Before landing the role of Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy spent much of his early career doing small parts in TV shows and movies. Here, he plays the part of a Comanche Indian, alongside David McLean in an episode of Tate, which aired Aug. 10, 1960.
NBCU via AP Images
Leonard Nimoy is best known for his role as Mr. Spock, the half-Vulcan, half-human first officer from Star Trek: The Original Series, earning three Emmy nominations for his performance. With him is William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk.
NBCU via AP
Following the cancellation of Star Trek: The Original Series in 1969, Nimoy went on to replace Martin Landau in the TV series, Mission: Impossible. Nimoy is pictured with cast members, Peter Graves (center front), Peter Lupus (rear) and Greg Morris (right).
Paramount TV/The Kobal Collection
Leonard Nimoy poses with Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams during filming of the 1978 remake of the film, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.
Hulton Archive via Getty Images
Leonard Nimoy (from left), Robert Wise, Gene Roddenberry, DeForest Kelley and William Shatner confer on the set of the movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, on Nov. 8, 1978. The popularity of the original Star Trek TV show resulted in 11 feature films. Nimoy reprised his role as Spock in six of the films as well as in Star Trek: The Animated Series, and two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Filming Marco Polo on location in Beijing on Oct. 30, 1981.
William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy went on to act together in another TV series when Nimoy guest -starred in an episode of T.J. Hooker on Jan. 29, 1983. Nimoy portrayed Shatner's former partner, who was pursuing a man who had attacked his daughter.
Leonard Nimoy makes a May 9 guest appearance on the Saturday Night Live sketch "Weekend Edition" to promote the 2009 Star Trek film. Along with Nimoy, actors Zachary Quinto (left) and Chris Pine, who play Spock and James. T. Kirk in the film, joined Nimoy and host Seth Meyers (right).
Dana Edelson/NBCU Photobank via AP
Leonard Nimoy portrays Dr. William Bell on the TV show, Fringe. He made his first appearance in the Season 1 finale and will be a recurring character in Season 2.
1 of 9
In the three seasons of the original Star Trek series, Leonard Nimoy developed a character so distinctive that Mr. Spock is now considered an American cultural icon. Now Nimoy's back on TV in a recurring role — as much to his surprise as anyone else's.
"I'm in a state of shock," Nimoy tells Guy Raz. "I don't know how it happened. I'm asking myself: How do these strange things happen to a life when you've made your plans and things change?"
Nimoy, who once said he was done with acting, will be playing Dr. William Bell on the TV show Fringe. Turns out, he says, returning to television has been fun. "I'm enjoying it. It's intriguing. It's thought-provoking. The work is good. The scripts are interesting and multi-layered."
Dr. Bell is "a combination of the richest man in the world and a Timothy Leary-type scientist," Nimoy says. "We're not quite sure what his intentions are. He seems to be sincere." Are his warnings from an alternate reality to be believed? "Time will tell whether he is really giving out good advice or being misleading," Nimoy says.
But Dr. Bell doesn't show up very often so far, and that doesn't give Nimoy a lot of screen time to build the character. Nimoy wants to make the character elusive to keep him interesting. "I'm trying to make him something of a mystery so that there will be an anticipation of what might be revealed in the future." he says.
Fringe director JJ Abrams, known for his work on the hit television series Lost, lured Nimoy into the project following the success of the latest Star Trek movie, in which Nimoy reprises his role as Mr. Spock.
It was the work of Abrams and his team on the movie that inspired Nimoy's respect. "I think they've revived the entire franchise," Nimoy says.
Even so, Mr. Spock, or at least Nimoy's incarnation of the character, may have finally found his final frontier. "I know why they wanted me in this last film, which was to create a bridge between the original cast and the new," he says. "But that's been done. So I would suspect that there's no need for my presence again."
Nimoy won't say for sure if he's finished with Star Trek, but he admires Zachary Quinto, the young actor who inherited the role. "I'm proud of what he did in the film. I think it's very good work," he says. "I think the character is in very good hands."
Forty years ago this summer, the original Star Trek series aired its final original episode. Nimoy went on to make movies, write plays and books, publish photos and even record a few albums. The upside of playing an occasional character on TV, Nimoy points out, is "it leaves me free to do the other things that I enjoy doing."
He's agreed to do a couple episodes of Fringe, "and so far I have done two," he says. "I think I will do at least one more and then we'll see what happens."