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Madam X Marks the Spot

This article was found at:-

May 21, 2001

Posted by yossarin
Thanks to TVfilm 411

Dark Angel ice queen Nana Visitor dishes on the season finale, female action heroes, and her days on Deep Space Nine.

May 21, 2001

Nana Visitor misses her nose.
For seven years, the accomplished television and stage actress sported a ridged strip of rubber right between the eyes in order to better embody steely-eyed Bajoran freedom fighter Colonel Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

"After seven years, I was more used to looking at myself with that on than off!" Nana laughs. "And when it was off, I felt like there was something wrong with my face. I actually missed it. Isn't that strange?"

Well...yeah, especially considering that most Trek thesps aren't too fond of being encased in the massive prosthetics -- gargantuan Klingon foreheads, elaborate Ferengi ears -- required to transform them into formidable otherworldly beings.

"No, I miss the nose!" she exclaims. "I really do!"

These days, Nana is playing a character who, disappointingly enough, has a thoroughly normal nose -- icy baddie Madam X on Fox's Dark Angel, which airs its season finale this Tuesday at 9 pm. And while that show steps down for a summer break, she's taken on a role she's stepped into before -- that of merry murderess Roxie in the darkly dazzling musical Chicago on Broadway.

Despite the fact that none of her current characters have any distinguishing prosthetics, Nana quite obviously has a streak of Kira in her that's never going away -- she makes eloquent assertions with the same kind of spirited gusto that informed Kira's every move.

For example, when it's pointed out to her that the deceptively ditz-esque Roxie seems about as far removed from Kira as you can get, she goes into an impassioned tangent, drawing similarities between the two -- the words pour out with fierce, Bajoran-warrior-type conviction.

"[Roxie] might have a cuter voice, and she might wear a shorter skirt, but this is a woman dealing with survival," Nana says firmly. "She's done something really bad, and now she's got to figure her way out of this particular rat trap. In the end, when she has everything taken away from her, as sometimes happens to women in their 40s, she has to reinvent herself, and she has to take a chance, and she does. The song 'Nowadays' is really about reinventing yourself and finding a way to go on. And if that's not female survival, I don't know what is."

Indeed. And as we continue to chat via phone about everything from Kira's diabolical leather-clad doppelganger, The Intendant, to Madam X's future plans, it becomes quite clear that many of the qualities that Kira possessed -- determination, boldness, passion for life -- were taken straight from Nana herself.

Nana Visiitor in DS9Kira in battle mode.

IGN Sci-Fi: You've said that you don't think you've played Kira for the last time. Do you think you'll put on the uniform again at some point?

Nana: I don't know how -- maybe sometime I'll just borrow her persona for another character. But it doesn't look very likely at this point, does it? Let's put it this way: I hope I haven't worn the uniform for the last time.

IGN Sci-Fi: Now, there was this famous story going around for a while about how you got the part of Kira, and it involved Doc Martens. I think I wore Doc Martens for several years because of that...

Nana: [Laughs] I love that! Yeah, the morning of the audition, I went, "I have nothing that feels like this character." I went out and got this pair of Doc Marten boots. The minute I put those boots on, I said, "This is right, this is who she is." I really did feel ready to kick someone's ass! I walked into the rehearsal, and I've never been so confident of a character. I didn't want to talk to them, to make small talk. I just walked in, was Kira, and the minute I finished the scene, I walked out. And I remember catching a glimpse of their faces, and they looked kind of shocked that I wasn't being the typical LA actress, saying "How are you?" and all the small talk that one does. And then they asked me to do the same thing for the higher-ups, and that was it. I had two auditions, and I was Kira.

IGN Sci-Fi: Weren't they a little scared of you?

Nana They were! I could tell that they were kind of taken aback, and I think that they were thinking, "Yeah, she's right for Kira, but she's gonna be a nightmare on the set!" And it was a good month [before] I let who I really was out. I just stayed in Kira mode. So they had no idea, and they were shocked when they [found out] that I had an infant! [Laughs]

IGN Sci-Fi: And you did have a lot of input into the character, right? I remember you saying once that you really nixed a romance between Kira and [Cardassian villain] Gul Dukat.

Nana Visiitor in DS9Kira eventually found love with Odo (Rene Auberjonois).

Nana: Oh, yes! I don't think I've ever laid down the law in any part of my life like I did [with] that. I just felt that it was so ethically wrong, and it would sensationalize Kira. So they fixed me, and had Dukat have an affair with my mother in the past -- because it's Star Trek and they can do whatever they want! [Laughs] But at least it wasn't me, and it added a horrible twist to the Dukat/Kira relationship, which I always thought was interesting. But I didn't want them to be sexualized at all.

IGN Sci-Fi: Nah, just leave that to the fanfic...

Nana: Exactly! I don't read it, I can't bear to!

IGN Sci-Fi: And did you have a lot of moments like that? What was your relationship with the writers like?

Nana: Very, very good. [Writer/producer] Ira Steven Behr and I would sometimes be yelling in Ops at each other, but...even though it looked bad to other people, we're both from New York, so we understood that that's just the way you have a polite conversation! We were both really reasonable, and if he could make sense of something to me, I'd be happy to back down. And so did he, much to his credit. We just wanted Kira to be as truthful as possible. And not perfect! I didn't want to protect her from having flaws or making mistakes, but I did want to keep the ethical infrastructure in place, because that's what she was all about.

IGN Sci-Fi: Switching over to a character who completely lacked such ethics: The Intendant. What was it like wearing all that leather?

Nana: It was a joke. Every single scene I had to loop, I had to add my voice afterwards, because the suit was made out of rubber, and the suit squeaked big-time. So I'd say, "Oh, Dukat...squeak! Come here...squeak! Now...squeak!" You really had to try to ignore the pink elephant in the room, which was my costume! I mean, it was loud.

IGN Sci-Fi: Was it totally uncomfortable, then? I imagine taking a bathroom break would be a complete nightmare...

Nana Visiitor in DS9The Intendant cozies up to Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer).

Nana: Oh, but [even with] my normal suit, I needed help. I always had to have someone with me, because I couldn't get out of my suit by myself. But having been a dancer, I was used to no easy access to go to the bathroom. So, that was just part of the job.

The interesting thing [about the Intendant suit] was, even though it was maybe a little bit suggestive, after all, I was completely covered up. But every time I had that suit on, there were a lot of people on the set that weren't usually there! Suddenly, there were lots of crewmembers I never saw! It wasn't that revealing of a costume, really, but it was popular.

IGN Sci-Fi: Oh, yeah. And speaking of popular, what's it like being connected to this giant Star Trek phenomenon for the rest of you're life?

Nana: To tell you the truth, I don't feel it very much. It doesn't really touch my everyday life at all. Nice moments happen where I'm working with someone on Broadway, and she says, "Ohmigod, I love your character!" And I think, "Ah, we have an instant bond, this is great." She watches Star Trek and I did Star Trek, and it's kind of like belonging to a club. We know the secret handshake.

IGN Sci-Fi: You don't give your kids the Mom action figure or anything like that?

Nana: You know, when my 9-year-old was about 1 and a half, I did. I swore that I wouldn't, but when it came out, I got curious, and I just wanted to know if he associated me with the doll. I handed him the doll, and he did: he went, "Mama!" And then he handed the doll right to the Rottweiler! And the Rottweiler did what a Rottweiler would do, and it looked like I'd been through some horrible Cardassian torture thing. I kept the doll for a long time because I thought it was so funny, and it kind of taught me a lesson -- that was my comeuppance in thinking anything was a big deal!

Here's another time it's nice -- [my son's] friends want to meet me! But that's more connected to Dark Angel. It's like, "You have a cool mom!"

IGN Sci-Fi: And to move on to Dark Angel, Madam X is sooo evil! In fact, she seems to have more than a few things in common with The Intendant. Did you draw on that a little bit?

Nana Visitor in Dark Angel
Madam X schemes with Lydecker.

Nana: That was my original blueprint for the character, but she's gone away from that now, because The Intendant had the luxury of time and people and slaves to enjoy herself so much. I found that Madam X has such an intent and such a purpose, that she doesn't have that luxury. She's a much more stripped down character. She does enjoy what she does, she does have that amoral streak in her. There's no guilt. There is noooooooo guilt. She is not worried about what she's doing. She does what she thinks is right to do, and everyone else can go to hell. But she's morphing on her own, she's taken on a life of her own, which hopefully characters do.

IGN Sci-Fi: So you don't think she'll ever don a leather jumpsuit?

Nana: I'm not saying that! [Laughs]

IGN Sci-Fi: Well, whatever she's wearing, she sure makes Lydecker look cuddly...

Nana: Isn't that scary? Yeah, he is looking cuddly...

IGN Sci-Fi: Do you have any hints as to her future plans?

Nana: Well, in the finale, things become much more obvious [as to] what's going on with her. I don't know everything myself or the whys or wherefores, but she's definitely a complicated chick.

IGN Sci-Fi: So are we going to be seeing her next season?

Nana: Well, the last scene of the finale involves me, so...yeah. I'm thinking that there [will] be some Madam X [next year]. We might even know what her name actually is.

IGN Sci-Fi: Do you have any guesses as to what it might be?

Nana: They told me, but I think I forgot! I think it was [edited, just in case Nana remembers correctly -- you don't really want that spoiled, now do ya?], but I could be wrong.

IGN Sci-Fi: See, I was thinking it had to be something fluffy like Rose or Lily. So she would of course have to go with "Madam X" just to seem appropriately menacing.

Nana Visiitor in DS9
Kira plays Bond girl to Bashir (Alexander Siddig).

Nana: [Laughs] That's a good idea! I like that. Something she's really embarrassed about. That's her flaw, her name is actually...Ginger.

IGN Sci-Fi: To tie all of this together, it seems like Kira might have some kind of influence on characters like [Dark Angel's] Max, in terms of being a female action hero. Do you see that at all?

Nana: Yeah. You know, no one ever really makes a big deal of it really, but I think [Kira] was one of the first... I had very few boundaries, which made it such a great job. I think it's a natural progression to see sci-fi female characters like this, and it's exciting and cool. I remember seeing a promo for Dark Angel when it first came out, and thinking, "A-ha, that's great. Now that looks like an interesting show!" Very empowering and all of that. As soon as female characters are allowed to have flaws and weaknesses and all the rest, just like male heroes do, then the playing field gets a lot more interesting.

IGN Sci-Fi: I wanted to ask you about some of your dream roles that you haven't had the chance to do yet. You once said that your dream Broadway role is Mama Rose [from Gypsy]...

Nana: Yeah, I'm too young for it, but one of these days, I would love to do that role. And I understand that someone's doing a female James Bond character. I would love to play something like that. I would love to play a very kind of dark female James Bond. That would be a dream character. Again, a woman who's not afraid of appetite or afraid to go into the dark places in the world and try to survive with soul and body intact.

Nana Visiitor in DS9
Hopefully, we haven't seen the last of her...

IGN Sci-Fi: And if that were the case, would you do a flip of that DS9 episode "Our Man Bashir," and have your own Bond boys?

Nana: [Laughs] Well, again, I like women who aren't afraid to have appetites, and want to have a man just because you want a man and not necessarily because you want a relationship. And have a bar of candy because you feel like it. You know? Especially in America, it's as if we're not supposed to want anything. Desires are a thing we seem to struggle with.

IGN Sci-Fi: Kira was definitely never afraid of appetite...

Nana: When she was eating gruel, she was eating it. I said to myself, "Now, Kira will remember being hungry, and if food's in front of her, she's going to eat." She's not going to push her food around with her fork, pretend to eat, and do a scene. The point for her is going to be, "Eat that food, and if someone wants to talk to you, fine. They can talk while I'm stuffing it in my face." I always did scenes like that. It's like actresses are afraid to be seen with food sticking out of their mouth. I'd love for women to feel like, "Yeah, we eat! And when we eat, we eat, dammit!"

Nana Visiitor in DS9The many faces of Nana: beaming as Kira...

Nana Visitor in Dark Angel
...serious as Madam X...

Nana Visiitor in DS9
...and showing off those singing chops on DS9.

--Sarah Kuhn eats! Dammit!

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