I recently sat down with Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s very own Denise Crosby, known to fans the world over as Lieutenant Tasha Yar. Denise was very generous with her time and invited TrekCore to join her in the green-room at the recent Destination: Star Trek London convention. Enjoy the interview!
Denise Crosby Interview
Interviewed by Adam Walker for TrekCore.com
TrekCore: It’s great to meet you Denise… I understand you’ve just come from Spain, was it or business or pleasure?
Denise Crosby: I was on a film jury for Sitges – the film festival.
TrekCore: What types of films were you evaluating?
Denise Crosby: It’s considered a fantastica festival, so science fiction, horror, genre, fantasy – all international. Twelve days.
TrekCore: Did you have fun? Did you have time to enjoy the Spanish weather?
Denise Crosby: Oh my god, it was beautiful. It’s divine. I mean when I could get out of the cinema, but I had to watch 36 films in 9 days.
Denise Crosby: Crazy…
TrekCore: A lot of fans love the Trekkies movies that you produced about these types of conventions. What inspired you to take a frank look at that scene and would you ever do a Trekkies 3?
Denise Crosby: I would love to do Trekkies 3, and I think there’s one in us to do and we’re just putting some ideas together and finding the best time and place to do it. What inspired making a documentary about Trekkies was just – you know it hadn’t been done. There was no real look into this world of fandom and Star Trek fandom is so unique and the television show has the most unusual relationship with fans I have ever seen. You know, it’s a sort of symbiotic relationship. And I also felt that they weren’t getting their kind of just due, the people had been sort of…
TrekCore: … had been ridiculed somewhat…
Denise Crosby: Yes, exactly. And laughed at and the assumptions were not correct. So I thought, let’s… I had an entree into this world and so I just picked up a camera and just started filming.
TrekCore: Do you have a secret fandom of your own, which matches the passion of Trekkies… that you want to share with the world?!
Denise Crosby: I collect plastic mushrooms! <laughter> I’m not going to tell you that!! No, there’s nothing that I have that even comes close… You know I get passionate about certain sports at a certain level, but always in the playoffs and always in the final days and I’m kind of a crazy sports fanatic. But nothing like Star Trek.
TrekCore: So, it’s been 25 years now since Farpoint was on TV. Has your opinion of that really uneven first season when you appeared changed over these 25 years? Do you look back at it more fondly now?
Denise Crosby: Oh, I think always from a distance you can look at things a little bit easier and with humor and with compassion. It’s really incredible to see the Blu-ray.
TrekCore: I know, it looks fantastic!
Denise Crosby: It’s unbelievable! It’s just glistening…
TrekCore: <laughs> every hair, every wrinkle…
Denise Crosby: <laughs> Thank god I did it when I was so young you know because yeah, it’s an amazing look. But you know I have only fondness for the whole experience. It was just incredible.
TrekCore: So you’ve said in many interviews before that when you were actually filming the first season that you were not in a happy place… you were a bit miserable on the set, you didn’t feel like you belonged in that atmosphere. If you were the executive producer or the writer would you have done anything differently for your role to make you feel more comfortable in hindsight?
Denise Crosby: Well you know, the problem I always had with Star Trek… and what Gene Roddenberry made very clear to me… which was sort of the final push for me to make a decision to leave was that weren’t many multiple story lines ever going to be written in the show – where when you have other series with a number of cast members, you usually have like 2 or 3 story lines interwoven into this episode – and they didn’t want that with Star Trek. They wanted a very defined look – it was going to be the Captain and whatever he had to engender in that episode and everyone else would kind of fill in… you know first officer and Data, just like the original. Gene was sticking with that…
TrekCore: The Big Three…
Denise Crosby: Exactly. And that’s what I… I just didn’t want to be relegated to standing on that bridge episode after episode with nothing to do…
TrekCore: … and it was a big cast, there were nine players…
Denise Crosby: And that’s another thing – I think that they bit off more than they could chew – they didn’t … they had just put all these people on there and then didn’t quite know what to do with them.
Denise recalls that one of the main reasons she left after the first season was the overly large cast. With nine actors, it was very hard to get screentime and she didn’t want to be relegated to standing on the bridge with “nothing to do”.
TrekCore: So your last episode, for the fans at least, was the one where you were killed by the big oil monster… The ‘Skin of Evil‘. But you filmed another one after that called ‘Symbiosis‘, because the production was turned around, and then there’s a famous scene which fan’s have picked up on… just at the end of that episode you filmed last when you wave to the camera. Was that kind of just on the spur of the moment or did you plan it all along after you knew you were leaving?
Denise Crosby: Well I knew it was going to be my very last shot of the entire show – what I perceived to be my last shot – so I wanted to just do what I thought would be a bloop on the blooper reel and wave goodbye to the fans. Well then they said, “Cut” and they moved on.
TrekCore: And no one said anything?
Denise Crosby: I said, “They didn’t see that? They’ve got to redo it, they can’t use that…” and they had to use it.
TrekCore: And now on the Blu-ray you can see it even clearer, <laughing> you can zoom in and you’re like waving frantically and then there’s Gates and Patrick coming up in front of you…
Denise Crosby: Isn’t that cool? That’s totally for the fans… I’m so glad for that.
Tasha can be seen waving at the camera in one of the closing scenes of “Symbiosis“. As Denise explains, she thought the shot would end up on a blooper reel!
TrekCore: What can you remember about your last day on the set, do you have any memories of it?
Denise Crosby: Sure, I mean I thought that would be the last day and they came down with a cake and you know… But my favorite thing is when Rick Berman, the producer, came down to the set and the very first thing he did was pull off my communicator from my uniform and said, “Well, won’t be needing that anymore!” […] You used to just stick [it on with] velcro and it was just like some weird symbolic gesture… I don’t know if he thought I was going to sell it on eBay or you know… I mean they all looked the same – it wasn’t like mine was any special thing – it was just a very strange thing – I’ll never forget that. “Won’t be needing that anymore!” <chuckling> I was surprised he didn’t take out the rank pins…
TrekCore: <laughing> Like when they punch through the hats in Mary Poppins… “You’re no longer a banker… leave!”
Denise Crosby: Exactly… “Bye-bye!”
TrekCore: So the villain you came back to play afterwards, Sela, was loved by fans so much. What was the inspiration behind that from the writers’ standpoint and from your standpoint? And where did that blonde wig come from? Whose idea was that?
Denise Crosby: Isn’t that bizarre… a blonde Romulan? Well because of her being half human and Tasha’s daughter… The idea for Sela really came about from me. I had approached the producers after “Yesterday’s Enterprise” with the idea that maybe Tasha, when she went back on the Enterprise C, that she… I mean it was clearly established she and Lt. Castillo were in love… what we didn’t know is that Tasha was pregnant with Lt. Castillo’s baby. So that when they get engaged in this huge battle with the Romulans and everybody is just crashed… and decimated the ship… Tasha is still alive. And the Romulans take her as a prisoner so that they can raise this human baby as their own and use it as a tool against the Federation.
TrekCore: How did you come up with that? Was that just thinking one day, “Hmm?” <laughing>
Denise Crosby: <laughing> Sitting around, twiddling my thumbs and you know…
TrekCore: “Let’s get back into The Next Generation somehow…”
Denise Crosby: Yeah I don’t know… maybe it was in the air, you know people had maybe sort of talked to me about… you know at a convention or something… somehow I just composed this whole concept and I think it was because I had come back once, I thought, “Maybe we can find another way to come back.” So I pitched it. I called up Rick Berman and I went to lunch with him and I had lunch with him at the Paramount commissary and I said, “I have this idea.” And I gave him this idea and he kind of looked at me and went, “Interesting, let me think about it.” And I thought…
TrekCore: This was after stripping your commbadge of course… <chuckling>
Denise Crosby: Yes, right, but you know you had to go to him and I thought, “Well okay that’s it… he’s just obliging me and being polite. I’l never hear from him again.” A couple months went by and he called up and said, “We’re going to go with that idea you had, changing it a little bit. Instead of Lt. Castillo and you, she was held as a concubine by a Romulan General… so she’s half Romulan, she’s going to come back and she’s going to taunt… you know she’s going to be a Commander in the Romulan forces so she’s going to hate the Federation and hate her parents and hate her mother, her mother’s people…
TrekCore: A lot of, I think frustration, came in with fans towards the end of The Next Generation movie run that you weren’t brought back for any of those, especially with Nemesis since it was Romulan centered… Was there any talk or was there any approach to you from the producers about a cameo in that film.
Denise Crosby: I called them and asked them when I got wind of… that it was going to be a Romulan feature… “Can I come back?” And Rick Berman said, “You know we thought of it, we brought it up, but we can’t see any way that Sela would be around.”
TrekCore: Seems so strange that, I mean Wesley came back… Whoopi Goldberg came back for cameos…
Denise Crosby: Yeah…
TrekCore: So we were all waiting to see you…
Denise Crosby: I don’t know if I was being punished… or I don’t know… for leaving? You don’t know what works behind closed doors you know…
TrekCore: Yeah, absolutely. But there was certainly a lot of, I think anger, from fans that you weren’t in that movie because it was a goodbye to The Next Generation and you were integral to that show even if it was for a shorter time.
Denise Crosby: Oh absolutely. Well we know that. The truth will always win out.
TrekCore: So over your years that you’ve been involved with Star Trek, does it tend to all merge together now that it’s 25 years – is it a blur or do memories still stick out to you as being as fresh as the day that they happened?
Denise Crosby: It begins to kinda blur, you know, to remember what’s doing what and who was where and… but I still have a pretty clear memory of the whole experience of it all and it was great.
TrekCore: What has been your favorite role outside of Star Trek? Sometimes I think fans tend to forget that you guys had huge acting careers outside…
Denise Crosby: Right, right. Oh man, you know… every part you do you approach with all of everything you’ve got. I loved doing theatre and I’m about to do a new series next year  for Showtime and they’re all really challenging and you just want to keep going… You know it’s… I can’t… It’s like asking which child do you like…
TrekCore: They’re different strands of your personality…
Denise Crosby: Yeah.
TrekCore: So please bring us up to speed on what you are doing at the moment. I know that you shot a film in August… I got “Birthmother” as the title?
Denise Crosby: Oh that was just a little short film… a friend of mine directed. But I did a pilot for Showtime called Ray Donovan. So it has been picked up for 12 more episodes starting in January.
TrekCore: So are you going to be in the full 12?
Denise Crosby: I’m going to be recurring…
TrekCore: Oh wonderful! What’s that about then?
Denise Crosby: It’s about a private investigator who is a fixer. So he’s cleaning up messes and… played by Liev Schreiber. So it’s a lot of Hollywood people: celebrities, sports stars, and a lot of sordid crimes and creepy stuff going on in LA and he’s kind of fixing it and he also has this parallel family drama going on with his father being in jail… played by John Voight. Elliot Gould… I play Elliot’s mistress.
TrekCore: <laughing> That sounds like a delicious role for you!
Denise Crosby: <laughing> It should be interesting.
TrekCore: And so when can we expect that?
Denise Crosby: I don’t know… it starts 2013 in the States.
TrekCore: Wonderful, thank you Denise. It’s been a pleasure talking to – thanks for the taking the time out for us, and enjoy the rest of your stay in London!
Denise Crosby: Thanks, it’s been so nice to talk to you finally!
|Order Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1
|Order Trekkies on DVD today!