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'X' Marks the Visitor

This article was found at:-

April 21, 2001

Posted by yossarin

Nana Visitor is good at giving orders. For seven seasons, she was Major (later Colonel) Kira Nerys, the right-hand officer to space-station commander Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) on the syndicated Star Trek Deep Space Nine. For that role, she sported ridges on the bridge of her nose, red hair and a jumpsuit.

As of April 24 at 9 p.m. EST, Visitor tackles authority of a different kind as she joins the cast for the remainder of the first season of FOX'sDark Angel. Visitor debuts in an episode called "Pollo Loco."

The ridges are gone, the hair is now platinum blond, and the jumpsuit is traded in for razor-sharp suits, as she plays a mysterious higher-up -- simply referred to as "Madame X" -- in the nefarious near-future military organization Manticore. She's boss to Lydecker (John Savage), who has spent the series' run thus far chasing Max (Jessica Alba), a genetically engineered prototype that escaped from Manticore as a child. As to why Visitor has moved from "Trek" to "Dark," look no further than Rene Echevarria, who is a co-executive producer on the FOX series, and was a supervising producer and writer on "Deep Space Nine."

"As soon as the character started coming together, I said, 'It's Nana Visitor,'" he recalls. "A lot of different people had to sign off on her -- [series creator] Jim Cameron, Chick [executive producer Charles Eglee], the studio, the network, a lot of people. It's an important character, a recurring character. The studio and the network knew her work. I don't know if Jim did." "There was some talk about stunt casting, and the usual studio rigmarole about forming lists of possible people.

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I just watched them all drop by the wayside as they all saw Nana's tape." Visitor put herself on tape because she had returned to her native New York, where she lives with sons Buster and Django, and her husband, former "Deep Space Nine" co-star Alexander Siddig.

Of late, Visitor's been revisiting her roots on the stage by performing in the musical "Chicago" in Washington, D.C. (and will join the New York cast on May 8 as Roxie Hart). She credits her casting in Dark Angel in part to a dual role she played on "Trek." In the series' second season, Kira and Dr. Bashir (Siddig) visited a parallel universe, where history had taken a different path. Kira was now the tyrannical, avaricious Intendant, ruling the space station with an iron fist. "Rene remembers me sashaying round as the evil Intendant," says Visitor, "I was evil with a dollop of self-deprecating humor. It works well for a Madame X character."

"I'm not sure, though, if it's self-deprecating humor here. What that really is, is just a total enjoyment of oneself and a complete lack of awareness that what you're doing is bad, that other people could see it as bad. She's bad and loving it." "She's one tough lady," says Echevarria of the character. "The character needs to be sexy and smart and tough and kind of mischievous and take an evil delight in her machinations.

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Once we knew that was the character, I said, 'I know the perfect gal.' Nana brings all those things." "Lydecker is a character who, in his own way, believes he is a good guy. John plays Lydecker like he believes he is a man on a mission, like he's a good guy. He is a loyal guy. He's loyal to Manticore." "Madame X -- as we still haven't nailed her name -- while she is all those things, she also has her own secret and personal agenda, which she can at times put above Manticore and the organization.

So, she's more dangerous in that regard." "You know what's fun?" says Visitor. "The people who watch 'Star Trek' will enjoy this character, even though she's really the next step from the Intendant. It's very cool for that reason." "Whereas the Intendant, what I loved about her is you could be laughing at how ridiculous and over the top she was, and then she would do something truly heinous, and you'd be in that, 'It's not really funny at all' tate." "Madame X is that way, except it's the person that she's having the scene with in the show, who is kind of ike, 'Everything's OK, she's being nice.' Then, once she leaves the room, the person sitting there goes, 'Wait a minute, what did she say? What is she doing?'" "That's the ginger of this role. She's just a little more sophisticated, but she's going to be a lot of fun."

Did Visitor have any reluctance about stepping back into a science-fiction series? "No!" she states. "For me, it's the ideal job. It's cultish, so you have these people who are really well-informed, who are some of the smartest viewers out there. They're very selective, and they know what they like, and they have strong opinions about it." "Yet, it's not out of control. They don't get weird. It's a really interesting core group of people who watch these series, and I find that I like them a lot."

Visitor is up for returning to "Dark Angel," if the series gets a second season (at press time, negotiations were ongoing). The thought of having to relocate temporarily to Vancouver, Canada, doesn't upset her too much -- especially when one brings up shopping. "Granville Island, la la la la!" she says. "I want to live there. There's wonderful jewelry, really interesting native things to buy, great clothes. They have everything that Fifth Avenue has. I'm really looking forward to cooking in Vancouver, because of the produce and the seafood and all of it -- the breads, oh, god! I've got to live close to Granville Island, so I can shop there."

Ron Wolfe

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