Ask anyone who’s attended Star Trek conventions on a regular basis to name their favorite guest and chances are that he or she will reply “Marina Sirtis” at the speed of light. Once and forever the Convention Queen, Sirtis has always immersed fans in her love for them, her appreciation of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deanna Troi, and her energy for, well, just about anything. Today, Sirtis remains as enthusiastic as ever about Star Trek and life in general, and with the 25th anniversary of TNG just around the corner, she’s ready to once again hit the convention circuit in earnest. StarTrek.com caught up with Sirtis for a wide-ranging interview in which she talked about her TNG days, the upcoming TNG Blu-ray releases and her latest project, a British-style pantomime production of A Snow White Christmas, which casts her as a different sort of queen, The Evil Queen. Below is part one of our conversation, and check back tomorrow for part two.
We are coming up fast on the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation...
Sirtis: I know, and it just takes me back to how it was with the original Star Trek cast. I remember that we were just starting, and the original cast were celebrating their 20th anniversary. Then, when we were in our fifth year, they were celebrating their 25th anniversary. I was kind of in awe and I was thinking, “Oh, my goodness, how can it last that long?” And now it’s happened to us. It’s our 25th anniversary. I can’t believe it. I feel like I arrived in America a year ago, and it’s been 25 years now. It just seems the time went, and I don’t know where it went. I can’t believe it. It’s huge. It’s huge. With every passing year I can’t get over the longevity that we’re having. If you’d said to me in 1987, “You’re going to start work on this show and you’re going to be talking about it 25 years later to the press, that people will be celebrating you 25 years later,” I’d have said, “You’re out of your mind.”
But, here you are. It’s happening…
Sirtis: And it’s really thrilling. The fans are excited. We’re going to be a lot of conventions as a group next year, which is going to be a lot of fun because we just love each other still. We’re still best friends, so the fact that we’re going to be traveling together and hanging out together, without our significant others to dampen the party, is exciting. We’re very clique-y. Still to this day, if we go to a party, by the end of the evening we’re sitting in a group with our backs to everybody else, just being us.
There’s another marker of the passage of time, namely technology. TNG first came out on VHS and then on DVD and now Blu-ray, and people can watch episodes streamed on their computers. How strange has it been to witness that progression?
Sirtis: You’re talking to the wrong person, actually (laughs). I am such a Luddite. If I could live without a computer, I totally would, because I hate it. I hate technology. I hate the invasion of one’s privacy. I hate the fact that people want to know what you’re doing 24-7. I mean, personally, I’m not interested in what I’m doing 24 hours a day, let alone what anyone else is doing 24 hours a day. I cannot understand it. It doesn’t compute with me. The fact the technology has made Star Trek look better, that’s great. I actually did go into CBS. I was invited in with LeVar (Burton) to see the Blu-ray version, and that was fascinating. One thing I always thought when I watched the original show was how dated it looked compared to our show. And then, when I’ve watched our show over the years – and I don’t do that very often; I just sometimes catch it on TV – I always think it looks dated because the computer effects now are so amazing compared to what we were able to do.
So, what did you think when you saw the TNG footage in Blu-ray?
Sirtis: I swear it looked like it was filmed yesterday. The clarity and the detail and just the look of it are amazing. I mean, I was absolutely blown away. Unfortunately, if you’ve got the series on DVD you’re going to have to get it all on Blu-ray now because it looks phenomenal. It’s unbelievable. The fans are going to be thrilled. They’ve upgraded even things like the details on feathers. Things like that, that you could never see before, you can see now. It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
Let’s talk about Deanna Troi. She was a wonderful character, but early on no one seemed to know how best to use her, to the point that you thought you might get fired. So, let’s put it directly to you: how satisfied were you with how the counselor was utilized and, if you were in the writers’ room, in what directions might you have taken her?
Sirtis: Hindsight is 20-20, isn’t it? I have to be honest with you and say that, at the time, I was perfectly happy. Looking back now, we didn’t know all that much about her. We knew she had a mom. We knew she was from Betazed. But we didn’t really know much of her back story. Apart from working out, we didn’t know what she did in her off time. We didn’t know her likes and dislikes, her hobbies, anything like that. The characters that we did know about, the actors were very smart. They went to the writers and made suggestions. Brent (Spiner) sang, and so he went in and said, “You know, I’d like to sing in some episodes.” And so Data became musical on occasion.
But you never did that with Deanna…
Siritis: What happened with Deanna was my fault, actually. The writers always used to say to me, ‘What do you want to do?” And I’d have the attitude, “Well, you’re the writer. Come up with something.” You learn from your mistakes. I realize now that when you’re writing an episode a week and doing rewrites every 10 minutes, input from other people isn’t a bad thing. There’s a wheel of episodic television. It’s like a wheel in a gerbil’s cage, and it’s just going ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. They don’t have time. They really don’t. They’re just so busy. So it’s really helpful for the writers to get some input from the actors. So now, when I do another series, I’ll take that lesson with me to that next series. And if I find that I have some ideas about the character, I will take them to the writers. I mean, Star Trek was my first series. I didn’t know how it worked. I’ve learned. So I would definitely act differently in an upcoming job.
To learn more about Marina Sirtis, visit her official site by clicking HERE. For details about A Snow White Christmas, in which she co-stars with Neil Patrick Harris, click HERE. And to read part two of our interview with Sirtis, visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow.