“I remember 3 or 4 weeks before [filming Star Trek], I was working on a western, being beat up, and shot, and one thing and another. . . and then finally killed in the thing; and then a month later I’m in a gold tutu floating around as a God – so you never know in this business. It is very strange”. That is a quote from iconic character and voice actor Michael Forest, who has been working in the business for more than sixty years. He humourously summed up life as an actor in the quotation above, referencing work on a western as well his classic turn as the God Apollo (in the episode ‘Who Mourns for Adonais?’) on the television series Star Trek. I was fortunate enough to interview Forest at CAPE, the Cornwall and Area Pop Expo as part of the fiftieth anniversary of the cult classic Star Trek.
I spoke to him over two days about his intriguing career. Forest, who still stands an impressive six foot three inches and works out every day, has done it all in his lengthy calling. Making films in Hollywood, Europe and Africa, the actor has had his fair share of lasting roles. Some of his most memorable, the classic western 100 Rifles – where he played Humara, the mute half-Indian bodyguard of Raquel Welch, as well as the highly regarded historical epic The Message, Cast Away, and even shared a bed with Madonna in Body of Evidence. He has also worked with his friend, legendary B-movie director Roger Corman on three different occasions – including in Viking Women and the Sea Serpent, also known by its more lengthy (and comically long title) The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent.
In the realm of television, you can name almost any classic show and he has been in it. From the 1957 incarnation of Zorro and the heartwarming western The Rifleman, to comedy classics like Gilligan’s Island and Get Smart, Forest has done it all. He is often remembered for his role of Steve, one of the three leather-jacketed motorcycle riders who threaten a peaceful town in the memorable The Twilight Zone episode ‘Black Leather Jackets’. He also starred as Nick Andropoulos on As the World Turns from 1980-1982. For plenty of stories on his television career, watch the two interviews below. He even divulged that he was one of the final two people up for the lead part in The Rifleman, though he eventually lost out to Chuck Connors.
His voice work is equally as impressive. He has dubbed over five hundred films and has voiced Olympius in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, as well as countless anime roles. Overall, it can be seen as an illustrious career that holds a gargantuan 272 acting credits and counting.
Now, as to the question of ‘what is his favourite film?’, Forest promptly highlighted the 1942 Best Picture winner Casablanca as his all-time top pick. He says he has seen it at least 200-300 times and he plans on seeing it another 200-300 more. He also sighted the performances as being of the utmost quality. Since I have already reviewed Casablanca, as it was ZZ Top lead guitarist/singer Billy Gibbons’ favourite film as well, check my review of the title here: http://filmizon.com/movie_reviews/casablanca-on-top/
I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to meet some of these wonderful character actors, as their intimate stories, varied filmography, and charming personalities are difficult to capture in words alone. Thankfully, Forest, as well as five other Star Trek performers, allowed me into their circle, if only briefly, to interview them, and I will be forever grateful to them for the time they gave me. Look for the other five interviews to follow in the near future.