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Leonard Nimoy Comes to BU

Mr. Spock will speak as part of the Gotlieb lecture series

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Attention, Trekkies: Spock is coming to campus.

Celebrated actor and sci-fi icon Leonard Nimoy will speak about his storied career tonight as part of the Friends of the Libraries of BU Speaker Series, sponsored by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. A three-time Emmy Award nominee for his role as Mr. Spock in the Star Trek franchise, Nimoy is also an accomplished director, poet, musician, and photographer.

The Boston-born Nimoy began acting at age eight. He later attended Boston College for a short time. He had small parts in movies and TV shows, including Dragnet, The Twilight Zone, and Bonanza, before being cast in the role that would come to define him: the half-Vulcan, half-human Spock in the now classic sci-fi series Star Trek.

Despite its short run (1966 to 1969), Star Trek became part of American pop culture. Nimoy continued to play the character in many subsequent Star Trek movies and directed the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Nimoy announced his intention of retiring last year, but he continues to act. He has a recurring role as Dr. William Bell in the Fox series Fringe and signed on as the voice of Sentinel Prime in the soon-to-be-released Transformers: Dark of the Moon. And he is rumored to have a role in Peter Jackson’s upcoming film The Hobbit.

He has acted in numerous stage productions, including Equus, Camelot, and Oliver! He was host of the popular television series In Search Of and Ancient Mysteries. In addition, he has published several volumes of poetry, as well as two memoirs, I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock, in which he writes about his relationship with the character that made him famous.

For the last decade, Nimoy has devoted much of his career to photography. He began taking photos in the 1940s, using the family bathroom as a darkroom. His photographs can be seen in some of the nation’s leading museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the New Orleans Museum of Fine Art. Two of his most notable photo projects are of nude women, with a twist: The Shekhina Project is a series of photographs of women wearing phylacteries, religious garments usually worn by Jewish men; The Full Body Project examines female body images in American culture.

Nimoy says he is happy to return to his hometown to talk to the BU community. “I love visiting Boston,” he says. “I have a great sense of nostalgia.”

BU Today spoke with Nimoy, now 80, about his career and his advice for young actors.

BU Today: Where in Boston did you grow up?
Nimoy: I grew up in the West End of Boston. You know that sign on Storrow Drive that said, “If you lived here, you’d be home now?” Right over there, near the Elizabeth Peabody Playhouse, that’s the area where I grew up, Chambers Street, St. Joseph’s Church. The whole section was torn down.

I left Boston in 1951 to pursue a career in acting. I started acting on stages when I was eight years old. My first play was Hansel and Gretel, and I played Hansel.

You play the character of William Bell on Fox’s Fringe, which just got picked up for another season despite rumors it might be canceled. Were you concerned about that?
The writer and producers are extremely creative and very resourceful. They’re able to take these interesting ideas, and it’s fun to see where they’re going and be a part of it. I consider myself a retired actor. I do small parts on Fringe, but when I was acting full-time I was always concerned about shows being canceled.

Tell us about your photography.
I have been fascinated by photography since I was 13. One of my first photographs was a photo I took of my grandfather on the banks of the Charles River in 1944. I used to be busy with darkroom work and developing my own prints, but now I’ve turned to digital photography since it has gotten so much better. My work is conceptual—by that I mean I don’t carry cameras. Rather, I wait until something intrigues me and I want to photograph something.

Spock has become an iconic character. What was it like being part of Star Trek?
Star Trek is ancient history. When I was doing that show, we had no way of knowing how long it would be on the air, and we were always marginal in the ratings, always in danger of being canceled. I felt strongly that we were doing strong material; the ideas and themes of that show were relevant for so many people in their daily lives. I was so happy to be in that show because I think it had social relevance. I think finally that’s why the show endured. We were only on for three seasons but were very successful in reruns, and then there was a series of movies and other Star Trek shows that came along. It has had a very interesting and prosperous life.

Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
You had better be dedicated, because it’s a long road. Get experience, by training, training, training. Be passionate. Don’t look for yourself in the art—look for the art in yourself.

The Friends of the Libraries of BU Speaker Series: Leonard Nimoy is tonight, May 9, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom, 775 Commonwealth Ave. Public seating is $25; there is limited free seating with a BU ID. For tickets today, please come to the Gotlieb Center, 771 Commonwealth Avenue, 5th Floor, until 2:00pm. Otherwise, you must come to the door at 5:00 pm to try to get a ticket. Seats are limited and are first come, first served. One free ticket per BU ID. People who ordered tickets from the Tsai Center Box Office should also pick up their tickets early. Unclaimed tickets will be made available to new patrons fifteen minutes before Showtime.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

2 Comments

2 Comments on Leonard Nimoy Comes to BU

  • Anonymous on 05.09.2011 at 9:13 am

    Live Long and Prosper

    Leonard Nimoy’s former boss, William Shatner, will be receiving an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, McGill University, next month.

  • Anonymous on 05.09.2011 at 11:13 am

    Leonard Nimoy

    What I would give to be at this event. Sadly, finances and location make it impossible. Maybe a lottery win this weekend!

    Jeannie (Manchester, UK)

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