Cristine Rose has been one of Hollywood's busiest actresses for many years. She's surely best known to audiences worldwide for her role as Angela Petrelli on Heroes, but Star Trek fans also fondly recall her appearances as the Klingon Gi'ral in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "Birthright, Part I" and "Birthright, Part II." StarTrek.com recently caught up with Rose for a wide-ranging interview in which she discussed her career, Gi'ral, Angela Petrelli, watching her Heroes co-star, Zachary Quinto, step into the role of Spock, and her current projects.
When you walk down the street and people recognize you, what are the films/shows and/or characters they want to talk to you about most?
Rose: I’ve been “recognized” for years. People thought they recognized me from a myriad of venues, but rarely TV. I’d hear things like, "You shop here a lot, don’t you?” or “You’re from New Jersey, aren’t you?” That was at a Dylan concert here in L.A. They just knew they “knew” me from somewhere. When Heroes happened, it was difficult to step out of the house without being recognized as Angela Petrelli. But things have simmered down since the show went off the air, and I’m now back to hearing “You look familiar. Where do I know you from?” Although, every now and then I see a slight smile and a gleam in someone's eye, and I know they have recognized "Angela."
Which have been some of your personal favorite films/shows – and roles – over the years? And why?
Rose: Well, Angela Petrelli on Heroes, of course.Tim Kring created a great character that continued to surprise me every time I read a new script. It was fun to play someone so evil, while trying to make her human at the same time. I also loved a character I played on Picket Fences, Lydia Brockett. Once again, the writer/executive producer, David Kelley, created a wonderfully complicated character. Kelley’s story lines were so moving, and Lydia was a little dingy. I like playing dingy. And I like playing Ted Mosby’s mother, Virginia, on How I Met Your Mother. It’s such a funny show, and I got to make out with Neil Patrick Harris.
What projects do you have coming up?
Rose: I just completed work on an independent film, 40 is the New Dead, written by the very funny Cathryn Michon.
When will you be back on How I Met Your Mother?
Rose: No idea! I think it’s a pretty good possibility I’ll at least be included in the episode when Ted finally marries the kids’ mother.
Rose: Harry and I have never discussed Trek, although I know he’d been on the shows. Actually, I didn’t realize he’d guested on all three. Harry and I have known each other since we were 20 or 21 years old. We met while working at a theatre called The Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, back in 1972-73. He was -- and is -- amazingly talented, a real “song-and-dance” man. I don’t know if he ever had the opportunity to sing and dance a little soft-shoe on any of the Trek shows. That would have been a hoot.
Did you see the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek movie in 2009? How did you enjoy seeing your Heroes co-star Zachary Quinto as Spock?
Rose: Yes, I actually attended the Los Angeles premiere of the 2009 Star Trek. Zach was terrific. I believe he’d thought for years that the role was right for him, and he for it, so it was wonderful to know his dream had been realized. He is truly one of the really, really nice guys. Really. Truly.
Prior to landing your role on TNG, how much, if anything did you know about TOS or TNG?
Rose: Oh, my gosh. Of course I watched The Original Series. It was on during my high school years. Back in ’68 or ’69, a couple of my friends made a little satire film called Far Trek, and they cast me as one of the gals on board the Enterprise. I don’t remember anything about it, except that I thought I looked cute in the outfit. With regard to TNG, I didn’t watch the show on a regular basis, but I was familiar with the actors and the characters they played. They were very much in the spotlight, of course. I remember dining at the Paramount commissary while filming another show and being seated near Brent Spiner, dressed as Data. I remember thinking “He’s very green.”
How did you land the role of Gi’ral?
Rose: I was asked by the casting director, Junie Lowry-Johnson, to come in and read. And I jumped at the chance. I remember I spoke loudly and grandly when I auditioned for Gi'ral, as if I were performing Shakespeare on a larger stage, a big change from normal TV auditions.
What intrigued you most about the character?
Rose: I loved the storyline. It was Romeo & Juliet, a cautionary tale about prejudice, and Gi’ral was at the forefront of breaking down barriers.
Rose: Oh, my gosh, nothing like it before or since. Before they ever applied any makeup at all I had to go in and have a plaster cast taken of my face, with straws in my nostrils so I could breathe. They also made a mold of my mouth to create Klingon teeth. If memory serves -- and it often doesn’t -- the first day of filming it took six hours to bring it all together. I was blessed to have June Westmore as my makeup artist. After the first day, it took less time, because the look had been created.
In what ways did the makeup help you get into character?
Rose: Oddly enough, I don’t remember the makeup, hair, or costume changing my approach. That woman was that woman, no matter the size of her forehead or the style of her clothes. However, the Klingon teeth did change the way I spoke. It was difficult for me to get used to them in just a couple of days.
Who, either on set or from upstairs, helped you get a handle on what a Klingon is and how a Klingon behaves, speaks, etc?
Rose: Alas, I don’t remember anyone specifically coaching me on Klingonisms. Dan Curry and Winrich Kolbe were the two directors I worked with on the shows, but I think most of their direction would have had to do with storyline.
What other moments/anecdotes from your days on set do you recall, that you can share with us now?
Rose: I remember it rained big-time, which made moving around on the lot a little difficult in that big old tent of a costume. I spent a lot of time in the makeup chair talking with the wonderful June Westmore, although she wasn’t a Westmore yet. I believe she had just become engaged to Monty Westmore, and she was thrilled with her beautiful engagement ring. Was it a sapphire? And I remember taking photos on the set, of the set. I have a nice pic of me with Michael Dorn in our Klingon drag.
How did you enjoy working with Dorn and some of your fellow guest stars, such as Jennifer Gatti, Sterling Macer, Richard Herd and Alan Scarfe?
Rose: I remember that Michael Dorn was absolutely charming and welcoming and Jennifer, as my daughter in the show, was beautiful and sweet. The entire experience was a happy one. It’s difficult to be more specific because, as a guest star, the preoccupation is with trying to find one’s place in the story and fitting in with the way the ship is run. And it’s been 19 years.
Had you known any of them before the two-parter? Have you worked with any of them since the two-parter? If so, on what?
Rose: While I don’t remember if Jamie Cromwell and I actually had any scenes together in “Birthright,” he and I were in a play together at New York’s Public Theatre back in the early 80s. We shared the stage in Richard Foreman’s production of Three Acts of Recognition, by Botho Strauss.
Rose: I was very happy with the outcome. I played a Klingon on a hit show!
What’s crazier to you now… that it’s 19 years since you shot the “Birthright” two-parter or that 19 years later people are still interested in hearing about your experiences on the show?
Rose: They’re both crazy ideas. Time has slipped away so very, very quickly... and, while I totally understand fans’ interest in the Star Trek saga, a saga that’s going strong 46 years since its inception, it makes me smile to think anyone would be interested in my personal experiences. I’ve been very blessed.