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Nana Visitor Interview in New Haven Register

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Long Wharf: 10, Deep Space: 9
Joe Amarante, Register Television Editor December 04, 2000

Nana Visitor and Rodney Hicks in a scene from "Golden Boy" at Long Wharf Theatre. T. Charles Erickson

NEW HAVEN The golden-haired girl of Long Wharf Theatre's visceral musical "Golden Boy," who is the product of a New York dance theater family, has played Roxy in a touring company of "Chicago." But Nana Visitor is best known for her seven seasons on TV's syndicated "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

To "DS9" viewers, she will always be Kira Nerys, a gutsy and brown-haired Bajoran liaison officer who rises to the rank of major and then colonel on the space station. That's OK, says Visitor, 43, who also makes guest appearances at "Star Trek" conventions.

 

Acting in the inventive "DS9" was great for an actor, says Visitor, who plays the leggy Lorna Moon in Long Wharf's di-verse and energetic production, running through Dec. 17. "It was an amazing, life-changing experience," says Visitor in an interview at the theater. "You get so deep into a character that it changes you. There's part of Kira that's still with me and always will be ... just because you have to think about different issues than you do in your own life."

 

Visitor's father, Robert Tucker, was a Broadway choreographer, and her mother, Nenette Charisse, ran a dance studio. By 7, Visitor was taking dance lessons. In high school, she landed a role at Goodspeed Opera House. That led her to "defer" attending Princeton. Visitor never did go to the Ivy League school. Instead, she won a role in the short-lived TV show "Ivan the Terrible" with Lou Jacoby. She then took on several TV roles, including playing second banana to Sandra Bullock in the also short-lived "Working Girl." The "Star Trek" role brought stability, money and recognition during a time when she had a young child. "It was grueling. For most of the seven years, we had 16- to 20-hour days. But it was like Disneyland for an actor because everything was required and you never knew what they were going to throw at you next. Suddenly, you're this creature, now you're Kira in an alternate universe ... That's fun for an actor." She doesn't think there will be a "DS9" reunion movie, but she does say that if another "Star Trek" movie visits the space station, she'll be there because when it ended she was commander. "I'm ashamed to say that that was really important to me, as was sitting in the captain's chair," she smiles. "That stuff meant something to me, and (fellow cast member) Rene Auberjonois would always tease me about that." Visitor got divorced and remarried in the mid-1990s. A second son _ with current husband, Alexander Siddig, who played Dr. Julian Bashir on the show followed. So how does it work out being in a stage show in New Haven when she has two sons in New York? "It doesn't. And I knew it wouldn't. Everyone has to take a hit so that I can do something like this _ the boys and me." She recently turned down a role in the national touring company of "Cabaret," however. "I can't do that kind of work anymore, not with a family. But this show interested me. The director (Keith Glover) interested me because he works in a way that I believe in. He takes risks. It's a high-wire act, and you might fall." Lorna Moon, mistress of a boxing manager and also a love interest of the much younger boxer in "Golden Boy," is not an easy character to like at times, morally. "She does a lot that people have to ... question what kind of woman she is. That's a high-wire act because you know right away an audience isn't going to emotionally like you. They may appreciate you, you hope you can get them to understand you, but they're not gonna necessarily just react to you and open up." But they do, for the most part. Then again, some of the racist reaction sparked during the show's 1964 version with Sammy Davis Jr. has resurfaced. In the musical, the white Lorna falls in love with the black Joe Bonaparte, played at Long Wharf by Rodney Hicks. "I got, like, white-supremacist mail," she says. "I know some people say that's not an issue anymore. But there are people who got up early on and walked out when Rodney and I kissed. It's interesting to me that it still is an issue for a lot of people and makes a lot of people squirm." For her, she says the relationship boils down to "You don't choose who you love; you just love 'em." But the show also deals with some larger issues facing groups struggling for their share of the American pie. Joe Bonaparte, accepted to medical school, must decide between that and boxing. "Here's a boy who's choosing sports or giving back to society. It's what these children are having to think about right now. ... 'Am I going to go for money or am I actually going to take the slow road and build something?'" And what's next for Visitor? "It depends what comes up. I spent a lot of years doing whatever job came up in TV. In TV, you can do a piece of crap work and you can say, 'Hey, it was the producers ... I hated it, but I did it for the money.' You do a show like this and people take hits at you. And you've got to humbly take it because it's not about the money. "If it's not perfect on stage, you go, 'Because I'm doing the best I can in it. You are watching me in a learning process.' On TV, they'll edit your mistakes. They'll go on to the next character and cut your closeup." Visitor says she'll keep experimenting and taking risks, possibly in another round of "Chicago." TV folks don't often know what to make of her and her "aggressive energy," she says. "I'm really looking at Broadway; that's where I'm setting my sights. There are a lot of good roles for women of my age."

 

New Haven Register 2000

 

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