How Leonard Nimoy was cast as Mr. Spock on ‘Star Trek’

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock on Star Trek; John Chambers created the character's famous ears.
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock on Star Trek; John Chambers created the character’s famous ears.
(Paramount Pictures)

His role as Mr. Spock made a lasting impact on pop culture, but Leonard Nimoy barely noticed when he first heard about the role back in 1966.

“I really didn’t give it a lot of thought,” Nimoy recalled of the time his agent first called about the part.

Nimoy -- who died Friday at 83 -- recalled how he won the landmark role as the relentlessly logical half-human, half-Vulcan Spock during a November 2000 interview with the TV Academy for its Archive of American Television Project.

Writer-producer Gene Roddenberry was developing “Trek” as a pilot for a sci-fi series about a team of explorers aboard a spaceship. He had worked briefly with Nimoy on another series called “The Lieutenant” and thought the actor might be right for the new show.


Nimoy, who had been working for years on TV at that point, kept a Spock-like cool.

“You hear that kind of thing and you’re [still] a long way from getting a job,” he recalled.

Roddenberry wanted to see what kind of range Nimoy had as a performer. So his agent sent over a scene the actor had done on the medical drama “Dr. Kildare.”

Roddenberry was impressed and asked Nimoy to visit the studio, where he showed him the set and costumes and began talking in detail about the project. Slowly it dawned on Nimoy that he was hearing a sales pitch.

“If I keep my mouth shut, I might have a job here,” he recalled thinking.

Once he was cast, Nimoy began trying to nail down exactly what kind of a character Spock would be. Settling on his appearance was important. Roddenberry had decided he would have pointy ears so that viewers would immediately perceive him as otherworldly.

He also wanted to give Spock red skin. But that proved problematic.

Most TVs in the mid-1960s were still black-and-white, Nimoy remembered.

With red skin, “I was going to be black on a black-and-white set,” he said.

The idea was dropped.

What do you think of Nimoy and “Star Trek”?

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT