Deirdre Imershein produces documentaries these days, but for more than a decade, encompassing all of the 1990s, she acted in films and television shows, amassing credits that included Dream On, Dallas, Blackbelt, Cheers, Scanner Cop, Silk Stalkings and one episode each of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She, in the former, played the lovely Risian female who offered a shocked Captain Picard jamaharon, and for the latter appearance, Imershein portrayed Lt. Watley in “Trials and Tribble-ations.” By the early 2000s, Imershein exited acting in order to produce documentaries, among them Brushes with Life: Art, Artists and Mental Illness, and Scene Smoking: Cigarettes, Cinema & the Myth of Cool. She’s set to make her first-ever convention appearance at Star Trek Las Vegas, which will take place August 2-6 at the Rio Suite Hotel, and that upcoming event provided the perfect opportunity to catch up with Imershein.
What lead you to leaving acting behind? And how did you get involved in producing documentaries?
From the start of my career, directors that I worked with urged me to look into producing. The late Leonard Katzman (Dallas) would always discuss scripts with me and say that he thought I was a lovely actor, but that I had more to offer. And so, by my early 30s, I did become frustrated with just acting, and I moved into producing. Documentaries, as is true for so many women in the business, proved an easier entry point, and then I just got hooked.
Let’s talk Trek. How familiar, or not, were you with Star Trek in general and The Next Generation specifically when the opportunity to play Joval in “Captain’s Holiday” came along?
I was very familiar with all things Star Trek. My upstairs neighbor in L.A. actually was Gene’s personal assistant. I met Rene Echevarria in New York when we were both at the start of our careers. Or we may have met in L.A. when I first relocated there. Friends sat us next to each other because we were both such huge fans of The Original Series, and we became friends right then and there. We kept making references to the show and sort of verbally sparred back and forth. So, I knew the show really well. In addition, most classically trained actors, when they made the move to L.A., knew that TNG often hired theater actors. If you have handled any classical text, you are pretty adept at making language that sounds “foreign” conversational and believable. I think I booked TNG my first week in L.A., as I recall. My agents sent me out and that was that. I was concurrently appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the L.A. Shakespeare Festival that same week.
How nervous/excited were you about your big scene with Patrick Stewart?
I was nervous to meet Patrick. I was a big fan and the costume I was in was very revealing. It was odd to be dressed so skimpily and try to talk Shakespeare between takes. He was a consummate gentleman and professional.
The script notes say that Joval’s comments are spoken very matter of fact, without any hint of salaciousness and no trace of servitude. How tricky was that to pull off?
That was not hard at all. If you watched the show, the idea that you are playing someone from another culture, and in this case, a culture where pleasure is just a way of life, made this easy. The irony of it was great fun.
You mentioned the bathing suit. What did you make of it, and also that funky hover ball?
The bathing suit took a leap of faith, because it was far more revealing in person than on camera. But the director assured me that the lights hit the fabric so that it became opaque, which it did. The hover ball was a complete failure at first. They tried having it on a wire, but that didn’t quite work, so then they tried to just throw it around. In the end, I think they made it work and cut away, so all you see is me retrieving the hover ball and calling it back to me.
The night the episode premiered, did you watch it with family and friends? Alone? How was that experience?
I honestly do not remember. I started working on Dallas not long after that.
Several years went by and you then returned to Paramount to play Lt. Watley in “Trials and Tribble-ations.” How did that opportunity come about? Did they recall that you’d been on TNG?
This goes back to Rene, and is actually a pretty funny story. Rene and I would go months without seeing each other. Every once in a while, I would get a call, and he was clearly in a busy writers’ room, and he would say “Tell me how you pronounced Jamaharon? No one believes me!” And he would hang up. Well, I was already dating my husband and Rene called and said, “Deirdre, it’s Rene”, and I was like who is this guy bothering me? And I honestly said “Rene who?” I quickly realized who I was speaking with, and he explained they were doing this episode of Deep Space Nine, and there was a small role of a female officer in the turbo lift, and they were auditioning women and none of them were good. He said, “They are all very Carol Merrill,” who was the gal I think on Let’s Make a Deal that would show you what you won. So, he said, “You get to wear the old costume with the beehive hair and everything, and I will pay your day rate.” So, I said, “Sure.” I would have done it anyway.
Tell us about that great hair and costume, and those retro sets? It was so very reminiscent of The Original Series…
It was an original costume, as I recall. The bra, which is metal, was borrowed from the lead actress wardrobe who played the first officer? I can’t remember the character’s name. The actual blue mini-dress was original and pulled from the vault. It was a task to get on. You step into it, and then the top sort of goes over and across you. I seem to remember Rene walking me around the whole thing. It was a real treat for a fan like me!
Any other anecdotes you can share about “Trials and Tribble-ations”?
The scenes I had were never meant to be that long. I think I was only meant to tell them that their tricorder was open. The day was running long, but the episode was running short, so Rene came to me and asked if I could stay late, which meant running into what we call “golden time,” and he would write an added scene for me. The additional piece about me possibly being his mother, and maybe if he didn’t take me up on my offer, he would never be born, was all added by Rene at the last minute. I am forever grateful to him for allowing me to be another part of Star Trek history that way.
What do you recall of working with Alexander Siddig and Colm Meaney?
Again, such nice guys. I remember asking Alexander how he had escaped playing all bad guys as an actor with an Arabic background and him explaining that he just refused to take the roles. Amazing we are still having those conversations in casting.
You will be at Star Trek Las Vegas in August. How many conventions have you done in the past, and how eager are you to meet the fans and share your Trek memories?
I have never done a convention. Never. I am so excited to finally attend one and maybe run into some old friends. There are many actors who have done Star Trek who I know from other jobs, theater and just as friends. When a show has such a legacy and you have many friends in the business, it is inevitable that some of you have done a Star Trek from one of its many iterations.
Lastly, and you’ve touched on this a bit, but Star Trek recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. What does it mean to you to be a part of the Trek phenomenon and legacy?
I don’t know if I can convey what I big deal this is to me. I was such a fan of the original show that I could guess the episode from just a few seconds in, sometimes even just during the opening chord of music. I would dream as a kid that I was a part of the crew, and I would watch the reruns endlessly in college late at night. I would anticipate the release of each new film. So, working on an episode, and then another that actually was reminiscent of a great episode? And attending such an important anniversary event as the TNG 30th anniversary convention is just too much to put into words. I am very grateful to have had a very small part in the legacy of what is truly the greatest American franchise to have ever existed.
For additional details about Star Trek Las Vegas, go to www.CreationEnt.com.