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'Star Trek: The Next Generation' cast discusses fandom and reminisces on their 27th anniversary

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The Star Trek series paved the way for geeks in the 1960s. And when the follow-up series, Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired in 1987, the series saw a large renewed interest that led to even more televisions shows, as well as the highly successful recent films directed by J.J. Abrams.

So what's it like to be a part of such a legacy with such a broad base of fans? The cast of The Next Generation, including Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Jonathan Frakes and Gates McFadden, descended upon Wizard World Nashville Comic Con and talked about that with fans.

Sirtis understands fandom, comparing it to her love for soccer and soccer players. "I get it. I think I understand you a little better than maybe some of the other guys," says Sirtis. "Because the way some of you get a little bonkers around us, I get around soccer players. Because that's my passion."

It was a little different for Dorn. "I think that for all of us, when we first got the job, it was just a job," he says. "Then in the second season, we realized that it took on a life of its own because we were selling out stadiums for The Next Generation. He states that, as an actor, it was nice to be recognized for something like Star Trek.

"It's utterly cool," Spiner says. "We just got a job and did our best. And one of the ancillary things is that people embraced us."

"I like getting the gifts," Burton joked.

"If it were up to me, I would still be doing the series," Frakes commented.

For McFadden, though, accepting the resulting fandom from the series was a bit harder. "I was scared about fandom and fans, and I didn't understand it," she says. "I had been stalked when I was younger. So I was actually very scared."

McFadden explained that she'd never really discussed the reason, before, but that she now has a better understanding of fans. "I was the last one to start doing any conventions. I would get nervous and start having panic attacks," she says. "What really blew my mind, though, was I got thousands of letters from these fans, who were so nice. I was so blown away because I didn't think people cared in that way. It really did help me. It's taken me a long time to really get how fantastic and lucky we all are."

The cast also discussed how Star Trek: The Next Generation remains relevant, even today.

"I think what we're the most proud of is that we continued what Gene (Roddenberry) started," says Sirtis. "Our shows, if you wanted to look at them that way, had a message."

Dorn reiterated that. "What I always talk about is about how in our show, and the original show, they were morality plays," he says. "They had a message. And I think all that's gone. There's no messages in anything anymore. That's kind of what's missing in all of it." He points out that even with J.J Abrams successful films, there's always the question of what the message is. 

Spiner agreed and carried that idea further. "The thing with all of Star Trek is that there is a timeless quality about it," he says. "It's like so many people who we meet are young. It's just a new generation being introduced to it and the show still works."

The actors also spoke about their experiences on the show, including one actor that was difficult to work with. On the series, Data (Spiner) had a pet cat named Spot. And apparently, Spot was a diva.

"Working with the cat was difficult," Spiner says. "I love cats, I really do, but that cat was the worse actor I've ever worked with."

Laughing, Burton added, "He actually remembered more of his lines than Dorn."

Spiner concurred, "That's true. You never see outtakes with cat."

Burton has spent some time recently in the spotlight, thanks to a highly successful campaign to bring back Reading Rainbow. He spoke about that success and his plans for the future of the series. "The inspiration for bringing Reading Rainbow back is that television was the technology that we used in the 80s to connect kids to literature," he says. "If you want to reach kids today, you need to be in their realm: on mobile devices, on consoles."

The other cast members aren't sitting on their laurels either. There's currently a petition for Sirtis to become the 13th Doctor. Dorn is working on a project that could bring back his TNG character, Worf. Frakes is busy directing and McFadden is currently working with a theatre company in L.A. Spiner is doing the rounds as a guest star on TV and finished a web series, "Fresh Hell," a few years ago.

And, of course, they're all hitting the convention circuit and meeting fans who, 27 years later, are still crazy about the world they created in The Next Generation.

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