Kirstie Alley's Star Trek Casting Was The Silver Lining To A Heartbreaking Story 

Nicholas Meyer's 1982 film "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" is all about growing older. Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) is rounding middle age and has to start wearing glasses. He also has to face the fact that he fathered a child many years ago, while also facing a foe he abandoned on a distant planet and forgot about. Kirk's youthful days of recklessness are catching up to him. 

Meanwhile, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is on the cusp of retirement and has found a protégé he intends to train as his replacement. This is the young lieutenant Saavik (Kirstie Alley), a half-Vulcan, half-Romulan officer who is as baffled by humanity as Spock was in his early Enterprise days. Saavik is also confident and even a little arrogant, qualities she will start to outgrow by the film's conclusion. 

Prior to "Star Trek II," Alley had only appeared in an uncredited role in the sci-fi sitcom "Quark," and showed up on game shows like "Match Game" and "Password." She hadn't yet decided she wanted to be a professional actress until auditions for "Star Trek II" came along. Following her film debut, Alley would go on to have a prolific and impressive acting career that included hit films like "Summer School" and the "Look Who's Talking" movies, and notable TV shows like "Cheers" and "Veronica's Closet." "Star Trek" was her big break. 

Back in 2016, Alley spoke to about her audition process for Saavik, and how she was getting quite far along in the callback process when a personal tragedy struck. While Alley was grieving a terrible loss, any auditions had to wait. In an unexpected show of sympathy, however, the studio said they'd wait for her.

A tragic accident

Alley recalls where she was in 1982 professionally, which is to say, nowhere at all. She was, she said, working as a housekeeper and interior decorator, hustling to make ends meet. She auditioned for the role of Saavik, and Nicholas Meyer seemed to like her. She passed several more auditions and callbacks, and it was looking hopeful for her. She then got a call that her parents were in a terrible car accident. In her words:

"I was supposed to have a meeting on a Monday for my final audition for 'Star Trek,' in front of Paramount and the studio guys. That weekend, my parents were in a car wreck and my mother was killed. That was on a Friday night. I flew back to Kansas. It killed my mother, and my Dad was in bad condition." 

While dealing with all the heartbreak and horror of dealing with a sudden loss, Alley also had to call her agent and talk about the state of her role. Alley, understandably, was frank about wanting to stay with her father and mourn; the audition wasn't as important. 

"I called my agent and I said, 'I can't make this meeting Monday.' He said, 'Well, what do you want me to tell them?' I said, 'Well, I want you to tell them what happened.' He said, 'But you realize it's already iffy to hire you, because you've never done anything. You're not in the Screen Actors Guild, and this could be your first movie. And now you're telling them that your mother died, and your father might be dying. And they start shooting in a month (or something). And all that pressure on someone will probably mean you won't get the role.'"

Alley understood all that, but wouldn't leave her father.

'We'll wait'

Alley told her agent to say she was going to stay with her father for as long as was necessary, overseeing his recovery in the ICU. He was in what she described as a semi-coma, and was only somewhat responsive to stimulus. When Alley said she was staying with her dad, Paramount was unexpectedly kind. Alley recalled that "by some kind of huge miracle, they said, 'Okay. We'll wait.'"

While Alley did lose her mother, her father unexpectedly pulled through. Alley, to converse with her father, finally talked about her professional ambitions with him for the first time. She even shared that she had a high-profile audition waiting for her back in Los Angeles. It seems that these conversations helped. She continued: 

"I took a picture, an 8 x 10 of myself, and I said, 'Dad, look, I really want to be in a movie.' I said, 'This is my picture. I want to be an actress.' I don't even think I'd told my parents I really wanted to be an actress. I go, 'And when you get out of here and you're doing well, I get to go audition for this.' That night — I'm not even making this up. This would seem so made-up, in a movie — but that night his doctor called me and said, 'Your Dad has pulled out all of his tubes, and we're going to see if he can make it on his own.'" 

It was astonishing. "The next day when I went in, he said, 'So you're gonna be an actress. You're going to be in a movie.'" He remembered.

Quite the rollercoaster. Alley lost a parent, but still landed her big break — in a "Star Trek" movie, no less. 

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