An Interview with Chase Masterson

By E. Cristy Ruteshouser
Houston, TX

Chase Masterson (Leeta on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) was in Houston, Texas for a Toy Show on March 22, 1998. Since sheís a wonderful actress and an all-around delightful person, and since Leeta briefly became the love interest of Bob Picardoís character Dr. Lewis Zimmerman in the "Dr. Bashir, I Presume" episode of Deep Space Nine, I thought it would be appropriate to interview her for ACTIVATE! Michele Hemming, president of Chaseís fan club, agreed and helped me to set up this interview--many thanks, Michele! Thanks also to George "Stompy" Kuhr, vice-president of the Jeri Lynn Ryan fan club, who presided over Chaseís table at the Toy Show and who helped make the interview happen. And heartfelt thanks to Chase, who very graciously allowed me to ask as many questions as I liked and who let my husband take a great many pictures. She was wonderful! And now, without further ado... hereís the interview!

Q. Tell us about your new show on the Sci-Fi Channel!

A. "I am so excited about it! Yaaayyy! Itís going to be really cool, and I hope people tune in. I think and hope itís going to be a really great combination of capturing the spirit of what science fiction is all about, and the fun of science fiction, and also being really informative about whatís going on in science fiction today and whatís going on even in science today. Iím really excited and really honored to be able to be the host of something like that, because I think itís going to be a really great show. Itís called Sci-Fi Entertainment. Itíll be like Entertainment Tonight for science fiction. Itís going to be really hip and fun and cutting-edge, and itís also going to be very informative and have a lot of integrity. Itís taking over the place that Sci-Fi Buzz was. Itís a half-hour show once a week [Fridays at 6:30 PM Eastern], and Iím going to be able to do other things too, Iím wonít be completely blocked out of anything else. Star Trek is really supportive of it, really excited about it too, and I couldnít be happier.

"I find myself really even more excited about science fiction now that Iím going to be responsible for knowing everything. So Iíve been doing some homework and watching some movies. I really want to be able to be a good voice for the medium. And, hopefully, it will be a show that will bring more people into an interest in science fiction, and an understanding of it."

Q. Would you have considered yourself to be a science fiction fan before you started working on Deep Space Nine?

A. "People ask that... I donít know if I would have been a science fiction fan so much as I liked and respected Star Trek. I didnít know a lot about it. I had a boyfriend who was a Trekkie and we would watch the show sometimes, and I was only allowed to call him during commercials when I wasnít there. And I had a roommate who was a Trekkie, and we would talk about the show a lot. That was during The Next Generation. So I was well aware and liked the show for its incredible writing. As far as being a science fiction fan... I looked at science fiction with respect, but not with a lot of knowledge. Now Iím hoping to have knowledge. Because I think thatís whatís required. I donít think people want to have someone whoís blabbing about it in an uninformed way. You donít want somebody preaching to you who knows less than you! Iím certainly hoping to stand up to that, out of respect for our audience and out of my own real, solid growing interest in the field."

Q. Would you like to tell any great stories from any recent conventions?

A. "You must have heard! No? Oh! Dave Scott, who is a promoter that I work with regularly--he runs Slanted Fedora Entertainment and theyíre one of my favorite companies, too--proposed to his girlfriend, his future wife Jackie, whoís a very good friend of mine, proposed to her the night of the Saturday night party. He had in advance asked me to sing a song, so a friend of mine and I sang their song for them. Which was really just a blessing, it was a real honor. Itís funny, sometimes we get to be a really intense part of each otherís lives in what we do. I was maid of honor at a Klingon wedding, and I was one of the bridesmaids at a wedding at Star Trek: The Experience. That was also a Klingon wedding, spoken in Klingon, the whole bit. It was pretty wild! But it was real fun, having real life take place before your eyes like that."

Q. Do you enjoy doing conventions and shows?

A. "Yes, very much. I really do. People always ask that, because they must think that it must get old, and Iíve done so many. Even LeVar [Burton] calls me ĎConvention Queen.í But I do them for a lot of different reasons. I love the fans, I love the friends, itís fun. As an actor, itís such an incredible dream to have anybody who knows and/or loves you. So how can you not just love this to pieces, and take it for all itís worth? So many talented actors remain unsung, so... yeah! Baby, if theyíre singing, Iím gonna listen! And sing it right back to them! And itís really nice, because I get to come and say ĎWell, no, itís nice to meet you guys, because itís you who keeps the show going, keeps Star Trek going, and to not see that would be rather naive."

Q. What does your son Jeremiah think of Star Trek?

A. "He has mixed feelings on it. It is the thing that is certainly the funnest to talk about at recess. He is the only child in his class with a mother for an action figure. He loves the phenomenon, he watches the show, but it is also the thing that takes his mom away the most. But itís also the thing that gets us to have the most fun. Iíve taken him to conventions with me in Australia, Texas, Alaska, and a cruise to Mexico. And heís made his own Star Trek friends. And my wonderful club, which I canít say enough about, sends him birthday presents! How can you not love that?

"He got to come on the set this week--the episode weíre shooting, ĎProfit and Lace,í I think itís one of my favorite Deep Space Nine episodes of all time. Except for ĎDr. Bashir, I Presume," itís my favorite episode that Iíve done. And Iím not trying to schmooze you, but working with Bob on ĎDr. Bashir, I Presumeí was one of the highlights of my entire career, and will always be! But this episode [ĎProfit and Laceí] is a lot of fun too... we see a certain cast member in drag.... It was really a fun episode to shoot, because the writing is so brilliant, the work is so brilliant, the Grand Nagus is back--and Wally Shawn has got to be one of the funniest people ever to set foot on the planet, or on Ferenginar. Any planet! He is just a gem, a joy to work with. I could not keep a straight face while we were shooting. He is just hilarious.

"Anyway, Jeremiah got to come on the set and see all this take place right before his very eyes. And he loved every minute of it, and I think thatís just the greatest kind of experience you can have. Iím home-schooling him this year. That was done for several reasons, partly because I have been traveling so much that I thought it would be a nice idea for him to be able to come with me, and he wanted to do that too. It would be hard to keep bringing him out of school all the time. We have a curriculum that we follow and heís keeping up very well with where he would be... and, come on, what better education is that than going to your momís workplace and seeing your favorite characters in drag! Thatís quite an elective!" ["I think thatís Advanced Studies," I commented. "Exactly," she replied.]

Q. Do you have any hobbies?

A. "Hobbies? Next question!"

Q. Do you have any pets?

A. "Oh, God! I wish I had a pet. I wish I was a pet! Oh, well. No pets, and very few hobbies, really. I wish I had time for any hobbies. Iím not sure what they would be, if I did.

"Insomuch as a hobby is something you do for fun... I work for fun. Iím starting to produce, I was one of the producers on a documentary last year. It was a documentary on the art and business of filmmaking, set against the fiftieth anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. It was a pretty good-sized piece, we had a two-time Academy Award winner directing. That was my first step into that world. Now Iím working on producing some animated projects, and shepherding and guiding some animation writers, and have begun to set up meetings on that. And itís funny, theyíre mostly people who I have met through conventions, specifically comic-book conventions or other places like that. Theyíre just people that I think should be recognized for their talent. So thatís a hobby right now, itís not something thatís making me money and itís something Iím doing for fun."

Q. As you may know, CARPE supports the Pediatric AIDS Foundation; would you like to tell us about your charity, Caring for Babies with AIDS?

A. "I think itís really neat, how Bob does The Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Roxann [Dawson] does Camp Heartland, which is for kids with AIDS too, right? And there are a couple others. In fact, if we got sometime to do a big event with all of our clubs, to raise a bunch of money cooperatively, that would be a really neat thing. Maybe next year we can work on that. Caring for Babies with AIDS is one of my very favorite things ever, in my whole life, and one of the biggest honors. Other than being Jeremiahís mom, itís the biggest honor that I have ever had--or probably will ever have--to be able to raise money for these kids. Itís two houses where the kids live, and these are kids that donít have anybody else. Theyíre between the ages of zero and eight, and the house provides shelter, food, clothing, toys, medicine... love. Itís really a pretty neat thing to get to do. Theyíre an incredibly good and responsible organization, but theyíre also a very needy organization, still. They have outreach programs into the community for people who canít fit in the house at the time or donít need to live there, but still are HIV-infected. And counseling, and all of that. The last I heard, there were 100 families per social worker. Thatís the kind of need they have. So we work hard for them, pretty much all year round, and then we have a yearly fund-raiser at the Grand Slam. Itís pretty neat.

"The way that I started working with this charity was; about six or seven years ago, I was a photographerís assistant who wanted to put together an AIDS fund-raiser. So we started and eventually produced a book of photographs of celebrities with their families, and their feelings about children in the AIDS crisis. So through them I met the people at Caring for Babies with AIDS. But I couldnít keep on working on the project, because basically I was too poor and too un-established to even take care of myself and my son. So I had to leave the project. So it just makes it that much nicer when, years later, I have gotten to come back to them and help them along with thousands and thousands of other people from all around the world. Itís really a blessing, and they think itís pretty neat. I thank God for the opportunity to do this."

Q. Would you talk a little more about doing "Dr. Bashir, I Presume" and about working with Bob Picardo?

A. "It was just so much fun working with him on that. You guys know the ĎKama Sutraí story, donít you? No? Uh-oh! With his exit line, in that episode... hereís what happened. They didnít really write him an exit line. So when Rom comes on and confesses his love to Leeta, and I say--as I often do--ĎOh, Rom,í and it becomes clear that he [Dr. Zimmerman] is going to have to leave the station alone, he goes to pick up on this alien woman. And they hadnít written him an exit line, and so he had to find some graceful way to leave. What he said on the episode that aired, I believe, was very clever, a line he made up... he just said ĎExcuse me, miss, have you heard about my work with Kama Sutra?í The really funny one, which he said first and I think they should have used--it was just hysterical--was ĎExcuse me, miss, have you heard about my work on Star Trek: Voyager?" [At that point, I began laughing hysterically and couldnít stop for about a minute.] "Is that funny? It was so great. They shot that, and they... I think they should have used it, but there you go. Nobody asked us. Thatís the kind of wonderful actor/human he is. Heís such a mile-a-minute, creative guy."

Q. Would you care to comment on the famous "nude scene" in "Dr. Bashir, I Presume"?

A. [Laughing.] "Oh, please. I had more clothes on then than Iím wearing now. Not that thatís saying a lot! The only funny thing I have to say about that is, Sci-Fi Vortex, the talk show on the Sci-Fi Channel, did interviews with us about that episode. I actually never saw that episode of Sci-Fi Vortex, but I remember that during the interview they said, ĎTell us about the shower scene.í It became known as Ďthe shower scene,í like it was some big steamy shower scene like out of Days of our Lives, which it was not, obviously. But they said ĎSo tell us about that.í So I said ĎWell, you know, Bob Picardo is an actor of... mammoth proportion, his timing is... impeccable, the depth of his... character is amazing.í [Mutual giggling.] So we had a lot of fun with that. I hear that he, in his half of the interview, said the same kind of things about me. Thanks, Bob!"

Q. Leeta picked Rom over Lewis Zimmerman. If you had had the choice....

A. "Ah... but nobody asked me." [Chuckling.] "I have no regrets. What can I say, Iím a Ferengi! Despite Romís shortcomings in some ways, he has such a wonderful humility and sweetness and such a lack of ego, that I had to love him. And Zimmerman, as lovable as he also truly was, had a bit of an ego that might not be something you can live with. You know? Could be fun, short-term, but... I think Leeta made the right choice."

Q. On the Official Robert Picardo Home Page, I have a section I call "The Holographic Doctorís Love Life," cataloguing every time the Doctor has either been kissed or hugged by anyone. So I was very disappointed that Leeta did not kiss Lewis Zimmerman. Were you disappointed?

A. "There was no kissing, was there? Do you think we could get him back on the station? Of course I was disappointed. Please! Thatís the whole reason I bribed the writers to get him on our show!"

Q. I have heard that you have gone on record as saying that if Bob werenít married, youíd....

A. "Oh, come on! Everybody says that!"

Q. Everybody says that about Bob, or everybody says that about actors theyíve...

A. "Everybody says that about Bob!"

Q. Is there anything else youíd like to say to the members of CARPE?

A. "You got quite a guy, boys and girls. Quite a guy. And... good for you guys, and Bob, for doing the work you do with Pediatric AIDS. I really respect that. And... buy my action figure! Just kidding. I love it when we run into each other, and that Tracey and Michele are supportive of each other. I really think thatís cool. Thatís something that Iíve seen with the interaction that happens between clubs, and between members of clubs... Iíve seen people grow so much, and have so much fun, and just become so much more of who they are with the clubsí interactions within themselves and each other. I know thatís something thatís been really important to me and to Michele, and our people. So letís have a party! At my house! No... at Bobís house!" [Laughing.] END