How a $35 haircut changed DeForest Kelley’s life

DeForest Kelley Up Close and Personal Book by Kristine Smith. Image courtesy Kristine Smith
DeForest Kelley Up Close and Personal Book by Kristine Smith. Image courtesy Kristine Smith /

DeForest Kelley wasn’t always known as Dr. McCoy

Long before he became Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on Star Trek: The Original Series, DeForest Kelley had racked up an impressive array of credits in westerns, mostly appearing as the villain. Gene Roddenberry knew Kelley and had worked with him several times, including on a short-lived production called 333 Montgomery Street. So when Star Trek rolled around, Roddenberry was interested in casting Kelley for the series. But the network wasn’t.

In the new documentary, The Center Seat, Den of Geek reported that because of Kelley’s history playing bad guys, network executives weren’t convinced that he could be the doctor aboard the Enterprise. Sometimes, black hat characters can’t switch over to the other side and play good characters convincingly enough for an audience.

Gene Roddenberry’s idea gave DeForest Kelley a haircut and a legacy

Because Roddenberry really wanted to work with Kelley, he came up with the idea of him getting a haircut that would portray him as a more likeable guy. The documentary showcases a news story from 1967 in the Independent Star News in Pasadena, California wherein Roddenberry sent Kelley to Jay Sebring, a Hollywood hairstylist, who cut Kelley’s hair in a style that Roddenberry called a “brainy, Kennedy look.”

Obviously, the haircut did the trick, and Kelley got the part, going on to portray Bones McCoy up and through the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Encounter at Farpoint.” Though he’d had an active career long before Star Trek, signing on as the doctor on The Original Series gave Kelley a legacy and a legion of fans who couldn’t imagine anyone else portraying the grumpy doctor who often clashes with the logical Mr. Spock. Isn’t it amazing what one haircut can do?

dark. Next. Discover the enduring legacy of DeForest Kelley