Catherine Hicks is best known for her long stint as Annie Camden on the TV series 7th Heaven (on which she starred with Stephen Collins from Star Trek: The Motion Picture), but she won the hearts of Trek fans with her appearance in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as Dr. Gillian Taylor, the Cetacean Biology expert who advocated for and protected the whales George and Gracie as if they were her own children. The film opened 26 years ago this week and Hicks’ latest project, the ION telemovie A Christmas Wedding Date, will air on Sunday night at 9 p.m. And so now was the perfect time to catch up with the actress, who granted StarTrek.com an entertaining, informative and refreshingly honest interview. Here’s what she had to say.
Go back to The Voyage Home. What do you remember of the shoot?
Hicks: I remember the fun, the kindness, just the kidding around, the joyfulness, and fighting for some close-ups, the tug of war with Bill (Shatner) for close-ups. It taught me to stand up for myself. I’d go to Leonard (Nimoy) and say, “This is MY shot. I need a single. I’m not going share the shot with Shatner.” He wanted to get in every shot, but you couldn’t get mad at him because he was like a devilish brother.
Gillian was, in many ways, the audience. We saw everything through her eyes. What was the challenge in pulling that off?
Hicks: Fortunately it worked for this character, but I didn’t know a damned thing about Star Trek, nothing at all. At my audition, Nimoy would keep stopping me and explain things. I didn’t rent all the episodes or movies before we started shooting. I just used my natural ignorance of Star Trek, and it worked. I was in Disneyland. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I didn’t know the ear jokes. I didn’t know what beaming up meant. And I kept that.
What was the best note Nimoy gave you?
Hicks: Nimoy was very kind and actor-friendly, but the one note he gave me that happened to be strict, that taught me something, was when you’re doing effects films, when they go, “Action,” and a lot of stuff is going on, you don’t stop the take just because you don’t feel you’re doing it right. He said, “Just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t stop everybody (else).” I remembered that because it’s selfish just to stop.
The story goes that the sequence with the Klingon Bird of Prey in the San Francisco Bay, with the whales and the storm and all of that, was old-school Hollywood filmmaking at its best. Give us your memories of film that sequence.
Hicks: It was incredible. My first series coming from New York was The Bad News Bears, with Jack Warden, which was done at Paramount. I would drive to work and go into this deflated, huge parking lot, with a blue sky scrim at the back of it. Only in Hollywood. I was like, “What is this for?” Years later, I was back in the same place, working in front of that scrim. The lot is full of water. There are old men on really high rigs. One is charge of lightning, the other is doing the rain and another is doing the wind machine. Then there’s a wave-maker. This is all very old machinery. Then, when Leonard yelled “Action,” this giant storm began, and you could hear and see the decades of Hollywood filmmaking coming together. And I loved it. We swam around in this tank, and it was fascinating and wonderful and just movie magic.
The movie was incredibly well received. What do you recall of the premiere?
Hicks: My father died the month before it came out. I remember taking my mom to the premiere. We were still shell shocked because he’d died suddenly, but we went, and it was a good distraction. It was fun for us to go together, and the movie was beautiful. I loved the music. But… prior to that (after her father’s death and before the premiere), I remember People Magazine came to our house in Scottsdale. My mom and I were grieving. He spent a whole day with me, this guy. My mom made some sandwiches. And they were like the Star or the rag-mags because they took anything negative I said and made it a headline. Leonard was hurt. And I hated it. I told Leonard. But it’s all good now.
You hadn’t done conventions for a long time, but now you make the occasional appearance. Why did you not do them and how do you enjoy the experience when you do them these days?
Hicks: I love them. I didn’t do them for a while because I was still doing movies and bopping around. I’d gotten married and had a baby. My daughter is in college now, and I’m a little freer, so I do some. My agent calls, and I don’t want to let him down. And they’re fun. I like them. The fans seem to enjoy them. Plus, like when I do these little independent films, I often go to these wonderful towns that I’d never in my life go to otherwise. So I liked the conventions.
Hicks: I know! It’s so funny. Since 7th Heaven ended, I told my agents, “Come on, let’s be realistic. I’m going to be a scrapper here.” And I got busy. Now, I’m taking a break and I’ve been saying “Offers only.” I’ve also been doing some independent films, but I’m so happy to do holiday films because they definitely get on the air. My real reason for acting was not art. It was to be famous. So, even though I’m looking older and I’m embarrassed by my neck, because I’ve not had a stitch of plastic surgery, if I’m going to act, I want people to see it.
Marla Sokoloff stars in A Christmas Wedding Date as an ambitious young woman who returns home after years away trying to make it in the big city. And you’re her mom, who’s patient and forgiving. What appealed to you about the movie?
Hicks: It was a cute piece. It was nice. It was an offer. There was nothing not to like. Marla was great. She’s very funny and has a very dry sense of humor. She’d just had a baby. And I liked the director (Fred Olen Ray). I like his philosophy. He’s like, “Let’s just shoot this puppy.” He’s not precious. I loved that he was that way. He likes actors and he’s good to them. I didn’t know his history (with low-budget/indie sci-fi and horror). I liked him a lot. He was very comfortable, very confident.
What else do you have wrapped?
Hicks: I have a few things. I did an indie film called Reach. I did that a little while ago. I did A Christmas Wedding Date and then I did a play here in town (Los Angeles). I’ve done a couple of other indie films, but you never know when they’re coming out.
Hicks: No question, 7th Heaven. Wherever I am, anywhere around the world, people come up to me with tears in their eyes and want to talk about 7th Heaven. It’s lovely. I feel like I was part of something that meant so much to people and really did good. It’s an example of how acting and entertainment, how what we do, can truly change people’s lives and help them with their lives.