Molly O'Brien Is All Grown Up: Hana Hatae Interview
Molly O'Brien is all grown up. Or rather, Hana Hatae, the young actress who played Miles and Keiko's daughter -- first in the "Rascals" episode of The Next Generation and then in 11 episodes of Deep Space Nine -- is all grown up. In fact, Hatae will turn 26 years old on July 15. Hatae will make her first-ever convention appearance on August 1 at Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention and, in advance of that occasion, StarTrek.com caught up with Hatae for an interview in which she recounted playing Molly, shared her thoughts on making her con debut and filled us in on what she's up to these days. Here's what she had to say:
Go all the way back. How did you first land the role of Molly in the TNG episode "Rascals?"
HATAE: I actually don't remember the audition for TNG at all. My mom told me that I went in the audition room by myself and when the door opened and I walked out, all she could hear was everyone in the room laughing hysterically. I guess I must have done something right because I apparently didn't even have a callback before they told my parents that I landed the role.
You were probably too young to know what you getting into, but did your parents know at the time that Molly could become a recurring character? Or did that happen only once the producers considered including the character on DS9?
HATAE: My parents knew what I was getting into because Star Trek already had such a huge following and the role I was cast for was the Chief's daughter.
Do you have any memory at all of your TNG experience or were you just too young?
HATAE: I was so young and it was such a long time ago that I don't really have any memory of my TNG experience.
You were about 5 years old when you first played Molly on DS9 and were about 12 when the show ended. What do you remember of the overall experience?
HATAE: I remember getting to leave school every once in a while and having private lessons on the days that I filmed. Every day someone would ask what I would like for lunch and all I ever wanted was grilled cheese with a side of ketchup. Everyone was so nice and I always had such a good time when I was at the studio.
You did 11 episodes of DS9. Which ones stand out most in your mind, and why?
HATAE: There are two episodes that really stand out in my mind. The first one being "If Wishes Were Horses" because I was absolutely terrified of Rumpelstiltskin. I think that I legitimately thought the actor who played him was going to steal me. I was too scared to be alone with him in the same room, so I had someone else with me at all times. The second is "Time's Orphan" because it was so much fun to film. The outdoor scene was filmed at Malibu Creek, which is one of my favorite places to hike and explore. My family and I used to go there all the time when I was growing up. There was a rattlesnake in the bushes right next to where we were filming, so we had to take a break until the park rangers came and removed the snake. The next scene, where I'm falling into the time portal, was awesome to film because I was strapped to a harness and got to swing in front of a green screen. It was pretty much like my own personal little roller coaster.
Were you an actress playing a role or a little girl being a little girl -- or maybe a bit of both?
HATAE: I think in the beginning, I was just a little girl being a little girl. I was so young I wasn't really aware that what I was doing was acting. Once I got older, I started to realize that I was an actress playing a role.
How close did you get with Rosalind Chao and Colm Meaney over your time on the show? And did you keep in touch with them or anyone else from the show over the years?
HATAE: Even though I was only in 12 episodes total, they really were like second parents to me. I was so lucky because they always treated me so well and showed me so much love. Unfortunately, I didn't keep in touch with anyone after the show ended, but I ran into Rosalind Chao and her son in DTLA a few years later, which made me really happy.
What did you make of how they closed out Molly's storyline and the O'Brien family storyline in the series finale, "What You Leave Behind"?
HATAE: I think the way they closed out Molly and the O'Brien family storyline in the finale made sense. Earth seemed like a safe move for a human family with two young kids.
You didn't seem to pursue much more acting after DS9. Why not? And what have you been up to since the show ended? You were involved for a time with your family's restaurant business, right?
HATAE: After DS9, acting had become so much more competitive and I lived pretty far from L.A., so it was hard to get out to auditions, especially since I couldn't drive myself. I got pretty involved with sports and music after the show ended. I played roller hockey for years and took violin lessons, and was actually pretty good at both of them. I eventually stopped playing both, but have been trying to re-teach myself how to play the violin again. While I was in high school, my family opened an amazing Japanese restaurant close to where we lived at the time in Southern California. We eventually had to close due to the economy.
What are you doing these days?
HATAE: Aside from trying to teach myself how to play the violin again, I've been into rock climbing. I started climbing indoors a few years ago and just recently went outdoor bouldering for the first time. It's such an accomplishment to finish a problem you've been working on for a while and is a great work out. I'm also going back to school for psychology in the fall after taking a few years off to work and travel. I was never really a big fan of school, but I'm actually really excited to go back.
Do you ever go back and look at the old DS9 episodes? What's that like for you? And what do you think it'll be like to show the episodes to your own kids one day?
HATAE: I just recently watched some of my old DS9 episodes and they made me laugh. I wasn't a very good actress (laughs). It's so wild to watch myself when I was so young. The costume designer really did a great job because the outfits I had were fantastic. It's going to be pretty amusing showing the episodes to my kids one day, especially since I will be much older then.
You'll be in Las Vegas in a few weeks for Creation's big convention. How many conventions have you done? How surreal is it all this time later to meet the fans, sign autographs and revisit your time on Star Trek?
HATAE: This will be my first convention ever. I'm really excited and nervous at the same time. It's crazy to think that I have fans. I was such a little kid when I was on the show and never really understood that Star Trek was such a hot commodity. It's been 15 years since DS9 ended and I never thought that I would be meeting fans or signing autographs. I'm really looking forward to being at the convention and revisiting my time on the show.
Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention will be held from July 31 to August 3 in Las Vegas, and Hatae is set to appear on stage, sign autographs and pose for photo ops on Friday, August 1. Visit CreationEnt.com for details and to purchase tickets.