Tragic Details About These Star Trek Actors

No one is immune to tragedy, even celebrities. At one point in your life, there's a good chance you will cope with childhood trauma, lose a loved one, or struggle with medical issues. Given the size of the "Star Trek" universe (there are multiple incarnations of movies, TV shows, and other spin-offs), it's no surprise that many of the actors and actresses involved in the franchise have experienced their own share of tragedies over the years.

These men and women have struggled with drug abuse, sexual abuse, health problems, and the deaths of those nearest and dearest to them. While we have witnessed their triumphs and tragedies on the big and small screens, many have also had to cope with real-life tragedies at home. Most of them have been able to overcome the adversity that these tragic events have caused, but some have or will likely feel the aftereffects for many years to come. 

Wil Wheaton was emotionally abused by his parents

Wil Wheaton played Wesley Crusher — son of chief medical officer Beverly Crusher, on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" — in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While he is largely known for his role in the sci-fi series, he also appeared in films such as "Stand By Me," "Toy Soldiers," and "The Last Starfighter" and has become a cult hero. However, he had no interest in acting when he was a child and blames his parents for forcing him into show business. In fact, he told Yahoo! during a 2021 interview that he had no decision-making power when it came to starring on the big screen.

He explained, "My parents forced me to do it, my mother made me do it. My mother coached me to go into her agency and tell the children's agent, 'I want to do what mommy does.'" His mother was an actress, and his father worked in the medical field. Both of his parents manipulated him to act, according to the star, who told Yahoo!: "Through a combination of an incredible emotional abuse from my father and a lot of manipulation, using me, from my mother, it really put me in that place." When he watches the film "Stand by Me," his first starring role, Wheaton recognizes the "unbelievable sadness in my eyes" that he feels was caused by feeling isolated and invisible in his home.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Anton Yelchin died in a freak car accident

Russian-born actor Anton Yelchin played navigator Pavel Chekov in the 2009 "Star Trek" movie reboot and its sequel, which was released following his death. The star died suddenly on June 19, 2016, in a freak car accident. According to The Guardian, the actor's Jeep Cherokee rolled down the driveway at his home and pinned him against a security fence. The only fortunate thing about the incident is that Yelchin's death occurred rather quickly — the coroner said he died within a minute of being crushed against the fence from "blunt traumatic asphyxia."

However, his death may have been preventable. Tragically, the 2015 SUV was subject to a recall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for being a "rollaway risk" and because the gear shift could be confusing to some users (via The Guardian). The government agency noted that drivers who thought the vehicle was in park "may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged." NHTSA issued the recall a couple of months prior to Yelchin's death, and perhaps if the actor had been aware of the issue, he would still be alive today.

William Shatner was suicidal after his wife accidentally drowned

William Shatner is known for playing Captain Kirk in the original "Star Trek" series, which aired in the late 1960s. On August 9, 1999, Shatner's third wife, Nerine, died at the couple's home in Studio City, California. People later reported that the cause of death was attributed to "drowning associated with neck trauma," according to a coroner's spokesperson. Nerine, 40, who was alone at the time, either dove or fell into the couple's swimming pool and broke her neck. Her blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.28 percent, three times the state's legal driving limit, and Valium was also a contributing factor in her death.

Shatner wrote about the tragedy 20 years later in his memoir, "Live Long and ... :What I Learned Along the Way." He wrote, via Radar, "My grief was overwhelming. This was the type of pain that makes you think either I'm simply going to die or I'm going to kill myself." What makes the incident even more horrifying is that Shatner is the one who found his wife's body. He pulled her out of the water, and even though first responders came rather quickly, there was nothing they could do to save her life. Shatner recalled, "I saw her body lying there in the moonlight."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

George Takei lived in an American internment camp

George Takei played Hikaru Sulu, the helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the original 1960s Star Trek. In 2019, he wrote a graphic novel titled "They Called Us Enemy" that detailed the time he spent in an American internment camp during World War II. Around 120,000 Japanese Americans were kept in camps in the 1940s, according to NPR. Takei's family was wrenched from their home in Los Angeles in 1942 and could only take items they could carry with them. They were forced to sell the rest of their property and belongings.

One night they had to sleep with horses in a stall, which Takei said was a "devastating blow" for his parents, who had formerly lived in a two-bedroom home (per NPR). Takei initially saw the experience as an adventure but was confused when he saw people upset and crying, and it was only later on that he realized what had happened to his family. After the Takeis were allowed to leave the camp in 1945, they lived on the street. Takei also returned to school and experienced racism from one of his teachers. Only then, when he was a little bit older, did he equate the camp to jail and realize what he had endured. He also carried a lot of shame with him, writing (via NPR), "Shame is a cruel thing. It should rest on the perpetrators, but they don't carry it the way the victims do."

Marina Sirtis was molested as a toddler and later developed an eating disorder

Marina Sirtis played counselor Deanna Troi on the TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and also appeared in several big-screen "Star Trek" films. In 2019, she opened up for the first time about being sexually molested as a toddler. She told The Times that the experience was "awful," and she finally decided to come forward to discuss it when she was in her 60s. She was just 3 years old when the incident occurred. Sirtis' mother hired a babysitter, and the woman's two teenage sons were the perpetrators. Sirtis told The Times of the experience, "I never told anyone because even at 3, you know it's shameful, and you think somehow it's your fault." 

She added that her mother had no idea that the abuse occurred because "it would have killed her." The trauma stayed with her, and by the time Sirtis was 13 years old, she had an eating disorder, which she battled for two decades. The actress explained that this type of problem is not uncommon for victims of abuse. Eventually, she sought therapy and met other people who had been sexually abused and decided to go public with her experience.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Whoopi Goldberg dropped out of school and became a drug addict

Whoopi Goldberg occasionally appeared on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as Guinan, the bartender. She reprised her role in the recent CBS series "Picard." While she has been very successful in her adult life, Goldberg struggled with drug abuse when she was a young woman. According to Ebony, she dropped out of high school at the age of 17, largely because she had problems with her classes. Goldberg admitted that she didn't understand the material and didn't realize that she was dyslexic (she wasn't diagnosed until many years later). She was essentially labeled dumb and "couldn't handle it," so she left school and struck out on her own.

Unfortunately, Goldberg started abusing drugs such as LSD and heroin, and before long, she was experiencing addiction. And while the drugs made her feel better temporarily, she had to consume more and more over time to get the high that she needed. It took Goldberg a long time to get clean, and she failed often to get off drugs completely. When she finally did, she realized that she was lucky to be alive because so many drug users she knew had died. By the age of 19, Goldberg had gotten clean, married, and had a child. After her marriage failed, she decided to go to Hollywood to pursue an acting career.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Simon Pegg was an alcoholic, and it made him 'a wreck' while working on films

English actor Simon Pegg played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot and two sequels. He is also a co-writer on "Star Trek Beyond." Pegg, 52, talked about his problems with alcoholism during a podcast in 2021. Specifically, he mentioned that playing a role in 2006's "Mission Impossible III" was particularly challenging because he drank while filming the Tom Cruise movie. He said he spent a lot of time in his hotel room and "would drink a lot," and at one point, he went through the entire mini-bar to settle his emotions.

"By the time I came on set to do my scenes I was kind of a wreck because I was super-anxious and I'd been drinking," he explained (via The Independent). When he was in college, Pegg often turned to alcohol to "feel anesthetized" and block out his emotions. Unfortunately, the only way to stop feeling his emotions was to continue to drink, which he did so much that he became an alcoholic. Pegg was able to be a high-functioning alcoholic for many years until it took its toll and he was unable to hide the signs any longer.

Openly gay Wilson Cruz lost a family member in the Orlando nightclub shooting

Openly gay actor Wilson Cruz played Dr. Hugh Culber on "Star Trek: Discovery." In 2016, he lost one of his family members in the Orlando gay nightclub shooting. It was America's deadliest mass shooting at the time: 49 people were killed, and over 50 were injured. Specifically, Brenda McCool, Cruz's mother's stepsister, was shot to death during the incident (via ET). McCool had 11 children and had survived two bouts of cancer. Cruz explained that McCool had been hanging out at the club with her 21-year-old son, who was openly gay. They believed it to be a safe place to spend with friends.

"That joy was taken from them, and she and her joy for life were taken from us, and we are devastated," Cruz said following the tragedy (per ET). He added that he and McCool were close in age, and he considered her more like a cousin than an aunt. Six years later, Cruz spoke out against Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill, which would ban LGBTQ topics at the primary school level. He said in a video on Instagram: "Almost 6 years after this national #lgbtqia tragedy, Florida has learned NOTHING about how to prevent another Pulse."

Ashley Judd nearly lost her leg after a bad fall in the Congo

Ashley Judd appeared as Ensign Robin Lefler in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," where she happened to kiss another actor on this list (Wil Wheaton, according to She appeared in just one episode before her career really took off in Hollywood. Several decades later, a freak accident nearly cost her a leg — early in 2021, Judd almost lost the ability to walk after a terrible fall during a conservation trip in the Congo. Specifically, in February of that year, she was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when she tripped while visiting the country on behalf of the endangered primate known as the bonobo, according to Yahoo.

Judd was stranded for more than two days and in extreme agony before she was able to receive proper medical treatment. Fortunately, she was able to heal and not only walk again but also hike.  Five months after the incident, she posted photos on Instagram of herself hiking in Switzerland. She explained: "My leg will never be the same. She is a new leg. And I love her. We are buddies. We have a come a long way, and we have a fabulous life ahead."

Nichelle Nichols has been the center of a terrible conservatorship battle

Nichelle Nichols played Nyota Uhura in "Star Trek: The Original Series," as well as several big-screen incarnations. The actress, 89, is currently coping with health issues, and those around her are reportedly battling over her health care and financial situation (per the Los Angeles Times). Those involved include her son and conservator Kyle Johnson, her former manager Gilbert Bell, and friend Angelique Fawcette. Nichols, who reportedly has dementia, has been in a tug of war between these three people for a few years.

Her son filed for conservatorship in 2018 and allegedly tried to kick Bell out of his mother's guest house. Depending on which side you believe, Bell was either reviving Nichols' career (by booking conventions and boosting her annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars) or mishandling her finances and living nearly rent-free while her health took a turn. Fawcette, who has known Nichols for a decade, is fighting against Johnson's conservatorship petition because she wants to visit the actress, along with various other reasons. 

As of 2021, Nichols was residing in New Mexico with her son, but Bell and Fawcette don't believe the star is spending the twilight of her life the way she wants. At one point, Bell transferred Nichols' home into his name as power of attorney, but a court eventually suspended that action. It's unclear what Nichols' exact health condition is, but the conservatorship continues to remain in place.

Kelsey Grammer's life of tragedy

While you may know Kelsey Grammer largely from TV series such as "Cheers" and "Frasier," he made an appearance in one episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1992, according to Though he seems like an affable guy due to the characters that he's played over the years, he also overcame a lot of tragedy in his life. Grammer's father was shot to death when he was just 13 years old, and two of his half-brothers died while scuba diving. In 1975, his 18-year-old sister Karen was raped and murdered by serial killer Freddie Glenn, according to Vanity Fair.

Making matters worse, Grammer was the one who identified his sister's body and told his mother the news. He was just 20 years old at the time. When Glenn was up for parole 30 years later, Grammer helped prevent his release. He wrote to the board that the incident nearly "destroyed" him. He blamed himself for not having the ability to protect his younger sister and felt guilty for many years. In 2014, he again helped prevent Glenn from getting parole, writing: "I accept that you actually live with remorse every day of your life, but I live with tragedy every day of mine."