Denise Crosby, in part one of our two-part interview, talked about her experience landing and, later, leaving, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now, in the second half of our conversation, the actress discusses her TNG return engagements, the Trekkies documentaries and also her current projects, which include a recent professional reunion with Gates McFadden, an upcoming TNG cast appearance in Calgary and the new pilot, Ray Donovan, that she’s about to shoot for Showtime.
You asked to be let out of your TNG contract, and you were. How surprised were you, then, when you were invited back for “Yesterday’s Enterprise”?
Crosby: I was surprised on so many levels. First of all, my character was dead. But, I did leave on really good terms. Gene Roddenberry and I met one on one in his office. There was no animosity. I don’t know that anybody really wanted me to go. I think it stirred up a lot of things in all the other cast members. I’m not exactly sure what, but you’ve got to question your own commitment or your own place, what you’re doing there. I think it stirs up stuff. However, Gene and I were very clear about what was going on. He said to me, “I don’t want you to go, but I get it. I get why you’re leaving. I was a young writer at one time and I was hungry and I was frustrated, and I get that.” We hugged and that was it. He got where I was coming from.
So I was very happy to come back for “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and in a certain way I had more to do in that episode than I’d ever had to do before. It was such a rich story for the character. I loved working with Christopher McDonald. We’ve worked together a couple of other times. He played my husband in a film. He’s a wonderful actor and we had a great rapport on TNG. And my doing “Yesterday’s Enterprise” actually gave me the idea of pitching the concept of Tasha’s daughter, of Sela. I created that story.
You played Sela in the “Redemption” two-parter and also in “Unification Part II.” Then you did the Trekkies documentaries. And, all the while, you were attending conventions. For someone who left TNG after one season, you really made your mark on the franchise…
Crosby: How many people can say they’ve played their own daughter on a TV show? And I got to do Trekkies and Trekkies 2. So I have a great foot in the whole franchise. It’s a different one. It’s unique. But it’s kind of special in its own way. I have this multi-pronged relationship with Star Trek.
You just mentioned Trekkies. As closely as you were associated with the franchise as an actress, what did you discover about Star Trek and fandom by making Trekkies that you hadn’t already known?
Crosby: I was fascinated by the stories that I was hearing, going to different conventions. Also, some people didn’t really get what this was all about. They were kind of mystified by it all. I’d come back from a convention and friends of mine, who’d never seen an episode of Star Trek, would say, “What? They have conventions? People ask you questions? They dress up? What?” I thought it was a phenomenon that had lasted all of this time, that was unique to this franchise. I thought, “Something is going on here. Why is that? Why this show? Why aren’t people having Cheers conventions? What is going on here?” I’d seen too many times, the 11 o’clock news, when the newscaster would go, “There’s going to be a Star Trek convention in Pasadena. Get your Spock ears on, everybody!” People were just writing it off as a geek-fest.
I knew that there were a lot of layers to the conventions and I wanted to see what would come of it if I turned the cameras on and turned them around. The fans were willing to talk to me because I was a part of it. They were flattered that I was interested in talking to them, because it’s usually so one-sided. We’re hustled off by security and kept at a distance from the fans, and here I was, just breaking through that barrier. And I ran the gamut of feelings doing Trekkies. Sometimes I was very emotionally touched by stories. Sometimes I was creeped out. Sometimes I was laughing hysterically with the fans. And that was important; I wanted to be sure we weren’t making fun of the fans. The whole idea was to give fans the chance to kind of come out of the closet and be who they are. So, we had so much fun making Trekkies, and I think people genuinely enjoyed seeing it.
Let’s get everyone up to speed on what you’re doing these days…
Crosby: Just a couple of months ago I finished a play that I was doing. It was called House of Gold, at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in Los Angeles, which Gates McFadden directed. It was fantastic. It was an amazing piece. Gates did a phenomenal job. And it was just a wonderful, wonderfully received play. We’ll see what happens now. We got a lot of accolades. We got a lot of attention and a lot of ‘Must-sees!’ in the papers. It was great because Gates and I really got to know each other in a much, much different and deeper way than we ever did when we were working on Star Trek. That was the other really wonderful part of the experience. We marveled at the fact that when we were on TNG, we never had any scenes together. So we really didn’t know each other at all. Then we started dissecting that whole first season, what it was like for her, for me. We would have conversations that we’d never had. That the conversations took place 25 years later, it was a really interesting scenario to be in.
What was the biggest discovery you made during your conversations with Gates about TNG?
Crosby: It was that, in hindsight, it was a very male-driven set. I think that the women were not really included. For me, certainly, I felt it was very much a boys’ club, the whole show. I didn’t really feel a part of it, in some way, you know? Gates, in her own way, felt very much the same way. Of course, we were never really on set at the same time because all my stuff was on the bridge and all her stuff was in sickbay. So it was like our voices were muffled in some way as women on the show.
You’ll also be attending the Calgary Expo, during which you’ll reunite with the entire TNG cast for the first time in ages…
Crosby: I don’t think we’ve ever all been on stage at the same time. I don’t recall it. There was a big convention in England for one of the features (Generations), but Wil (Wheaton) and I weren’t at that (because they weren’t in the film). I find it exciting and daunting, and it’ll be exciting to see a lot of my cast mates. That’s always fun to do. Patrick (Stewart); I haven’t seen him in so long, and he called while Gates and I were working on House of Gold. He tried to get in to see it. Brent (Spiner) saw it. He came to see it. I love those guys and will be so happy to see them. It can be a little bit of a circus on the stage, because there’s a lot of riffing and joking and one-upmanship, but hopefully we’ll all have fun. Plus, I love the fans and I’m respectful of the show, and I haven’t ever been to Calgary.
The reason for the group appearance at the Calgary Expo is to celebrate TNG's 25th anniversary. How hard is it to wrap your head around the fact that it's 25 years now?
Crosby: Time flies. It’s amazing. That was a quick quarter of a century. It just doesn’t feel that way to me. I was a very different place in my life, I think, back then. It’s always striking how long the show has lasted, and I mean all of Star Trek, not just TNG. The whole legacy of Star Trek, it’s so embedded in pop culture. And it’s great to be a part of it.
And, lastly, you just signed on for a new TV pilot, right?
Crosby: Yes, that’s the really big news for me right now. It’s a pilot called Ray Donovan, for Showtime. It’s a drama, a family drama, with Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Elliott Gould, Paula Malcomson and a lot of very talented people. The creator is Ann Biderman, who also did Southland. Liev plays a fixer-protector in Los Angeles. Jon Voight plays his father and Elliott Gould plays his mentor, and I play Elliott’s longtime mistress. We start shooting next week and I’m incredibly excited.
To read part one of our interview with Denise Crosby, click HERE.
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