Today, in the second half of our conversation with Chase Masterson, the former DS9 actress answers more questions posed by you, our StarTrek.com readers. Among the topics: that infamous “nude” scene with Robert Picardo, the Leeta/Rom relationship, the convention circuit and her work as a mentor.
What was your reaction to the "nude shot" involving Robert Picardo, and in general, being, for lack of a better word, scantily clad throughout the series?
Masterson: I don’t mean to disappoint, but I was actually wearing more during the shooting of that scene with Bob than a lot of girls wear running around town. From the point where the camera’s view cut off on down, I had on a flesh-colored body suit that went down to my ankles. Polyester. Not at all attractive. Sorry to burst your bubble! As far as being scantily clad during the run of the series, yes, of course, my Dabo girl uniform was meant to be sexy, but they purposely didn’t make it as overt as most of the other Dabo girls -- and I’m glad. On Risa, there was the coral colored dress and the massage scene bathrobe, of course, but that was also extremely carefully orchestrated. There was no way that bathrobe was going to reveal anything except exactly what we planned.
Other than that, I don’t know, was Leeta always that bare? There was definitely the cleavage factor, as many Trek women have, courtesy of Mr. (designer) Bob Blackman. And yes, her skirts were short, but she wore leggings, not bare legs. Leeta’s maroon dress, red dress, gold dress (Dax’s wedding) and green tunic (that she wore when she married Rom) were actually pretty demure for a Dabo girl – exactly as we all intended. Anyway, keep in mind that dressing sexily, on camera or off, doesn’t necessarily say anything about a girl’s character, ability as an actress, intelligence level, or frankly, personal activities. An upstanding, good-hearted girl can dress sexily. Sometimes, it’s fun. And mostly, it’s pretty much just part of the job.
I had heard a rumor that if Enterprise had gone onto a 5th season, you would have had a part in which you would have sung to Scott Bakula. Is it true or just one of those rumors?
Masterson: Ha! That is literally the first I’ve heard of it. Funny.
I truly believe your relationship with Rom was one of the highlights of DS9. The chemistry you shared with Max really showed through in your portrayals. And the juxtaposition of a Bajoran (spiritually motivated culture) and Ferengi (greed motivated culture) was fun to watch. Did you take anything away from the fictitious Ferengi or Bajoran cultures that you found truthful, that you still think of/carry with you today?
Masterson: Thank you for that. A surprising number of people still insist on seeing Leeta as eye candy, but she was always wise enough to navigate what was arguably one of the most challenging, successful relationships in the galaxy. Leeta and Rom brought new meaning to the term “opposites attract.” And the pairing of people from a spiritually-oriented culture and a greed-oriented culture is the perfect allegory to give us a view into our own, individual relationships between spirituality and money. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that a good relationship with God and with each other -- my definition of strong spirituality -- can co-exist with a good relationship with money. But we are given choices in our lives on a regular basis that can compromise one or the other. Which do we choose? I think that part of the reason that Leeta and Rom had a strong relationship is because they made a lot of the right choices. And they focused on the many ways they were alike, instead of on their differences.
What did you not learn about Leeta as a character that you'd like to have discovered but went unexplained/not revealed?
Masterson: As I’ve mentioned before, it would have been very interesting if there had been time to have more earthiness written into Leeta, more depth to her storyline, more strength, for lack of a better word. But there was only so much onscreen time, and so many characters’ storylines to pursue. I think that if the show had continued, the writers would have taken Leeta to some surprising, risky places, made her a little more heroic, proven her savvy-ness, her intelligence, made her more down-to-earth. As far as actual facts about Leeta that I wish had been revealed, it would have been cool if they had time to delve into her background, as the novels now have. I always half-joked that Leeta was a war orphan who was going to work her way through med school -- hence, my attraction to Julian.
In his engaging novel, Ferenginar: Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed, my friend Keith R.A. DeCandido uses that explanation about Leeta’s upbringing. Keith also writes that Leeta was "adopted" as a household slave by a Cardassian who developed a sexual attraction to her, but never admitted it, then died. He was kind to Leeta, and she convinced him to reform the way he treated his servants, which is very much in character for Leeta, since that is the type of rights issue she stood up for in “Bar Association.” In the mirror universe novels, Leeta does know her parents, but her surname still isn't disclosed. Anyway, yes, if there were unlimited time, it would have been interesting to go down those rabbit trails and have those questions about Leeta’s background answered. The issues they did cover with Leeta were obviously more urgent character and plot issues. Our writers were awesome. They had a huge amount of ground to cover with all of the storylines and characters, and they did an amazing job with it.
What would you like to think Leeta is doing now?
Masterson: Now that Leeta has a position of influence, as the First Lady of the Ferengi Alliance, I’d like to think she’s working to help people who need it. There certainly were a lot of Bajoran war orphans, much like Leeta was. And there were countless Bajorans who were displaced due to the occupation and so many who lost family members. The war left untold wreckage…physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, financial. Loyalty was a huge part of Leeta’s inner character, and I can’t imagine her leaving her own people behind now that she has the authority and means to help. So I’m thinking that Leeta is using her role as wife of the Grand Nagus to get some good things done, and at the same time be an example to the Ferengi Empire that money isn’t what really counts. I know, lotsa luck on that one, Leeta!
Is Trek something you now consider in the past or have the experiences allowed you to work on your natural acting talent? And if the opportunity arises would you want to test yourself again in the Trek franchise?
Masterson: If playing Leeta did anything that impacts my current career, it’s that I’m attracted to playing characters who are much darker, earthier, deeper than she was allowed to show. I’m not the kind of actress who likes to be typecast or pigeonholed. I liked Leeta in many ways, but if I were offered a new role in Trek, I’d be happiest if it were entirely opposite of who she was.
At the time the show was ending and final filming done, were there rumors around the set that the show could come back? It looks like they were hoping so by ending it the way they did. Also, any chance at this point it could come back?
Masterson: We get this question a lot, and sad to say, there’s definitely no chance that DS9 will come back now. Trek is headed in a whole new direction, and the writers and cast of DS9 have all moved on, too. I think for a while they may have liked to leave the possibility of an MOW a tiny bit open, but I think they always knew that it was too expensive a show to remount, and that the Next Gen storylines and characters were really the more mainstream ones that they would continue to explore.
How was working on the set of Star Trek: Of Gods & Men? And going green?
Masterson: It was a lot of fun working with cast members from all the shows. We were in some interesting circumstances, stuff we never had to deal with at Paramount, but we had so much fun together, we just laughed it off. There was no cell service, and there was a veritable plague of flies in Port Henry, and there were motorcycles that kept coming down the street, so we’d have to constantly cut for sound. And it was over 110 degrees outside, and we were shooting in an old garage with a tin roof and no AC. So our makeup kept sweating off. The makeup, hair and wardrobe for Xela took about 4 hours to do, and we were constantly fixing it throughout the day; wherever you can imagine a guy hiding next to me on set, he was there, waiting ‘til the camera stopped rolling so he could leap out and touch it up. But despite the high maintenance of it all, we all had a blast together; it was a very spirited team.
How has the convention circuit treated you?
Masterson: The convention circuit has been mostly wonderful to me. I’ve met countless inspiring people, fans and friends who care about Trek because they care about the world. Trek fans are generally the most loyal, down-to-earth, socially aware audience an actor could ever ask for, and I’m grateful for their support of our work both on-camera and off-camera, in charity projects and social advocacy. There was an issue that I had years ago with a member of my fan club who committed a horrific act that involved serious invasions of my privacy and had horrible consequences. It took a drastic toll on my life, and on my son’s life, and on my career, my finances, everything. It’s definitely one of the reasons I haven’t worked more. I lost some crucial momentum right after DS9 ended. It took a very long time for me to forgive the people who hurt me during that whole ordeal, but forgiveness is one of the essential keys to life. We all need it, so we all need to give it. Sometimes people ask me how I can continue to do be in the public eye after what happened. But you can’t judge an entire fanbase by a few incredibly sick people’s actions. And in the long run, the good has been way more powerful than the bad. It always is, if you let it be. And I’m thankful for both. I’ve learned a lot about human nature and a lot about me.
What have been some of your favorite projects outside of Trek?
Onscreen, undoubtedly, I’m proudest of my work in Yesterday Was a Lie. And there are off-screen projects of which I am extremely proud, too. For over three years, I’ve been a mentor at Homeboy Industries, which is the largest program for gang intervention in the U.S. Most of the guys and girls who come to Homeboy come to us straight out of jail; some of the guys and girls in my class have done 10-20 years. They’re usually on parole or probation, and almost all of them have a very serious background of addiction. Most of them grew up with serious abuse or neglect; many of them were raised in foster care or extremely adverse circumstances because their parents were addicted, dead, or in jail. They turn to gangs, either because they are the only form of “family” around, or because their lives are threatened if they don’t join. And when they decide that they want to turn their lives around, we help them do it. I also teach a weekly class at Homeboy, Life Planning; we talk with the guys and girls about their dreams, and the fact that they get to have them. We help them discern their strengths and talents, so they can choose what type of job or career path to follow. And the transformation that happens there is real. It’s beautiful to see people truly making something good out of their lives. Redemption is for everybody who truly wants it. I thank God every day that I’m able to be a part of it.
To read part 1 of this interview, click here.