INTERVIEW: Trek's K'Ehleyr & More, Suzie Plakson, Part 1
Suzie Plakson has amassed dozens of acting credits over the years, including guest spots on Beauty and the Beast, Murphy Brown, Judging Amy and Bones, series regular work on Love & War, recurring roles on Dinosaurs, Mad About You and How I Met Your Mother, plus appearances in such films as My Stepmother Is An Alien, Disclosure and Red Eye. Star Trek fans, however, think of Plakson as Selar… and K’Ehleyr… and Female Q… and Tarah, whom she portrayed on, respectively, The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise.
Plakson has been on StarTrek.com’s must-interview list for a long while, and with her upcoming appearance at Creation Entertainments Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, we finally snagged her for an interview. Below is part one of our exclusive conversation, and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two.
How excited are you about Creation’s Official Star Trek Convention?
PLAKSON: I’m very excited. It’s always fun. It’s always fascinating to just interface, as they say, and to hear great stuff from the fans. It’s only good. It’s only a blessing. I’ll also be performing at a couple of the (evening) parties.
Tell us about the makeup session you’ll be doing with John Paladin…
PLAKSON: John and I are going to have a blast. I am going to, for the first time anywhere, in front of everybody, live on stage, get into K’Ehleyr makeup. It hasn’t been done. No one has seen it. Paladin and I are good buddies and he’s such a riot. I knew he did the Klingon makeup demos for the conventions and I thought it’d be a blast if he made me up as K’Ehleyr and we just told some stories as he’s putting the old turtle head on. It should be a lot of fun. Also, there will be photo opportunities immediately after the session (with fans able to pose with Plakson in makeup).
Go all the way back. How did you land your first Trek role as the Vulcan doctor, Selar, in "The Schizoid Man" episode of TNG?
PLAKSON: I was doing a solo show. I actually had a development deal at Paramount for a sitcom. I’d just come from New York where I’d done a show in which I was playing 17 characters in 23 minutes. So I was doing this solo show, and the development executive had invited a lot of people from Paramount. In that audience was Junie Lowry, who, at some point, asked me to come and audition to play a doctor. I thought, “Fabulous. OK, Great.” I go in and I’m so amazed and heartened by the fact that there are all different ages and races of women auditioning to play this doctor, which you just didn’t see – and still don’t see. I thought, “Fantastic. That’s so cool.” And I got cast. Then I got a call from my agent saying, “They want you to come in next week and get measured for your ears,” which is not something you generally hear when you’ve auditioned to play any guest spot. I said, “What’s up with that?” And that’s how I found out I was playing a Vulcan.
What do you remember of that first experience?
PLAKSON: It was thrilling. First off, my brother was always a sci-fi fan, always a Trek fan. I love the fans, but I’m not a sci-fi person by nature. But for me to call my brother and say, “Mike, I’m a Vulcan!”… He was over the moon. I saved my ears for him and snuck him onto the lot. So I have some very campy pictures of me as a Vulcan, which we took until some guard told me we had to stop. I was a little bit shy on set, which I tend to be anywhere because, when you come on as a guest star to any set, it’s a little like the first day of school. But to come on with ears and in makeup, it’s really odd. “Hi, how are you doing?” I remember that being a little nerve-wracking. I also thought it would be a grand idea to give her a little, tiny, thin, peaceful smile, very small. But someone told me “Vulcans don’t do that.” So that was gone. I was a little bit of a deer in the headlights at first, and then I just kind of enjoyed it. And the longer the hours got, just because I tend to be a giggler, the more I tended to get the giggles. The work is so serious, but the TNG cast was so funny. We just had a blast.
How did K’Ehleyr come about for "The Emissary" and "Reunion"? Did Junie Lowry call and say, “We have a couple of episodes for you as a Klingon?”
PLAKSON: I believe that I was just submitted for it like anybody else. The good thing is that because of the costume and the makeup, even though I’d done the show already, I could do it again. They really looked for the fact that an actor could transform. But I think it was my agent who submitted me and Junie saying, “OK,” and then I went in and auditioned. And that was that.
One popular photo of K’Ehleyr depicts her smiling. Some people forget that she’s half-human…
PLAKSON: That’s exactly why she looked the way she looked after the way the way she acted. It is because she is half-human. People say, “She’s my favorite Klingon character…,” and I say, “Well, she’s not only Klingon, and that’s one of the reasons you dig her, because she’s not totally Klingon.” So it’s fascinating, because I hear that all the time.
People probably also mention B’Elanna Torres was half-Klingon and half-human, and that she very rarely smiled…
PLAKSON: I understand why Roxann Dawson played B’Elanna that way. It’s because Voyager was more of a military situation. K’Ehleyr was a smartass. She was very independent and didn’t have anybody she had to report to. She just had more of a maverick kind of a personality. She didn’t have to behave with any particular decorum in the way that B’Elanna did.
Visit StarTek.com again tomorrow to read part two of our interview with Suzie Plakson.