Lately, I’ve started discussing some of my more “private” thoughts on playing Leeta. The opportunity to speak about this in interviews and at conventions -- with a greater degree of openness than I have, perhaps, in the past -- has been extremely valuable to me.
As I’ve said since the beginning of my work on the show, I’m grateful for Star Trek in countless ways. Being a part of the Trek legacy is undeniably one of the greatest blessings for which an actor could ask. Indeed, I did ask for it. Early in my career, I specifically prayed to be on a show in this franchise because of the allegorical value of its stories, the dimensionality of its characters, and the enthusiasm of its fans.
Leeta was written with many interesting qualities that were a blast to embody. As a Dabo girl she was playful, yet as a Bajoran she had a deep spiritual foundation. While she was fairly low on the totem pole at her job, she was willing to risk everything to stick up for her morals. And while Leeta was very devoted -- she loved Rom with commitment and singular focus -- she was no pushover. Now she's the wife of the Grand Nagus. Dabo-girl-turned-First Lady of the Ferengi Alliance! There are worse jobs.
But let’s face facts. Leeta was introduced primarily for comic relief and eye candy. There’s a part of me that wishes I’d had the opportunity to portray a depth and dimensionality that never really surfaced in the character. The humor in our Ferengi storylines was -- well -- broad. While many people loved the style that defined Leeta, some saw it merely as farce. To be candid, there were times I tried to bring Leeta down to earth, aiming for a distinct yet more subdued persona. That didn’t go over too well on set. The directors and the audience had grown accustomed to Leeta being the wide-eyed doll of the crew, wearing her naïveté and joie de vivre on her sleeve (or, in her case, her chest). This was how Leeta fit into the show, I was frequently told. Kira, Dax, and the others were strong in their specific ways, and the show’s chemistry needed some variety. From an overall production stance, I completely understand that reasoning.
Yet the television zeitgeist has changed a great deal since then. Game-changing series like Buffy, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Torchwood have defined a grittier, darker, real-er edge to science fiction. Even genre shows that incorporate comedy (such as Eureka) have a significantly drier wit than programs from 10 or more years ago. So when I watch our work on DS9, I often wonder whether my performance has aged well. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for ditzy-comic-alien girls in film and television these days; and, as happens with many actors (particularly in the Star Trek universe), overcoming preconceptions can be an uphill battle.
Recently, when I was up for the enigmatic, mysterious co-lead role of “Singer” in the feature film Yesterday Was a Lie, my history worked against me. Director James Kerwin initially couldn’t overcome his perception of me as Leeta, with her wide-eyed sweetness and little voice. I eventually landed the role, but only after the filmmakers found themselves surprised to discover that I was right for it.
The fact that I neither think nor talk like Leeta isn’t the only thing that comes as a shock to some. I’m truly interested in science fiction, as well as philosophy, Jungian psychology, cosmology, astronomy, and other sciences. I suppose people mean well when they’re amazed that reasonably attractive women can have intellectual leanings. And I appreciate the compliment. But it’s frustrating being typed – on-screen or off -- as a girl who isn’t as sci-savvy as I am. I’m still rooting for the time when it doesn’t strike people as astonishing or “refreshing” that women are sincerely interested in these subjects. One can’t help but be reminded of the scene in “Dr. Bashir, I Presume” when Leeta tries to convince Quark that she has “brains.” He smiles: “Sure you do, honey. Now take those brains back to the Dabo wheel where the customers can get a good, long look at them.”
It broke my heart to read the news recently about six-year-old Katie Goldman being teased because she brought her Star Wars water bottle to school. I could relate. And it saddened me even further to see that, at first, she wanted to hide who she was by hiding her love of science fiction.
But even more, I found it inspiring to see that thousands of grown-up geeks rallied to Katie’s defense. Many of us sent in stories about having been bullied when we were kids, letting Katie know there’s life on the other side.
Geek chic is here to stay -- just watch The Big Bang Theory if you don’t believe me – and thanks in part to the popularity of Star Trek, it’s in full swing. Leeta fell in love with Rom, after all! We’re now able to reach out to kids who are -- like many of us were – mocked for simply being themselves. The campaign “It Gets Better,” created primarily for LGBT teens, can apply to anyone who’s tormented for being unique. Today’s smart kids are tomorrow’s scientists, mathematicians, artists, writers, and everyday people who stand to make a difference in the world.
Let’s carry the torch high by proactively supporting the next generation of fans. Today, Friday, December 10, is “Support Geek Pride for Katie” day. If you want to make an extra difference around the holidays for kids who need some cheer, why not pick up a genre-related toy (or any toy) and drop it off at the nearest children’s hospital? Toys for Tots is also a great avenue for making donations.
Then, let StarTrek.com know what you did. Send in your pics and toy-giving stories! I’ll publish some of the best in my next blog entry. You can email us at Editor@StarTrek.com.
Thanks for being here. God bless you and your families during the holidays and in the New Year.
Chase Masterson portrayed Leeta in the final five seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Her latest projects include the critically acclaimed metaphysical noir feature Yesterday Was a Lie from Entertainment One, in which she plays a torch singer. Masterson performs three songs on the film’s soundtrack album, available in January 2011 from La-La Land Records. She is an avid supporter of non-profit organizations. For info and updates, follow @ChaseMasterson on Twitter.