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
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
"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.