Leave it to Leeta

These days, as the wife of Rom, Max Grodénchik, Leeta's about as familiar a face on the space station as that of a recurring character can be. "Leeta was four lines in one episode," Chase Masterson recalls, referring to the third season show Explorers. "It was no more, no less than that, and I never really tried to push it into being more than that. Little by little, however, they expanded the character. She's become more and more diverse as the seasons have gone by. They've never told me what they saw in me that made them stick with the character. It is my understanding that Leeta was written for me. Series Executive Producer, Ira Steven Behr, told me that after I'd been doing the show for three seasons.

"I'd actually auditioned for ST:DS9 before and was the runner-up for the role of Mardah, Jake's girlfriend in an episode. Mardah was supposed to be 16 while he's supposed to be 19. After that, I think they said, 'We'd like to work with Chase. We just need to find a place for her.' So they wrote the Leeta role, and I've liked the changes she has gone through. She's gone from Dabo girl to dating the tall, skinny, cute guy, Alexander Siddig as Dr. Julian Bashir, to marrying Rom.

"I'm really glad that they broke up Leeta and Bashir. We were too perfect together, the Barbie and Ken of Star Trek. How much of that do you need? There's more comedy, more drama in the relationship between Rom and Leeta. Having Leeta and Rom together, I also believe, is very in keeping with the Star Trek theme of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. So I love playing Leeta."

The romance between Rom and Leeta is sparked in the episode Doctor Bashir, I Presume?, when a visiting Dr. Lewis Zimmerman tries to woo the Dabo, much to Rom's disapproval. "That kiss in Doctor Bashir, I Presume? was Max's first screen kiss ever," laughs Masterson of the couple's first romantic encounter. "I'd done one or two before. People ask me all the time what it's like to kiss a Ferengi, and my answer is, 'It hurts!' Max has all this make-up on and the fake teeth in his mouth. Whenever we kiss or touch on screen you should know that he's getting orange make-up all over me! Now I know what guys go through with girls who wear too much make-up. It's like, 'OK, tone down the make-up, girls. We really don't need it all over us.'"

When Masterson first arrived on the screen, her presence generated a bit of a ruckus among Star Trek fans. After all, Leeta was all woman and she flaunted it. And Masterson played Leeta's flirtatious sexuality to the hilt. Why? Simply this: Leeta wanted Dr. Bashir. The actress has heard all the flak and disregards most of it. "I'm so over having to defend a woman in a push-up bra just because she's in a push-up bra. If people can't see beyond the external parts of a person into the heart of what he or she is about, then that's their problem. Leeta has been called a siren, a babe, a vixen, and I've been called those things, too, in association with the character, and that's OK. It helps create momentum. And frankly, it's flattering. As long as I get to do my work, I don't care what anyone calls me."

Leeta has figured prominently in an impressive number of episodes, among them Facets, in which she spent a good portion of the episode playing Emony, one of Dax's previous hosts; Ferengi Love Songs; Let He Who is Without Sin; Bar Association; Doctor Bashir, I Presume?; A Call to Arms, in which Captain Sisko preside over the quickie wedding of Leeta and Rom; Favor the Bold; You are Cordially Invited...; and Profit and Lace. Of her shows, Masterson considers the latter one to have been the most enjoyable. "I have to tell you, I had the most fun in Profit and Lace," she enthuses. "Teaching Quark, Armin Shimerman, how to be a woman - how much more fun does it get than that? I also liked the period when Leeta was deciding between Rom and Bashir. I liked it when Bob Picardo came on to the station and wooed me in Doctor Bashir, I Presume?. Bob's a great guy and we had a lot of laughs."

Masterson, who live in Los Angeles with her 12 year old son, most recently turned up at the Paramount Pictures studio to film the fourth episode of the seventh season, Take Me Out to the Holosuite, and she expects to return for several more shows as the year progresses.

Of course, the end of season seven will mean the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as a weekly series. Although there's still plenty of work to be done, Masterson can't help but feel a little sad about the impending closure of a major chapter in her life and career. "Star Trek has been so good to me, to all of us," Masterson remarks. "It's sad to see anything that end, but I think we need to go out while the show is still strong. Seven years is pretty much enough for any show. I'd rather have seven good years than stick around and risk doing a lousy eighth year."

Not content to see what comes her way once ST:DS9 beams off the air for good, Masterson has several projects in various stages of development. She's already the co-host of the Sci-Fi Channel's weekly programme Sci-Fi Entertainment, an Entertainment Tonight for science fiction enthusiasts. Masterson insists that, for her, it's a natural transition from actress to host. "The role I most enjoy is me," she explains. "I get to do my thing, communicate as myself, look at myself. It's not as easy as it looks, but it's a lot of fun." Then there are two independent films on the way: Sammyville, a drama in which she'll portray a child protection services employee facing down a smalltown bully; and Avatar Exile, a science fiction saga that casts her as a detective sucked into the underworld of bio-perfection.

"I'm going to do both of those films either later this year or early next year, and I've also gotten into producing, creating my own projects," Masterson reveals. "I've already been involved in producing a documentary about the Cannes Film Festival that was directed by two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple, and I'm getting ready to produce two animated series. One of them is called Manboy and I like to say it's Cheers meets Beavis and Butthead with a little Greatest American Hero thrown in!

"Really, a lot of us on ST:DS9 have other projects to do. I think we're all probably ready to move on. We want to make the seventh season as good as it can be, go out on a really high note, and move on to whatever's next."

Ian Spelling

Taken from Star Trek Monthly November 1998, Vol. 1, No. 46

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