Jeri Ryan made a most indelible mark on Star Trek: Voyager when she joined the cast as Seven of Nine during the show’s fourth season. Some fans assumed that Seven of Nine was created only to add some va-va-voom to Voyager following the departure of Kes (Jennifer Lien) and, while the character surely turned heads, what with her form-fitting cat suit, Ryan and the writers made certain that Seven of Nine evolved into far more than eye candy. The character was tough, argumentative, opinionated, thoroughly capable of kicking butt and a great foil for several crewmates, notably the Doctor (Robert Picardo) and Janeway (Kate Mulgrew). Plus, at times, a degree of vulnerability and/or warmth reminded everyone that Seven of Nine was, despite her cybernetic Borg implants, still human.
Since Voyager ended its run in 2001, Ryan has maintained a hectic pace – personally and professionally. On the personal front, Ryan is married and lives with her second husband, French chef Christophe Eme, and her children (Alex, by her first husband) and Gisele (with Eme), in Los Angeles. On the professional front, she’s appeared – as a guest star, recurring character or regular – on Boston Public, Two and Half Men, Boston Legal, Shark, Leverage and her current projects, Body of Proof, Mortal Kombat and Warehouse 13. StarTrek.com recently met up with Ryan in Rhode Island, on the set of her new series, Body of Proof, which co-stars Dana Delany and will premiere tonight on ABC. Over the course of a half-hour conversation, with three-year-old Gisele playing on her lap, Ryan happily recounted her days on Voyager and filled us in on her life today. Below is part one of our exclusive interview, and be on the lookout tomorrow for part two.
Let’s start with Voyager. What are the first things that run through your mind when you think back to your four seasons on Star Trek?
Ryan: The costume! Also, how much fun I had working with all the men on the show. They were all psychotic, all lunatics, and I loved them. I loved every single one of them and they were all so much fun to work with. It’s hard to stay in touch because we’re each all over the place, but we see each other once in a while at conventions, and they’re as crazy as ever.
Ryan: It’s not that I didn’t buy it... My problem with that relationship was that it came out of the blue. They had started the set-up of the relationship a few episodes earlier, in the episode (“Human Error”) where Seven was experimenting with her humanity on the holodeck. And so she sort of fell in love with Chakotay there. They said something like her could never have these sorts of relationships because she would die, or whatever. The next episode that we shot after that (“Natural Law”), Seven and Chakotay were stranded on some planet together. We specifically asked the producers – Robert and I – “Now, are we going to play this? Is this going to go somewhere? Because, obviously, we’d need to carry something over from…” And they said, “No, no, no, no! Absolutely not. Don’t play any of that. Nothing’s going to happen.”
So, after that one episode we never played any sort of attraction or anything between the two characters. And then, out of the blue, all of a sudden, they’re dating (in “Endgame”). That was a little annoying, especially when you’ve specifically asked about it and they said, “No, absolutely not.” Then, suddenly they’re in love. That was a little… It’s one of the frustrations of network television. And it’s how you learn, also. You have to try to be the babysitter and the protector of your character.
Did you keep your Seven of Nine cat suit or burn the damn thing?
Ryan: They didn’t let me keep the cat suit. I would have loved to have burned it; not so much the cat suit as the corset that was under it. But, no, they didn’t let me have that. I do, however, have an alcove. I figured, “That’s the least you can give me! Give me my alcove.” (Laughs). So I have it in my game room.
A lot of Star Trek actors, as their respective shows ended, worried about what might – or might not – come next. How concerned were you about life after Voyager, if audiences and/or casting directors would accept you as anything but Seven of Nine?
Ryan: Oh, God, that was the single biggest worry that I had when I took the job to begin with. Star Trek is notorious for pigeonholing its actors and them not being able to break out of that and go on to other work. So I was incredibly lucky that I went on to a David Kelley show immediately after Voyager ended. I was incredibly lucky and incredibly grateful, and I said to myself, “This is going to be OK. I’m going to work.”
You’d done a lot of film work before and during Voyager, but since you finished the show you seem to have concentrated on television. Is that by choice? Is it where the work has been?
Ryan: It’s in large part because of family. That stability of a TV series is really nice when you’ve got a family. Also, film and TV are two very different paces, at least for me. Here, on Body of Proof, we’re doing six to sometimes seven or eight pages a day. On Star Trek, we did eight pages a day, plus. And on a movie, you’re doing like two pages a day. So you can be doing the same scene all day. That, to me, after doing a TV pace for so long, is mind-numbing. It’s hard. It’s a tough adjustment. I have infinite respect for the people who can bounce back and forth between film and TV, but it’s not that easy for me.
You’ve got a toddler, your son, husband, a restaurant and a home in L.A. What the heck are you doing in… Providence, Rhode Island?
Ryan: You know what? Since I ended my maternity leave, which was a little more than a year ago now, I haven’t had a single job in Los Angeles. Everything has been on location. I was a month in Detroit. I was two months in Portland. I was in Vancouver. I was in New Jersey. I was everywhere but home. You go where the jobs are. Providence happens to be beautiful. It’s a beautiful place to be. But, yeah, it’s not the most convenient for commuting from L.A. because there are not that many flights, you have to fly into Boston, change planes and fly into Providence. There’s a three-hour time difference. It’s tough. So my little one is here with me half the time and she’s home half the time, and I make the commute.
Gisele is almost three. Your son Alex was about the same age when you started Voyager. How déjà vu all over again is it for you to have another young child on the set of another show?
Ryan: It totally is. Alex is 16 now. It’s not as easy at 40 as it was when you were 26, physically. But it’s a lot of fun, and she is amazing – (Ryan runs her fingers through Gisele’s hair and coos directly to her daughter) – right? I am dreading puberty, though. I’m terrified.
Tomorrow, in part two of our interview with Jeri Ryan, the actress talks more about Voyager, discusses Body of Proof and previews other upcoming projects, including Mortal Kombat and Warehouse 13.