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  Sigourney Weaver
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WHEATON, WIL
(Richard William Wheaton III) (1972– ). American actor.

IMDB credits

So, would you rather be a complete unknown, or a famous object of constant ridicule? For you, it's a topic for idle barroom conversation; for Wil Wheaton, it's the story of his life.

He could not have foreseen his fate in 1987 when, after an acclaimed role in Stand by Me (1986), he was cast, at the age of fifteen, as a regular in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994).  Surely, he must have thought, everything is going my way. He did not know that producer Gene RODDENBERRY had crazily conceived of his character, young Wesley Crusher, as the Boy Genius of the Enterprise, so that whenever a crisis occurred, the adult crewmembers would congregate around Wesley, eagerly anticipating that the youngster would figure out the proper solution to their problem. It was a silly scenario, suitable only for young adult fiction, and one that the greatest actor in the world could never make persuasive; when it played out in one early episode of the series, I found it genuinely painful to watch. It is little wonder, then, that viewers came to despise his character, leading to these essential course corrections: first, he was relegated to the background and given nothing to do; second, since he now had nothing to do, he was properly written out of the series altogether, on the pretext that Crusher needed to attend Starfleet Academy, although kindly producers would occasionally allow him to briefly reappear.

The young Wheaton clearly had some talent as an actor, and if his career had unfolded differently, he might have evolved into a capable and appreciated performer; but he was never able to recover from the body blow of his ill-fated turn on the Enterprise. So, if one asks about his subsequent career after leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation, a legitimate response is: what subsequent career? He did land roles in films that nobody watched, and occasional episodes of obscure television series, but no producer would seek out an actor whose first appearance would provoke laughter. Understandably, then, he has settled into steady employment as a voice actor, because viewers cannot tell who is providing these voices. The only prestigious venue where he has regularly been observed is the situation comedy The Big Bang Theory (2009- ) where, of course, he gets big laughs by playing himself.

If he chooses, Wheaton can always pick up some pocket change by appearing at science fiction conventions, like anyone who has appeared in a Star Trek series, but when I observed him at one convention, he was sitting at a table, doubtless promoting one of his books, but nobody had approached him; no one was interested in him, just as I was not interested in him, and thus I passed up the opportunity to actually talk to someone who was destined to end up in my film encyclopedia.  All in all, one can say, it's a way to make a living, and also no way to make a living. As another sign of his debased stature, I read an article announcing that a forthcoming Star Trek series would feature Wesley Crusher as its starship commander. The article was dated April 1. Literally, Wil Wheaton had now become an April Fools' joke.

Since he is only in his late forties, one can never say that his career is over, though it is difficult indeed to envision a triumphant comeback to the silver screen. Instead, the best option for this intelligent man might be to emulate Thomas TRYON and focus his energies on becoming an author—which already qualifies as his part-time profession. Unfortunately, to truly earn the sort of respect he has never achieved, he might be obliged to employ a pseudonym.

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