Carmel Valley family man in ‘Star Trek’

Faran Tahir plays Captain Robau in cult classic prequel

Faran Tahir has added a new element to his fan base with his appearance as Captain Robau in the recently released “Star Trek.”

Having pulled in more than $76 million during its opening weekend, the much-anticipated film has rebooted not only the 1960s television series story line, but Trekkie fever as well.

While Tahir makes his living in Hollywood, he retreats to the suburban predictability of Carmel Valley to make his home with wife Marie, son Javan and daughter Lena. The 46-year-old actor, who holds a master’s degree from Harvard, grew up in Los Angeles and is the third generation in his family to turn to the performing arts. He has appeared on TV, performed on stage and played in films. There is chatter in Hollywood that he may reprise his role as a villain in sequels to 2008’s “Iron Man.”

Tahir shared what it has been like to be part of the cosmic cult classic.

Were you a fan of “Star Trek” growing up?

I was. I liked “Star Trek” a lot when I was young, and later, when I was in college, I liked “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” When I was a little boy, it was more about the aliens and space and gadgets. When I was older, that’s when I started to get into the message of this modern day mythology. They were dealing with issues current to us but set in the future. The message was really positive and hopeful, about going beyond the things that separate us and working together. If you look at the story lines of “Star Trek,” they don’t go to war; the idea is to find peaceful ways of working together. I think that hope and optimism is at the very center of this idea.

What was it like to be part of such an iconic project?

It is a pop culture icon, this whole story line. What was refreshing was that it’s been around for 40 years now and there’s still stuff you can refine and find in it. To me, it was a young boy’s dream come true, to walk through this fantasy I had growing up. To be right in the midst of it was really priceless.

“Star Trek” stands to be one of the summer blockbusters. How has your life changed since its release?

The reason I live in San Diego is because I don’t want my life to change too much. I like my surroundings, my environment and my family’s lifestyle. More people have recognized me, but it hasn’t really changed who I am.

Professionally, every time you do something that’s well received, it creates a lot of excitement. The diversity of playing a bad guy in “Iron Man” and now playing a good guy in “Star Trek” allows people to see the range of my acting abilities.

There have been some differences in the reaction from the fans. Trekkies are a diehard fan base, and they seem fascinated to have a new character to get acquainted with. They really seem to have embraced Captain Robau. There are about 2,300 blogs on his character alone. I think this movie was so anticipated because there hasn’t been one in such a long time and it has rekindled the whole “Star Trek” thing.

Did you meet any of the original “Star Trek” cast members?

One day when I was shooting, Leonard Nimoy showed up. It was like Moses had walked on the set. You could feel this very palpable energy in the room, and you could hear people whispering. You get kind of star struck around someone like him because he’s been a part of our lives for so long and he’s given that character such dignity. At one point, when I was a kid, I had contemplated shaving my eyebrows half off and painting them on to look like Mr. Spock.

How did this new movie stay true to the original “Star Trek”?

The spirit of the characters and the original story line are very much alive in this movie. I think it pays homage to a lot of the series’ past, and yet it also freshens it up. It kind of reboots the whole thing by giving “Star Trek” a back story. It balances what old fans were expecting, but the director, J.J. Abrams, also realized that there hasn’t been a firsthand connection with this generation and the story line. He’s bringing it to this new audience in a way that they can own it and not feel left out.

What “Star Trek” character do you most relate to?

I found Captain Picard (“Star Trek: The Next Generation) to be a very interesting character. He was someone who had the right balance between deliberation and action; he was not a trigger-happy kind of a guy. I like that in a leader. I also like to deliberate on things and find a balance, if I can.

What did your kids think of “Star Trek”?

They were on the edge of their seats while they watched it. They loved it. What I like best is that it’s a new way for us to communicate. This was a little part of my childhood that had been locked up. Now that they’ve seen the movie and they understand the characters, they want to watch the old episodes. I can give them my take on Captain Kirk, and it’s one more piece of dialogue we can have.

What’s next for you?

I have two upcoming movies: “Ashes,” which will be released in the fall, and “Two Mothers,” which will premiere in early 2010.