(written from a Production point of view)
Michael George Ansara (15 April 1922 – 31 July 2013; age 91) was the Syrian-born actor best-known to Star Trek fans for playing Kang in three Star Trek episodes, each from a different series, namely the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Day of the Dove", the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Blood Oath", and the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback". He later appeared in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Muse" as Lwaxana Troi's Tavnian husband, Jeyal.
He was one of eleven actors to play the same character (Kang) on three different Star Trek TV series. The other actors who hold this distinction are Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Mark Lenard, George Takei, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Armin Shimerman, John de Lancie, and Richard Poe.
Ansara was born in a small village in Syria in 1922 and emigrated with his family to the United States when he was two years old. They resided in Lowell, Massachusetts, until they moved to California ten years later. Ansara enrolled in the Los Angeles City College intending to become a doctor but ultimately decided to become an actor.
He was married to I Dream of Jeannie actress Barbara Eden from 1958 through 1974. He also worked with her on several projects, including directing and appearing on several episodes of Jeannie. He and Eden had one child, a son named Matthew, who died of a drug overdose in 2001.
Due to his complexion, Ansara was often cast in the role of a Native American. This was the case for his starring role as Chief Cochise on the ABC TV western series Broken Arrow from 1956 through 1958, for which he is probably best remembered. He then starred as Native American US Marshal Sam Buckhart on NBC's short-lived Western television series Law of the Plainsman.
He also played a Native American character in the 1978 mini-series Centennial. This series also featured such Trek alumni as Henry Darrow, Cliff DeYoung, Robert DoQui, Robert Easton, Sally Kellerman, Brian Keith, Nick Ramus, Clive Revill, James Sloyan, Morgan Woodward, and Anthony Zerbe.
Ansara won a Bronze Wrangler for his performance in the 1963 Rawhide episode "Incident of Iron Bull". He appeared in two other episodes of Rawhide, including "Incident at Rio Doloroso", in which he and fellow TOS guest star Madlyn Rhue portrayed husband-and-wife.
Ansara had a role in the pilot for the 1975 TV series Barbary Coast, starring William Shatner. He previously co-starred with Shatner in his pre-Trek days in a 1964 episode of Burke's Law. Ansara also worked with Leonard Nimoy twice before they appeared together on Star Trek, first in a 1957 episode of Broken Arrow and again in a 1965 episode of The Virginian.
In addition, Ansara and TOS regular James Doohan co-starred together in a 1964 episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Also in 1964, Ansara and Tim O'Connor worked together in the "Soldier" episode of The Outer Limits, which was written by Harlan Ellison. Ansara then worked with George Takei in an episode of The Wackiest Ship in the Army in 1965.
After co-starring together on Star Trek's "Day of the Dove", Ansara and Susan Howard (who played Kang's wife, Mara) reunited for an episode of Here Comes the Brides in 1969. TOS guest stars Robert Brown, Mark Lenard, and David Soul were regulars on this series.
Ansara played the villain Killer Kane in four episodes of the 1979-1981 sci-fi TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, on which Tim O'Connor was a regular cast member. In the 1980s, he guest-starred on such television series as Fantasy Island (starring Ricardo Montalban and Wendy Schaal), CHiPs (starring Robert Pine), Simon & Simon (in an episode directed by Mike Vejar), Hardcastle and McCormick (starring Brian Keith and Daniel Hugh Kelly), and Murder, She Wrote (directed by Vincent McEveety).
In 1994, Ansara appeared as a technomage on the science fiction television series Babylon 5 at the start of the second season, alongside various Star Trek guest actors such as Andreas Katsulas, Bill Mumy, and Mary Kay Adams.
Voicing Mr. Freeze
Ansara has become recognizable as the voice of the DC Comics character Mr. Freeze on various animated Batman series. He has voiced the character several times between 1992 and 2009, beginning with Batman: The Animated Series. He later voiced the role in the animated series The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond. Other major villains on the various animated Batman shows were voiced by Adrienne Barbeau (Catwoman), John Glover (The Riddler), David Warner (Ra's al Ghul), and Paul Williams (The Penguin). Loren Lester voiced the role of Robin, while Robert Costanzo provided the voice of Detective Harvey Bullock.
In addition, Ansara voiced Mr. Freeze in the 1998 direct-to-video release SubZero, set between the events of Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. The aforementioned Loren Lester and Robert Costanzo also lent their voices to this movie, again playing their respective characters of Robin and Detective Bullock. More recently, Ansara voiced Freeze in the video games Batman: Vengeance. The latter also featured the voices of the aforementioned Paul Williams (as The Penguin) and David Warner (as Ra's al Ghul), as well as Ron Perlman (as Bane) and Clancy Brown (as Killer Croc). Incidentally, Clancy Brown also voiced the character of Mr. Freeze on TV's The Batman.
Ansara's many feature film credits include Julius Caesar (1953, co-starring fellow TOS veterans John Hoyt, Richard Hale, Ian Wolfe, and Lawrence Dobkin), The Comancheros (1961, starring John Wayne), and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961). Ansara appeared in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1954), as Charlie. As the Hittite commander in The Egyptian (1954), he had only two lines, but presented a Klingon-like appearance, declaring "No Hittite warrior cries out in pain!"
Ansara also made uncredited appearances in the biblical epics The Robe (1953, with Jean Simmons and Jay Robinson) and The Ten Commandments (1956). The latter film also featured the likes of Judith Anderson, Lawrence Dobkin, and Robert Herron.
Ansara worked with Ricardo Montalban in three feature films. The first was the 1954 romantic adventure The Saracen Blade, which was followed in 1968 by the crime drama Sol Madrid. Then, in 1977, the two co-starred opposite each other in the western Mission to Glory: A True Story.
In Irwin Allen's 1961 science fiction classic Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Ansara portrayed scientist Miguel Alvarez. That same year, he had a supporting role in the western adventure The Comancheros, along with Nehemiah Persoff. Ansara later played a prince in the Gene Nelson-directed 1965 Elvis Presley movie Harum Scarum (co-starring Theo Marcuse) and a Comanche chief in the 1966 western Texas Across the River (with Rosemary Forsyth, Andrew Prine, and George D. Wallace).
In 1974, Ansara played The Captain in the cult horror film It's Alive! In 1976, Ansara and fellow TOS guest star Michael Forest starred in the highly-controversial film Mohammad, Messenger of God (known in the US as The Messenger). This film chronicled the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Ansara then starred in the 1978 horror film The Manitou, for which he received a Saturn Award nomination from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films as Best Supporting Actor.
Ansara's subsequent films include Bayou Romance (1982) and Access Code (1984), both with Michael Durrell. He later worked with Walter Gotell and Sally Kellerman in the 1986 drama KGB: The Secret War and with Jill Ireland in the 1987 action thriller Assassination. Ansara then appeared in the 1990 western Border Shootout, which also featured fellow TOS guest actor Michael Forest. Ansara's most recent feature film was the 1999 independent drama The Long Road Home.
Star Trek interviews
- "Michael Ansara, Klingon with a Cause", Mark Phillips, Starlog, issue 138, January 1989, pp. 32-33
- "Noble Presence", Tom Weaver, Starlog, issue 225, April 1995, pp. 56-61