Today Disney XD premieres Tron: Uprising, the animated series that follows the successful feature film Tron and is a prequel to Tron: Legacy. All told, it’s been 30 years since the first Tron, and I caught up with one of the people who’s a cornerstone of the franchise: Alan Bradley/Tron himself, sci-fi icon Bruce Boxleitner.
Boxleitner has well established his place in fandom history: besides the Tron franchise, viewers will remember him as Captain (later President) John Sheridan from the cult hit Babylon 5 and its subsequent TV-movies, and more recently from the much-beloved Chuck, where he guested as Woody Woodcomb, Captain Awesome’s father.
It’s the resurgence of Tron, however, that’s kept him busy recently. He reprised his role in Tron: Legacy and will do so again in the upcoming Tron 3, and voice-acted the part in several video games. Right now, he’s hard at work on Tron: Uprising, where Tron acts as a mentor to young program Beck (voiced by Wilfred‘s Elijah Wood) as he takes on the villainous Clu (here voiced by Fred Tatasciore, taking over for Jeff Bridges).
What was Boxleitner’s reaction to Tron making a comeback after almost three decades? “Disbelief,” he said with a laugh. “I’d heard it before. During all that time, there were some rumors of making another Tron or they wanted to remake Tron. I went, ‘Really?’
But this time, it wasn’t just another rumor. “I think when I saw the little footage that had been taken at Hall H at Comic-Con, with Jeff [Bridges], and to hear the reaction of the fans, was amazing,” he continued. “I got this absolute chill going, ‘Oh my God, this is real.’ Then I got a call asking me if I’d like to be in [Tron: Legacy]. I went, ‘Oh, absolutely.’ I was so thrilled.”
“I’m very excited about this,” he said of Tron: Uprising, which has some of the same creative team as Legacy. “This is a very logical extension. What I love about Uprising is he’s an older Tron and there’s history to him. Like the actor,” he added with a laugh. “It’s wonderful. I’ve been doing voice-over work for years now and this is kind of the direction I wanted to go into anyway. I’m very thankful that they kept me around to do Tron.”
For Boxleitner, the highlight of Uprising has been working with one of his co-stars. “I teamed up with Elijah Wood, who I’ve always been a fan of,” he told me. “I am enjoying Elijah’s performance a lot. What I like about it is his character grows from this sort of callow young guy to the guy Tron wants him to be, and I like the progression.
“The irony is I think Elijah and I worked together maybe twice,” he added. “Schedules and everything, you come in and do your work individually. That’s the nature of that game. But it’s acting either way.”
I asked Boxleitner what it was like to be part of not one but two sci-fi franchises that have made lasting impressions in popular culture, given that many of us still love him for playing the heroic Sheridan from Babylon 5.
“Trippy’s a good word for it,” he said with a laugh. “Babylon 5 is for me a very fond memory. It was the 90’s for me and it took up all my life at that time. Strangely enough, Tron is alive and well and happening now, it’s still going on for me now. I love them both, I really do. These two are becoming iconic roles and I’m hugely proud of it. I never expected it, never foresaw it, but here it is and I love it.”
He reflected on how fan culture has changed between the times of the two properties. “Doing Tron, we had a fan base out there, the movie went through various forms with Beta and VHS, [but] Babylon 5 came on and took advantage of right when the Internet was happening. We had all these websites and chatrooms and all this new terminology I had no idea about. Tron certainly benefited from that too, but Babylon 5 really was there at the forefront, for fans to talk about and exchange ideas.”
Science fiction isn’t all he’s known for, though. “If I have any fame at all, it’s mostly for Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” he said. “It was a very big hit on CBS from 1983 to 1987. It’s got the first three seasons out on DVD right now. That was my biggest claim to fame. I did it right after the original Tron so it’s that same era. That’s probably where I would refer younger fans to go to. It’s terrific television.”
While he’s certainly done a lot that we remember fondly, he adds that “I’m not anywhere near done. I would love to do, and I don’t know whom, some kind of a biographical role. A role in which I could really try to recreate someone that lived or is living. There’s any number of people I admire throughout history.
“There’s still some great science-fiction roles I’d love to do, if I’m going to be linked to this genre. My dream gig would be to be in any of Ridley Scott’s movies and that’s a dream because I’ll most likely never get that. He is the master right now as far as genre pictures.”
And Boxleitner hasn’t ruled out more Tron: “I think this has a terrific future, the entire mythology. I think it’s a good, strong mythology for our time and where we are in the world. I think there’s a lot of good things to be learned from it. The Grid has a limitless source for the imagination.”
Tron: Uprising premieres tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on Disney XD. Visit the official website and check local listings for specific channel.
For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my BuddyTV writer page, and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
(Image courtesy of Disney XD)