Soap opera fans worship the ground on which Louise Sorel walks, so indelible a mark did she make as the conniving, scheming villainess-in-residence, Vivian Alamain, during her many years on Days of Our Lives. Sorel, as an actress, also appeared in many other shows, including a few other soaps, as well as in several feature films and on stage, too. But Star Trek fans will remember her best for her performance as Rayna Kapec, the android built by Flint (James Daly), in the third-season The Original Series episode “Requiem for Methuselah.” Sorel is set to appear at The Hollywood Show – which will be held Jan. 6-8 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel – and that provided the perfect opportunity to at long last interview the actress. Here’s what she had to say…
What are you up to these days?
I'm having eggs at the moment. (Laughs) I'm in New York. This is a very slow time of the year for actors. The last thing I did was a play, I Remember Mama, which was a very large success in New York, and then we did it again, with Barbara Barrie, and a wonderful group of actresses. And that's the last thing I did. It's just been very quiet. That was earlier this year, right?
You are different things to different people: A stage actress, a soap villain, a popular Trek guest. When you walk down the street, and somebody recognizes you, what is the work of yours that they're most eager to talk about, more of than not? And is it a generational thing, too?
Yeah, I think it is. Two things: Days of Our Lives and Star Trek. There's so much other work, but those things sort of seem to have hooked people. It's the repetition of doing a show like Days and, of course, playing a villainess, which they always remember. Years ago, I did The Don Rickles Show. They tried to put him in a slot that really wasn't his. It wasn't right for him, but I adored Don and we had the best time. We had all the great comics, and also I did a show called Ladies' Man, which was a precursor to Murphy Brown. And when I turned on Murphy Brown and saw that it was the same writer, I just wanted to kill myself. I was basically doing the Candy Bergen role, a woman editor. There's just a lot of stuff, and you figure these things come and go and people don't remember them because they're from the past. So, it's whatever people enjoyed.
How did you land your role as Rayna on Star Trek?
I went in and talked to Gene Roddenberry, and they hired me.
What interested you most about Rayna as a character, particularly since she was an android?
Having not experienced that, it was a way ... without getting really actorly about it because I can't stand when actors talk about their work, basically trying to play something where there was an emotional involvement. You're an android, so you don't really have the facility. So, you're sort of stuck in a place where you can't really show a lot, or at least that's the way I felt. Nobody really talked to me about it, but I figured there couldn't be a lot of obvious emotional life going on, because that would belie the fact that she's an android. It was curious to me to try to play something and keep it very quiet. I was really young, and I was just doing whatever I was hired to do. I sort of had to figure it out myself. But it was fun to play. Of course, I laughed my head off with Shatner. We just laughed a lot. We had worked together before.
We wanted to ask about that. You and Shatner had worked together before (in an episode of Route 66) and actually you worked together after as well (in Barbary Coast, Perilous Voyage and also Airplane II: The Sequel). Take us through your Trek experience with him. Did he remember you when you got on set?
We’d played husband and wife before, so I hope he remembered me. He's got a kind of wicked, wonderful look like any minute he's going to burst into laughter, which he did. So, it was easy for me. I'm very responsive and ... I'm shy, but also I love people. So, I really never have a problem working with anyone, because I don't like conflict. I think the more aware you are, the friendlier you are, the better the work is.
Let’s talk about your fanciful costume and the crazy hair, that bouffant, in the episode...
Oh, my god. Well, that was ... I asked the director if I could be a blonde, and he said, "Sure." They came up with this blonde thing, which I would never in my wildest dreams be caught dead in... Well, I was dead, actually. I was caught dead. It was an idea that I had, and I didn't have much say-so about what I was going to wear, or any say-so. They came up with that blonde wig and, being a young, enthusiastic actress, I plunked it on my head. The costume was... they ran around me, and wrapped it on me.
You also worked with James Daly...
Oh, well, he was a doll. We would joke about it because, at that time, that was not a successful show, Star Trek. Nobody knew what was going to happen, the way it did. So, I said "What are we doing?" He's a theater person, I'd come from Broadway. We were very serious. I looked at him I said, "What are we doing?" He was in this leotard, and I was in my wrap-around dress, and he said, "It's Christmas money." It must have been December or something. We took the work seriously, but we had that snotty theater moment where we said, "What are we doing?" Standing on this very unusual set, and having done a lot of theater and serious stuff, it was funny. But it turned out to be a very good thing for us.
Star Trek was just a few days’ work for you. When did you realize that the show was becoming something more, and evolving into a phenomenon.
Many, many years later, for everybody. The first time I got a hint of it, it was pretty funny. I was in Bloomingdale's with my mother when she was in New York. I was returning a pair of boots in the shoe department. I had them, I guess not in the box or something, or I put them in the box. Something happened where it looked like I was stealing the boots, or at least that's what I thought in my head, because there was a woman looking at me and I thought, "Oh my god, it's a plainclothesman," or something. I said to my mother, "My god, she thinks we've stolen these boots. Let's go." I hadn't stolen them, but then I was chased down the escalator at Bloomie's, with someone yelling, "Do you know who she is? Do you know who she is?" I thought it was someone chasing me to arrest me, but it was a woman who watched Star Trek, and she was pointing and yelling and everybody was saying "No, I don't know who she is, nor do I care." But she yelled out "Star Trek" -- and it was the first time I was hit with that.
How amazing is it that, 50 years later, of all the things you've done, people still want to hear about your Trek appearance and/or have you sign photos from it, as they will at The Hollywood Show in a couple of weeks?
It's weird. I don't even know how to answer that. Because of the fan base, it's just ... it seems from the little I've experienced where I've done a couple of these events, that they really prefer the originals, the television original series and the people from it, in terms of the fan base. They seem to be more hooked into the original people. At least, that's been what I understood. So, it's weird, but I'm happy to be one of the people, and to meet the fans and to see my friends, my colleagues, at these events.
The Hollywood Show will be held Jan. 6-8 at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel. Go to www.thehollywoodshow.com for details.