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Catching Up with Trek's First Vorta, Molly Hagan

Catching Up with Trek's First Vorta, Molly Hagan

What do Code of Silence, Some Kind of Wonderful, Herman’s Head, The Dentist, Election, Unfabulous, Seinfeld, Princess Protection Agency, iZombie, Sully, This Is Us, Jane the Virgin, Big Little Lies and... Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have in common? The answer is Molly Hagan. The talented actress has co-starred in all of the above, making each one a touch better with her presence. Can't quite place her on DS9? Add some funky ears and an unforgettable wig and, voila, you have Eris, Hagan's telekinetic character -- and Star Trek's first-ever Vorta -- in "The Jem'Hadar." recently caught up with Hagan for an interview in which she filled us in on her current projects and talked in detail about her memories of making "The Jem'Hadar." And there's a great anecdote a date with Brent Spiner that never quite transpired. Read on below...

What are you up to these days in terms of work and life? IMDB mentions Boris and the Bomb, Big Little Lies and The Dark Web. Tell us a little bit about each experience…

Boris and the Bomb was written, produced and directed by my friend David Kronmiller. He let me play with them for a day. I play a too-enthusiastic and failing bed and breakfast owner. It was a blast. I wear a small prosthetic piece in the end of my scene that was deeply troubling for people who love me. You will need to see the film to find out what I’m talking about.

Big Little Lies was fascinating because the very talented director, Jean-Marc Vallee, worked in way I had not experienced before. He made the set so comfortable that you didn’t really know when you were filming, Actually, Clint Eastwood was a lot like that too. Jean-Marc would allow a scene to develop and he changed the lighting and camera to accommodate what was happening organically. I loved the experience. I play Dr. Moriarty, a child psychologist.

The Dark Web is going to be great. I had the opportunity to work with Graham Sibley, with Boman Modine directing. It was a very happy laid-back shoot and I am so glad I could be a part of it. I play Victoria, a passenger in an Uber-like car service. My memory is so bad that until something is released or airs and I can see my credit on IMDB, I don’t know what I worked on. I have been lucky the last few years to be part of some wonderful projects.

Trek fans know you from your DS9 episode, but if people run into you on the street, what of your other performances are they most eager to talk about with you?

I was fortunate enough to play Michael’s mom in the CW's Jane the Virgin. People love that show -- as do I -- and want to talk about it. But even after all these years, I think women approach me about Some Kind of Wonderful the most. It was such an important movie for young adults at that time. It really spoke to the “Drummer Girl” in all of us.

Before you appeared on Trek, how familiar, or not, were you with the franchise?

Very. I was a huge Star Trek fan. I grew up with The Original Series and would often quote the show. For me, The Next Generation really hit home with the anthropologic ideal of the Prime Directive. This concept has had a huge impact on my life. It is also one I struggle with constantly. I so want to affect change in people’s lives, but everyone has their own journey. When do you shut up? When do you speak?

How did you land your role as Eris in “The Jem’Hadar”?

I had auditioned for The Next Generation several times. So, I was comfortable going in for Junie Lowry-Johnson and Ron Surma. When you met with producers, I think Mike Piller was there, you auditioned in a cavernous room on the Paramount lot. It was an un-renovated forgotten area that was extremely uncomfortable and intimidating. But it did allow you to move around and feel expansive. I had come up with some physical stuff I wanted to do when I used my telekinetic powers. In that big space, it felt natural and not over-the-top.

We’ll talk about the makeup in a moment, but what do you remember most about your Trek experience?

Armin Shimerman. I adored Armin. He was so kind, talented and patient. He was in the makeup chair before I was. He taught me what to expect with wearing prosthetics and because he was so patient I learned very quickly that I should be patient, too, even though it only took a third of the time to apply my ear pieces. I got to talk with Armin while we sat in the makeup trailer and it was a real treat and an honor. My memories actually have a lot to do with makeup and hair because I had to come to work around 4 a.m. The shooting hours were also long, so by the end of the episode my internal clock was messed up. For about a week after the gig had wrapped, I still didn't understand what time of the day it was and I lost a big chunk of hair. I gained tremendous respect for the cast of this show and other Star Trek series because I finally understood what kind of hours and dedication it took to film these.

An unrelated anecdote. Rosalind Chao is a friend of mine and back in 1990 we did a movie of the week together called The Last Flight Out. She told me that Brent Spiner was single and that she would try to set me up with him. Nothing ever came of it. So, a few years later I was attending a Star Trek convention, as a fan, and Brent was speaking. He opened the floor up to questions and from the back I jumped up and down raising my hand, and he called on me. “Mr. Spiner, when given the chance why didn’t you go out with me?” Luckily, he recognized me and laughed. I run into Brent every now and then and am still very keen on him. What a great actor.

How did you enjoy working with the DS9 cast, especially Avery Brooks?

Avery is a brilliant actor and, frankly, I think I was intimidated by him. He was very kind to me but I think I was a bit freaked out.

What's the moment in “The Jem’Hadar” that you saw in the script and just couldn't wait to get on the stage to play? And why were you so excited to play it?

Number one, seeing that I was the first Vorta, the first of a new kind of previously undiscovered humanoid. Number two, seeing that I had telekinetic powers. Number three, finding out that I was in fact the bad guy. I just couldn’t wait. I immediately began working on a physical gesture that would indicate when I was using my telekinesis. I thought it could become the defining gesture of my people, like the Vulcan "Live Long and proper” hand gesture. So, I came up with a motion where both my hands looked like they were taking energy in from my body before I pulsed it back out through my hands. It reminded me of something I saw Bruce Lee do.  It never got used because a) they had great special effects and didn’t need me to do any gestures to sell “my powers" and b) they were concerned that any future Vorta may not be able to replicate it. I was beyond disappointed.

That makeup was pretty exotic, and, as you noted, you were the first Vorta fans ever saw. What do you recall of Mike Westmore and the makeup team getting her look right? And what was it like to see yourself in a mirror when it was complete?

It was a thrill to get to meet Mike Westmore, let alone have something designed by him on my face. I was so excited to have my face cast done in the workshop where they imagined and created all the appliances. I loved my wig, loved the prosthetics and loved the beauty makeup they put on over it all. I thought I was so pretty. And the contacts! I loved the contacts. It made me instantly feel “other.” That is the beauty behind getting an opportunity to wear a Mike Westmore design. The outside helps the actor create an internal experience that they would not otherwise have. It makes the acting better.

How pleased were you with the finished episode?

I love the Ferengi, so any time they had a lot to do I was happy. Armin particularly is so damn funny I could watch him read the phone book. I loved the episode and I loved all the quirky head gestures I made and I looked so beautiful.  It was a terrific cliffhanger.

The producers apparently wanted you back for a pair of subsequent episodes – “The Search, Part II” and “The Ship” – but you were not available. How disappointed were you that did not get to return?

Well, I took a gamble and I lost, on both counts. I was not available because I was testing for an NBC pilot with Dabney Coleman called Madman of the People. Needless to say, I didn’t get that role, and by then DS9 had moved on and retooled the character, so Dennis Christopher took over as Borath. I was deeply, deeply disappointed. But it was my fault.

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

Amanda Grayson, Spock’s Mom -- originally played by Jane Wyatt. I find it deeply fascinating and touching that she fell in love with Sarek, a Vulcan. How could logic better our species? Our culture? This moment in time?  Could it save us?

Star Trek just celebrated its 50th anniversary year. What does it mean to you to be a part of the franchise on this huge occasion?

Since Star Trek was such a big part of my childhood, it means a great deal to me to be a part of this universe and to have had the chance to play the first Vorta. It also made me feel really old. 50 years?