God bless Brannon [Braga] and Rick Berman, but particularly Brannon. Rick was the overlord, as it were. But Brannon was very much the day to day – writing, show running, the harpy for that show, really, for seventeen years. I think he began there as an intern. It’s a feat in televisual history which I don’t think will ever be repeated. Quite a remarkable thing they had; four hit shows, back to back.
Yeah, it’s a shame we didn’t go the full seven [seasons]. Perhaps they’d gone so well one too many times. It’s hard to say. There was a desperation, bad blood started to creep in between Viacom and CBS when the UPN, the network, looked like it was changing, and it was.
We were still a flagship show, but then Viacom put Les Moonves in charge to get UPN up and that’s when the rot set in, when Rick started getting notes from Dawn Ostroff at UPN via Les Moonves, who had no interest in our show. He didn’t commission it, he didn’t watch it, he wasn’t a Star Trek fan.
We started getting some pretty dumb notes, apparently. That’s when the pissing match started. Behind the scenes, I guess Les just dismantled UPN and came up with the CW and there was no room for us on that network. So where were we to go? A shame – we definitely had at least another two or three years in us. We were just really finding our stride.
No disrespect to Brannon, but they let Manny Coto come on as staff writer in mid-season three and I remember reading his first script and I thought “That’s good”. I rang up the writers’ office and “Can I speak to Manny Coto?” Of course, his career has catapulted into the stratosphere since then. What a great job he did running the show in the fourth season, and we were really finding our stride and… It’s just too bad.
Well, that’s the nature of TV. But the good thing is for you, you created an iconic character. You’re in history. You can do any comic con…
I know. I have to say, I pinch myself often. I introduce face pistols into the whole damn story. I have the immortal line “I have two settings, Captain: stun and kill. It would be best not to confuse them.” That’s pretty iconic stuff, yeah.
I say to Connor from time to time, “We had years on that show, and we’ve had our careers. I had a career before Star Trek. But those years were definitely the cherry on the bloody cake, you know? They still color my whole experience of having come to Los Angeles and frankly, yeah, getting a piece of the pie – with the cherry on top.
So now, Unbelievable – crazy idea, 40 different Star Trek actors. Did you get to meet people you never met before? Did you hang out with any of them?
Not really. We’ve all met each other. I was the first out the gate on our cast to go do the conventions. I had seen that documentary Trekkies and went “Oh, yeah. There’s another financial appendage to this job.” I drove my Porsche onto the lot with “Paid for with Cash.” Get in line.
We’re all one big family. We’ve been hanging out at these conventions for twenty years, pretty much. So no, there really wasn’t anyone that I hadn’t met. Obviously, I had acted with Max Grodénchik (Rom from Deep Space Nine) before. But it was a real treat. It was like a convention, frankly, but on a film set. It was just lovely hanging out.
And how was Snoop Dogg?
I never met him, unfortunately, because they shot him after. We had Gilbert Gottfried.
Gilbert Gottfried, he’s a character.
They recast him. Apparently, he didn’t test well, or something. Somehow, they got Snoop to do this. I take my hat off to Angelique [the co-producer]. She is a powerhouse. This film could easily have gotten left behind, and she has never given up on it. And here it is. So, I doff my cap to her.
I would love to have met Snoop. What a treat that would have been.
Do you know what county your family is from?
Oh absolutely, yeah.
Have you been there? Did your parents tell you stories?
Yeah, but they are both gone now. My dad was full Irish and grew up mostly on Valentia Island. My grandfather was a lighthouse keeper – quite a renowned one, back in the day. He and one other guy looked after the lighthouse on Skillick. You know little Skillick, that looks like Cruella De Ville should live there, those islands off the Kerry coastline?
I know of it, but I’ve never been to Kerry.
Well, it’s very beautiful down there, you can see them on a clear day. There was a monastery there in 1120 or something. Anyway, they looked after the lighthouse there, and depending on the weather, they would be there for three to six months, God bless. The family all lived in the lighthouse keeper’s dwellings on Valencia Island, which is where the first telegraph wire came in from the States to Europe. That’s one of the famous pieces of Valentia.
So, I’ve been down there, I’ve seen the dwelling, the cottage that my dad lived in as a kid. He had a very rural background, he didn’t wear shoes until he was about fifteen, God bless.
My mother’s family, funnily enough, right across the Causeway is a town called Cahersiveen. The Keatings, which is my mother’s [name] – my real name is Power, my father’s name was Lawrence Power.
There was another Dominic Power in Equity, in the union, when I became an actor, some thirty years ago. So, I had to change my name, and I took my mother’s maiden name, Keating. When the Keatings left Bletchly, you can throw a stale crusty bread roll across the Causeway from Cahersiveen to Valentia Island.
My mum and dad met in Leicester after the war, which is where I was born and grew up. My mum and her mother were kind of dumped by her father. My mother’s – the other side of her family are quite posh and well-to-do. My grandfather on her side was a brigadier, OBE, fought in two World Wars, and after the [Second World] War, buggered off to Kenya to go and live with an heiress in Nairobi.
My mother was in Leicester and my father had arrived in England to find his fortune, as it were, and a good Catholic lad, went to the church there, Holy Cross, every Sunday and eyed my mother for many a service. Eventually, he plucked up the courage, and here I am, forty, fifty years later.
You played an Irish gangster at one point in one of the TV shows…
Heroes. That’s right.
Are there things that you want to do? Produce, write, direct, based on any of this background…?
You are the first person that has said to me, wow, what a story that would make. Yeah, I have thought about sitting down to write it. I’m not a writer. I do think writers are born, and it would be a task for me. Nothing would frighten me more than sitting in front of a blank screen, going “Well what’s the first scene? What does the first person say?” I don’t know, maybe I’ll get to it.
I have to say that the more days the coronavirus leaks on, the longer I am sitting here twiddling my thumbs, trying to be productive and staying fit and reading books and eating well, and meditating. But unless we get back to work soon, I’ve got to start thinking of doing something other than sitting around.
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