Philosopher-geek Wil Wheaton, best known for his roles in the coming-of-age film ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ has a huge fan following and is considered an important figure in the “geek” community.
Wil Wheaton was born on July 29, 1972, in Burbank, California. His parents began taking him to auditions as a child, and he landed his first job when he was only 7. From then on, Wheaton worked consistently, but his big breakthrough came with the Rob Reiner coming-of-age film Stand by Me (1986). Shortly after that, his recurring character on Star Trek: The Next Generation determined the trajectory of his career, as a sort of champion for nerds and computer geeks everywhere, a role that he has perpetuated through his online presence on his blog, podcast and Twitter account and in gaming communities. Wheaton also has a recurring role as an "evil" version of himself on the popular TV series The Big Bang Theory.
Richard William Wheaton III was born on July 29, 1972, in Burbank, California. His father, Richard William Jr., a medical technician, and his mother, Debra O'Connor, an actress, subsequently provided their eldest son, whom they called Wil, with a younger brother and sister. Wil Wheaton's acting career began early, at the age of 7, when he made his first appearance in a television commercial. This quickly led to more acting work, including roles in numerous TV movies and series as well as in a commercial for Jell-O Pudding Pops with comedian Bill Cosby. Among his early roles, Wheaton also provided the voice of the character Martin in the animated film The Secret of NIMH (1982).
A Diverse Career
In 1986, Wheaton's big breakthrough came when he appeared in Stand by Me, the acclaimed film directed by Rob Reiner. Based on the Stephen King short story "The Body," the film starred three other child actors who would subsequently become household names: River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman. (Wheaton later narrated a Biography series segment on the life and death of River Phoenix.)
In the years following the release of Stand by Me, Wheaton would find work in countless other films and television series, including St. Elsewhere, Family Ties and Tales from the Crypt. However, his most high-profile appearance was as Wesley Crusher on the Star Trek: The Next Generation series, which starred Patrick Stewart. Wheaton, an admitted fan of the original Star Trek series and a self-identified "geek," relished his role on the show. Fans, however, did not, and after enduring their criticism for several years, Wheaton chose not to appear regularly after the fourth season.
In the mid-90s, Wheaton began to study acting in a formal setting and spent time in various programs honing his craft. He continued to make television appearances and also did voiceovers for cartoons and video games, including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and DC Universe Online. He later rejoined his Star Trek cast mates for a cameo appearance in the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis.
In 2005, Wheaton ranked number 62 in VH1's list of the Greatest 100 Kid Stars, though his aspiration has been to cast off his "good guy" image and to portray a more sinister character. His wish has at least been partially realized in his recurring guest appearance as Evil Wil Wheaton on the popular television series The Big Bang Theory, which entered its ninth season in late 2015. He also had a recurring role as the shifty Dr. Isaac Parrish on the SyFy series Eureka and was the host of TNT after-show Falling Skies: 2nd Watch. Adding to his cult status, Wheaton also had a cameo in the 2014 installment of the Sharknado franchise.
Although Wheaton's Star Trek character drew a vocal anti-fan following from Trekkies, his subsequent online presence on his website WIL WHEATON dot NET—which he proudly maintains and codes himself—has made him a sort of unofficial spokesperson for the "geek/nerd" community. His convention appearances, blogging, podcasts, enthusiastic computer gaming and even a stint as a tech developer for the Video Toaster 4000, which involved a move to Kansas, have further underscored Wheaton's professional geek status. In 2009 Forbes named him among the most influential web celebrities, and his Twitter account now boasts upwards of 3 million followers.
Wheaton has written an online gaming column for the Onion and has contributed to Salon.com and journals such as the LA Weekly and Washington Post. He has also produced spin-off books from his website and blogs, such as Dancing Barefoot and The Happiest Days of Our Lives, via his publishing venture, Monolith Press, followed in 2009 by the autobiographical Just a Geek. In 2011 he revisited his past on Star Trek: The Next Generation, with the humorous insider’s guide Memories of the Future: Volume 1.
Among his current projects, Wheaton produces and hosts the popular web series TableTop, on which he plays board games against a revolving list of celebrity guests. At present, season four of the series is in the early stages of production. He also hosts the ongoing podcast Radio Free Burrito.
In November 1999, Wheaton married Anne Prince and is father to her two sons from a previous relationship. He credits her with his sanity, saying: "She's made this experience much less miserable for me, with her compassion, patience and understanding." Among his pastimes, Wheaton is a die-hard fan of the Los Angeles Kings and the Los Angeles Dodgers. While juggling all of his other professional and personal commitments, Wheaton has also made time for charitable work. A lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression, he has spoken openly about his own struggles and has worked with various nonprofit groups to help educate the public on the topic.