Bruce Hyde has a rich life.
He worked steadily as an actor for years, has been in two Broadway shows and tried to make it as a country music artist in Nashville.
He is a communication studies professor at St. Cloud State University who relishes trying to help his students to see issues from different perspectives.
He's co-writing a book about author/lecturer Werner Erhard.
He'll be celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary next year, and he's a stepfather of two.
He's a throat cancer survivor.
But there's one role Hyde played almost 50 years ago that cemented his place in pop culture history.
Hyde portrayed Kevin Riley in the original "Star Trek" series. He was in only two episodes in the series' first season, but his impact will last as long as there are Trekkies — so, conceivably forever, or well into the final frontier.
"At some point, I thought, 'Who wants to hear about what I was doing all that time ago?'" said Hyde, 73, during a recent interview in his office in Riverview on the St. Cloud State campus. "Then somebody once told me, 'You know, you should be willing to talk about this with people. It's interesting, it's something you did that most people didn't do.' And so I decided to lighten up about it."
Hyde stood out because in an era of the Starship Enterprise's disposable backup crew members — affectionately known as "redshirts" by fans — Riley was on multiple episodes, and stole plenty of scenes.
"Bruce is really in kind of a rare club that way," said longtime "Star Trek" historian Larry Nemecek, whose portfolio includes authoring, editing, organizing or consulting on multiple "Trek" projects, including his website, Trekland.
Bruce Hyde discusses Star Trek
"Star Trek" broke ground in many respects, but its message is what keeps fans interested a half-century later, Hyde said. He calls "Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry a genius.
"I get moved when I talk about Gene Roddenberry's vision of peace, peace and the kind of world we all want to live in," Hyde told St. Cloud Times. "I think that's what really keeps appealing to people. People like science fiction, but at some level they like a future in which we all get along with each other. The evidence is not so strong we're going to do that."
Hyde tries to employ a similar message with his students and teach them to try to understand one another's point of view, even if they don't agree with it. People have ethnic, political and cultural differences, and that isn't to be ignored, but we all have humanity in common, Hyde said. People need to relate to one another as human beings, he said.
"It sounds simplistic, but I do believe it's attainable, and what else is worth working toward?" Hyde said.
Hyde says it's been "a long, strange journey" that led him from Texas to Minnesota. He grew up in Dallas and attended college at Northwestern with a major in speech education, but he always knew he wanted to be an actor.
He did some summer stock work in Wisconsin, joined a musical review and ended up at a Connecticut playhouse. An agent saw the actors and signed them, and thus began a relatively steady six years of acting jobs on television and stage.
Hyde tells his acting students they face a fierce industry that takes a certain kind of gumption.
"I had breaks. I was lucky. I didn't have to struggle a long time," Hyde said. "In retrospect it was insane, but it worked."
He had an apartment in the Hollywood Hills and split his time between Los Angeles and Manhattan, and later lived in San Francisco. The 1960s were a glorious time to live in those cities because "you could afford it," Hyde said.
Hyde says as a kid he enjoyed the Flash Gordon serials and "Captain Video and his Video Rangers," but he wasn't a big science fiction fan.
So the role of Kevin Riley on what would become one of the biggest science fiction franchises in history just seemed like another gig. His episodes aired in 1966, although he filmed them before the series went on the air.
"When I got the job, as an actor I thought, well, this is strange — science fiction for adults," Hyde said.
The TV work was different from Hyde's stage work; things were so quiet and there was no reaction to scenes. He was glad to be directed by Marc Daniels on Hyde's first episode because he had worked with him before and felt comfortable with him.
"I was just always so tense as an actor, and most of my success was playing kind of tense characters," Hyde said.
Each hourlong "Star Trek" episode took about 10 days, Hyde said, noting that he probably spent no more than three weeks on both episodes. In Hyde's first episode, "The Naked Time," Riley contracts an infection that drives him and other members of the Enterprise over the edge. Hyde as Riley declares himself captain, boasts about his Irish heritage and orders double portions of ice cream for the crew.
But perhaps his most memorable moment is when he repeatedly croons "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" to great comedic effect. (Hyde, who played the piano and guitar and pursued a music career at one time, notes his singing voice isn't the same as Riley's exaggerated one.)
The "Kathleen" scenes are "iconic" in the "Star Trek" universe, Nemecek said.
"In the early days of fandom, (but) even still today, it's a really beloved moment," he said.
Hyde's second episode was "The Conscience of the King." The Riley character wasn't originally going to return, but Hyde was brought back.
It was years after his work ended on "Star Trek" — but before the show developed into the juggernaut it became in recent decades — that Hyde noticed an article about the show in The New Yorker. It mentioned some "Trek" trivia, and one of the questions was, what was Kevin Riley poisoned with in "The Conscience of the King"?
"I thought, `Oh my God, this is really getting strange,"' he said.
Hyde has attended numerous conventions (or "cons"), many of them in the '70s and '80s, when they were driven mostly by the fans. The most recent one he attended was last summer in Las Vegas.
Hyde's wife, Susan Saetre, attended the convention with him. She's admittedly no Trekkie; she says she thinks the only episodes she's watched are the two her husband was in. (She was more impressed by his appearance in the 1960s Marlo Thomas TV show "That Girl.")
Still, she was struck by how kind the attendees were.
"It was fun just watching people," Saetre said. "Everybody was in costume, and people were really nice."
Afterward, when Hyde was signing autographs, a man came up to him and said he had traveled from the United Kingdom specifically to meet Hyde, Saetre said.
Hyde credits the early conventions with helping him get comfortable in front of audiences. It helped pave the way for him to become an educator.
Hyde says he has received many interesting questions from fans.
"'Star Trek' fans are smart people," he said. "I have a sense that in many cases they work in jobs that are technical ... (and are) not jobs that get them interacting all the time. ... When they come to conventions, they blow it open."
He says he's most often asked what it was like to work with some of the key "Trek" actors such as William Shatner (Captain Kirk). He doesn't have many tidbits — everyone was polite, professional, but they were all actors doing a job. In fact Hyde thinks he had more interaction with Shatner when they worked together on the TV show "Dr. Kildare" than they did on "Trek."
Hyde said he made several TV pilots he's now thankful did not get picked up. One of them was about three military recruiters who compete to see who can get the most enlistees. It would have premiered when the Vietnam War started ramping up, which would have been incredibly tone deaf in retrospect, he said.
"Thank God none of them sold because they were all so bad," he said. "Some of the sitcoms they made in those days were awful. ... If one of those pilots had sold and I had gotten my 15 minutes of fame at that time in my life, I think it would have destroyed me."
Hyde was in a production of "Hair," and decided that "I didn't want to play a hippie, I wanted to be a hippie." So he left acting for a while and painted houses, throwing himself in the counterculture of San Francisco.
He later tried acting again, but he felt the edge was gone — a good thing, because he was more at peace, but he didn't have that coiled energy that he thought helped him with early performances.
Hyde went back to school and into a world of academia. He interviewed at St. Cloud State and liked the campus, so he's been here for the past two decades or so.
He met his now-wife Saetre at a Landmark Worldwide (formerly Landmark Education) conference in Minneapolis.
"I remember he would get up and speak and he was so articulate and interesting," she said. "I just remember thinking, I just want to know that guy, just know him better, never dreaming that I'd marry him."
She says she nudged him back on the stage. He played Salieri in a production of "Amadeus" at the Paramount Theatre "that was so good," Saetre said. He also was the artistic director for Theatre L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria.
Saetre, a semi-retired chiropractor who's knowledgeable about natural medicine, was a "godsend" when Hyde was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010, he said. He had surgery and radiation, among other treatments, but maintained a healthy lifestyle, one that he keeps up. He says he eats kale regularly.
Cancer was a wake-up call for Hyde, who learned not to take too many things too seriously and savor the present, the only time that's promised to any of us. He doesn't like to use the word "remission" because it sounds like the disease is going to come back, and after you have cancer you can feel like you have a "C" on your chest, "Scarlet Letter" style.
And through it all, Hyde says he has no regrets.
"Any issues I have are merely First World problems," he said.
An AP Member Exchange shared by the St. Cloud Times' Kate Kompas