OFFICIAL FAN CLUB
TRACKING DOWN THE HARDEST WORKING WOMAN IN SCI FI SHOW BUSINESS
by JEFF BOND
If youíre a fan of DEEP SPACE NINE, if you cruise the internet or attend science fiction conventions, thereís one face youíve probably run into in physical, video or digital form more than once: the face of actress Chase Masterson. The DS9 ĎDabo girlí Leeta defines not only the words cute, perky and sexy, but also Ďubiquitous.í Sheís everywhere! Itís inescapable!
As if uncounted convention appearances and her own fan-based website arenít enough, Chase recently achieved an unprecedented honor by beating out VOYAGERís Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) by a country mile for the coveted title of "Queen of Science Fiction." Fans voted all through the month of July, and Masterson wound up with more than 11,000 votes, 32% of all those cast. Ryan, whoís been on more magazine covers than Monica Lewinsky, could only muster 25%. And sheís on VOYAGER EVERY WEEK.
For Masterson, being elected sci fi Queen was a complete surprise.
"I thought for sure it was going to be Jonathan Harris!" she quips.
But seriously... "A fan told me when I was in Toronto that I was in second place," she recalls. "I said ĎSecond place for what?í and he said ĎQueen of Science Fiction, science fiction actress. And I said what, who, why? And I looked on the computer and lo and behold, there it was. At that time Jeri Ryan was in first place. 36 of D."
Despite kicking the VOYAGER cutieís ass (and sharing the title with the elected "King" of sci fi, BABYLON 5ís Bruce Boxleitner), Masterson is taking the honor philosophically. "Itís pretty cool, but letís face facts: queen of science fiction can mean several different things. I donít have a crown or anything, although I suppose I could buy one. I donít know...do I get to say ĎOff with his head! or anything?"
Masterson is circumspect about just how P.Oíd Jeri Ryan might be about losing out to an actress who only gets about 3% of the screen time she does.
"I think weíre generally supportive of each other," says Masterson. "You might have to ask her that, though. I was personally quite surprised."
For Masterson, the honor just plays in to the whole thrill of working in the genre. "The medium of science fiction has such a lot of power in it and I love it," she notes. "Itís passionate, itís creative, itís imaginative, and the skyís not even the limit. Thereís always a big Ďwhat if?í and I tend to think that way, too. But thereís other things too. Science fiction draws parallels that we can take a look at the world around us: people, politics, money, everything. But in sci fi the lessons and the principles donít smack us in the face. So itís very powerful, and one of the things thatís constantly going through my mind as work happens more and more, besides how fun it is, is that thereís just so much more that we could be doing."
One of the ways in which the actress tries to give something back to the community is through her fan club, which is currently the largest private contributor for Babies With AIDS.
"Iíve worked for them since before my career got started," she says. "I was really destitute and I was co-producing a benefit for them, but I was so dirt-poor I couldnít take care of myself let alone anyone else. I had one of those cars that you turned on but you couldnít turn off because then you wouldnít be able to start it again. And so I would leave it running outside with the Club on...not that anyone would have stolen it. But the woman I was working with would say ĎChase, is that your car running outside?í And Iíd say ĎYes.í And sheíd say ĎDo you want to turn it off?í And Iíd say ĎNo...í So itís nice to be able to come back years later and have people who are really behind you."
While Masterson is all over the place now, sheís a relative newcomer whoís just made her name in the last four years in her recurring role as Leeta, the popular Dabo girl (and wife of Quarkís brother Rom) on DEEP SPACE NINE. Nevertheless, sheís not new to the business.
"Iíve been doing this all my life," she reveals. "My mom was an actress and a director. I grew up in the business, never went to my high school prom or even a football game. I was usually last to be picked on any teams, painfully shy, and still am in some ways. We all have our demons to conquer and I think that making myself to be available emotionally and passionately is both a challenge and something that comes really naturally to me."
The role of Leeta actually came about after Masterson lost out while auditioning for another role on the series.
"Actually I heard from the producers recently that they wrote the role of Leeta for me," Masterson explains. "Iíd had an audition for the role of Marta, which is Jakeís little girlfriend, in the third season. It got down to two of us for the role, and the girl who got it got it because after all heís sixteen and sheís nineteen, and Iím...not. So I had really wanted to do this show, Iíve always liked Star Trek, and I guess they liked me too because the word from the producers is they said we couldnít cast you in that but we had to find something for you to do, so they wrote this role. It said a possible recurring role. I still had to audition for it, mind you; I guess thatís how Hollywood works."
If fate hadnít lent a hand, the Leeta we know and love might have looked a little bit different according to Masterson.
"I bought long hair for the role, I bought this like $300 wig and this really girlie dress because I thought thatís what they wanted," Chase remembers. "I mean, when will we figure out that if weíre just ourselves weíll get what we want? Iíve told this story before, but when I first moved here I thought that to be an actress you had to have long, curly Julia Roberts hair and wear spandex black things 24 hours a day. And that may be true...but since I didnít look like that I went out and bought this whole hair system for $2000 that matched my hair exactly, and you could put it on and even the guy I was dating thought it was my real hair. So I wore this hair 24 hours a day and it was my new identity... until one day I left it on top of my car and drove away. So there it was, gone with the wind...not only my hair but my identity! I can just imagine some drag queen in West Hollywood wearing one. Or maybe Animal Control came and picked it up. So I realized, since I couldnít afford to buy it again anyway, that I just needed to be myself."
Marrying the big-eared Ferengi Rom was an unexpected move for the character, but Masterson points out that itís par for the course for TREK.
"Iíve been surprised every step of the way, especially with me marrying Rom and getting involved in that whole family portrait," says Masterson. "And I had fans saying Ďhow could you turn down Dr. Bashir for Rom?í...but thatís really what Star Trek is all about. It is infinite diversity and looking at people for who they are on the inside, not the outside. Itís really a very Star Trek choice, plus thereís a lot more comedy."
Of course, Leeta returns this year for the last season of DS9, and has already completed work on at least one show.
"Iím in an episode called ĎTake Me Out to the Holosuiteí which is a baseball episode where DS9 plays the Vulcans," says Masterson. "I play outfield and I get to say a little more than ĎOh, Rom!í Itís very fun."
The actress is still in the dark as far as how her character arc will be wrapped up on the show but is eternally grateful for the opportunity.
"Iím happy itís gone as far as it has," she says. "If it goes farther, and Leeta gets to expand, I think that would be great. Not just for fun and work, but because it would be a big surprise to the fans. I think that they think that sheís demure and good-hearted and maybe even sexy; now sheís strong too. Thatís science fiction."
And how does she feel about finishing her run on the show? "Weíll all miss it. Iíll miss Leeta as a person; Iíll miss Rom as a person. Itís a pretty close-knit set. But I think weíve all got other projects we want to move on to."
One of those projects is Mastersonís current cohosting duties on SCI FI ENTERTAINMENT on the Sci Fi Channel.
"Itís really a fun show because we cover not only science fiction entertainment news, like ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT for the genre, but also science fact. So itís both hip and informative; weíll have interviews with Wesley Snipes from Blade or Chris Carter and Gillian Anderson from The X-Files to the world of science. Things that once were only science fiction are now available in our everyday life, like cloning and bio-perfection and all that; the whole computer age is moving really quickly. So we cover the best of both."
Masterson also has a number of film roles coming up, including an ambitious independent film called Sammyville.
"Itís based on a true story about a child protective services worker who goes into a private town in Oregon to try and recover a lost child," says Masterson. "The laws were different 50 years ago when this town was created and itís literally like trespassing now. And I go toe-to-toe with Sammy, the man who owns this town. Theyíre rednecks, itís a boyís club, and mine is a pretty gritty role, not at all like Leeta. And I have another one that will be released early next year which is another Stephen King movie, and I play a military commanding officer and wear no makeup except to make me look really bad. Itís like Leeta goes Rambo. And early next year Iím playing another sci fi film where I play a detective, and itís called Abattoir Exile."
Mastersonís projects arenít limited to acting roles either.
"Iím also starting to produce," she explains. "Iím doing an animated series called Manboy. Itís really fun, a la Comedy Central. Thereís also a feature and a movie-of-the-week that are in development, and two more series that weíre working on. One is science fiction and there are a couple of childrenís series. And Iím doing these things because Iím really passionate about these projects, not because I want to be in them but because I want them to be made. I want to make sure that Iím a part of that."
When you get right down to it, Chase Masterson is still just playing a small, semi-recurring supporting role on a television series that isnít exactly at the top of the ratings. Yet sheís parlayed her DS9 appearances into a kind of one-woman multi-media show thatís made her one of the most familiar faces in science fiction. What is it about Masterson (and the role of Leeta) that fascinates fans to the point that theyíd elect Chase Queen of Sci Fi over movie stars like Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Fisher, TV series stars like Kate Mulgrew and heavily-hyped regularly-appearing players like Jeri Ryan?
"I donít know but I sure appreciate it," Masterson admits. "If thereís anything I can say itís not that I think that I have this more than anybody else, but Iím a fan of the fans, and maybe itís because for the first time in a long time on STAR TREK there was a recurring character who just dared to be sexy without having to cover it by being official or denying it. You know, Iím so over people having to explain over and around the fact that they have a push-up bra yet theyíre still intelligent. Itís like, if they canít tell that Leeta is smart and pretty and passionate, thatís their problem. I can be sexy without having to explain it or defend it or be angry about it."
Meanwhile, Chase Masterson has at least one other project moving toward the front burner. "Iím working on a charity project right now that will be a joint venture between the entertainment industry and the fans," she concludes. "Thereís a lot of energy there and if we harness it the right way, weíll do a lot of good for the world. Itíll be announced definitely by early 1999; watch for it here. Youíll say you saw it here first."
One thing else is for sure: youíll be seeing Chase Masterson here, and everywhere else, as the Millenium turns...
ISSUE 8.0 - SEPTEMBER 1, 1998
(Check out EON MAGAZINE October 1 when Chase Masterson adds yet another notch on her sci-fi belt when she begins her own monthly column in our Opinion pages)
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