By Melissa J. Perenson
After a solid year of storytelling in its sixth season, DS9 is now poised to wrap up its run with one more. And even actress Nana Visitor, who plays the indomitable Kira Nerys, has difficulty grasping how quickly the time has gone.
“Isn’t it amazing? I can’t believe it’s been seven years. It doesn’t seem like it, except when I see my son Buster, who was three months old [at the start] and now he’s entering first grade and he’s got his purple belt in tae kwan do. I see all the things he’s achieved, and then it’s like it’s been a very long show. Otherwise, it just doesn’t seem that way.
“One reason it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long is I’ve really enjoyed every minute of it,” she adds. “The beginning of the show we had great freedom because it was uncharted territory and because no one really knew what we were going to do. In the middle we had more tethers because they knew we were a money-maker for them, in terms of Paramount and Viacom. Now that we’re ending, I think we’re going to have a great deal of freedom again to do interesting story lines and fresh stuff. Which I think is great, it’s fun. Now we get to just have fun.”
Visitor particularly enjoyed working on this past season’s “His Way,” in which Kira and Odo (Rene Auberjonois) take their relationship to the next level. “Both Rene and I had our worries when we read the episode. It’s very far out there as far as a Star Trek episode. The episode takes place mostly in the holosuites, which is supposed to be Vegas in the 1960s, and there is a kiss. I wasn’t sure I wanted the characters to go that way. But when we filmed it, the episode turned out to be so sweet, very sweet and very truthful to two friends falling in love that I don’t have mixed feelings about it anymore.”
That doesn’t mean that Visitor expects things to be smooth sailing from here on out. On the contrary: after all, happy endings don’t quite fit DS9′s motif. “I don’t expect a relationship to work out very well,” offers Visitor. “Personally, for drama, I like the bittersweet as opposed to the, ‘oh, yea, they’re finally together and they stay together now.’ I like to see the problems inherent in a love relationship that comes from friendship.”
Sometimes, the problems that Kira has to deal with prove tough for Visitor to deal with, too. “The only difficult thing about this job,” she begins, “is that a lot of the subject matter that my character deals with is very intense; a lot of the time, it’s about war and death and losing people. Those days that I have to deal with that are really, really difficult. Because I don’t know how to act it, I know how to be it. I know how to go there and feel what all that’s like.”
As an actress who relishes a challenge, Visitor has enjoyed the chameleon-like opportunities the role of Kira has provided over the years. “Within the show, as Kira I’ve been able to do so many different kinds of characters. I’ve been able to play so many different kinds of things,” she says enthusiastically. “I’m a character actress and I always have been. I enjoy that. The wilder the better. There’s nothing I’m not interested in, other than maybe just being a straight woman to someone else. That would probably get really boring to me. I like the calisthenics of real acting.”
Unlike many of her television colleagues, who are anxious to make a transition to film, Visitor is perfectly satisfied with where she is now. “I am probably one of the few TV actors who loves, or at least would admit to loving working on TV. I love TV. I love the challenge of how quick it is and how quick you have to be. There’s even more talent than there ever has been, acting right now, working behind the cameras.”
As wonderful as her Star Trek experience has been, Visitor doubts she’d look for a series commitment in the immediate future. “I don’t know that I would sign a long-term contract [again], because raising children is obviously a very personal thing,” she explains. “I had two children within a contract, a six-year, now seven-year contract of an hour action/adventure series, and my hours go up to 20 hours a day working. Usually it’s about 16 hours of work, and there are maybe three weeks at a time where I get to see the children and that’s it. I would like to do a half hour show because I could raise the children after that, because it’s very normal hours. After that, then the sky’s the limit.”
Although some might find it strange working with their spouses on set, Visitor – who’s now married to Alexander Siddig, who plays Dr. Bashir – brushes it off nonchalantly. “First of all, I’ve always worked with family members. I learned ballet from my mother. I worked for my father – he was a choreographer, I was one of his dancers. I’ve always been able to separate work from personal. And Sid and I were friends for so long, that at work we slip right into that friendship aspect of our relationship. At work I’ll go into his trailer and chat about something just the way I used to. It’s interesting. I’m in my trailer, he’s in his trailer. If the children are there, then we see them together. But other than that it’s the way it used to be when we’re at work. And that’s good. Otherwise I think it would make a lot people really uncomfortable.”
As much fun a filming this past season’s “His Way” proved to be, one of Visitor’s all-time favorite episodes was the first season’s “Duet.” “It still holds that ‘Duet’ is my favorite episode,” she admits, “because it dealt with a huge subject matter and I thought that the writers handled it very well. And it was a big deal for Kira because for the first time she saw a Cardassian and had to feel something other than what immediately came to her mind looking at a Cardassian’s face, which was hatred. She had to actually look beyond what was in front of her. So that was a big deal for my character.” Another shining moment that stands out in Visitor’s mind came this past season, in “Wrongs Darker that Death or Night,” and episode in which Kira decides not to murder her mother.
After the summer hiatus, Visitor is looking forward to what the no-holds-barred final season may have to offer. “Next season I imagine will be even more exciting,” she says. “We will probably go out with a bang. It won’t be a nice, little, ‘well, bye-bye, everybody,’ kind of exit for DS9. We’re not that kind of show.”
(heaps of thanks to Helene for transcribing this article)