But perhaps most tellingly of all, Star Trek makes it very clear that The Final Frontier is no place for lard-arses. For proof of this interstellar fattism, you need look no further than the skin-hugging uniforms sported by folk in the future -- especially the seemingly sprayed-on silver affair worn by Jeri Ryan's Borg/human hybrid character, Seven Of Nine. The Borg are renowned for their extreme disciplinarian streak, their tendency to bark "Resistance Is Futile!" and the metal pipes that pop out of their skulls. It's presumably for purely aesthetic reasons, then, that the only remnant of her ancestry Seven Of Nine sports is a fetching metal brooch -- on her face. A relatively new addition to the cast of Star Trek: Voyager (the fourth Stark Trek TV outing), 30-year-old Jeri has, in only her first season, sent ratings for the show soaring, winning over Trek fans with her easy charm, playful naivete and frankly very tight leotard.
Munich-born Jeri moved to the States as a child and was promptly carted all over America by her dad, who served in the forces. These days, when not shooting Voyager in Los Angeles, she lives in Chicago -- a mile from the college where she studied theatre in her late teens. "I drive past almost every day," she says, "but I think I've only ever been back there once. I actually got a letter from the theatre department just a few days ago -- they've invited me to be a guest speaker, which is very flattering. I'd like to go."
You should -- "the old girl done good" and all that.
"Old girl! Ha-ha! You heard I just turned 30, so you're rubbing it in. Actually, I'm officially in mourning this year. I've been wearing black since my birthday."
I've read that you were very
brainy at school. Were you teacher's pet?
I didn't kiss up to my teachers! I was teacher's pet because I was so good academically. We lived in Hawaii for a while, and the school system there was really bad. One day we were all taking turns to read out loud, and we got to the word "gauge". The kid who was reading didn't know how to pronounce it and looked at the teacher, who said, "Huh, you pronounce it 'gog'." And I looked at her and said, "No, it's gauge!" I was in the third grade and telling an adult how to read!
Did you have a girlie crush on
any of your teachers?
There was a student teacher at one school -- he taught PE -- and everybody had a crush on him. I went away to college, but when I came home to visit I used to go to a nightclub (with my parents!) and one night he was there. We ended up going out a couple of times. I'd fulfilled the childhood dream. I was so excited. But thinking about it, he was a bit of a disappointment, really.
Which acting role earned you
your first hard cash?
I had a bit-part in Planes, Trains And Automobiles. We were shooting a scene on a bus and Steve Martin and John Candy were doing all these funny things, and I was just laughing away and enjoying it all. Nobody bothered to tell me that you can't laugh when they're shooting, because it ruins every take. So they re-shot it without me! That was kind of a bad start, but I did get a pay-check -- a couple of hundred dollars.
Before Voyager, you
starred in Dark Skies -- the ill-fated X-Files-influenced show.
Any regrets that it got canned so soon?
It was a great first serious role for me, although I once broke my toe on set, which was rather embarrassing. I played Juliet, very much an action character, and my first scene was to burst in, kick a gun out of a guy's hand and break his nose. I'd never done anything like this, so I practiced in my trailer before the shoot. I took off my boot, went to do a kick, but hit the couch and broke my toe. I limped off and swore the medics to secrecy.
Of Nine first appeared in Star Trek: Voyager, she was a full-on Borg. Did
the huge costume you had to wear cause any nasty chaffing?
I had to wear a thick, tight, rubber suit, fitted to my bare skin. But once the make-up and prosthetics were on, it was too tight. Whenever I turned my head to the side it would press on my carotid artery. I never actually fainted, but I blacked out a couple of times. Eventually they realized there was a problem and they slit the neck.
Your latest costume's not
It's rather snug, isn't it? But at least it's stretchy. It's hell to get into and out of, it's a two-woman operation. I have a woman who dresses me, and that's her full-time job. God bless her for it! This poor woman knows me way too intimately.
What's the most preposterous
piece of dialogue you've had to learn?
Every episode, there's some sort of unspeakable techno-babble. I thought in the beginning that the best thing would be to look all the words up in the Star Trek dictionaries and try and figure them out. Not a good idea. They talk themselves into circles and it doesn't always make sense. The frightening thing is that viewers really notice when you get something wrong. That's what makes this job so difficult; with any other TV show, you can paraphrase, but not with Star Trek.
If you could use a Star Trek
transporter to whisk you off to a paradise island, who would you take along for
I guess it would be Cary Grant -- he's the epitome of class and elegance and sophistication. But if you're talking pure unmitigated lust, then it's gotta be Jack, my husband.
Creep. Did he get a giggle out
of seeing you playing a lesbian soap star in Melrose Place?
Yes he did. It's odd, because I've played two lesbians now. The other was quite a few years ago in an American series called Reasonable Doubt. I've had all the great roles.
And isn't Seven Of Nine rumored
to be unsure of which team to play for?
My character hasn't discovered her sexuality yet and there was a huge rumor on the Internet about her being a lesbian, but it was false. She would be the obvious character choice for that to be a topic to touch on, because she has no frame of reference for her sexuality. And I'm fine with that, but they're not going to make her a lesbian character. I've been there, done that...
Are you aware of the huge
amount of frankly rude Jeri Ryan material on the Net?
Yes. It's annoying. There are these websites that take a pornographic picture, then put your head on it and try and palm it off as you. Most of them are really obvious, but some are frighteningly good. There are some of me out there -- my husband found them. He thinks it's funny. I think all actors have a love/hate relationship with the Internet -- especially in Star Trek, where viewers are really fanatical. There's a couple of thousand web-pages, and that's nice. The downside is five million people chatting about your breast size.
Has your husband ever been
tempted to participate in the "great online breast debate"?
Ha! I'm sure it's been tempting for him to dive in and put a sarky little comment in there, but I don't think he's ever gotten around to it.
Are your Star Trek
figurines anatomically correct?
Well, there are five coming out, and I've only seen the 12-inch version, which was fairly anatomically correct. That was pretty scary.
Finally, what ambitions have
you yet to fulfill?
I'd love to do movies. Right now, though, I'm very happy: I have a great job and a great family -- the best of both worlds. But I guess my main ambition is to get to our 50th wedding anniversary.
only be 73!
Oh man, you're so vicious! You just had to throw that in!