Jackson is retired these days, but still makes the occasional autograph show and convention appearance. She’s scheduled to attend Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, which will run from July 31-August 3. In advance of that event, Jackson agreed to chat by telephone about her Trek experience, her career and her life today.
Go all the way back. You’d done an episode of Gene Roddenberry’s pre-Trek series, The Lieutenant. Did that have any impact on you winning your role on Star Trek?
JACKSON: I don’t know. I didn’t remember that Gene Roddenberry was on that show. That’s a show that, excuse my immodesty, but I liked performance in it, and I loved working with Gary Lockwood. He was very serious about the work and wasn’t just doing it by the numbers. We’d work out a scene and make it the best we could make it. But with Star Trek, my agent called and said, “I want you to go on this interview.” So I went, but I’ve never cared particularly for sci-fi. I liked 2001, but I’m not a geeky sci-fi person, and I’ve actually not watched any of the other Star Trek episodes or movies. But to answer your question, I had to meet with Gene Roddenberry three different times before he decided he wanted me for Star Trek.
Your costume in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” is unforgettable. What do you recall of the fittings as William Ware Theiss brought it to life on you?
JACKSON: Bill Theiss was just wonderful. Bill and Gene Roddenberry and myself… all three of us were designing that outfit. It was like some mechanical engineering job to make it work. I can tell you a couple of stories about the outfit. I invented the slit up the front of the leg on it. I’m only 5-foot-4 and I wanted to look taller. That made me look taller. The outfit just became magical. Also, hip-huggers weren’t around at that time, but apparently after that episode, hip-huggers came into fashion. I’m sure it was because of Star Trek.
Andrea, for an android, certainly expressed plenty of emotion and sensuality…
JACKSON: If you look closely, you can see the transition, which is very nuanced. I was acting that role like I would play a human, in a way, because I knew there had been androids before Andrea, but I hadn’t seen any shows or movies with androids and I had no concept of an android. So I created what I thought the android would feel or not feel. Of course, in the beginning, she doesn’t feel. She just obeys orders. And then she gets feelings and you see her slowly come around to those feelings, and that’s really a shock to her.
You shared some nice moments with Majel Barrett, Michael Strong and William Shatner. What do you remember of working with them?
JACKSON: Well, Majel, at that time, was dating Gene Roddenberry, I think, but I didn’t know that. She was playing her role, the strong independent woman, and she was also like that on the set. She wasn’t a warm, huggy, fun, goof-off kind of person. She was very business-like. She did her scenes and knew her lines. She was a professional. Michael Strong was a theater actor, and I loved working with him. He was also doing what I was doing, because he was playing an android. When he broke down, I thought, “Wow, this is really good work here.” Ted Cassidy was just a doll, too. And Shatner… well, what can I say? He’s a nice person. Of course, he was kind of flirting with me. But overall, I enjoyed working with Shatner.
Just before we got on the phone to do this interview with you, we watched the episode again. And we replayed and replayed the scene in which the trigger is pulled on the phaser. Once and for all, who pulled the trigger?
JACKSON: You know, that’s a good question. I’m not sure myself.
You’re one of the rare actors who successfully transitioned from child star to teen actor to adult actor. Did you realize at the time just how rare it was to accomplish that?
JACKSON: Yes, I knew it was very, very difficult, partly because of the laws of the Board of Education. You could work when you were younger than six, but you could only work limited hours. So they’d rather hire someone who was seven but looked five. If you think about it, it’s why you saw so many short actors on screen, especially the boys who grew up to be (male adult) actors. But I kept getting work, and I was very grateful for the opportunities. It was my goal to work. I wanted to do more mature roles. I couldn’t stand it when they called me “pigtailed moppet Sherry Jackson.” I said, “Someday, I’m going to change that.” Star Trek was really the beginning. Then, when I saw myself in Gunn, I said, “Now, that’s a grown-up woman.” I thought for a minute that, “I don’t ever have to work again,” because I’d reached my goal of making that transition, but then I kept on working.
What are some of other credits you’re proudest of?
JACKSON: Everyone seems to like something different, which I think is great. I really enjoyed Trouble Along the Way, which was a movie I did with John Wayne. Michael Curtiz, who directed Casablanca, directed that. That picture was hard work, but I really enjoyed the experience and like my performance in it. And I loved John Wayne. He was very good to me. I watched the film not too long ago. Sometimes when you watch yourself you think, “The performance just isn’t there” or, “Ugh, that wasn’t good.” That film, I think I was very, very good in it.
Let’s end the conversation by bringing everyone up to date. How is life treating you these days?
JACKSON: I’m just enjoying retirement and yoga and studying things and learning Spanish. I’m doing all kinds of things, and it keeps me busy. I like having a busy schedule.
You still attend the occasional autograph show and you’ll be heading out to Las Vegas in August for Creation’s big Star Trek convention. It must be fun to meet the fans…
JACKSON: I love it. My fan base is from 17 years old to about 80, which is phenomenal, and a lot of them are Star Trek fans. I get letters from all over the world. And I hear from many fans on my website. At the conventions, I enjoy spending time with them, seeing what they’re like, hearing where they’re from, if they have kids. The joy of it is talking to them.
Go to Creation Entertainment's site for details about Jackson's upcoming appearance and all the other events scheduled for the July 31-August 3 event.