Meet The Actress Who Almost Played Janeway, Part 2
Susan Gibney appeared in four episodes of Star Trek – portraying Dr. Leah Brahms in
The Next Generation hours “Booby Trap” and “Galaxy’s Child” and Commander Erika Benteen in the Deep Space Nine installments “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost.” However, Gibney very, very nearly spent much more time in the Star Trek universe. She was among the frontrunners for the role of Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. The role, of course, went to Genevieve Bujold, who departed soon after production commenced. Voyager’s producers again called back Gibney, though Kate Mulgrew ultimately won the role. It’s also true that Gibney auditioned for the roles of Deanna Troi, Tasha Yar, Seven of Nine and even the Borg Queen (in First Contact).
Undeterred by her Voyager near-miss, the actress got on with her career, starring on Happy Family, recurring on Crossing Jordan and guest starring on Lost and The Mentalist. These days, Gibney runs Rogue Actor Training, a just-opened acting studio in Rochester, New York, where she lives with her family, and she has completed work on an upcoming horror film, We Are Still Here. StarTrek.com recently spoke with Gibney for an extensive interview that we’ve run in two parts. Below is part two.
Let’s talk about your DS9 character, Commander Benteen…
GIBNEY: I’d wanted to check out the Deep Space Nine world, too, because it was different. That was all about Changelings, those episodes. There were some great actors. Rene Auberjonois had done a lot of great work up at ACT and I knew him as a really great theater actor, and I was excited to work with him. It was a classic Star Trek job, being a soldier on the ship, being one of the crew. That was appealing to me.
Most actors who have done both TNG and DS9 say they were very different sets, in terms of the overall personalities of the sets, the casts. What was your experience?
GIBNEY: I think, because of the character I played on TNG, because I wasn’t part of the crew, because I was a separate entity, I… I’m not sure of the word I’m looking for, but there’s a different sense you get playing a soldier, a member of the crew, than you do playing someone like Leah Brahms. The kinds of scenes I did as Brahms were about being emotional, whereas the scenes I did as Benteen were about being ready to serve. I’m not wording that very well, but I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.
You almost also played Seven of Nine on Voyager and you almost also played the Borg Queen in First Contact. Take us through what happened with those two opportunities.
GIBNEY: I was tested twice for those two. So I’ve had a very long relationship with Star Trek. Unfortunately, I kept slipping through the cracks. I think that Rick Berman and actually Jonathan Frakes… Jonathan was the one who (on First Contact) called me and said, “Susan, you’ll be the Borg Queen.” Then he had to call me back the next day and say, “I’m so sorry, you’re not going to be the Borg Queen,” which was very hard. I think there was some conflict of personalities with the head of Paramount and Rick Berman. They often had different opinions about what would be good for the show, and I think Rick really wanted me to be a part of the show, but Paramount did not.
How close did you come to snagging Seven?
GIBNEY: I tested twice for it. I went in and tested the first time and they didn’t like any of the other people, and they said, “Well, we want another test with Susan with other people.” That’s when Jeri (Ryan) came in. So, yes, I was up to the wire for many roles, and I hope someday maybe they’ll have a grandmother character that I can play.
You did have two memorable roles on the two different Star Trek series, which not a lot of actors can claim. But it’s amazing how within reach so much more was…
GIBNEY: It would have been life-changing. It would have been a life-changer, for sure, but I am so happy with what I have done and my Star Trek experience has been such a positive one. It definitely was a challenge and I cut my teeth on learning how to keep going even though you may not get something that’s really exciting to you. It’s all part of building up who you are, building up your character and learning how to take what you’ve learned and keep going. It’s always been a bittersweet sort of thing, but I don’t sit here holding on to resentment holding about it. There are reasons those ladies got those jobs. They did a fantastic job.
Let’s bring everybody up to speed. Tell us about your new acting studio and your current projects?
GIBNEY: Rogue Actor Training is an actor training studio that I’ve created here in Rochester. I’ve been working on it for several months. I knew that when I came up here I didn’t have a lot to do and I was looking for other people who were actors and wanted to keep on working and keep their craft up, and it was very difficult to find anything. So I’ve solved that problem by doing it myself. My site for it is called Rogueactors.com. Before that, up here, I was the director of the theater program at Roberts Wesleyan College. I was a professor there and directed all of their shows. I also taught acting at the community college here, Monroe Community College.
Every couple of years I’ll go back out west to work. I keep it all going, all of my creative stuff. So I did a Mentalist and I did a play in San Francisco. And I just did another independent movie back here in Rochester with the same people I worked with a few years ago on a movie called The Hammer. That was about a three-time wrestling champion at RIT, Rochester Institute of Technology, who happened to be deaf. So he was quite an amazing guy. And I played his mother. The same producers are doing are doing We Are Still Here. I told them, after I read the script, “I will do it, but I won’t watch it.” It’s really gory, really awful, but also really funny. I just got killed a few weeks ago. Barbara Crampton is also in it. I think the closest thing I’d done to a horror film was Cabin by the Lake with Judd Nelson.
So I’m busy and creatively fulfilled, and I’m very happy here. When I lived in L.A., I was appearing on all kinds of shows, and I’m not doing as much being here, though I certainly still want to. But I’m happy here for my daughters. It’s a great environment. I have family around, which I did not have when I was in L.A. More than that, it’s really beautiful. And, really, I’m never going to stop acting. I need, for my psychological health, to keep acting and creating. Otherwise I’ll become a monster.
Click HERE to read part one of our interview with Susan Gibney.