Julia Nickson played two very different roles on Star Trek. First she portrayed Ensign Lian T’Su in the Next Generation hour, “The Arsenal of Freedom,” and then guest starred as Cassandra in the Deep Space Nine installment, “Paradise.” Those two opportunities followed an intriguing near-miss: Nickson had auditioned for the role of Tasha Yar on TNG. Oh, and there’s another cool Trek connection: Nickson was married from the late 1980s to the early 1990s to David Soul, best known for Starsky & Hutch, but also a Trek guest star himself; he played Makora in the TOS episode, “The Apple.” Nickson – whose other credits include Rambo, Sidekicks, Walker, Texas Ranger and Around the World in 80 Days – will make a rare Star Trek convention appearance when she joins in the fun this weekend at Star Trek Las Vegas. StarTrek.com caught with Nickson to chat about all of the above and more.
What's life like for you these days?
I am the happiest I have ever been and feeling grateful that I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world that is known and celebrated throughout the world. I believe that like many actors that have spent years spiraling through the ups and downs of the entertainment industry, one settles into a certain gratitude, understanding that it is not the achievement of goals that brings total satisfaction, but the attitude with which one is able to embrace life. We live in an uncertain world, and I am aware of how fortunate I am.
If our facts are correct, you auditioned for the role of Tasha Yar on TNG. What do you recall of that process and how close did you get to landing the role?
I remember the outfit I wore, a white linen suit with very sheer sleeves by ABS. The casting director surprised me many years later, by describing it exactly. I can't give you many more details. Auditions are always nerve-wracking. There are usually large numbers of people in the room and one only hopes that words will actually emerge from one's mouth at the appropriate time. I am sure Gene Roddenberry was in the room. I didn't feel that I blew it in any way. It was a decent read. I do remember thinking I lost out to Marina Sirtis, which makes me believe I actually read the sides for Counselor Troi and not Tasha.
As far as you know, was your casting as Ensign T'Su in the TNG episode "The Arsenal of Freedom" a result of you're having come so close on the Yar role?
What interested you most about T'Su as a character and her arc in the episode? She really was a very strong character.
She was a newbie and was not battle hardened. Her past had been about recent training rather than actual experience. I was still a fairly new actor and definitely found a correlation, going to set and confronting situations that were completely different than anything I had experienced before. An actor learns skills very fast whether reacting to bullet shots and subsequently dying or focusing on destroying enemy ships. There is a level of command one must project regardless of lack of experience.
How did you enjoy working with the TNG cast, particularly Michael Dorn and LeVar Burton?
Were you aware that in one of the Trek books, T’Su was revealed to have made the leap to captain, but also died on a mission?
I just read that recently. I would have loved to have been a recurring character, but after shooting “Arsenal of Freedom,” I gave birth to my baby and immediately started filming Around the World in 80 Days with Pierce Brosnan. The concept of tracking the inner growth of a warrior as one becomes accustomed to handling more complex situations, and facing the ultimate sacrifice is a journey I would have been thrilled to have undertaken on TNG.
A few years later, you guest starred in the "Paradise" episode of DS9. How did that opportunity come about?
You had a very interesting scene with Avery Brooks. What do you recall of working with him on that?
Do you think Cassandra went to Sisko willingly, or did Alixus compel/force her to do so?
When was the last time you saw your Trek episodes? How do they hold up?
I watched “Arsenal of Freedom” two years ago, as it is on Netflix. It's not possible to watch oneself without cringing. I remember really wanting my hair to be set properly, but the hair department was in a hurry and they liked the wash-and-wear look. I couldn't help but marvel at the ingenuity of the plot and the marvelous performance by Vincent Schiavelli as the Peddler. I just viewed “Paradise” for this article, as I discovered it is on Netflix as well. It was most definitely a trip down memory lane. Always, the guest stars drive the story forward and Gail Strickland and Steve Vinovich give wonderful energetic performances. Michael B. Silver fit the role of Vinod perfectly and has become a director. I recently worked with him on Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce.
Star Trek has the highest standards of creativity and imagination, which make its shows classics that will always endure, regardless of new trends and technological advances. I was not able to watch much television or film during those years because there simply wasn't time between career and training and child rearing, but I might start binge-ing both now.
IMDB lists Ready Player One as an upcoming credit. What do you play in that? And how was the experience?
You’re also listed on IMDB as providing additional voices for a number of projects over the years. How did that come about? And which have been some of the more intriguing/notable ADR gigs?
You will be at Star Trek Las Vegas this week. How many conventions have you done in the past, and how eager are you to meet the fans and share your Trek memories?
Your former husband, David Soul, guest starred years earlier on The Original Series? What, if any, memories of his experience did he share with you?
If you could have had one more scene as either T'Su or Cassandra, which character would have gotten the extra scene and what would have happened in it?
I would have loved to have continued as T'Su because I was an athlete growing up and extremely competitive. I used to play polo and was quite comfortable charging down a field with men twice my size. I think Ensign T'Su would have made a great addition to the TNG fleet with her courage and bravery, as well as perhaps developing an overly confident estimation of her own talents. I think this could have caused a number of interesting conflicts.
Star Trek recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. What does it mean to you to be a part of the phenomenon and legacy?
I am really honored to be a part of the Star Trek legacy. It has, from the very beginning, paved the way for women and minorities to shine on both big and small screen and continues this mission with the prequel, Star Trek: Discovery. In watching the themes that Star Trek has unfolded, we become better individuals, kinder and more tolerant. Deep within all of us lies the spirit of adventure and conquest. With Star Trek, we are all able to viscerally travel through the unknown and conquer the unfathomable, realizing that in the end, the answer to the complexities of life, lie deep within one's own moral compass. I truly believe we must strive to live our lives as peaceful warriors and I find much inspiration in this long-lasting series that has meant so much to so many.
Star Trek Las Vegas will be held August 2-6 at the Rio Suites Hotel. Go to CreationEnt.com for details and to purchase tickets.