It's 4 a.m. in Las Vegas, and Jeri Ryan is seeing


The most talked-about star of in a red booth, distinctly

non-Borgian in jeans and a T-shirt. She's eating a

hamburger and fries, for heaven's sake. With catsup.

And then a guy comes up to her, gesturing toward a place

where no man has gone before. The ladies' room, that is.

"I'm sorry to bother you," he says, "but my wife is in the

john getting dressed as you."

Ryan lowers her burger and thinks that one over.

"Getting dressed like me," she repeats slowly. "OK. And

thank you for being such big fans.' "

And sure enough, soon a second Jeri Ryan emerges, this

time costumed as "Voyager's" Seven of Nine.

This doesn't happen to Jenna Elfman or Calista


"My life is so very strange," Ryan says.

Also very changeable. Only a few years ago, she was an

out-of-work actress with a husband and young son. Now she

is a "Trek" phenomenon with a 4-year-old and a recent split

from Jack Ryan, the Chicago-based investment banker who had

been her partner in a commuter marriage since "Voyager"


Being America's favorite Borg has wide-ranging

implications. Even taking young Alex to preschool can be


"It doesn't really occur to me how many kids watch the

show," Ryan says. "I go to school and the kids scream, `Oh,

you're the Borg mom! Where is your starship?' I have to sit

all the kids down and say, "OK, now we know it's all

pretend.' "

At 30, Ryan doesn't look like a mom. Seven of Nine's

navy-blue, Spandex uniform leaves little to the

imagination, but the actress says she's never been a

fitness freak.

"I've only recently started working out with any

regularity," she admits. "It's because I just turned 30 and I

know things will start moving and shifting."

She'd rather exercise than diet.

"Anything from McDonalds and most things from Taco Bell

are on my list of snacks," she adds, sighing. "Oh, I love bad


Ryan never relocated completely to Los Angeles because

of her husband's job requirements. Now that will probably


"I didn't really realize how exhausting it was until I

started getting a little break from the traveling," she

says. "Now I realize, `My God, I must have been on autopilot

for seven years.' It wipes you out. Your exhaustion sort of

sneaks up on you."

Sort of like "Star Trek," which Ryan never watched growing


"I watched `The Brady Bunch' as a girl, which was in

direct competition with `Star Trek,' " she says. "I used to

call `Star Trek' a boy's show."

Two years ago, when her NBC series "Dark Skies" hit the

skids, she heard that "Voyager" was looking for a young

actress to play a non-human Borg who takes on human

characteristics. Ryan went on an audition as a lark.

To her amazement, she got the part. She and her husband

were equally taken aback.

"His reaction was `Oh boy,' " she recalls. "We weren't

really sure what we were getting into. My husband had the

same fears I had about the role -- we were both


In two words, their concern was "Star Trek," a franchise

with a life of its own.

"`Star Trek' has been around for 30 years," the actress

says, "so you don't have to worry that the show will be

canceled on you. But when you sign that contract you better

know exactly what you're doing, because you know you'll be

there for the duration of the contract. "You are almost

making a commitment for life," Ryan says. "I do have to say

it's been great fun. The way this character has been

written has really exceeded my hopes and my best

expectations." As soon as Seven of Nine was introduced,

rumors began flying of personality conflicts between Ryan

and series star Kate Mulgrew, who plays Capt. Janeway.

"We get along just fine," Ryan says firmly. "We're friendly

with each other. I don't know where rumors started that we

didn't get along."

Actually, Ryan says, her biggest problems on set have

involved her intricate Borg makeup, which includes a

latex-foam face piece. "It's glued on for every episode,"

she says. "It's not bad, but it's annoying to have something

glued to your face all day. Later it's removed with

alcohol, and then they have to remove the residual glue

with an oil. Then you wash your face."

She also wears a Borg skeleton glove on her fingers.

"The hand, for the most part, is OK," she says, "unless

you're trying to eat, which is a real pain in the neck when

your fingertips are covered in latex."

But it's worth it, Ryan says, for the chance to play

this character. "It's a terrific role," she says. "I love

the constant discoveries this character makes. I love the

challenge of playing a character who has emotions but

doesn't know how to express them because she hasn't

experienced them before. She's someone to whom everything

is new -- yet she is so wise and so smart and so strong."

There are rumors that Seven of Nine will get a romance

this season, but Ryan downplays them.

"That's premature for her, because she's only been human

essentially for a year," the actress says. "She's still

almost a child emotionally. Last season, we toyed with a

little crush that someone had on Seven. He couldn't handle

it. Also, she doesn't really have any concept of


All in all, it's a long way from home for a

self-described army brat who, by age 11, had lived in

Germany, Kansas, Maryland, Hawaii, Georgia and Texas.

During her years as a Northwestern University drama

major, she met Jack and got married in 1991. After a series

of local commercials in Chicago, Ryan headed for Hollywood --

part-time. She showed up on "Who's the Boss?," "Murder, She

Wrote" and "Diagnosis Murder." She wasn't exactly rivaling

Meryl Streep -- one of her television movies was "Coed Call


Then there was that guest stint on "Melrose Place."

"I was the lesbian singer/actress who had an arranged

marriage to my gay leading man," she recalls, smiling.

"Dark Skies" was her turning point. Though the

"X-Files"-influenced series failed, Ryan was noticed.

The next stop was "Star Trek," and a new level of


"I've been very lucky so far," she says. "Everyone I've

encountered fan-wise has been very respectful, very

curious, very conscious of my time with my family, and they

try not to be intrusive. It's been very nice."

"Trek" fans have sent marriage proposals, though, along

with portraits and even a hand-sewn bunny.

"There was a Seven of Nine teddy bear sent to me, which

was a riot," she says, chuckling. "There was a little wig on

the top and high heels. It was very cute."

Ryan is also getting used to being recognized on the

street. "If I'm particularly tired, I'll do the standard

baseball cap and sunglasses," she says. "In L.A., everyone is

so hyper-attuned to anyone in a baseball cap that they

recognize you, whether they know who you are or not,

because you're wearing a baseball cap. They figure you must

be somebody trying to go incognito.

"I swear, I'll be looking my worst and someone will come

up and scream, `It's Jeri Ryan!' "

Actually, having a double could come in handy.