On Saturday Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Chase Masterson will participate in Creation Entertainment’s second Star Trek virtual panel. We thought it was a good time to check in with Chase to talk about the event, get her thoughts on her time playing Leeta, and find out what she has been up to.
You have already done a virtual con. Do you see advantages to doing it online?
I see great advantages to virtual conventions. They are accessible to everyone. To those who live in places that don’t get Trek conventions or can’t afford to travel, this is a fantastic way to connect with the stories and actors you love. It is a powerful way to connect with other fans that share your interests. It is important to keep our social connections alive during this period. I applaud Creation for launching these series of events.
Are you embracing virtual cons as a new normal or stopgap during the quarantine?
The greatest thing about convention experiences is being able to connect with fans and them being able to connect with us. In this new era, this is the closest we can come to that in-person experience. It is very powerful. We still get to know fans personally. We get to answer questions. We have a lot of fun, and I think this contact is more important than ever because our worlds have all gotten so much smaller. But ultimately, I believe conventions will be back even stronger when it is safe. Being there in person is a lot of fun for all of us.
Let’s turn back to the ’90s. When you got the call to appear in “Explorers” in the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, were you given any indication Leeta would be a recurring character?
I had no idea whatsoever. They told me it was possibly recurring, but they say that a lot, partly so they can get more actors interested in these roles. But at that point in my career, I would have been fine with just four lines in one episode, especially on a show as fantastic as Deep Space Nine. I am eternally grateful they gave Leeta the run that I had, as well as the character arc and depth of changes. I could not be happier.
You actually got the first call to be back within a month for “Facets,” was that a clue there was more to come?
When I saw that I was playing one of Dax’s hosts I felt there was a chance could be coming back because Dax and her hosts were such a powerful ongoing theme in the series. But especially when they had more scenes with Leeta and Bashir I realized this was something that can really last. Then when they put me with Rom, it felt great. It felt secure. Leeta and Rom were the Lucy and Ricky of Star Trek, and a much needed lighter storyline within the context of war and a lot of other pain on DS9.
Did you have much instruction or information on who Leeta was or a backstory to influence your performance? Did you make up your own?
I did make up my own. I think there were some things in the script regarding Leeta being a Bajoran war orphan. But there wasn’t a lot of backstory and that is okay. There were so many recurring characters, it was difficult for the writers to make the world any more full or detailed than it already was. It would have been great to have a little more context for Leeta and a little more grit and depth as the series progressed. But as it is, the character arc was brilliant and very indicative of the hope of Star Trek to go from being a lowly Dabo Girl, and a Bajoran at that, to being the wife of the Grand Nagus. I’m happy.
Did they ever explain what the rules of Dabo are? Do you know?
There are no rules for Dabo. It is not a real game and I have to say, Paramount dropped the ball on this one. I think they should have created a game. I still think they should. It would go over like gangbusters at conventions and on cruises.
DS9 had a lot of strong women characters, as has Star Trek in general. Leeta got to show this as well, especially in episodes like “Bar Association.” But while DS9 never had Kira or Dax in catsuits, you and other Dabo Girls did wear some rather risqué outfits. Did you ever have any issues with that or was it something you embraced?
I completely embraced it. It was a way of getting attention to incredibly important scenes. Leeta was brought in initially for sweeps week. These outfits were meant to be eye candy quite frankly. But when you look at the themes of how powerfully compassionate Leeta was, like how she stood up for justice for the “Bar Association.” And how she truly loved the guy who was only pretty on the inside and saw potential in him so much so that she wouldn’t sign a prenup because she was determined for their love to be forever. All of those things are part of Leeta, which is why they kept bringing her back. It wasn’t for the skimpy outfits anymore, those were just a way to draw attention to the rich and vital themes that Leeta was a part of.
The outfits did get less skimpy over time.
They did because I became a wife and mother. Leeta was always meant to be not the trashy Dabo Girl, that some of them were quite frankly. Leeta was meant to be a more demure Dabo Girl, sort of working her way through nursing school or something.
The Dabo Girl with a heart of gold?
Some of the actresses who have worked on Star Trek have talked about what it felt like to have their hair and their look scrutinized by the proverbial guys in suits. Did you ever experience that kind of thing?
I didn’t feel scrutinized. But, there have been times throughout my life in Star Trek that I felt – I have really never said this before – I felt taken way less seriously than had I been the same actress in a suit. I felt often that I wasn’t seen as a serious actor. I actually had one actor apologize to me for underestimating me because he didn’t know I had done Shakespeare. My first professional job was playing the lead part of Helena in a Midsummer’s Night Dream when I was 18 years old. I did feel frustrated that way, but only among certain people. But I have also realized I have nothing to prove. I know who I am. I know the actress that I am and am certainly way more than just Leeta the Dabo Girl. And that extends to my work in my real life as well.
So, you feel satisfied with Leeta’s arc over the seasons?
I do feel very satisfied and grateful. Could Leeta have been smarter and more savvy and more gritty? Absolutely. Could I have walked into that and carried it? Absolutely. Am I thrilled with what I got? Absolutely, because Deep Space Nine was one of the best shows ever written and to be any part of that is incredible.
Last year we lost two of your DS9 co-stars. Can you share any thoughts about Aron Eisenberg and René Auberjonois?
Thank you. Aron was wonderful. He was such a jokester and so incredibly light-hearted and fun. And that went from his days as Nog on set to every interaction with the fans. I sat next to Aron for many years at conventions and seen first-hand how full of life he was, and how gracious and kind and personal he was with fans. He really was an actor who has given huge parts of himself, both on-screen and off.
René, he was such an incredible actor that meant so much to so many people for so long. It is a huge loss to Star Trek, and I know for his family and friends as well. René loved life and truly appreciated the fans and raised so much money for Doctors Without Borders, that was a huge passion of his. I am so sorry he is gone.
A couple of years back you returned to Star Trek to voice not just one, but two Leetas for Star Trek Online. What was it like for you, and any chance for more?
Virtual Leeta and Mirror Universe Leeta are both so much fun. I absolutely loved playing Mirror Leeta because she is so deliciously evil. She would eat the Borg Queen for breakfast and come back for seconds. She is ruthless and selfish and everything regular Leeta is not. It is really fun to get into that character and to realize the depth in that people are only that vicious and selfish out of fear. So, it really is a multi-layered character that is fun to get into.
I love Star Trek Online because it is more Deep Space Nine. People always ask if there is going to be a movie or any chance for a reboot and we have to say no, we knew that when the show wrapped. But with Star Trek Online you get more Deep Space Nine, whether it is Leeta, Mirror Universe Leeta, or actually a third character which is Holo-Leeta. I love reprising this character and it is great to see how popular it is with fans. And Star Trek Online is a game you don’t have to pay to play, it’s free. I want to urge everybody to go in and look around and walk the promenade and see the characters, just for the artistry of it all. It is extremely detailed and beautifully done. And a lot of fun.
More recently you did voice work on Mark Altman’s CW sci-fi show Pandora, playing the ship’s computer. Were you influenced by Majel Barrett’s work as the computer voice from the 24th century Star Trek shows?
Yes! It was completely influenced by that. In fact, Mark has said that was part of his thinking in casting me in Pandora. The show has a lot of throwbacks to science fiction and this role with me is something he did purposefully. It is so much fun. It was just going to be one little thing but once we got into the studio, I was able to give this computer voice a lot of sass and savvy and imbue her with a jaded and sometimes snarky and sometimes compassionate personality. So far I have been in nine episodes and I am excited to see what is ahead.
Voice work, including animation, Doctor Who audio, and more has become a bigger part of your life in the last decade or so. Do you almost prefer working in the booth as opposed to under the hot lights on set?
The voice work fell in my lap. I didn’t go looking for any of these jobs. I didn’t even have a voice-over agent until recently. I do love doing voice work. You don’t even have to wash your hair! [laughs] But at the same time, TV and film and theater are where my heart lives.
Can you talk about any projects you have recently done or are going to do?
There are two that are shot in the can, which couldn’t be more different. One is called Manipulated, and I am a lead in that playing the highly ambitious ringleader of a group of women on trial for murder. The other is called Skipping Stones, and that is a beautiful drama set in the ‘90s that has to do with extremely relatable family issues where I play an overprotective, broken mother.
Since last year’s release of What We Left Behind, there has been more clamoring for DS9 in HD. Have you heard anything about that?
I have heard nothing. I know there was a concerted effort. I know that fans would make it worth CBS’ while financially. But I don’t know anything. I do know from polls we do at conventions that Deep Space Nine gets more than its fair share of the audience. Even though classic Trek and Next Gen hold solid places in people’s hearts and the excitement for Discovery and Picard are really on fire, I think people keep going back to Deep Space Nine because of the power of the storylines.
Have you seen a big uptick in interest in DS9 since it has been available for streaming?
It has grown in popularity since streaming grown. This is something Ira Steven Behr predicted as far back as the fifth season of DS9. He could see the way the Internet was starting to bloom and that streaming was going to be a thing. He knew people would be more attracted to the show when they had the ability to binge-watch it. It was a show that had a huge amount of respect for its audience. It challenged its audience. It relied on its audience to watch every episode in order, unlike The Next Generation or The Original Series, and take one episode out of context and you wouldn’t really have missed the point of the episode. Deep Space Nine you had to keep watching, and it was brilliant that Ira could see that coming and the courage and wonderful audacity to challenge the audience in that way.
Have you been watching Picard?
I have seen a few and what I saw I absolutely loved. I think the new cast members are exceptional. I think they are all putting in amazing work.
We have seen a few characters from the 24th-century Trek shows on Picard, what do you think Leeta is up to in 2399?
I think Leeta is a leader of a social justice movement like Fereginar has never seen! She is the Michelle Obama of Ferenginar, standing up for the marginalized and making sure everyone has a seat at the table.
Let’s pivot to talk about the charity you founded, Pop Culture Hero Coalition. What is the group doing to help out during this COVID-19 pandemic?
I am proud to say we have completely adapted our work in schools and are making it available to children, teens, and adults free of charge. “The Heroic Journey at Home: Mental Health During COVID-19” is available on our website, popculturehero.org. When we saw how many people will be coping with isolation, we knew we had to do something. Isolation is hard enough itself, but the way that it severely exacerbates depression, anxiety, loneliness, fear, shame, family conflict, and other serious issues is an extremely serious thing. I feel strongly that mental health support should be available for free. It is something that we all need. I am extremely grateful for a powerhouse team to create and now recreate this program.
Join Chase’s virtual panel Saturday and meet and greet next Wednesday
Chase Masterson’s virtual panel is on Saturday, May 9th at 10:00 AM PT. The live event uses StageIt, with tickets priced as “pay what you can.” Chase will also be doing a limited meet and greet on May 14th, with 10 slots being auctioned off. You can bid at auctions.creation.com.
And Creation just announced that the following weekend features Star Trek: Enterprise’s Connor Trinneer and Dominic Keating. Sign up at StageIt.
Keep up with all the Star Trek conventions and event news here at TrekMovie.com.