Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nana Visitor Says Deep Space Nine Would Make a Great Star Trek Movie

Retro Repost time. Here’s an interview I did with Nana Visitor, AKA Major Kira Nerys. This went down way back in 2000, after the series came to an end, and after the release of the PC shooter Deep Space Nine: The Fallen. Times have changed: check out the references to Simon & Schuster Interactive and

We go way back. Jason and Nana at E3 2000.

Nana Visitor played Major Kira on TV’s Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She lent her voice and character to the shooter Deep Space Nine: The Fallen, developed by The Collective and published by Simon & Schuster Interactive. We participated in a phone conference with her and other gaming and science fiction sites (like and Stomped).

Us game and scifi geeks peppered her with questions, and she cheerfully responded. And yes, someone did have the stones to ask who would win in a fight: Major Kira or Ro Laren? (Her answer was “I’d have to say that’s a fight I’d like to see, because they’re pretty equally matched. We’d just have to see who remains standing.”)]

Visitor is pretty pleased with the game’s response so far. She told us:

Nana Visitor: I’m thrilled! I’m thrilled because my fellow cast members and I always said that the show would be discovered later on. From what I can tell, just from the guy-on-the-street response, I think it’s true. I think people are finding the show now. That there is a game to go along with that trend, at this time… it’s kinda like perfect timing, and I’m thrilled that it lives up to what I think DS9 was about.

It’s an interesting reaction, considering what she said when I asked if she’d played the game, and if she was much of a gamer herself.

Nana Visitor: I am not a gamer. At all. In any way, shape or form. But I have played the game. And I take great pleasure…[laughs] Of course I made Kira do all kinds of things. That was a lot of fun. I can see where I might actually sit down and seriously learn it and play it. I don’t think I’ll let my sons [editor's note: Buster and Django] play it, it’ll be “how many ways can we make momma die.” There’s something really perverse about that.

The fact that her likeness has been added to so many different things–comic books, 3D models, action figures, etc.–might sound a little freaky, but Visitor says she’s adjusted.

Nana Visitor: You know there are so many things about it that are spooky, and I find myself going into some safe haven in my mind. When I look at the [action figure] for the first time…this little effigy of yourself. You go, “Wow, I have an effigy and it’s in plastic” and stuff. It just suddenly becomes normal life. It’s like, yeah, you put coffee in a cup, yeah, there are my castmates’ voices, and I’m [in] a game and I’m able to make myself run through this corridor and die in some horrific way. [laughter] It just becomes part of life.

Virtual Nana attacks.

Virtual Nana attacks.

Visitor said that lending her voice to the game fit unusually well, since that seems to be one of her most distinctive features.

Nana Visitor: It’s funny, when I get recognized it’s usually by people hearing my voice. My look changes, but my voice seems to clue people in. They go “Major Kira!” even if they’re not looking at me. So I’m pleased that they bothered enough to get me in there to do the sound. That’s a big deal. And it seemed to be very quick and simple. The guys connected to the game were charming and easy, and it was fun. I got to see what it was about, and what it looked like–the look of it, which is pretty stunning–before I actually went into a studio and laid it down.

Recording the different sounds of her character was particularly entertaining.

Nana Visitor: It’s always interesting: like, okay now you die falling off a cliff. Now you die drowning, you know [laughs]. It’s more challenging than people realize, because you’re dealing with the ultimate experiences in life and death and big moments of crisis within a couple of hours. It’s more than you can imagine: every way to die… every way to be in crisis.

Visitor also liked doing the game because it gave her a chance to get back into a role–and a crew–she enjoys being with.

Nana Visitor: [Kira]‘s just a heartbeat away from me. She’s a thought away. I can just remember her background, and she’s back with me. Yeah, you know, one never knows, especially in the Star Trek universe. I would love to play an incarnation of her again. I thought she was a very cool chick.

It's a long way down.

There has been lots of fan speculation about a DS9 movie. Visitor says she’s all for it happening.

Nana Visitor: I think that it would make a great movie, because we were like a repertory company. Almost all of us came from theatre, and we could all hit. I think that we could handle a movie very well. The important thing is, do I think they’re going to do a DS9 movie? No, I don’t think so.

Talk turned to the TV show and Vistor’s take on the writing and the future of the characters (after the seven-season series concluded). She does miss her days working on the show–well, certain things about it anyway.

Nana Visitor: I miss being part of a tribe, and we were a huge tribe. When all of the regular cast members were in a scene, that was a director’s nightmare because we were like a pack and we were uncontrollable. You know when you get a group of people together, like-minded and [having] gone through a lot, it’s so powerful and satisfying, and I miss that the most.

The thing I miss the least is the hours. Through the seven years, our hours were 16 to 20 hours a day. You don’t have a life. It certainly allows your mind to slip very comfortably into the universe you’re existing in. I remember being on the promenade and going “This is starting to feel like where I actually live.” Lack of sleep and spending so much time in one place can do that to you. And that’s something that people don’t think of: you’re trying to do great work and sometimes the situation is stacked against you because you’re just exhausted. Your brain is turning to jelly. If I’d had my druthers I would have done all the shows in peak condition, but it’s impossible when you are doing an hour television series. That’s what I miss the least.

She probably doesn’t miss the make-up sessions either. That prosthetic nose she wore took a long time to get on.

Nana Visitor: It took two hours in the morning, and 20 minutes to take off. I thought they’d have some special glue that you put prosthetics on with, and it comes off easily but it sticks all day…uh uh. They just use GLUE. I mean like, practically wood glue. So it would take 20 minutes to get the damned thing off at the end of the day. Ouch is right.

We asked Visitor to speculate what happens to Kira after the series run.

The bridge of the Defiant in DS9: The Fallen.

Nana Visitor: She definitely gets another promotion. And, she’s commanding the Defiant. That’s for sure. The Defiant goes out, she’s in the chair. Those things were very inappropriately important to me when I was doing the series [laughs]. Now that she’s commanding the station, I imagine her getting more and more politically involved in Bajor. And, frankly, although I don’t think it will ever happen, I’d like to see her become Star Fleet.

And why is that?

Nana Visitor: Because I would like to see what would happen when you take a loose cannon and put them in that universe. I mean, the whole premise of the show was to put Star Fleet up against these people who didn’t live by those rules, and see what happens. One step further to me would be to put her right inside of it, and see what the actual struggle is to live that way. It seems that no one has a problem living by the prime directive. I’d like to see someone struggle with it. Like she would. Like a real loose cannon would.

And her favourite episode of DS9?

Nana Visitor: My favourite episode is still “Duet”. It was done early on as a bottle show. It was to save money because they’d spent all their funds on special effects for other episodes [laughs]. So they had this idea of two people in a cell…It’s my favourite episode because I thought they pulled off the writing beautifully, and it was a moving and important show about racism (and Major Kira’s racism). It was the episode that made me think the most, just as an actor. I had to think really hard about where this woman lay. And also playing someone who is just wrong, who is flawed in her thinking…and doing that honestly.

Now that the show is over, Visitor has gone on to other things. Her most recent roll:

Nana Visitor: I’m doing a musical in New Haven, that has aspirations to go to Broadway, called “Golden Boy.” So I am in a small theatre, singing my heart out at the moment. It’s about two hours from New York City and the boys are in school, so I go back and forth and they go back and forth and what can I tell you? Their mom is an actress.

Visitor likes her theatre work, and has ambitions.

Taking aim at a Jem'Hadar soldier.

Nana Visitor: I do have a dream stage roll, and what I love is that I’m too young for it. So in 20 years, I’d love to do Mama Rose and Gypsy. I watched Angela Lansbury do it when I was working with her. I’d watch her offstage just about every night, and she was amazing. She was so wonderful. I would love to do my own version. Some day.

During her DS9 days, Visitor was a woman acting in a field that has traditionally appealed mainly to men (both scifi and gaming), and she was asked if that gave her a new perspective on the men that consume the media she works with.

Nana Visitor: No. I do not think of it as me having a unique angle on men, but maybe men finding a way into seeing a unique angle on a woman. I think that I got such a great opportunity with Kira, to be this creature that didn’t follow certain gender rules, and I loved it. I loved it when 10-year-old boys came up to me and say “You’re my hero. You’re a big hero to me.” That’s great. I’m not sure how many years ago that that would have happened. So that was such ginger to me with the show. But in terms of what appeals to men…You know, we didn’t know what we were doing. I didn’t approach Kira going “Ok, so I gotta appeal to the 18-49 year old male.” I just really tried to be truthful about what I thought this person was, and it seemed to appeal to a great many people.

While on the show, the male staff writers occasionally needed guidance from Visitor.

Nana Visitor: I did find, here and there, that there would be natural gaps in their understanding of female-specific responses. When Kira has a baby and its Keiko’s baby she’s carrying, she hands the baby over. They had written it that she’s just “Ok, glad that’s over, bye-bye.” No matter whose baby you’re carrying, what a woman knows is that your hormones respond in such a way that it wouldn’t be an easy process, no matter what. There would be some kind of difficulty; there would be some kind of crossed wires about the whole thing. Which, of course, makes it so much more interesting and more complex. And I was never shy about giving my input…and they were never shy about giving me trouble about it, when they thought that I was coming out of left field. I felt like I had to go to battle 100% of the time, and maybe 75 percent of the time I got my way and I thought that was pretty good. It’s just the responsibility you have as an actor, and the writers, I must say, were very responsive.

Although she wasn’t shy about expressing her take on her character, Visitor says she’s not interested in going further–such as writing a script or directing.

Kyra on the prowl.

Nana Visitor: I’m strictly an actor. My mates on the show wanted to direct, wanted to write and did. A couple of the actors have written books based on their Star Trek character–I take my hat off. My input has always been as an actor, and the collaborative effort has usually been me yelling across a table at the writers [laughs] what my ideas for Kira were. But beyond that, I never had any thoughts of doing that.

If The Fallen is a success, a sequel is inevitable. We asked if Visitor would be interested in participating.

Nana Visitor: Oh God, I’d love to be involved, absolutely. As we touched upon before, I’d love to be hooked up with Kira.

I asked her if her positive experiences with The Fallen opened her up to the possibility of doing other games, perhaps a non-Star Trek one.

Nana Visitor: It would depend upon the game. I’d have to say the violence of a lot of games does concern me, and I wouldn’t want to be involved in something like that. The minute you say that it’s something to do with Star Trek, there’s some kind of ethical structure around it. Just with the name itself, so that makes me comfortable being involved. I’m not saying that you can’t kill, or do this and do that, but it’s not quite the same violence that I’ve seen in some of the games. So it would entirely depend.

Speaking of violence, that’s a big issue in all the entertainment industries right now. Visitor has an interesting perspective on that, being a parent and a worker in one of those industries.

Nana Visitor: My very specific perspective is that it’s impossible to deny that violence is a part of life, and that people are the way people are, and treat each other the way they do. [Are] there irresponsible depictions of it? Yes, I think so. Do I think that it incites people? Yes I do. I know that a lot of people would argue that, but that’s personally what I believe. I think there are really irresponsible people, and it always seems it’s people out to make a huge profit, so how disgusting can we be? How far can we push that particular envelope? And then they come up with a concept, and it doesn’t really have a structure around it, or any kind rhyme or reason to it, and then I think it’s pornography. Then violence becomes pornography, and it’s to make a buck, and that’s when I think it becomes dangerous.

Visitor would obviously like to stay on familiar ground. So I asked her if a game was designed specifically about Major Kira, what did she think it would be?

The Promenade, as seen in The Fallen.

Nana Visitor: Interesting… The fact that I’m a parent comes into the thing. I would love to see it be a very mind-bending, chess-type game. I don’t know what sells. I’m sure that’s how they design these games–by what people love to do. You know, it would be fun if it was Ultima Online. If it was that kind of universe–where you would have to chop your own wood, and build your house, and someone steals your keys…I mean, if you really had to live life during an occupation. That would be a very interesting idea to me. Go through what she went through when the Cardassians were occupying Bajor. What life is like: the hardship, running from the enemy, all that stuff. That might be very interesting.

We asked her to write a synopsis and put it on her official webpage. She said she would.

Visitor is pleased with her work on DS9, and likes the idea of its continuation in non-TV formats, such as novels and games.

Nana Visitor: I think it’s an amazing phenomenon and one that I didn’t expect–that the life of this show goes on and on. I think its fantastic. I don’t know what my real contribution to it will be, other than just people living with the show for years after I’ve been involved…and that’s really satisfying. It’s not a job that I’d go “Oh God. I gotta look at that now for the next some odd years.” I’m proud of it. I’m very proud of it.

Jason MacIsaac is the Executive Editor of Electric Playground. Beam him up.