In advance of the May 13th wide release of “What We Left Behind,” the new documentary focused on the television series ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,’ I was given the chance to speak with several of the cast and crew of the seminal 1990s Star Trek series. Today, ScienceFiction.com proudly brings you exclusively my conversation with Nana Visitor, who played the role of Kira Nerys throughout the entire series’ seven-season run.
Visitor was a delight to talk with; energetic and engaged, she clearly enjoys talking about her time on ‘Deep Space 9,’ as well as her experiences interacting with fans and her wide-ranging career in general. Check out our conversation below!
ScienceFiction.com: When you got the call about “What We Left Behind” being made – do you remember your reaction?
Nana Visitor: It was like slowly being boiled… <laughs> It was such a slow process, but what it really meant to me was “Oh boy, I get to sit down with [showrunner] Ira [Steven Beher] and talk!” And it was just these amazing conversations, and it was an opportunity each time. By the time [the documentary] actually happened, it was like I didn’t even notice it, because I’d been living with the idea for so long.
In the documentary, the cast and crew acknowledge that Star Trek fans weren’t overly receptive to the show initially; you yourself called the series the “middle child.” Why do you think that Deep Space 9 has come to resonate so profoundly with fans after the fact?
I think that one huge reason is that serialization, “back in the day,” actually worked against us. If you missed an episode, it wasn’t easy to find it, and then you were left with questions of what was really going on. When you could finally just binge-watch the series, it made a huge difference to people. People who were initially lukewarm to the series or didn’t quite “get it,” to re-watch it – and I’ve heard this from fans over and over again – they said “at first I didn’t get it, but now that I’ve binge-watched it, and oh my God!” They got more out of it, of course.
I think it really speaks to our times, and I think people are more used to seeing characters like my character [Kira Nerys] – they are prolific now, they are all over the place, women who aren’t perfect or who don’t fit a particular mold. We [as a society] are feeling easier with these things.
In that regard, ‘Deep Space Nine’ has always felt a bit “ahead of its time” – in retrospect, it’s got to feel good and make you proud of having been part of something like that.
Oh yes – I was always proud of the show when I was doing it. When I finished it, I deeply loved the show and appreciated the incredible opportunity that I had, all those years ago, to play a character that really didn’t exist anywhere else, as far as I was concerned.
RELATED: Trailer And Release Details Are Out For ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Documentary ‘What We Left Behind’
Ira and the writers touched on their ideas for characters in their Season 8 treatment; if you could write the ongoing story of Colonel Kira post-Deep Space 9, what would you personally want for the character?
Certainly, I would want her to remain Colonel – or more! <laughs> – and I would want her to be back on the station, in some kind of role that seems to touch on – she comes back to the station and comes back to work with everybody else in that truly cooperative environment. That’s what I want to see. I want to see answers now – I want to see her bring answers to the table.
I’m always curious, for actors who have played characters that have “lived on” in novelizations, video games, etc. – have you followed the progression of Kira as a character in this “expanded universe?”
I get told what she’s up to, but I don’t personally follow it; as far as I’m concerned, she’s still on the station, looking out at the stars. That’s where it stops for me. Not that I couldn’t start it up again myself! <Laughs> Kira, to me, is a collaboration between the writers and myself – and, to a certain extent, the fans were involved in the story as well.
It’s amazing – I can put myself back on the Promenade at 2am, exhausted, in makeup since 5am the day before, and your body starts to give out, but I would say to myself, “they are going to see this… this is going to be important to them… and I’ve got to bring it, I’ve got to find it in me to make this great.” That’s what I mean by the collaboration with the fans: they were always in my mind, and what I wanted to be able to be for them.
Do you have any particularly memorable or crazy stories from your time doing fan conventions that you’d like to share?
I remember, early on, I didn’t understand the convention scene; I hadn’t been exposed to it, and then “fan experience” was foreign to me at the time. I hadn’t really thought about what I would do or wouldn’t do if asked.
Very early on, I remember a very tiny infant being placed in front of me on my table, and the parents asked me to sign the diaper! <Laughs> And I just didn’t think about it – there were so many people in line, it was hours and hours of signing back in the day, that I didn’t really have a moment to stop and think about it… so I just did it. I signed an infant. <Laughs>
I don’t think I would do that again. I have, since, signed on people, knowing that they were going to get it tattooed on them. That’s a rather bizarre thing – and I always want to say, “wait, I can do better, let me do it again!” But you can’t, because it’s in pen or marker. “I don’t like the way I made that ‘N!'” But what are you gonna do?
Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that baby’s diaper was clean when you signed it!
<Laughs> Let’s hope! I’ve changed quite a few in my time, but only signed the one.
A while back, you had an asteroid named after you – how does it feel to have your namesake bouncing around outer space?
It’s one of those things that you almost have to disassociate and just say, “that is so cool that I can’t even wrap my head around it.” It’s wild! It’s absolutely wild.
You had a short-lived but memorable YouTube cooking show with your sister Zan, and you’ve written a cookbook. Any future plans for more food-related entertainment?
I’m so non-linear in my plans. I do what comes up to me in the moment and what feels right, so I have absolutely no idea what’s next – so, I can’t answer that right now! I honestly don’t know.
In ‘What We Left Behind,’ one of my favorite parts was watching the writers discuss your on-screen interactions with Rene Auberjonois [who plays Odo]; the writers essentially said that through your on-screen interactions you made them think that there was a possibility for a romantic interaction between the two characters. Was the something that was planned or in either of your heads to do at the time?
That was not planned at all! It’s interesting to me because the romance really only started in the sixth season, which is crazy because it feels like it was always that way [between the characters]. It was definitely not planned; we were surprised. It seemed unlikely. On certain other shows, there were friendships that weren’t really friendships but simply hidden sexual tensions, you know, and the question every week was “will they or won’t they?” I really liked that [Kira and Odo] were friends – real, deep friends. I thought the way that it was handled was wonderful and truthful. I loved that we didn’t end up together at the end of the series – he went back to his people and I stayed on the station… it gave me a sense that they loved each other so much that they allowed themselves to do what the other truly needed. The ultimate love.
What’s next for Nana Visitor? Where can audiences next find you?
I’ve done a few films that are coming out here and there – it’s odd, I never really like to speak on “what’s next,” and that’s probably not a good thing. <Laughs> I’ll pop up – you’ll see me out there.
‘What We Left Behind’ lands in movie theaters nationwide for one night only on May 13. Tickets are available at FathomEvents and participating theater box offices.