For nearly two decades, the Star Trek rumor mill has been swirling about the supposed ‘feud’ between Voyager co-stars Jeri Ryan and Kate Mulgrew, stemming from Mulgrew’s dislike of the addition of Ryan’s former Borg character, Seven of Nine, to the show.
A 2006 interview with Garrett Wang contains some fairly harsh reports of the on-set experience surrounding Ryan’s arrival to the show, but a recent interview on actress Aisha Tyler’s Girl on Guy podcast (released last summer, but just pointed out to us by a reader this week) has one of the first narratives of those years revealed by Jeri Ryan herself.
Ryan does not specifically name Mulgrew as the source of her torment, but her description of the interaction, combined with the years of reports of discontent with this unnamed co-star makes it nearly impossible to be anyone else.
JERI RYAN: The addition of this character… Voyager was the flagship show of the network — UPN — and Paramount saw this as this character as their chance to break Star Trek into the mainstream media, and not just the sci-fi mags and things like that. So the Paramount publicity machine went into overdrive with the addition of this character.
AISHA TYLER: What season was this?
RYAN: This was the beginning of Season Four. Everything was top secret about the character. The costume people didn’t see what the makeup people were doing, everything was secret, secret, secret. They didn’t want anybody to know anything about it until the day I walked on to set to shoot this — which is a bunch of other stories! [Laughs] It was crazy.
They were very successful in getting the mainstream media to pay attention to it with the addition of the character.
TYLER: What were the other stories? It’s so far in the past…
RYAN: It is so far in the past. Oh, god. [Laughs]
TYLER: Pick the one that you feel comfortable sharing.
RYAN: It was understandably tough for an existing cast that had been together for three years already. Star Trek, traditionally — because this was like the fourth incarnation of Star Trek at the time — was always the Captain, or the Captain and First Officer. Typically, it’s the Captain that gets the attention of the press, and the shows revolve around that.
So all of a sudden, all of that shifted drastically in Season Four and now the writers, who have been writing for the same seven characters for three years, are salivating for something new to write with. They’ve got this character that’s so rich, because she’s not even human when they start out…
TYLER: And the whole point of it is what it means to be human, it’s a huge storyline.
RYAN: Right, there’s no better way to do that. Consequently, all the scripts revolved around Seven of Nine and her relationship with the other characters, of course — which actually ended up leading to some really rich storylines for the other characters.
TYLER: There was probably more diversity in terms of storyline for everybody.
RYAN: Exactly — but that’s hard, when the new kid comes in and suddenly it’s all about them. That was tough, and it was particularly tough for some more than others, which was not real fun. It really made it an unpleasant work experience.
TYLER: Did that continue, or did evolve?
RYAN: It continued, for quite a while.
I mean, for the most part, everybody was phenomenal and absolutely great — and the guys, my God, I loved my boys on that show. [Laughs] They were hilarious to the point that if I had a two-shot with and then it’s my close-up, I had to look off-camera because if I looked at them I’d just break and crack up.
But yeah, it was unnecessarily unpleasant for a couple of years — basically, until I started dating [Brannon Braga]. Once I was dating the boss, funny how things suddenly cleaned up!
[Laughs] But it was really, really tough the first couple of years. and there were many days when I was nauseous before going into work because it was that miserable. Just unnecessarily, intentionally unpleasant.
TYLER: And such a waste of energy.
RYAN: Waste of energy.
TYLER: I always feel like there’s a strange intimacy on a set that makes difficult sets much more difficult that working at a difficult office — because you can usually avoid the other person…
RYAN: Right. There’s no avoidance on a set, and most of my scenes were with this person.
TYLER: Oh, god.
RYAN: I mean, there was NO avoidance, because it was the richest relationship. They really wanted to capitalize on that.
TYLER: I’m not going to ask you… I’m sure people can deduce [who it is] if they spend some time Google-ing.
RYAN: Right, yeah.
TYLER: I have had friends who have been in situations… where they had a very close co-star, sometimes their love interest, and they really did not like each other off-camera. I know someone who went through this, and they were just not even on speaking terms, and they had to kiss on camera. How was that for you — did you develop mental tricks? Like, what did you do?
RYAN: There was nothing I COULD do — literally I would be nauseous when I knew these scenes were coming up. When there were a lot of scenes with this person the next day, I was sick to my stomach all night, just miserable. It was so unnecessary and just so petty; things like, oh my God…[Laughs]
We’d have scenes — because a lot of my scenes took place in this set they built for my character called the Astrometrics Lab. It was a really impressive-looking set with this huge, massive, curved green-screen and this giant window. So there’s only one entrance to the set, because all the cameras were built up on platforms and stuff to shoot the window — there was just one set of doors.
I remember this one time in particular, I had this once scene with this person, just the two of us. We do their coverage first, and shoot their side of this really dramatic scene, and then it was time for my coverage. Before every close-up, the hair and makeup and wardrobe teams come in and do touch-ups and everything to make sure everything’s right… [Laughs wildly]
[The co-star] shut the door to the set, and said, “She’s fine. LET’S GO.” Wouldn’t let them in. Just stupid, stupid stuff like that.
TYLER: And by the way, out of their job description.
RYAN: Exactly. Let people do their jobs.
TYLER: Not your call!
RYAN: Right, things like that. Another time, I don’t even think it was the same day, but a different scene with that person on the same set — we do their side first, and then it’s my coverage on close-up for this really intense scene. The literally sat off-camera picking their nails, thumbing through a book, and just haphazardly saying their lines off camera without even making eye contact.
TYLER: It would have been better to just not have them there.
RYAN: Yeah, could the [assistant director] just read it off camera? I’m good.
TYLER: Anyone? A production assistant? A C-Stand and a tennis ball? It would be better.
RYAN: Exactly! It would have been better. It was intentional, purely intentional and unnecessary.
Jeri Ryan’s discussion of her time on the Voyager set, along with details of her audition and life in the convention circuit begins at the 38:00 mark in her interview with Aisha Tyler, linked below.