Jason Matthew Smith: To ‘Star Trek’ and Beyond
Central Indiana, Cincinnati, San Diego Comic-Con, Space — The Final Frontier … these are the voyages of Jason Matthew Smith. His mission is one that has included working with Harrison Ford, Kiefer Sutherland and now once again aboard the USS Enterprise in the highly anticipated “Star Trek Beyond,” in theaters July 22.
Smith is reprising his role as Mr. Hendorff, a security officer aboard the Enterprise. Hendorff was insulted by James T. Kirk following an Iowa bar fight in the 2008 “Star Trek” reboot and nicknamed “Cupcake.” Since it’s been 8 years since that installment, the cast has had the opportunity to form an amazingly strong bond, in a way that most franchise films and television series have not.
“Absolutely,” Smith said. “It feels like a family! We see each other every 3 years, or something like that. Each time we get together, it’s like we pick right back up.”
Over those 8 years, so much has changed in the lives of the cast. “We’ve had different experiences, kids, but we always have a lot of fun conversations.”
There’s a big difference in this “Star Trek” film. One of the key ingredients has changed. The first two films in the reboot had the incredibly talented J.J. Abrams at the helm. This time, there’s going to be an approach that may prove to be faster and more furious. Justin Lin will be directing and the expectations are huge.
“J.J. and Justin are both master storytellers,” Smith said. “Justin just brings a fresh perspective and ‘Beyond’ took advantage of various shooting techniques, including helicopters, drones, green screens and 360 degree technology. He’s just such a visual director and very tech savvy.”
One of the thoughts that crossed our minds when we heard about the new movie was whether or not there would be a continuation on the darker direction the second film took, or if the action of the first would be the focus. “
“‘Beyond’ is a little less ‘heavy,’ with a lot more humor. The story is heartfelt,” Smith said. With 2 years into their 5-year mission, it may present a great throwback to the original series of the 1960s.
Smith said he wasn’t always completely certain that “Cupcake” would make it out alive after “Into the Darkness” but discovered that the character was actually a favorite among fans of the reboot while reading a “Fate of Cupcake” blog online. That’s a big part of what lead him to attend his first San Diego Comic-Con.
San Diego Comic-Con
San Diego Comic-Con is unlike anything you could ever hope to experience. Even if you’ve attended other conventions, this is the big one. It combines all of the thrill of sci-fi and fantasy with the entertainment world, comic books, collectibles and more than 130,000 excited fans.
He had been a little uncertain about the whole convention scene, but recently a couple of friends convinced him, the experience was worth it. With the 50th anniversary of the original “Star Trek” series coinciding with the release of “Beyond,” timing couldn’t be more perfect to greet Trek fans of all ages.
“And what bigger stage is there than San Diego Comic-Con,” Smith said.
“Beyond” will host a world premiere at San Diego Comic-Con at the first-ever premiere IMAX event along with a performance by the San Diego Symphony. In addition to walking the red carpet for the premiere, Smith will attending the convention for the first time.
Since this will be his first time at SDCC, he’s “tripped out” to see the fans’ costumes and all the movies that are going to be represented. Smith said he really wanted a chance to give back to fans and is overwhelmed, humbled and amazed that people appreciate his work.
“Most of the time, I don’t get recognized a lot for what I do. And ‘Star Trek’ has made that a little bigger and ‘Sons’ (of Anarchy) has made that a little bigger where people do recognize me once in a while. And when they do, I blush from the inside out,” he said.
Born in Indiana and growing up all over the mid-west, Smith said he always loved the “Star Trek” franchise and his mother was a fan. He went to see all the films in the theater including Patrick Stewart’s turn as Captain Picard in “Deep Space Nine.” He earned his B.F.A. in Acting from the University of Cincinnati and an M.F.A. in Acting from Northern Illinois University. In addition to his role in the “Star Trek” franchise, he has had memorable performances in “Sons of Anarchy,” “24” and as Eric Olczyk in “Playmakers” for ESPN.
He also starred alongside Harrison Ford in “Hollywood Homicide.” Knowing his sons want to be Jedi Knights when they grow up and are huge “Star Wars” fans, he thought they would be impressed to learn their dad had worked with the real Han Solo.
But, since they haven’t yet separated movie magic from the real world, they didn’t quite believe him.
“‘Dad, there’s no way you’ve worked with Han Solo!'” he recalls them saying. He said this just made it clear how special movie making really is though, since the worlds created on film become such a reality, especially to children.
He said having a strong support system around him helped him make the transition from Indiana to Los Angeles and said his wife is a key supporter who helps keep him grounded. Deciding to be an actor gives usually gives you two options, he said — move to New York City or Los Angeles. And since it doesn’t snow in California, the choice was easy for him.
“I just had a series of breaks … and was guided by God …” he said of the opportunities he’s had in the business.
Space won’t be the final frontier for Smith. His career is at warp speed right now. “Star Trek Beyond” is in theaters and IMAX July 22. Smith will be at San Diego Comic-Con July 21-23 signing autographs at the Sails Pavilion in the San Diego Convention Center.