Actor Bruce Hyde didn’t think playing Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes of the original Star Trek was a big deal. At the time, no one knew the show would become a pop culture phenomenon, and he was just happy to act for a paycheck.
In the years after his brief stint as Enterprise crew member Riley, Hyde was a mainstay in the Minneapolis theater scene but didn’t return to TV. And he never made a fuss about his time on Star Trek, fellow actor Zach Curtis told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“He never made a big deal about it. He was like, ‘Yeah, I did that.’ We were the people who made a big deal about him. He talked about it as an experience that got him to where he was now.”
Sadly, last week, Bruce lost his battle with throat cancer, a disease that had returned after he’d fought and recovered from after his diagnosis a few years ago. His wife, Susan Saetre, confirmed Hyde’s passing on October 13 to Entertainment Weekly. He was 74.
Even after Bruce became ill again this year, Curtis said he supported the local theater scene with his presence. And after years on the stage, Bruce had become quite a presence in local theater, praised for his effortless and dedicated performances.
But the world will always know Hyde as Lt. Kevin Riley — and that seemed fine with Bruce, according to an interview he gave last year.
“I’m honored to have my little toe in pop culture history.”
Bruce appeared in the first season of Star Trek in 1966 in two episodes — “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King.” In the episodes, his character sang “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” constantly. At Star Trek conventions years later, he sang the tune again, realizing at those events that his character had become pretty popular despite his brief stint.
“Of all the TV shows I could have done in the ’60s, how many would still have this following?” Hyde said a decade ago. “I feel privileged to be a part of it.”
Hyde had a few more roles after those two memorable episodes, in Dr. Kildare, That Girl, and The Beverly Hillbillies. Bruce also performed in the Canterbury Tales on Broadway and Hair in San Francisco.
But according to his wife, his most natural role was as a teacher. Starting in 1990, Hyde taught at St. Cloud University in both the Department of Theatre & Film Studies and the Department of Communication Studies. According to the Tribune, he chaired the Department of Theater, Film Studies, and Dance for 20 years and stepped down this year. Hyde was also an artistic director at a local theater.
And when he wasn’t teaching, he was acting in the Twin Cities area. His most notable and acclaimed roles were as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, 12 Angry Men, The Rainmaker, and Of Mice and Men. Curtis said Bruce was an effortless actor, but during the run of a show, always carried the characters with him wherever he went.
“I always felt sorry for Susan [Saetre, his wife of 20 years] when he had a bad-guy character because he lived that at home,” he said.
Hyde leaves behind two stepchildren, a granddaughter, a sister and brother-in-law, and his wife, Susan, who remembered Bruce as a man of many talents.
“There were so many layers to him. He was an actor, a singer, a musician, a writer, an artist. He had so many different complexities to him, but I think the thing that best fit him was being a teacher. He was able to blend all of those in his teaching.”
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]