A recently released memo from Paramount reveals that "Star Trek: The Next Generation" could have had a much different cast if the studio had been able to sign the actors that it had on it's initial 'wish list'.
According to the document, the top candidates for the roles were as follows, Patrick Stewart for Picard, Lianne Langland for Tasha Yar, Mark Lindsay Chapman for Data, Michael O'Gorman for Ryker (Riker), LeVar Burton for Geordie La Forge, Anne Twomey for Beverly Crusher, Denise Crosby for Deanna Troi and J.D. Roth for Wesley Crusher.
Looks like they only got two of the actors that they really wanted, well, that is unless you count Denise Crosby, who ended up as Tasha, not Troi.
Other notables on the list, Jenny Augutter (Logan's Run) for Beverly Crusher, Reggie Jackson, Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager) and Wesley Snipes (Yes, Wesley Snipes!) as Geordie.
Names not on the list, Brent Spiner wasn't even a thought for Data, neither was Marina Sirtis for Troi, and Wil Wheaton wasn't in line for Wesley Crusher either.
Jonathan Frakes and Gates McFadden? Well, they were both third in line for William Ryker (later changed to Riker) and Beverly Crusher respectively. Though as you will see, "Gates" McFadden is listed as Cheryl McFadden (her actual name) on this memo.
From the wording of the document, several actors, whom ultimately didn't end up as actual cast members on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" seemed to be virtual 'locks' for the parts at the time it was written (April 13th, 1997).
Here is the text from the actual memo, followed by a copy of the actual memo:
TO: JOHN PIKE
DATE: APRIL 13, 1987
FROM: JOHN FERRARO
SUBJECT: STAR TREK/Casting
Per your request, following is a list of actors who are being considered for their respective roles in STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.
Mark Lindsay Chapman
Kevin Peter Hall (also for Geordi)
Kelvin Han Yee
Clarence Gilyard Jr.
Kevin Peter Hall
The above actors will be brought in to read for Gene Roddenberry starting next week. However, Patrick Bauchau did come in to read for Gene today for the role of "Picard." His reading was well received; he and Patrick Stewart seem to be the favorites for the role of "Picard."
For the role of "Ryker," Michael O'Gorman seems to be a favorite. He's sort of an atypical choice for the role, however, a good one.
Denise Crosby seems to be the only possibility for the role of "Troi" at this point; the same for J.D. Roth for the role of "Wesley."
There are several contenders for "Tasha," "Geordi," and "Data." However, Rosalind Chao seems to be a favorite for "Tasha"; Reggie Jackson for "Geordi"; and Mark Lindsay Chapman for "Data."
For the role of "Beverly," Cheryl McFadden is the favorite. However, her schedule may pose a problem. She's currently performing in a play in San Diego.
General reading sessions are continuing; our next one is on April 14.
cc: Jeff Hayes