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Catching Up with Riker's Minuet, Carolyn McCormick

Catching Up with Riker's Minuet, Carolyn McCormick

Riker, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "11001001," asked the sexy and uber-aware Minuet, "What's a knockout like you doing in a computer-generated gin joint like this?" Carolyn McCormick embodied the holographic female in that first-season episode, and she returned to TNG three years later to play Min Riker, a variation on the character as created by a lonely alien named Barash, in "Future Imperfect." McCormick was a busy, talented actress pre-TNG and she remains so three decades later, with credits spanning from Enemy Mine, Spenser for Hire, Whatever Works and every iteration of Law & Order, to Madam Secretary, Billions, The Post and the upcoming drama, Mapplethorpe. recently caught up with McCormick for a long-awaited interview. Here’s what she had to say about her Trek experiences and her recent and current projects…

How on your radar was Star Trek when you won your first role on TNG?

Star Trek was on my radar because my husband was very excited, as he has always been a huge Star Trek fan and watched the first series as a boy all the time. Minuet was in the first season, so we were both hoping the show would be popular like The Original Series.

What do you recall of your audition for "11001001"?

I don’t remember much about the first audition -- except that I had a really fun time with the people in the room during my reading.

What did you make of the scenario involving the holodeck, Riker and the Bynars that resulted in the creation of Minuet?

I loved the whole idea of the holodeck and the idea that I was getting to play "the computer-generated version of the ideal woman.” Opportunities like that don’t come along very often. And my brother is a computer engineer, so it was fun to tell him what I was playing.

You were playing a holo-character who was hyper-real. What was the challenge in bringing her to life?

I didn’t find playing Minuet to be that much of a challenge once they got me all dolled up with makeup and big hair and a fabulous red dress. I just thought it was so much fun to enter that make-believe world and make it real. I also speak French, so I loved to opportunity to say a few lines in French.

What do you recall of the shoot?

I remember how much fun it was to hang out with Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart. It was the first season, so no one knew whether or not the show was going to be a hit. Everyone was just working very hard and was eager to make the episode as great as possible. But, it was wonderful working with Jonathan. He is such a gentleman. So compassionate and talented and considerate. The entire experience was a joy.

How pleased were you with the finished episode?

I loved the final episode and thought they managed to pull of the entire holodeck idea off beautifully. The Jazz music, the set, the lighting, everything was fabulous to watch.

How surprised were you to get the call three years later to do "Future Imperfect"?

I was so happy to get the call about “Future Imperfect.” By then, the show was a huge success and it was great to go back and see everyone again. No big hair, though, second time around. I had just finished playing Saint Joan in George Bernard Shaw’s play, so my hair was very, very short.

It wasn't the world's biggest role, but it was pivotal to Riker's arc in the episode. What were your feelings about how the writers turned to Min to develop Riker further?

I loved how Min helped evolve Riker’s character. I am a firm believer in “Behind every great man is a great woman,” actually an “ideal woman.” What is not to like there?

How quickly did you pick up the chemistry with Jonathan Frakes?

Jonathan and I had great chemistry right away because we are both extremely playful and neither of us takes ourselves too seriously. We’re both just happy to work and be appreciated for what we do.

If someone reads this article and wants to check out some of your previous work, what are a few of your credits you'd suggest they watch?

Most people know me from Law & Order, where I played Dr. Olivet for many years -- and still reprise the role whenever they ask me. A film I am really proud of is with Sam Elliott, on TNT from years ago, called You Know My Name. I played his wife, and I think it is a beautiful film.

Let's talk about your recent and current projects, of which there are many. Give us a quick sentence or two each about returning soon as Dr. Olivet for Law & Order: SVU, and appearing in The Post, which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and Mapplethorpe, which will premiere later this month at the Tribeca Film Festival…

My episode of SVU aired in January. It was great getting to revisit an old character. It felt like getting to spend time with an old friend. The Post was a wonderful film. I had a very small part, but I was thrilled to work on it. Mapplethorpe is a movie about the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe -- played by Matt Smith, from The Crown and Doctor Who -- and I play his mother. The film explores his life and all the complexities behind his artistic expression. I adored working on it and found the entire cast wonderful to work with, and I particularly liked the director, Ondi Timoner.

And you were just back on the stage, right?

I did a play called Levity, by Stephanie DiMaggio, that had a short run in Big Sky Montana in January. My character had a deaf son, so I learned sign language, as the entire play was signed and the actor playing my son was hearing-impaired. I loved working on it and found the entire process of signing and acting challenging and exciting.