On Sunday 8th May, Terry Farrell, Lieutenant Jadzia Dax of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, the headline guest of the Starfury Invasion convention at Heathrow’s Radisson Edwardian Hotel spent a few minutes with Geek Chocolate to share her memories of that character and her work on the show.
Geek Chocolate – Jadzia Dax started off as a unique character, old and young at the same time, approachable yet always enigmatic, fiercely intelligent, yet always the centre of fun. How much of that was written into the scripts, and how much came from discussions with the producers, and how much was what Terry brought to the set?
Terry Farrell – Well, of course I’d like to think that it was all me! I think it was a little of everything, truthfully. I worked with a coach, because it was really hard for me to learn the lines, and she was really good. Ivana Chubbuck, she was an awesome teacher. She helped me work my own sense of humour into the lines when it wasn’t written for me, and help me work with my inner life, not just what was typed on the page. I would have to say that Ivana was a huge part in helping me find Dax.
GC – I remember you saying at the time how frustrating it was, as the science officer, to be landed with so much of the technical dialogue. Did any of the scientific process rub off on you, or do you still shudder at the memory?
TF – There are some days I can shudder at it, and there are times I remember crying, thinking “Oh my god, I’m never going to get this right,” or feeling badly that there were so many takes, but I think I did a pretty good job considering the hours, the lack of sleep and how many times it changed. It definitely is not something that is my forte, but I think I swam through it okay in the end.
GC – And yet I understand that in 2001 an asteroid was named 26734Terryfarrell. How does it feel to have part of the solar system named after you?
TF – Awesome! Because, you know what, CBS, when we did Becker, gave us all stars one year for our Christmas present, and I thought that was awesome, and I think I have something else in Orion’s Belt that fans gave me on one trip, so it’s really a little overwhelming to think that there’s really something out there. I mean, obviously we can’t go out to it! Did you see the Hubble IMAX?
GC – I’m a huge Hubble fan.
TF – Did you see the IMAX?
GC – I’ve seen one about the space shuttle launch and the ISS, but I’ve not seen one about the Hubble.
TF – Watch the next one. We’ve just seen it. It’s just so amazing that you can see that far out into space.
GC – The London Planetarium used to have a show, only about half an hour – I had no idea until we sat down, it was narrated by Patrick Stewart.
TF – Oh my god!
GC – And similarly, the IMAX Space Shuttle film, I had no idea, it starts up, it’s Leonard Nimoy‘s voice.
TF – Oh, that’s awesome! I went to one, I think it was in Washington DC, and my son said “Oh, mommy, that’s Whoopi!”
GC – Star Trek has often been cited as an inspiration for people to choose science as a career. During the Bush administration, there was almost a resentment of science prevalent in America. Has the tide turned again, or are we still stuck on the fence?
TF – I don’t know, I really don’t know. I’m super focused on my world with my child and my husband, so I think I have a limited view. My spectrum is very narrow right now, but I have to say, I think science, the easier they make it for me to understand, the more excited I am to learn about it. I think, for me, if there was a show about how the world began, what an atom is, anything that’s scientific, that I’m interested in knowing about, I think it’s fascinating. I’m so grateful the way there are so many channels now, there is so much information.
GC – I don’t know if BBC America has carried them, but we’ve had some brilliant shows, Professor Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Solar System and Wonders of the Universe, and Professor Iain Stewart did Earth: Power of the Planet and How the Earth Made Us, which is geology as entertainment. So if those come over, catch them.
TF – Wow! That’s so exciting for me. Even just listening to Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, I just think “Where where they when I was growing up?” I wish I would have been able to hear them speak then. I just find them fascinating.
GC – You had Carl Sagan.
TF – I guess I wasn’t paying attention!
GC – Cosmos has finally been released on DVD in Britain, but if you buy it in America, it goes towards the Carl Sagan Foundation for public science education. So check it out.
TF – I will – thank you!
GC – It was frustrating to me that as Worf was introduced, that your role became diminished from science officer to sidekick, and I was more frustrated that after your departure, Ezri Dax suddenly became an independent character again, central to the storyline. I will make it clear that this is no reflection on Michael Dorn, who is a lovely guy, but was that shift in tone a factor in your decision to leave the show?
TF – Absolutely not, no. My decision was my contract was over, and I didn’t really feel it was so much that I wanted more to do, I think I wanted to feel more appreciated. I wanted to be a part of the show, but I wanted to be looked on differently. Did I really always have to get up at four in the morning? And they change your dialogue at the last minute all the time, it’s not a lot to look forward to in the morning. You’re blisteringly tired, and honestly, there are so many ebbs and flows in a series. So I’m grateful for the experience of having to call on being creative every day for that many years, and the same with Becker, because you feel like you can really rely on yourself after experiences like that.
You know you can really trust it to show up for you, and you don’t feel the same way when you first start. You feel like you want to have a show to prove that you can do what you can do, to stretch your wings and be seen as an actor, and I don’t think it works that way for an ensemble show. The writers get inspired, and go in one direction or the other, and it’s not personal, but it wasn’t my show. If it were my show, then it would be a different show, right, but I knew I was number five when I signed up.
GC – You stayed on the Paramount lot for Becker. It must have been quite a change of pace, moving from an hour long science fiction drama to a half hour modern day comedy.
TF – Yes, it was. I really missed being a hero, that was hard, but I liked having a nine to five day, however it was really a lot more difficult, because you change your lines every day. Although I was thinking “Oh, yay, we’re working on one script,” we had to have our lines memorised for the end of the day to show the network what we had done, and then of course the writers would improve on that and the next day we’d have new stuff. So I actually had gone from the pan to the fire, so to speak, because it was much harder for me. You can’t get a word wrong, but in a way that was good training to be on Deep Space Nine because you couldn’t get a syllable wrong. Same thing with comedy, it’s not funny unless it’s exactly how it’s written.
GC – So, after all the time you spent hanging out in Quark’s Bar, how was it running your own diner?
TF – Actually, it was really fun, because I got to work closely with the propmasters. We’d have to think of things for me to cut up and chop that were relatively quiet, so it was fun to be on that sort of creative, scheming end of it. There were times on the show, and I don’t know of any other situation you could really do this, where I’d crawl around to the back if we’d forgotten something, and be able to grab it and pop back up, because I knew where the cameras were, so I could sneak in and out and around. It was a little disrupting to some of the actors – “Where did she go?” – but I usually didn’t make the same mistake twice. My oranges were usually on the counter the second take, if they weren’t the first.
GC – Considering the global presence of Star Trek, you’re an infrequent convention guest, especially on these shores. Why did you choose to come to Britain at this time?
TF – Well, I didn’t do it when I worked, because I was always trying to get a job in the summer, and I also didn’t do it when I worked on the show, because it was such a terribly long trip, it’s very stressful on you. I actually didn’t do very many shows in America either, because there was a time when I tried to, and it was really just too hard for me. Some people work great on hardly any sleep. Alessandra [Torresani, Zoe Graystone in Caprica, another guest at the convention] is a really good example of someone like that.
GC – She’s got youth on her side.
TF – Yes. Even when I had youth on my side, I’m not someone who does well without downtime, alone time, and so you start to get to know yourself, and you have to honour that, and for me I had to wait until it was a safe time. And after the show, of course then I’m doing Becker, so not a great time to go, and then I got pregnant, and I was worried about that. I think I had to cancel a show, I don’t remember where it was now. It was my third try, so I thought “My god, I can’t lose this one,” so I was a little paranoid. But that’s not a news story, this happens to a lot of women. I worked hard to get him to stay here. And then now he’s seven, so I can leave and he can stay with his grandparents, and have a really great time, and then appreciate how good he has it with his mom and dad.
GC – Well, it’s been a long wait to finally see you, but it has been worth it. Thank you so much for the weekend and for everything. You are looking fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.
TF – You’re very kind.
Special thanks to Terry Farrell for her time, and Sean Harry of Starfury Conventions for arranging the interview, and Grant Gowdy for the photographs