‘TOS’ actress Grace Lee Whitney would be 92 on April 1st

Grace Lee Whitney


Leonard Nimoy, Grace Lee Whitney and William Shatner in an early Star Trek promotional photo.

Grace Lee Whitney is about to celebrate a heavenly birthday. The beloved actress, who passed away in 2015, was born on April 1, 1930, which means that if she were still alive, she would have lived to be 92. And though she’s no longer on that plane, Whitney left an indelible mark on the world, arguably more through her life and redemption than through her career, which culminated in her stint as Janice Rand. She originated the role in Star Trek: The Original Series and she has appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” and also on “Star Trek: Voyager”.

Whitney’s adoptive parents changed her name from Mary Ann to Grace and raised her in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She knew from an early age that she wanted to perform and began her career at age 14 singing for a Detroit radio station’s a cappella choir. She later moved to Chicago where she joined a band called The Prevue and even performed for Billie Holliday. Whitney, barely in her teens, made her Broadway debut in a 1951 production of Top Banana, starring Phil Silvers, and also appeared in the theatrical version of the musical, which premiered in 1954. A move to California paved the way for roles in a variety of films and television series, including Peter Gunn, Some Like It Hot, The Untouchables, Irma la Douce, The Outer Limits, Death Valley Days”, “The Gunman”, “77 Sunset Strip” and “Bewitched”. One of her other projects was “Police Story,” a failed television pilot written and produced by Associate Gene Roddenberry, produced by Robert Justman, directed by Vincent McEveety, and set to music by composer Alexander Courage. The cast included DeForest Kelley, Steve Ihnat and Malachi Throne, with Whitney as Sgt. Lilly Monroe. About a year later, they were all back together on Star Trek.

In fact, Whitney received word from her agent that Roddenberry had asked to meet with her to discuss another opportunity while “Police Story” was dead. His latest series, Star Trek, was a success… after two pilots. Whitney joined the show as Janice Rand, the slave of William Shatner’s Captain Kirk. Her first appearance was in the episode “The Corbomite Maneuver,” which premiered on November 10, 1966. Professional and good at her job, Rand was also flirtatious and gorgeous, which had to do with her short skirts and towering blonde bee hair.

“I should be innocent, committed, and excellent in my motives for wanting to be on the Enterprise, but very green with no experience,” Whitney said StarTrek.com in 2011. “Rand was willing to train to become a captain’s secretary, which of course I had an instant crush on. But it was unrequited love, like Kitty and Matt in Gunsmoke. It couldn’t be accomplished. It had to be love from afar, unrequited love between the captain and me.”

The chemistry between Rand and Kirk/Whitney and Shatner was undeniable, but it had to be denied. Kirk could not be tied down. To make matters worse, Whitney was drinking around this time and claimed to have been sexually assaulted by someone connected to “Trek,” whom she never identified. Thus, Whitney was fired after playing Rand in only eight episodes of the first season, namely The Corbomite Maneuver, The Enemy Within, The Man Trap, The Naked Time, Charlie X, Balance “. of Terror”, “Miri” and “The Conscience of the King”.

Following her departure from the show, Whitney’s drinking worsened. She became addicted to drugs and sex, eventually hitting rock bottom on Skid Row in Los Angeles. It took time, but she entered a 12-step recovery program, found God, and made amends with herself, her family, friends, and co-workers. Whitney joined the Star Trek convention circuit, which put her back in touch with Roddenberry.


“I made it up to him,” Whitney told StarTrek.com, “and he in turn said to me, ‘Grace, I’ve never made the biggest mistake in my life than allowing NBC and Paramount to write you are out If I’d only been clear, I could have kept you on board. You would really be the only person who knew Captain Kirk’s inside story, and you could have waited for him when he returned from the escapades. We would have had a whole new focus for the show and for the character.” That’s what he told me. He said, “I’ll put you in the next series,” which of course turned out to be Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That’s what I came for and then I was in (most of) the films except ‘II’ and ‘V’.”

“Star Trek” legend Leonard Nimoy turned out to be one of Whitney’s biggest supporters. A recovering alcoholic, he made sure to include her in the Trek feature films he directed, and wrote the foreword to her 1998 memoir: “The longest trek: my tour of the galaxy.” Whitney returned to Paramount Pictures to appear in Flashback, a 1996 episode of Star Trek: Voyager, which also starred George Takei as Sulu, and two Star Trek fan films, World Enough and Time” and “World Enough and Time”, again playing Rand “Of Gods and Men.”

VideoGrace Lee Whitney 92nd Birthday Video2022-03-29T13:55:43-04:00

The golden years

By all accounts, Whitney’s golden years were indeed golden. She stayed clean and lived on a 30-acre property near Yosemite National Park with a running creek. “It’s just amazing,” Whitney gushed to StarTrek.com in the same 2011 interview. “I still do conventions. I’ve made it my mission to help people not drink and not consume and… not die. So I am completely satisfied. I have two sons – Jonathan and Scott; They were both in “Miri” and they stole the communicators, and Scott was also in “The Motion Picture” – and Jonathan built a house at the end of my property where he lives with his family, including my grandchildren. You will take care of me as I walk through life to my home in heaven. But right now, I’m taking my grandkids to school and driving them around, and I’m doing them the utmost service. I also line dance once a week and go to the gym three days a week. So my life is happy, cheerful, free, sober, saved and a lot of fun too. I have a lot of fun.”

Whitney passed away peacefully on May 1, 2015, just a few weeks after Leonard Nimoy. She was 85.

https://heavy.com/entertainment/star-trek/celebrating-grace-lee-whitneys-92nd-birthday/ ‘TOS’ actress Grace Lee Whitney would be 92 on April 1st

Brian Ashcraft

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