Childhood & Early Life
Majel Barrett was born Majel Leigh Hudec on February 23, 1932, in Cleveland, Ohio. She attended the ‘Shaker Heights High School’ and later enrolled at the ‘University of Miami,’ Florida, to study law. After completing a year in law school, Majel failed in a contract-law class. This made her realize that she was not quite cut out for the legal profession.
Majel moved to New York and started her career as an actor by participating in several stage shows and programs. She joined the ‘Broadway’ play ‘Solid Gold Cadillac’ and toured around the US. Majel’s father, William Hudec, was a police officer in Cleveland. Majel was touring the country with her theater group when her father was killed on night patrol duty.
Majel started bagging small roles in films in the 1950s. She made brief appearances in films such as ‘Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?’ and ‘The Black Orchid.’ Meanwhile, she made notable appearances in some TV series too.
Getting acquainted with Gene Roddenberry was the turning point in Barrett’s life. Their casual friendship blossomed into a love affair and culminated in marriage. This ultimately led to Barrett being an integral part of ‘Star Trek.’
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Majel Barrett’s acting career began in New York with stage plays such as ‘Models by Season’ and ‘Solid Gold Cadillac.’ Later, she moved to California in search of better options. Gradually, Majel got opportunities with major production companies.
Majel worked with ‘Paramount Pictures’ in the late 1950s. In 1958, she made an uncredited appearance in their movie ‘The Black Orchid.’ In 1958, Majel starred in another movie by ‘Paramount,’ ‘As Young as We Are.’ The same year, she also had a brief role in their film ‘The Buccaneer.’ She also worked with ‘Desilu Studios’ for several TV shows, such as ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Untouchables,’ and ‘The Lieutenant.’
In 1961, Majel met Gene Roddenberry, an American TV series producer. In 1963, she was offered a role in ‘The Lieutenant,’ a TV series produced by Gene. During the course of the show, their relation slowly changed from friendship to a passionate love affair.
In 1964, Gene Roddenberry made the pilot show of the ‘Star Trek’ series, ‘The Cage,’ and Majel Barret played the role of ‘Number One,’ the unnamed first officer of ‘USS Enterprise.’ It was a major role, and Majel was not a big star at that time. This led to clashes between Gene and ‘NBC.’ ‘NBC’ felt Barrett had grabbed the lead role because she was the girlfriend of the producer. They ultimately rejected the pilot episode and asked Roddenberry to come up with another pilot.
The second pilot episode of ‘Star Trek’ was named ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before.’ In this, the character of ‘Number One’ was dropped to appease the executives of ‘NBC.’ Nevertheless, Majel continued to remain a part of every release of ‘Star Trek,’ whether a televised version or a motion picture.
Despite her character ‘Number One’ having been rejected, Majel made her appearance as ‘Christine Chapel,’ a blonde nurse, in ‘Star Trek: The Original Series.’ She even dyed her hair to fit the role. Her character was meant to display emotional attachment to the main character, ‘Spock.’
In 1979, ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ was released. It was based on the TV series. Majel played the role of a doctor in the movie. Thus, ‘Christine Chapel’ graduated from a nurse to a doctor, and Majel continued her reign.
‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ another TV series belonging to the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, was telecast from 1987 to 1994. In this series, Majel Barrett portrayed the role of ‘Lwaxana Troi,’ an eccentric “Betazoid” mother. In ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,’ Majel resurfaced as ‘Ambassador Troi.’ Thus, Majel Barret became an integral part of the ‘Star Trek’ series. This earned her the title of being “The First Lady of Star Trek.”
The most remarkable role played by her in ‘Star Trek’ was probably that of the voice of the computers on the starships. Majel’s voice resonated from the computers in the entire series. She also lent her voice to many games of the same franchise. Her voice lives on, years after her death.
Majel Barrett married Gene Roddenberry after a few years of courtship. Gene was going through a tough phase in his first marriage when he met Majel. Ultimately, he divorced his first wife and married Majel on August 6, 1969, in Japan. The couple has a son, Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry.
Gene Roddenberry died in 1991, leaving his empire to Majel. She rummaged through his ideas, which were left in her possession, to create two science-fiction series, ‘Earth: Final Conflict’ and ‘Andromeda.’
Majel Barrett suffered from leukemia in the final days of her life. She breathed her last on December 18, 2008, at the age of 76.
Gene and Majel had a Shinto–Buddhist wedding in Japan. Gene did not believe in any particular religion, so they decided to tie the knot in a different manner.
After Gene’s death, Majel formed a company, ‘Celestial Inc.,’ to launch the remains of his body into space. However, the mission has not yet been accomplished. The company now plans to launch the remains of both Gene and Majel into space.