INTERVIEW: TNG Guest Star, Lycia Naff
Ensign Sonya Gomez and Geordi La Forge seemed primed for a romance when Star Trek: The Next Generation fans first saw them together in the episodes “Q Who?” – which aired 29 years ago today -- and “Samaritan Snare,” but those ended up being the only two hours in which the Gomez character appeared. That was a shame, as guest star Lycia Naff shared terrific chemistry with LeVar Burton and such an arc would have benefited Geordi’s evolution. Still, the work remains a highlight on Naff’s resume, which also includes such shows as St. Elsewhere, Fame, Law & Order and Ghost Whisperer, plus the films The Clan of the Cave Bear, Lethal Weapon, the cult favorite Biker Chicks in Zombietown, and the original Total Recall, in which she played the three-breasted character, Mary. Naff, who left acting to pursue a career as a journalist, is set to appear at Star Trek Las Vegas this summer. She talked about all of the above and more during a recent interview with StarTrek.com…
What are you up to these days?
I'm living a slower-paced life, riding motorcycles, practicing Kundalini yoga and running my non-profit charity, "Drive-By Do-Gooders."
Still a journalist?
I'm still an active undercover investigative reporter; however, I surfaced with my byline when I exclusively broke the Bill Cosby rape scandal in 2014.
Are you open to acting again or are you done with it?
I dipped my toe back into the waters and found it asking more than I was getting back. So, for now, unless someone offers me a part or audition, I'm retired from the bright lights and broad stage.
Were you a Trek fan around the time of TNG?
I am now.
How did you land the role of Gomez in “Q Who?”?
It was as typical casting call with a bunch of girls looking just like me. I was last on the list. I was nervous but excited. I remember repeating to myself something that my acting teacher said: "The longer they make me wait, the better I'm gonna be." So, I kept chanting that in my head as I waited for hours to be called, but I knew I'd given it my very best.
What interested you most about the part?
I was thrilled to be a small part of the legacy. Funny though, when I got to the set on the first day, the writers had changed my character name of Ensign Sonya Guzman, a nice Jewish girl, to Ensign Gomez, a nice Hispanic girl. Nice to know I have good acting "range."
How did you enjoy working with the cast, particularly building a bond with LeVar Burton and bumping into Patrick Stewart?
Once I entered the Paramount lot at an early 5:00 a.m., I was so excited. It was like a dream come true. After I went through the hair/makeup and wardrobe process, a P.A. said that LeVar wanted to meet me in his trailer. I could barely breathe. I'd seen everything he'd ever done. He is one of my heroes. His trailer didn't disappoint. He'd decorated the place in a very spiritual, New Age way, with soft curtains, lots of pillows and incense, soft lighting. I felt like I was entering an ashram. Then, we started talking. I was blown away by how generous an actor he is. We rehearsed our scenes without LeVar wearing his character's wraparound glasses, so there was lots of eye contact and connection. We'd gotten the scenes down pat. When we went to shoot, I'd forgotten LeVar would have the sunglasses on, so I'm glad we rehearsed our acting "connection" prior to sort of losing it when I could no longer see his deep, emotion-filled and loving eyes. And working with Sir Patrick was easy. I was so in awe of his reputation and body of work that my shaky hands that caused me to spill hot chocolate all over the captain of the Enterprise were real. Didn't have to stretch for that one. Luckily, it was written into the scene. My real nerves paid off. Not often that happens in life or TV.
What do you recall of "Samaritan Snare"?
The set was fantastic. The engineering room created looked so futuristic, complicated and overwhelming. When directed to start touching buttons on a wall panel and act like I knew what I was doing as an ensign in engineering, it was hilarious because though the set looked real and complicated, it was just a flat panel, lit up from the back, that didn't work at all. Buttons didn't even fake press down, etc.
Gomez seemed primed to be a recurring character and a love interest for Geordi, but it ended up being just the two episodes. What happened?
I was told that Gomez was going to evolve into Geordi's love interest, but the dialogue and the way I was directed to play the part was more comic relief than love interest. When it came time to possibly renew me as a recurring role in the next season, I was told that producers thought Gomez was too funny to be the type of love interest that would cause Geordi to get a possibly fatal operation to see me. That was the endgame. Geordi was to fall so deeply in love with me that he'd risk his life to have eye surgery in order to see me. Apparently, the character of Gomez was written comically and didn't match what they really wanted in the end. I was super-bummed when I got the news.
Please share the story about you cutting your hair…
After I shot the two episodes and was told that I was NOT coming back next season, I told the producers “Thank you for the opportunity” and that I was planning to cut my hair length by a few inches, which I did. Little did I know that a few weeks later, the producers wanted me back for a re-shoot of the hallway scene. At that point, they saw my hair didn't match earlier shots and we had to scramble to add extensions to match the previous length. I'm surprised anyone knows that. If I was told to not cut my hair, I never would have, but I'd been completely wrapped from the part with no hope of returning.
How aware are you that Gomez carried on in the Trek novels and eventually became a captain?
I learned about how amazing the character's legacy was and had only wished that I'd been given a chance to portray the role in the way they wanted. But they wrote her funny, so that's how I was directed. A fellow actor in a play I was starring in told me of Gomez' illustrious future in the books.
Where does Trek fit in your career. Would you say you're better known for Trek or Total Recall or Chopper Chicks in Zombietown?
It's a tie between Trek and Total Recall. No one knows about Chopper Chicks. It was a terrible film.
Once a part of Trek, always a part of the Trek family. What does that mean to you?
It means that fans stay committed, so I better stay committed. Fine by me.
How eager are you to get to Star Trek Las Vegas this summer, meet the fans, pose for pics?
I can't wait for Vegas. August can't come soon enough. I look exactly the same, so the fans won't be disappointed. OK, not "exactly" the same! I'm at least the same height.
For details about Star Trek Las Vegas and to purchase tickets, go to creationent.com.