What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day here at StarTrek.com than with a mother-daughter interview? Of course, you may be thinking: What real-life mother and daughter appeared on Star Trek? That’d be Julie Cobb and Rosemary Morgan. Cobb played Yeoman Leslie Thompson, the redshirt reduced to a pile of dust in the Original Series episode “By Any Other Name.” Morgan portrayed the young terrorist Piri in the Voyager hour “The Chute.” Interestingly, Cobb’s ex-husband and Morgan’s former stepdad is veteran Trek guest James Cromwell. Leonard Nimoy was Cobb’s first acting teacher. The two ladies are set to be among the guests at Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in August, and StarTrek.com had the good fortune the other day to chat with them, together – with Cobb in L.A. and Morgan in New York – for a laugh-filled, informative 20 minutes. Here’s what they had to say.
Thank you very much for doing this. It just struck us that this would be the perfect interview for Mother’s Day…
COBB: Oh, we loved the idea, too. We’re happy to do it.
OK, Rosemary, tell us what’s special about your mom…
MORGAN: Oh, wow. Well, there are so many things that are special about my mom that I don’t even know where to start. Mom is incredibly brave. That’s the first thing that I’d say. She’s very funny and the most supportive person I’ve ever known.
COBB: Awwwww. Thank you. That’s nice.
COBB: It’s funny you say that. Rosemary is my only offspring, so on Mother’s Day I always thank her for making me a mother. My daughter is really quite a package. She’s brilliant, beautiful, funny, resourceful and she’s absolutely my favorite person. She’s got all the qualities I aspire to if I ever grow up.
MORGAN: Thanks, mom.
COBB: We like each other. We like each other.
Let’s go all the way back in time, Julie. “By Any Other Name” was your first acting credit. How did you land the role?
COBB: You know, it’s funny. I actually had an audition today at Paramount, at the old Paramount lot in L.A. It was like a ghost town. It wasn’t very busy. All the old buildings brought back such memories for me. I was a young actress. I think I was 21. I had an agent and I was auditioning for things. I got that job, and it was directed by Marc Daniels, who had been a contemporary of my mother and father (actors Helen Beverley and Lee J. Cobb). William Shatner had been in a film with my dad, The Brothers Karamazov. But I’d like to think I got the part on my own, even though I was very nervous auditioning. I was even more nervous on the set. But it was a great experience and it’s followed me all these years, all my life.
COBB: The outstanding first memory is that way back then they put so much pancake makeup on people that I was orange. I looked in the mirror and I never felt less attractive. Then they teased my hair up into some futuristic up-do. That’s how I walked onto the set: ugly. But Marc Daniels was a gentle, intelligent, sweet guy. I remember being so nervous that I could barely walk and talk at the same time. Shatner was paternal, funny, sweet. Leonard Nimoy, oddly enough, had been my first acting teacher. When I was 16, I was in an acting class that Leonard taught. So I got through it. It was a few days’ work. It’s kind of a blur to me because I was a baby. But they made me feel great.
You have the distinction of being the only female redshirt ever to die on the series. That’s a big deal to a lot of Trek fans, but it may not even be something you’re aware of.
COBB: I’m not. I didn’t know that. I don’t even recall knowing the term “redshirt.” I will tell you about my daughter’s sense of humor. We found the clip of them reducing me to a little cube and crushing me to death. William Shatner was nothing if not intense as Kirk. He picks up the remnants of my body and he has a look of such loss on his face. Rosemary saw that and said, “Whooaa, clearly there was a backstory there.”
MORGAN: I really don’t remember seeing it as a child. I don’t think I saw it until many, many years later. I know I saw that scene Mom just mentioned on YouTube.
Julie, you mentioned a moment ago that the role has kind of followed you. What’s that like, to have one small role, a guest shot you played nearly 50 years ago, still be a part of your life?
COBB: It’s completely surreal. It’s perfect and funny. Who would have thought? What did anyone think? Even Roddenberry, the creator of the show, didn’t know what they had at the time. It’s amazing.
Rosemary, you grew up in and around the business. Your mom, dad, stepdad and grandparents were all actors. Hollywood was the family business. How almost predetermined was it that, if even just for a while, you were going to pursue acting?
MORGAN: I really didn’t know that there was anything else to do. So, at the time, I don’t remember ever thinking that there was another option. Not that I was in any way coerced into it. I just thought, “This looks really fun and everyone else is doing it. I’d like to do it, too.”
MORGAN: It wasn’t really the way it worked. There were many more conversations about the importance of theater, the true theater of New York, and Shakespeare, and the importance of the profession. But, I do remember that at a certain point it occurred to us that we, between the three of us, covered all four incarnations of the franchise at the time, and we thought that was pretty funny and cool.
You actually followed in your mom’s footsteps in that a Star Trek episode was also your very first professional TV job…
MORGAN: Exactly. It was just a total coincidence. I was 12 at the time, I think, and I was just starting to audition. I’d go out and audition, and I was pretty good and determined and everything, but I think, with Star Trek, I was the only 12-year-old who could pronounce a lot of the dialogue. There was one line that was something like, “Don’t tell them where the maximum security detention facility is located.” I was the only 12-year-old who could get that out, I think, so I got the job.
COBB: I was just trying to get on IMDB to look up who directed Rosemary’s episode.
MORGAN: Les Landau.
COBB: Yes, Les Landau. Rosemary was 12, so I was on the set with her because she was a minor. They called lunch and Les approached me and said, “Wow, clearly, Rosemary has done this before.” I said, “No, actually, this is her first day of her first job.” She was very gifted and very natural.
You obviously spent a lot of time on sets with Rosemary over the years she acted, Julie, but Voyager was the first time. Plus, you had your own Trek connection. What was that like?
COBB: It was the family business. It felt natural. By that time, my daughter had played basketball with Magic Johnson. You have to understand that she excelled in many efforts she’d made.
COBB: But it’s true. Rosemary went to basketball camp and went one-on-one with Magic Johnson. So, as a mother, I was very used to being proud and overwhelmed with the joy that Rosemary brought me. And being on the Star Trek set with her, that was a reckoning, not because I’d done it, too, but because I saw her do scenes with Kate Mulgrew – no slouch – and hold her own. So, Rosemary was a wonderful actress from the get-go. I was very proud.
Rosemary, you’re not off the hook here. How did it work out for you, going one-on-one with Magic Johnson?
MORGAN: (Laughs) It was great. I scored a basket.
Let’s talk Voyager, Rosemary. How did you land your role as Piri?
MORGAN: I’d been trying for many years to convince my parents to let me audition. My father was very hesitant, but he finally caved in. I started auditioning and very soon after I started I got Voyager. I remember going to the audition and I think they had me stay, the same day, for a callback. I was so excited. At the time, the role was far bigger. Some of the lines that the older brother says, like, “If you come aboard our ship, we’ll slit your throats,” were originally my character’s lines. There was no older brother. But the network became very uncomfortable with the idea of a 12-year-old girl saying all of these things, and they created this role of the older brother and gave him all of the really good lines.
COBB: I don’t remember that.
MORGAN: Oh, yeah. I was glad that they kept the part in at all, really.
What do you remember of trading dialogue with Mulgrew, and the rest of the experience?
MORGAN: It felt very comfortable. I’d grown up on sets. Kate was great. She was so, so nice to me and supportive and lovely. It was a lot of fun. The outfit that I wore was, in truth, made out of a rug for the floor. (Cobb is cracking up). It was a full carpet. So it was a million degrees under there. And then there was the hair and the plastic thing on my face and the makeup. So it was uncomfortable, but I was the luckiest 12-year-old around.
COBB: Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve never done one of these. I’ve wanted to. And going together is the biggest hoot of all. I know we’ll share a table. I hope will be interviewed on stage, but I don’t know yet.
MORGAN: Whatever it is, it’ll be fun because we’ve never done anything like it before. I’ve never done a convention, either. I’m kind of tagging along with my mom. She’s the main attraction between us. Plus, we’ll be hanging out in Vegas.
Let’s catch everyone up on what you’re both doing now. Mom first, please…
COBB: I’m still acting and auditioning, but I’m writing a lot now. I wrote and directed a short film, The Vet, which is playing the festival circuit. I won an award for Best Short. I enjoy it when I get to audition, but I’m mainly writing and looking to direct again. I’ve directed in the theater. I’d love to act. I’d do it at the drop of a hat, but it slows down a little bit if you’re not really pursuing it. But Rosemary has had an interesting journey since her acting days.
MORGAN: At a certain point, I just decided to go back to college and finish my degree, because I’d dropped out in order to continue acting. Then I realized that I was good at school and that I really liked school, so I went to law school, like so many people who don’t know exactly what they’re going to do. I went to NYU Law School and had a great education and a great time while still figuring out what the future holds. But I felt like I want to expand my horizons and experiences. I’m not certain that any doors to anything are closed, but for now I’m working as an attorney regulating banks.
Thank you both so much for doing this, and happy Mother’s Day, Julie…
COBB: Thank you, so much. This was a lot of fun. It makes me think I should go back and watch the whole episode again so I can be ready for the convention in Las Vegas.
MORGAN: Thank you.
Visit www.CreationEnt.com for details about the big Vegas event, which will be held August 6-9 at the Rio Suites Hotel.