Walter Koenig, who portrayed the character of Pavel Chekov in the original Star Trek television series and movies, has paid tribute to his on-screen successor Anton Yelchin after the 27-year-old actor died Sunday morning in a car accident at his home.
Koenig, 79, told the Hollywood Reporter that although he only met Yelchin once, the young man made an impression on him.
“We spoke on a sound stage for about two hours,” Koenig said in a statement. “His reputation as an artist preceded him, however. I knew I was in the presence of a gifted performer.”
He added, “What I learned that day was how bright and sensitive he was. I walked away thinking — this is a good person. My heart goes out to his mother and father. I know what you’re going through.”
Yelchin followed in Koenig’s footsteps as the Enterprise crew’s resident “Russian whiz kid” in the 2009 Star Trek movie reboot, starring opposite Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana. He reprised the role in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness and the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, which is set to open next month.
Yelchin died at his home in Studio City, California, where his body was found pinned between a car and a gate. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office has said an exact cause of death will not be announced until an autopsy is complete.