Vintage Interview: Jeri Ryan of “Star Trek: Voyager” from 1998


In my career, I’ve interviewed a lot of interesting musicians and actors. But since many of the magazines and websites that originally published those stories aren’t around anymore, I’ve decided to pull some of the more interesting interviews out of my archive, starting with this one I did with Jeri Ryan, which I did in October of 1998, when she was in her second season as 7 Of 9 on Star Trek: Voyager and was married to her first husband. Parts of the interview were used in a profile piece I did on her for Bikini magazine.

Jeri Ryan

Before we begin, I wanted to let you know that I’ve found it to be helpful during these kinds of interviews to be a little flirty. But I know you’re married and have a kid and all that, so please don’t smack me too hard.

I won’t smack you, I promise, ’cause I’ll probably flirt back. [laughs] Now I have to warn you, if we get into the sex questions I may dodge you, ’cause I have a son.

Right. And I’ve heard you hate the never-ending debate on the Internet about certain parts of your anatomy.

[laughs] Which has toned down considerably since the beginning of last season.

And obviously they were talking about the size of your eyes.

Yes, exactly, the size of my eyes.

Someone told me that the eyes are the only part of the human body that don’t grow.

They don’t? At all?

No. That’s why babies have big eyes. Were your eyes absolutely huge?

Yeah, they were pretty massive.

Any vision trouble?

Yeah, I’m so blind without my contacts it’s not even funny. I probably couldn’t make out your face clearly right now, And it’s getting worse. I’m a prime candidate for that laser surgery but I’m chicken. I got glasses…must have been sixth or seventh grade.

Now are you going to be one of these people who says you were totally unattractive as I kid like I’d ever believe that?

[laughs]  Well, I went through my phases. I was a really cute little kid. I looked like my son, basically. Then I hit puberty, which wasn’t a great look. But I was okay.

Did you have lots of boyfriends in high school?

Uh…yeah, I kind of did, junior and senior year. I had a good time. But I was a nice girl, I was a very good girl. I have to say that for the record. [laughs]

Have you run into those people since then and been all like, “Ha ha, I’m on Star Trek.” Because you’re the same age as me, which means you must’ve had your high school reunion recently.

I didn’t get to go. I wanted to, to be quite honest, for the “Ha ha” factor with some of those ex-boyfriends. But mostly to see some old friends.

You mean to see who’s gotten fat.

Well…maybe. [laughs]

Your dad’s name Jeri Ryan, too, right? Shouldn’t you be Jeri Ryan, Jr.?

No, because it’s the girlie spelling. He’s Gerry. That makes all the difference.

Do you have any sisters?

I don’t. I have one brother.

Do you have a cousin that looks like you? Is your mom…

[laughs] My mom’s really hot, but they’re still married, sorry.

So we have to talk about your uniform on Star Trek. And I have to ask the question that I’m surprised no one has asked before: What do you wear under that thing?

[giggles devilishly] What do you think I wear under that thing?

There’s a corset that goes under that thing, because you can’t wear conventional undergarments or they would show because the fabric is so skin tight.

This costume really is a marvel of engineering. It really is. You wouldn’t think so, because it looks pretty straightforward.

It looks sprayed on.

Well, yeah, it does. It looks like body paint. [laughs]

This process was just fascinating for me to be involved in. I’ve never seen anything so intricate before. They literally measured every inch of me. It’s that detailed.

They also wanted it to look like skin, essentially. So…how do I say this without getting graphic? The human body has two breasts, obviously. And you don’t want the uni-breast look. So that was one of the concerns when they were designing the costume. Fabric, when you stretch it, goes from high point to high point. But they made it so there’s two distinct breasts, and you see the curves, things like that.

But the first time you looked at this thing, weren’t you just like, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no.”?

Well, they showed me the sketch after I got the job. And I didn’t have a problem with it per se, except for the normal neurosis: Who wants to actually walk around looking like you’re wearing skin? ’Cause I’m not quite that enormously comfortable with my body. Or I wasn’t at the time. I’ve gotten substantially less self-conscious in the last year and a half, let me tell you. But yeah, you sort of look at it and go, “Kiss cheesecake goodbye, kiss hamburgers goodbye….”

Jeri Ryan S1

Well, the thing is, you seem like a very intelligent woman, and a very aware woman, but it’s very obvious that the character was added for the sex appeal.

Of course, absolutely, there was no question. I knew going in exactly what this was.

Let me preface this: I was very ambivalent about taking this role. I didn’t want to read for it originally, I had no interest in it. I didn’t know much about Star Trek, so I didn’t know what the writing was going to be like. And given that I knew this character was being added for sex appeal, this would’ve been a real easy character to take and then by episode two she’s totally human and she’s in bed with this character, and then she’s in bed with that character. And I was very nervous about that. If you don’t know people, and you don’t know how honest they are, you take everything they say with a grain of salt in the beginning. So now matter how they assured me that it wouldn’t going to happen with that character, that this character was going to be smart and strong and blah blah blah blah, part of me was still leery about it.

I heard you almost didn’t do the show because of the scene where 7 tells Ensign Kim “I see the way your pupils dilate when you look at my body” and then ask if he wishes to copulate.

That was one of my audition scenes. But the other one was a really beautiful scene between 7 and Chakotay, with 7 having her first memory of laughter, and it was a really sweet, beautifully-written scene. So I saw the potential in that one. The “copulate” one was what I was afraid every episode was going to develop into. I didn’t have a whole lot of interest in doing that every week. But I had no problem with the overtly sexual/physical appearance of this character — it’s toned down now, but the original silver costume was pretty out there — if the character was intelligent and written well.

And, so far, they’ve been true to their word. They haven’t turned you into some kind of a space slut.

“Space slut.” I like that. I have to say, they have exceeded my best expectations with what they’ve done with the writing of this character. It’s really been a tremendous treat to be able to play because she is really well-written and really well developed and very strong and very smart, but still very Borg-like. Which is what I like about her. It’s that conflict that she brings to the show and to the other relationships. I love that I get to go nose-to-nose with the captain and tell her she’s making stupid decisions. I love that. She’s a riot to play.

So which of your castmates flirts with you the most?

Garret Wong, who I call Goober. That’s Ensign Kim.

Is he the one who accidentally grabbed your boob?

Yes. I affectionately call Garrett a 13-year-old boy, but a real 13-year-old would’ve been less 13 when he accidentally grabbed my boob.

We had just finished a rehearsal of a scene where we’re walking down the corridor, and the director says “cut” and Garret goes to turn around, thinking I’m turning around at the same time. But I didn’t, so when he put his hand up he accidentally grabbed my breast. And he just freaked out, turned bright red, stammered, was so embarrassed. The crew was going nuts, they thought this was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. So Garrett runs off the set to his trailer, he could not get away fast enough, “I thought it was your elbow, I thought it was your elbow.” So I got post-it notes and we wrote “elbow” with an arrow, and “not an elbow,” just in case he needed to brush up on his physiology.

He’s a fun one to, um, play with.

You seem to enjoy that.

I do. But everybody on the show is a flirt.

Jeri Ryan red uniform

As I mentioned, you’re married. And to a guy named Jack Ryan.

Yeah. [laughs] The Clancy novels are loosely based on his life…

Does your husband ever made you dress up in the costume and play “Ship’s Captain & the Naughty Borg”?

[laughs] You put a lot of thought into this. I like “Ship’s Captain & the Naughty Borg.” I have to remember that.

I get the sense that your husband gets a big kick out of all this stuff.

He does. This is fun. He doesn’t get jealous, he doesn’t get neurotic about any of this. He’s much cooler than I would be. I would be a wreck, I couldn’t date an actor, ever.

I read that you played Lucy in a Charlie Brown play?

[laughs] You’ve done your homework. I did, actually. You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.

Did you have to sing?

I did.

Does that mean you’re going to make an album? ’Cause I have a title for you if you do.

[laughs] I bet you do.

7 Songs Of Love

Oh my god. You need a vacation. [laughs] Really badly.

Star Trek: Voyager has certainly raised your profile. Have you started to get a lot of movie offers?

Yeah. My agent and my manager and I looked at a lot of scripts last year, but the problem was scheduling. There’s no time during the season to even think about anything else. To find a role that has my type in my time frame, narrowed it down to about three projects. But then I had to have my tonsils out, so that killed that.

Did the scripts you got have more nudity or more sci-fi?

I guess there were more that required nudity. There wasn’t any Showgirls kind of scripts, but there was a surprisingly small amount of science fiction, which was a pleasant surprise.

You seem like you’d like to do a comedy.

I would love to do a comedy. It would be fun. Something light, a little romantic comedy.

And you like to bake, I’ve heard

I love to cook, I love food. I love deserts, I love pies. I love everything about it. I love going to the grocery store, and that’s a luxury that I actually miss, I don’t get to do that much anymore. But I just love going to the grocery store and standing in the produce section, fondling all the vegetables. Which is kind of an unappealing thought if your the next person in line. [laughs]  But I can kill three hours in a grocery store, easily.

Jeri Ryan 02

So since joining Star Trek: Voyager, have you had any good rumors about yourself?

I’m at a good stage in my career because right now the tabloids help you, the tabloids want to discover, so they’re doing random little articles dredging up pictures from high school and junior high plays, but they’re flattering articles, “Look what she’s done now.” I figure I have another year of that [laughs] before they start looking for dirt.

Well, what are they going to say? “Star Trek vixen seen at local eatery with out-of-shape nerd”?

That’s good, there might be a living in this for you. I still like “space slut.”

Sounds like a bad porno movie. Speaking of which, has your character been made into a porno character yet? ’Cause that will happen.

Oh I’m sure, but I haven’t seen one yet. Though there are fake Star Trek nudes on the Internet. They’re all over the place.

So are there any Jeri Ryan nudes?

No. And there won’t be. If you see any nude pictures on the internet you’ll know they’re fake. Never done any nudity.

Why not?

I have no interest in it. I can’t think of a single story that would require full nudity. I cannot, for the life of me, think of a situation that would require nudity to advance the plot. You can’t frame up eight inches? C’mon. Plus, I’m a mom. When my son is fourteen, and his friends are looking at girlie magazines, I don’t want them to be, “Look, it’s your mom.”

You know all of his little friends are going to be all over you.

Which is already going to be weird for him, so I don’t want to exacerbate the situation.

Jeri Ryan 03

Do you remember the first time you caught a guy staring at your boobs?

No, I don’t, it made no impression on me whatsoever. I was very oblivious that I wasn’t everybody’s little sister for a long time. I was very naïve, really naïve, like until I was in college. ’Cause I’ve always had more guy friends than girl friends, I just like hanging out with guys. And so it never occurred to me that there would be the complication of physical attraction because I just figured I was everybody’s buddy, I was one of the guys.

Yeah, sure, that’s what I think when I look at you…

[laughs] I remember in college I did a bit part, which got cut, in Planes, Trains, & Automobiles. It was my first job, I was fresh out of Kentucky, I didn’t know what was going on. And all the crew guys were so nice, and one of them, who was my buddy, asked me to come over for a drink later, and I was like, “Sure, whatever.” So I go over to his room, and he asks me if he can have a backrub. And I’m looking at him, “This is a little weird, but okay.” Then he asked if he could kiss me, and I just freaked out, “Wha wha what do you mean? What are you talking about?” And I’m sure he was like, “How stupid could she possibly be?” But I was! I was very naïve. I was absolutely stunned when he tried to kiss me, stunned. That’s the only word for it: stunned. It was kind of a rude awakening.

So I take it you’ve never used your looks to get what you want.

No, never. [laughs]

Jeri Ryan bikini cover



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