Phoenix Comicon guest Bruce Boxleitner talks ‘Tron,’ Apocalypse and the sad state of space travel

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Bruce BoxleitnerIt’s life’s little surprises that keep us going. Just ask Bruce Boxleitner.

The actor has enjoyed playing a host of iconic characters, from the maverick Capt. John Sheridan in Babylon 5 to an undercover agent in Scarecrow and Mrs. King and the heroic computer program Tron in the 1982 movie of the same name.

Though he had a lot of fun in Tron, for a long time he never expected to revisit the digital frontier as he did in last year’s Tron: Legacy — and in summer 2012 he’ll be training a new generation of Grid warriors in the Disney XD animated series Tron: Uprising, which takes place between the new films.

Boxleitner, coming to town for this weekend’s Phoenix Comicon, spent some time recently talking about his body of sci-fi work with Nerdvana.

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“Tron I enjoyed but it was such a one-off,” he says. “As written, he was just sort of this Buck Rogers-type character. That’s what I could relate to in those days.”

Boxleitner says his character’s return and his journey in Legacy was an exciting surprise, and he’s happy to develop that even more in Uprising, though he’s a bit hoarse from all the voice-over work.

“The animation is incredible and I’m very excited by it. I don’t get to see much of it. It’s very intense stuff too. It’s not Cartoon Network. It’s a far more dangerous Grid out there than we ever imagined.”

Though he got to play a starship captain in the James T. Kirk mold in Babylon 5 and was already famous for the archetypal sci-fi hero from Tron, Boxleitner says he never felt typecast. Speaking of Kirk: “Bill Shatner’s really my hero. He’s the father of all these sci-fi captains and leaders, but look where he’s gone now in his later career.” William Shatner’s certainly reinvented himself as a sitcom curmudgeon in $#*! My Dad Says and won acclaim for his role as over-the-top attorney Denny Crane in Boston Legal.

“The recognition he got for that was wonderfully deserved. Conventions too. It’s always a big treat. But I would like to be more.”

What does Boxleitner geek out about? He’s a fan of HBO’s fantasy hit Game of Thrones and is proud to have been a longtime fan of the George R.R. Martin fantasy novels that inspired it since a fan of his introduced the series to him at a U.K. convention years ago.

The sophistication of today’s filmmaking and video game technology is impressive, he says, but as for the state of science fiction he laments the turn he says pop culture has taken toward more apocalyptic fare than the optimistic tone of Babylon 5 and Star Trek — and he has choice words for what our leaders have allowed the real-life space program to become.

“They’re not really concerned, they don’t give a damn and we are going to rue the day. It’s amazing being a child of the ’60s there was this incredible will to reach the stars.”

After the moon landing, he says, that will died.

“We are now looking at our toes as human beings, not looking up at the horizon. That used to be what we were: We were pioneers, we were adventurers, explorers. I hope a generation picks up the gauntlet in the future and carries it forward.”

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Photo credit: Associated Press file

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