Majel Barrett is an actress best known for the roles she played in the Star Trek
series, including Nurse Christine Chapel
in Star Trek
, Lwaxana Troi
in Star Trek: The Next Generation
and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
, and the Federation Computer
in all of the Star Trek spin-offs. She was also the wife
of Gene Roddenberry
and now runs the company they founded together: Lincoln Enterprises
Majel Barrett was born on February 23, 1939 in Columbus, Ohio as Majel Lee Hudec and soon after her birth her parents moved to Cleveland, Ohio. "Majel" is a Native American name which means "wood dove". Her first acting experience was at age 10 when she enrolled in an acting workshop, continued to act at her high school ( Shaker Heights High School), and eventually decided to attend the University of Miami as a radio/drama/television major. One of her uncles pressured her to become a lawyer and since she wasn't sure what to do she decided to stay in Miami and attend law school. After failing her six credit contract law class, she happened to audition for a Bermudian Theater which was holding auditions at her school and she went to Bermuda for ten weeks to play as the "resident leading lady".
Upon her return, she moved to New York City and won roles in "Models By Season" which was set for Broadway, but was canceled after a week since the audiences in Boston didn't respond well. For the summer, Majel joined a theater group called The Wagon Wheel in the Midwest and spent sixteen weeks with them before returning to New York to play a role in "Solid Gold Cadillac". For nine months she toured in New Orleans, Texas, Oklahoma and San Francisco before deciding to move to the Pasadena Playhouse to star with Edward Thorton in "All For Mary". During the run of "All For Mary", she landed a role in the film "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" and starred in a number of other Paramount films including "Black Orchid," "A Young as We Are," and "The Buccaneer" before deciding to stick with Television.
Majel had written introductory letters to every producer in town and following them up with meetings in order to sell her acting talent and one of the people she encountered was Gene Roddenberry. He was at Screen Gems developing the ideas for a few television series and was impressed with her business-like approach to her career. They became friends over the next few years and during Gene's divorce from his first wife, they fell in love. In 1963 when she was no longer under exclusive contract, Gene cast her in the short-lived MGM series "The Lieutenant".
In 1964, Gene cast Majel as "Number One" in his new series, "Star Trek". After NBC rejected it because they didn't believe it was believable to have a woman as second in command, the series was re-formulated and she wanted the role of the nurse but she knew it would be difficult to get: ""Once you've been rejected for a role in a pilot, you don't have a chance of being recast so I took it upon my self to bleach my hair blond and went and sat in the production office Gene came and nodded to me and to his secretary and went into his office," Majel related. "In a short time, he came out with some papers for her and nodded absently to me once again. He walked back into his office then stopped, turned around slowly and said, "Majel?" I said, "If I can fool you, I can fool anyone." Gene was convinced. Majel chose the character's name. "I had just had a character named Chapel in a Valley play and I liked the name," she said. "I chose Christine because it reminded me of the Sistine Chapel - there was something poetic about it." To completely fool the studio, she changed her last name to Barrett and no one knew she was back. In addition to playing the Nurse Christine Chapel , Gene also cast her as the Federation Computer and she has played the computer on all the subsequent Star Trek movies and series.
Even during her Star Trek career, she continued to appear in other movies and TV shows. In 1968, Majel moved in with Gene and the next August they were unofficially married in a Shinto- Buddhist wedding ceremony in Tokyo after Gene realized how much he'd missed her while in Japan. They were legally married on December 29, 1969 in Los Angeles after Gene's divorce had been finalized. She and Gene had one child after trying to conceive for years, Eugene Wesley Roddenberry, Jr, who was born on February 5, 1974.
For Star Trek: The Next Generation she created the role of Lwaxana Troi and carried it over to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine so she could have a more active role in the series. Majel says the following about her role as Lwaxana: "When I played Lwaxana Troi, people said I'd done more for women over 40 than any movement in America."
In 1990, Gene's health began to deteriorate and she spent much of her time nursing him. He passed away on October 24, 1991 and Gene's first wife, Eileen, contested his will and tried to remove the estate from Majel and her son's care. Until 1996, Majel had to support the two of them through convention appearances and acting roles as they couldn't draw funds from the estate.
Today Majel runs Lincoln Enterprises, a mail order business she started with Gene to handle the requests for Star Trek-related materials, full time. Her hobbies include gold working, golf, cooking, and gem cutting and she's also involved in bringing Gene's forgotten projects to television and animal rights. Recent projects include Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict a popular Science Fiction show from Canada which ran from 1997-2000 in which she played Dr. Julianne Belman for two seasons and guest appearances in a number of shows including Diagnosis Murder.
Editor's note: Majel Barrett Roddenberry passed away on December 18, 2008 at the age of 76.