Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) stopped by The Alpha Quadrant webcast last weekend to join Garrett Wang (Voyager‘s Harry Kim), Aron Eisenberg (DS9‘s Nog), and producer EvelDick Donato to reminisce about her days on Star Trek and explain why we won’t be seeing her on The Orville anytime soon.
Asking to double-dip as both Kira and Janeway
During Deep Space Nine‘s run, when Voyager had just gone into production, Visitor heard that Genviève Bujold, who’d been cast as Captain Janeway, had quit a few days into shooting. While producers scrambled to replace her, Visitor decided that despite the exhaustingly long days already a part of her life on DS9, the role was a gem, and she wanted it:
Can you believe I had the nerve? I accosted Rick Berman in the street right in front of Stage 4 at Paramount and said, “Why not? Why? Why can’t I?” Because you know, they had the mix-up, and they fired the person they hired, and all of that stuff. And I said, “I can do both!” … I don’t know what I was thinking. And he was like – he practically patted me on the head, and said, ‘No, we’re gonna get a whole other actress for that.’”
Garrett Wang on why Bujold Quit Voyager
After confessing this, Visitor was surprised when Wang told her that Bujold hadn’t been fired, she’d quit. He described what it was like for Bujold on set.
We would shoot, and and she’d just run off of set, she wouldn’t even socialize. So I stopped her, I kind of blocked her path, I asked her, “Hey, how’s it going?” And she stopped, and she kinda gave me the once over, and she felt like, “Hm, I guess I can share with this guy.” And it was Genviève Bujold, the French-Canadian actress, so she looks at me and she says, [in French accent by Garrett] “I feel as eef I cannot trust anyone.” I said, “What do you mean by that?” She said, “Well, I come in, and I want Janeway to be Captain first, woman second. I don’t want hairstyle, I don’t want lot of makeup, but I come to work, and they give me hair, they do my make-up, and they lie to me.”
So she quit the second day, and she realized that the shooting schedule would be crazy, and she had two very young children at home, so maybe ages three and five, and she thought, ‘I’m never going to see this kids grow up, I’m not gonna be around. The shooting schedule’s nutty, they didn’t do the things they promised me in the beginning…’ and thank god she quit before we aired one episode, right?
He then added this little tidbit:
…the rumor was this: if they couldn’t find a female Janeway, because they had a very exhaustive search for the first Janeway, they were gonna switch Janeway to a man, okay? Janeway was gonna become a guy, and at that point, the next rumor was, an existing cast member that was a male cast member, would be fired and then cast with a female, to keep the gender ratio the same.
Kira Nerys, an anomaly for 1993
They covered other fascinating topics, like Visitor’s first impressions of Kira Nerys, and how that affected her audition.
I remember going back and going, ‘No, wait a minute, this isn’t a woman’s role.’ This is … ’cause you gotta think 25 years ago, what I was getting was, you know, “Kids, get off that couch!” and sitcoms and really light stuff where [you were] the girlfriend or the victim or the killer. Nothing well-rounded. And this comes along and I was thinking, ‘Wait a minute this is a man’s role. They made a mistake.’ And when I found out it wasn’t a mistake I was so excited I remember, I had a dark green shift dress … and I went out and got a pair of Doc Martens, and the Doc Martens kind of informed me, where I was and who I was. I listened to a lot of rap back then, I still listen to rap, but I really pounded it in my car on the way to my audition, and that was my prep for it and I walked in and I was fully Kira when I walked in the room.
Despite getting the role after a mere two auditions–a breeze compared to the experiences of Wang and Enterprise‘s Connor Trinneer–she still had some adjustments to make.
Rick Berman said, “Uh, you walk down the Promenade like John Wayne. You’ve gotta stop that.” [laughs] It’s true, I did. I looked at footage lately it’s like oh my god I do look like John Wayne … So I thought, okay, put me in heels and I can’t walk like that.
Favorite Deep Space Nine episodes
Eisenberg asked what her favorite DS9 episodes were, and she cited “Far Beyond The Stars” as “spectacular” and mentioned “Our Man Bashir” (although she got the title mixed up with “Doctor Bashir, I Presume”).
It just doesn’t get better than to be able to play a Bond girl, basically, with the really bad Slavic accent, on a round bed, coming out of a wall. It’s ideal. I think I even had a cigarette in a cigarette holder. It was fabulous.
She said that her favorite was “Duet,” which she said “really got under my skin” and got her to understand Kira on an even deeper level–she even dreamed she was Kira, hiding in a Cardassian camp.
“Pissed” that she’s not on The Orville
Visitor has done voice work for Seth MacFarlane on Family Guy and also appeared in his film Ted 2, so it’s only natural that the guys asked her if they could expect to see her on The Orville, and she had a sad tale to tell:
I’m going to tell you something that I haven’t talked about. It is an exclusive, which is really annoying, but it’s not good news. When I was making the trip across country, moving from New York to L.A., I had to do it in a certain amount of time. And it had to be in a car because I have two old lady dogs and a parrot, and my oldest dog was not going to survive another plane. So, I auditioned the week before for The Orville. That Friday, my agent at the time got a call putting me on hold. She never told me. So I finalized plans, and started traveling across country, thinking I didn’t get it. Then she calls and tells me I got it, and I couldn’t – everything was already in motion. And I wrote Seth a note. I didn’t blame my agent at the time, but that’s really what happened. They lost me the job, and the fact that it put Seth in a bad position at the last minute … so there’s a bad taste in my mouth about losing a great part on The Orville and, you know, that’s been my last thing with Seth. It just pisses me off because I adore Seth.
About her role, she told them,
It was a leader of people who had to get everybody off her planet because it was going to explode, and she leaves her, she stays on it and sends her wife and child off.
Her description doesn’t match any of the twelve aired episodes from season one, so it may be from an upcoming season two episode, or perhaps it’s the second plot line from the 13th episode of season one that was held over to become part of season two.
Full Alpha Quadrant episode
Check out the rest of The Alpha Quadrant‘s webcast for more about life on Deep Space Nine, Visitor’s experience guest starring on shows throughout the 80s (which included working with Denise Crosby), how she learned to overcome her sports ineptitude for DS9‘s baseball episode (“Take Me Out to the Holosuite”), and her thoughts about Eisenberg when they first met, among other topics. You can also catch Wang’s Kate Mulgrew impression when he describes her reaction to the songs of DMX.
I always found her to be very attractive. Probably would have made a pretty memorable captain, shame that didn’t work out. Would love to see her on the Orville at some point.
I’ve always loved her. Something about her always reminded me of the women I’ve had really awesome friendships with. Glad they eased up with Kira’s blatant anger.
Nana was my favorite guest at the trek conventions
Funny friendly and honest as all get out.
Loved her then.
Love he her now.
PEB, I saw it more as her character mellowing over time, as she accepted co-working with Starfleet. The harsh feelings of Kira in the beginning seemed quite normal to me!
I LOVE Nerys, she’s one of the best-rounded female characters EVER on Star Trek.
The casting mindset described above seems rather schismatic to me. The producers searched high and low for a female lead, but the show did not focus on issues especially germane to women. So, if the role of Janeway could just as easily have been played by a man as by a woman, then why did the producers handicap their own casting efforts by limiting themselves to a woman for the lead, which they admit that they had a hard time finding, when the implication is that there were at least as many, if not more, male actors available for the role?
Because the part was intended for a woman, but as with DS9, they had to cover themselves in case the studio chickened out, so they left the early character descriptions vague. But there are so many great actors of any and all backgrounds that they can be excruciatingly specific and still not be “handicapping” themselves. I mean, there was no reason to avoid casting a South Asian as Khan in Into Darkness since Bollywood is the largest film industry on Earth, and many are English-speaking actors ready to break into the second-largest film industry on Earth: Hollywood.
I think JJ was just too enamoured with Benedict Cumberbatch’s audition – which is totally fine, he was a great JOHN HARRISON – but there was totally, absolutely, no reason for him to be ( revealed as ) KHAN.
Yeah, Hrithik Roshan would have been perfect as Khan. Charismatic, beautiful man, with muscles like Adonis.
I agree so much, Eric.
I think it was Morgan Freeman who said he auditioned for every part that he could when a new project was casting. Why couldn’t “Middle-Aged Police Detective” be a black man? Why couldn’t “Emergency Room Doctor” be a black man? Why couldn’t “The Psychiatrist” be a black man?
But casting directors often do their work quickly and make choices that accord with what they’ve seen in the past, the “vision” for a character they have in their mind, or what they think the producers will go for. Not the inspired out-of-the-box kind of choice.
I’m glad the writers, producers and directors of ST Disco have been thinking outside the box! Wonderful acting talent, and a cast to inspire generations.
I’m glad the writers, producers and directors of ST Disco have been thinking outside the box!
But, that’s the point. The casting tale above is one of producers trapped in a box of their own making. There’s no reason why Janeway had to be a woman, but they were determined to cast a woman even though they were having a hard time finding one. If they hold auditions open to a variety of types, and a woman auditions and knocks it out of the park, great. But, that’s not what happened with VOY.
It’s called a quota. That’s what politically correct people do. Check the box. There hadn’t been a woman captain yet, so as much as they try to fool the people into thinking that they weren’t engaging in gender discrimination in the name of showing how progressive they were, they went the politically correct route and mandated a woman.
Found her a little over the top at first, but grew rapidly to like her. She was one of my favorites. Just did a Google search because I was curious as to her age, only to find out she and Alexander Siddig were married from 1997-2001… Did not know that.
Yeah. That’s why after Bashir implanted the Obrien’s baby into her, they kept making jokes about Bashir getting her pregnant.
A very warped sense of humour, indeed!
I saw what you did thar DataMat
I thought they missed a trick in SMALLVILLE, by not casting Nana Visitor as Chloe Sullivan’s Mom. That would have been a perfect bit of stunt-casting.
I just love Nana Visitor’s attitude. And damn right: Duet possibly the best episode of DS9’s first season (a first season that, in hindsight, might not have been as tight and compelling – storytelling-wise – as the show’s later seasons but nevertheless offered a considerable number of damn fine episodes).
My feeling is that each Star Trek series after the first tries to find its legs over season 1, and really hit their stride season 3 (TNG being the best example). The quality of season 1 we’ve come to expect in the Netflix era is not like what could have been expected in the past. In contrast now shows are prone to the Walking Dead style zombie-franchise — they keep making seasons when it should have ended a while ago.
I’m excited to see if Discovery continues the Star Trek trend of getting better as the seasons go, or if it will be like Stranger Things or Dare Devil and get worse.
If The Orville role was only a single episode, there’s still plenty of time for McFarland to write her a something awesome.
Hope he will, hope there’s no bad blood.
Duet was the first episode of Star Trek I saw.
An awesome introduction!
Nana is great. Love these comments by her. :) I’m also glad to hear that there’s a reason why she’s wearing heels, because that always bothered me.
It always bothered me too! Kira seemed far too practical a person for that nonsense, and I thought it was just sexist costuming.
In a way it was, because why can’t a woman walk like John Wayne? Yeah, it might look goofy, but it might suit the character.
But if Visitor felt she needed to wear heels, fine.
It was bothering me as well. Star Trek has always been guilty of this kind of blatant sexism. With Ilya in ST-TMP, then replacing Kes with a cat suit wearing 7 of 9, then that totally unnecessary scene of Dr Marcus in her underwear in STID, T’Pol with her interpretation of a Vulcan more akin to a stripclub dancer than a supposedly stoic Vulcan (let’s not even talk about that decontamination scene with Trip…). As a man I find this all very insulting. It’s like they feel they need to put women in such sexualized situations to make us watch. Like we’re 14 year old horny teenagers with testicles for brains… Give us a good script and good acting and we’ll watch. For women I would think it’s even worse. Surely they didn’t put Kira in heels only to keep her from walking like John Wayne. They put her in heels to give her that sexy model-down-the-catwalk walk… Again with the BS.
I hope Macca is listening and wish her the best for an Orville recall !
Was Kira supposed to originally be Ensign Ro? A different actress entirely.
Yes, but Michelle Forbes didn’t want to do a series. (kind of Wil Wheaton syndrome, though she at least got SWIMMING WITH SHARKS and KALIFORNIA before the features dried up for her.)
She gave a fantastic performance in Season 1 of “The Killing.” If you like her acting, don’t miss it.
I’ve watched the whole run, yeah, I agree she was excellent as usual.
Sigh, Nana is the BEST. It’s funny, this mindless Discovery show keeps patting itself on the back for strong female characters, but it can’t come remotely close to Kira, Dax, Kassidy, Lady Founder. On Discovery, Burnham ranges from boring to incoherent to Days of Our Lives, and they turned Tilly into the annoying friend from a romantic comedy. I wonder if Ira Steven Behr is available to run a Star Trek show on CBS All Access…
…thus far in Discovery, I tend to agree with you, Galt. Trek has had stronger female characters in the past, imo. Kira and Dax, especially. But we’re only just finished with season one. I’m hoping season two really impresses me.
bring her on Discovery as an Andorian or a Vulcan or some such.
Garret Wang giving employment advice to major actors is just so hilarious.
The idea of her doing double duty on DS9 and Voyager as Janeway was pretty ridiculous.
Probably better too–since I liked Kira but couldn’t stand Janeway. Janeway was a blithering incompetent, and given that she changed a timeline for her own selfishness, is the biggest villain in Star Trek history.
As for the Orville, from what she described, it was a guest appearance. Given that the show was not canceled, there doesn’t seem to be any reason that she can’t appear in a guest role in another episode. It’s not like she’s banned from the show for life.
I know everyone always goes to Janeway and Crusher when they think best female Trek characters but, Major Kira is without a doubt, my favorite one. She’s the badass that was the perfect first officer for Sisko. She was perfect from start to finish.
And by perfect I mean, she was tough, strong, and oh so flawed. Her development over 7 seasons is great.
They still could make her a Captain on Discovery
Why should Visitor be pissed off about not getting a role on The Orville? She’s a classy actress and it’s a trainwreck. She dodged a bullet there if you ask me.
I hope Nana gets cast on The Orville. I think she would fit really well in that show!