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Catching Up with TNG Guest Star Amy Pietz

Catching Up with TNG Guest Star Amy Pietz

Amy Pietz has graced television screens for nearly 25 years now. She currently co-stars on the-world-is-ending series No Tomorrow, playing a boss from hell, and has also starred, recurred or guest starred on everything from Caroline in the City, ER, Aliens in the Family and Bones to Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, The Nine Lives of Chloe King and The Magicians. Among her films are Rudy and Jingle All the Way. Pietz, very early in her career, also guest starred on Star Trek: The Next Generation, portraying Lieutenant Sandra Rhodes in the seventh-season installment, “Bloodlines,” which aired in 1994. recently chatted with Pietz about Trek, No Tomorrow, her career and also her other upcoming projects. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about No Tomorrow and your experience so far on it…

No Tomorrow is a romantic comedy, a one-hour on the CW, and it's gotten really, really good reviews. I think it's like four and a half on Netflix. Everybody loves it. It's about the end of the world and how to cross items off your bucket list before you die. Our leading characters are these two gorgeous, exciting people, and I play the woman's mean, stinky, awful, nasty boss who's a little bit on the spectrum.

How much fun is that to play? When you got a script that makes her out to be this absolute ogre nicknamed Dragon Breath, did you say, "Wow, I'm perfect for this,” or were you thinking, “Oh man, not a chance in hell"?

I was like, "Oh my god, not a chance in hell." In fact, I almost turned it down. In fact, I tried to turn it down, but my agent talked me into going in anyway, and turning it down not because of any distaste I had for any element of the project. I just didn't see a way in, which is why I utilized some people I know who are on the spectrum and combined a couple of their characteristics, and that seemed to make her less of a mustache-twisting, two-dimensional person, but a person who was struggling really hard to do what's right and just not really fitting in with the others.

She wants Hank, badly. Do we think that you're ever going to hook up with Hank?

Oh, we think so. We really think so. It’s a really adorable show. I'm proud of the show. I think it's pretty good. I'm not embarrassed to be a part of it. Sometimes we aren't as lucky, so I am very aware that I have a lot to be grateful for.

What else have you been up to the past few years? If people say, "Hey, let me see what else she's done recently," what are the things you would point to?

I would point to a variety of different guest star roles and my work in the theater, which people can't really see because it was all live, and I’ve done a few films. The last series I did was The Nine Lives of Chloe King, and in between that, like I said, a bunch of guest star stuff. Some of the stuff that was the most fun was an episode of Maron I did. I had a nice role on How to Get Away with Murder, but really Maron was the most exciting of those guest spots because I got to play someone just batsh-t crazy: first stay in rehab, overly sexualized, funny, cheerful. They wrote a tour de force role to play for that lucky actress, and I got to be her. So, that was really fun, and working with such great comedy writers was really a blast that week. And I loved The Magicians. That was another real highlight of the last year. The people were great, but also, I just think the show is really beautifully shot, and it was another really great character to play, drug-addled and of different species… and a witch. It was super-cool. I loved that.

Star Trek fans know you from your Trek episode, but if people run into you on the street, is it mostly Caroline in the City for which they’ll recognize you? Is it one of the other credits we've been talking about, or is it both?

I think it depends on the age of the individual. If they are my age or hovering around their 40s, it's going to be Caroline, but really it's mostly The Office. I get The Office quite a bit. I did I think a five-episode arc on that. And a lot of people remember my Curb Your Enthusiasm. It varies, but I would say those are the ones that have been seen by the most people.

Let’s move on to Trek. Do you remember how you landed the role as Lieutenant Rhodes?

Junie Lowry Johnson, I believe, was the casting director. She is married to Jeff Perry, a wonderful actor. Jeff had directed me in a show at the Steppenwolf Theatre just a year before that Hollywood audition, and so I felt very happy to be in the room with his wife and a woman who's so well-respected in the industry, and thrilled because I was a huge fan of Next Generation. The idea that I could potentially work on the show was absolutely thrilling, and I think it was still my first year in Hollywood. I think it was the first month or two I was ever in L.A., so there was some culture shock and I was super-young and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Then, when I got the job, one of the first things they do is a wardrobe fitting and I was escorted on the Paramount lot through the block-long wardrobe department and got to see them in the process of building all the costumes that they build, and it was so thrilling. I felt like I was inside of a documentary on the making of Star Trek. They built my costume to, on the exterior, appear to have the perfect body, and then they would pad the inside to compensate for any lacking of flesh or too much flesh. I noticed when I was on set, if, for instance, Patrick Stewart were just casually going over his lines and waiting for the next scene, he would unzip his costume and reveal all the padding on the inside, and I'd be like, "Oh, there's just a guy in there. He doesn't work out 30 hours a day. That's really interesting." They did that for the men as well as the women to give us that Utopian physicality, which I thought was such a subliminal part of the show.

What interested you about the character?

Just being on the show. It was a very small role. I was a security officer, and I got to beam somebody up. I wanted to be a part of history. I wanted to be a part of history, and I'm so grateful I got to be. I mean, come on, it's Star Trek. It's amazing, as you well know.

What else do you recall about your days on set?

I was there for probably four days, five days, so I'd show up and head to my trailer and then go to the makeup trailer, and the makeup trailer is where I got to spend the most time listening, mostly listening. I did very little talking, being a green newbie with such a small role, and I got to listen to the other cast members discuss their day and the process and watch them go through their sometimes hours and hours of makeup. They were warm and friendly, like all great actors you get to meet on any series, and they were professional and encouraging and kind and sweet. It was a nice vibe on set, really calm, really nice. Everybody had a good time. But, for me, being on the sets was the greatest thing in the world. I remember all I would do was walk around the set, touch things. I sat in (Picard’s) chair, too. Those doors that slid open so easily and made that sound, I realized they were just a pulley system that the backstage guy would pull on a rope and it would open the doors. But it was very theatrical. I kept thinking, "This is just like doing a play. This is like being onstage and up close and personal.” It's all clearly fake, but in my imagination, it made it even more special to know that it didn't matter. It transcended all that once you were watching an episode and you could believe that the invisible was visible, and you really felt them floating in space. They weren't at Paramount. They were literally in the universe. It just goes to show you the power of our minds and how, when we suspend our disbelief like that, we can do that with anything.

If you could play any character from Trek, other than the one you played, who would you want to play and why?

The empath.

Deanna Troi? Marina Sirtis's role...

Yes, from Next Gen. I would want to play her, although she had the biggest challenge, I think, because she had to appear soft and strong, and sometimes that got stuck her stuck in the middle. I probably would be way over the top with it. I loved that role. I loved all the women on Star Trek, and all the men's roles.

Star Trek is celebrating its 50th anniversary year. What does it mean to you to be one small piece in this gigantic mosaic?

That's so meta, right? That's what we all are. We're teeny, teeny specks in this gigantic thing, and I'm proud. It fills me with joy. It's validating as an actor to have been asked to play for that week because I got welcomed into the club. It’s, like you said, a tiny symbol that I belonged as part of television history. I really love television. I absolutely love it. It's my passion. I want to spend 14 hours a day with 250 people in organized chaos. It seems to make me the most calm. I love that we get to tell stories so quickly, put together a whole story that really moves people in their living rooms or at their computers. For me, being a part of that right at the beginning of my career was just a validation to keep going and always, always have hope and never give up.

Before we let you go, your upcoming projects include the films The Year of Spectacular Men and Halfway. What do you play in those?

The Year of Spectacular Men is a great film. That was another project that I loved doing this year. It was written by Maddie Deutch, Lea Thompson's daughter. Lea Thompson directed it and Zoey Deutch, her other daughter, also starred in it. It's a beautiful, funny, edgy, quirky, hilarious script, and all the performances were great, and I'm really proud of Lea's direction. I think that's going to be a little hit. I'm excited about that one. Halfway is a film I shot on a farm in Wisconsin, my home state. That’s by a British director named Ben Caird, whose father is very, very famous. It was a true pleasure working with him and Quinton Aaron, from The Blindside, on that film. I play Quinton's aunt in a mixed-race family, and that's a moody sort of thriller drama about family. That was another good thing that happened. Thank you for reminding me of what I've been doing the last couple years.