Name at birth: Richard William Wheaton III
Now an author and famous denizen of the Internet, Wil Wheaton is still known to most people as Wesley Crusher, a much-maligned teen character on TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation. Wheaton began his acting career in childhood, and by the mid-1980s had appeared in several small roles on television and in feature films. His turn as Gordie in the movie Stand By Me (1986) earned solid reviews, and it looked as if Wheaton was headed for a career in feature films, along with co-stars Jerry O'Connell, River Phoenix and Kiefer Sutherland. Wheaton then became a regular cast member of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-90), playing the teenage son of Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and drawing the enmity of some vocal hardcore Star Trek fans who didn't like his character. His efforts to build a film career while shooting a television series met with little success and Wheaton left the show after three years. A self-proclaimed "geek," Wheaton found a second career with the expansion of the Internet and the World Wide Web, writing about his own experiences and becoming an active member in various Internet organizations. In 2003 he published a book of true-life stories, Dancing Barefoot, which led to a book contract and a second book, Just a Geek (2004). Wheaton continues to get acting jobs in TV, video games and independent movies, and he does improv comedy, writes pop culture columns and broadcasts podcasts.