Vulcan died for Scottie Thompson – sort of. In Star Trek (2009), Nero (Eric Bana) sought vengeance against Spock (Leonard Nimoy/Zachary Quinto) – and ultimately destroyed the Vulcan’s home world -- because he blamed Spock for the death of his beloved, pregnant wife. Thompson played the unnamed spouse in a brief but pivotal Nero-Kirk (Chris Pine) sequence in which she appeared as a holographic image that Nero showed to Pike (Bruce Greenwood); the character did have a name, Mandana, in the comic book Star Trek: Countdown. The actress, who hails from Virginia, count among her credits several episodes of Brotherhood, a recurring role on NCIS, a regular stint as Diana on Trauma, and her latest project, the sci-fi film Skyline. StarTrek.com caught up with Thompson on the Skyline promotional trail and chatted with her about the November 12 release, as well as Star Trek, additional films on the way and her career in general.
Your role in Star Trek was small but important. How did it come about?
Thompson: I just went in and I knew that (the character) hadn’t seen Nero in a while and I got to be in my own little Romulan land. It was so funny when I got the job. I said to the producer, “I just want to thank you because I’ve gone through my whole life identifying myself over the phone for restaurant reservations, saying ‘Scottie Thompson.’ And they’d say, ‘Dottie?’ And I’d say, ‘Scotty; like beam me up.’ So when I found out they were doing Star Trek I was like, “I have to be in this movie. I don’t care what my role is.’ ” The producer was like, “You have an alien look to you,” and he meant it in a good way, like otherworldly. So I guess it was meant to be.
Take us to shooting your scene…
Thompson: Working with J.J. Abrams, he’s amazing. He’s just so positive and has so much energy. The scene I did was more like a photo shoot in that I was just kind of floating about in this almond grove. I remember him saying, “Oh, you’re really good.” He’d give me these little stories and I’d just go into my head. He said, “Have you done this before?” because it was like modeling, the way I was dealing with the camera. I said, “No. I guess I’m really good at my little world that I like to float around in.”
How surprised were you that Abrams didn’t leave the scene to a second unit director?
Thompson: He was there and knew what he wanted, and he got it very efficiently. It was so exciting for me.
You must’ve been pleased your scene made the final cut…
Thompson: I was very excited. I was slightly green. I was surprised because I knew they were cutting things out. Up until the last minute I was checking on IMDB to see if it’d end up being (“Scenes Deleted”). I remember somebody sending me a Facebook message and saying, “Hey, I just saw you in the movie,” because they saw it before I did. I was like, “Yeah!” That’s a whole awesome world, the Star Trek world, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.
Skyline will open on November 12. You and Eric Balfour play a New York couple visiting L.A. just as an alien invasion begins. Is your character, Elaine, a hero, in need of saving or something in between?
Thompson: She’s kind of an alien herself. She doesn’t feel at home in the environment she’s in in L.A., with the people she’s with there. That’s why I say she’s an alien herself. She feels alone in how she interprets how to handle the situation, whether or not to stay put. She’s struggling with a personal issue as well. There is a little relationship problem going on that’s making her feel out of her own skin. But she is someone who knows what she wants by the end. Knowing what she wants helps her gain a lot of strength. She’s probably more certain of herself than most of the other people throughout the film, but she’s weighing a lot of factors and loses her footing at certain points, then finds it by the end.
How much running, jumping and screaming was required of you?
Thompson: There was a ton of running, jumping and screaming. I hadn’t done a lot of sci-fi filming before, and definitely not on this scale. I did a lot of viewing of sci-fi to study it and gained a greater appreciation for it going into Skyline, but actually filming it, I didn’t realize it’d be such an emotional experience. You’re running, screaming, crying, and your life is about to end in at least one shot you do a day, if not more than that. But at least once a day I was contemplating the threat of death. There were two weeks that involved a whole lot of physical activity, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing. Usually you’re sitting around on a set, even if you’re shooting, so it was an amazingly exciting experience to be able to run around and scream and run away from aliens.
You’ve been working your way up the Hollywood food chain. How happy are you with your progress?
Thompson: I like the term roller coaster. It’s not as easy as it looks once you’re inside the beast. I’m so happy about Skyline and now I’m in the middle of nowhere, in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, doing Lake Effects. It’s a dramedy, I guess you’d call it, and a character-driven piece. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I’m playing the lead. Television has been really nice to me. I had a fun run on Trauma. I’ve definitely had my dry spells, so I can’t complain at all. I’m excited about what I’ve going on now, and I’ve yet to work with someone I didn’t like and I’ve yet to have a bad experience. I’ve met inspiring people and I’ve enjoyed the process, so…
You’ve also completed Porn Star and Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. What can you tell us about those films?
Thompson: Porn Star, not the greatest title. I play the only non-porn person in it. I play the wife of a porn director. So I’m a struggling actress in L.A. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda is a romantic-comedy set in London, and I play the lead. But I don’t really know the status of that, of either of them.
Let’s end with a Star Trek edition of Six Degrees of Separation. You were in Center Stage, which co-starred Zoe Saldana, and Diora Baird, who played an Orion slave in Star Trek, is with you in Porn Star…
Thompson: When I did Center Stage I was actually in New York because I was on my way to doing professional ballet at the time. They randomly picked a few of us to be extras. So I literally walked down the street in Center Stage. And, yes, Diora is in Porn Star. It was funny when I ran into her and we’d both been cast in Star Trek. I think she’d already filmed her work and I hadn’t done mine. She was covered in green the whole time. I think she actually had a larger speaking role than I did (before the final editing was done, in which Baird’s scene was cut).