Any geek worth his salt has had a crush on Jeri Ryan at one point or another. I guess I could rephrase: any man, period. Jeri has been working steadily in the entertainment industry since 1991, but I think we all know when she truly burst onto the scene: 1997, when she portrayed Borg drone Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager, a character that made even non-sci-fi fans pay attention. After playing the character for four seasons, Jeri moved on to countless film in television roles, to list them all would take a whole lot of time. Bottom line is, if you’ve turned on your TV in the last 20 years, you’ve almost certainly seen Jeri’s gorgeous face grace the screen.
Now, Jeri can be seen in Amazon’s Bosch, playing a sultry femme fatale, and on the opposite side of the spectrum, is featured in AGAINST THE WILD 2 – SURVIVE THE SERENGETI, a family film in which she portrays a mom concerned about her two children, who are lost in wilds of Africa. We spoke about her new PG-rated project, working in Africa, her years on Star Trek (and those passionate Trekkies) and how her views on acting are different now than they were years ago.
This is a nice family adventure, can you talk about making it?
One of the appeals was, it’s aimed specifically at kids, it’s a family movie and my daughter is 8. It was nice to finally do something that’s literally targeted for her.
You mean she’s not watching Bosch?
No! [Laughs] And also the fact it was shot in Africa was a huge appeal for me, it’s a place I’ve always wanted to go and it was absolutely magical. We stayed on a wildlife preserve down there and it was just spectacular.
Did you enjoy working with your on-screen children? How about the wild animals?
Well, JP and Ella are just great, very mature and so well-behaved. They were really so delightful to be around. The animals were in the background of almost every scene, the giraffes, the zebras, the wildebeests. The hardest thing was not being distracted and gawking at these beautiful animals in every scene.
What did you do in your free time while there?
I got to go on a walk with the elephants and feed them. I tried to see as much as I could see while I was there. My husband came down for the first week while I was there, which was great. It was during the school year so my daughter wasn’t able to come, but we want to make sure we can bring her back to see it.
Are you a fan of the traveling part of acting, or would you prefer to stay close to L.A.?
If my family can be with me, it’s great. But when you have to leave your family a lot of the time and go by yourself, that’s not a lot of fun. When you’re single, it’s one thing. It’s great and exciting and full of adventures. But to leave your family all the time, it’s not easy.
You’re done a lot of TV, you’ve done a lot of movies. Do you prefer one over the other?
This one was shot pretty fast-paced, more like a TV show than a typical feature, and I think most low-budget features are that way, the schedules are a little tighter. That’s been most of my career and that’s what I prefer; the times I’ve done the big-budget features where you’re doing the same two pages all day, that to me is a little mind-numbing. I’m used to the pace of television, where you’re shooting 7 or 8 pages a day.
Was South Africa your favorite place to visit as an actress?
South Africa was my favorite. Everywhere else that I’ve worked as been in the country, some beautiful states. Portland is beautiful; Providence, Rhode Island is lovely. But that was on the other side of the country from where I live and I was commuting and it was brutal. But this was one of those places I always wanted to see. My morning commute… sometimes we were driving one mile per hour because there were four giraffes walking in the road in front of us. [Laughs]
I read you’re a big foodie and something of a chef; did you enjoy the food there?
Most of the time we were eating on the resort, except for one time when my husband was there. But it was good. It’s not my husband’s cuisine, he’s a Michelin star chef, so you get a little spoiled. [Laughs]
You’re as good of a cook as he is though, right?
Oh god, no. I love to cook, but I’m not on his level at all.
Do you two ever collaborate on dishes, or do you just leave it all to him?
If it’s something he can do ten times faster and ten times better, you know… [Laughs] I tend to stick more to dessert, I like to bake and I love pie.
What’s your signature dish?
My homemade blueberry pic is pretty rockin’, I grow the berries and it’s really good.
Are you still as passionate about acting as you were when you first got started?
I am, I am passionate about acting. The difference comes when you’re a mom. When I was on Star Trek my son was about 3-years-old, I think, and when you have a child when you’re young, you think they’re going to be young forever. I worked on that show 16-18 hours a day, and looking back I feel like I missed an entire part of his childhood. You realize when you look back on it how quickly it really goes, you blink your eyes and they’re grown up. So when I had my daughter, because it was my second child, I knew I was not going to do that again. I didn’t want to work that schedule and miss it, because these years are too precious and they go too quickly. If something’s going to give and something’s going to be sacrificed, it’s going to be my career. So I’ve been very specific about the roles I will take and the roles I’ll choose, because it’s great career-wise to be the lead in a single-lead show, but you’re on set all the time and I wasn’t willing to do that schedule again.
Was it really 18 hours a day on Star Trek?
That was a particularly grueling schedule, most hour-long dramas have 8-day schedules, but that was a 7-day schedule. It’s a lot of technobabble and prosthetic make-up, which adds to the time. That one was particularly brutal. [Laughs]
Do you look back on those years fondly?
Yes, and then no. Parts of it, yes; the friendships that I made, yes. That was a great role, that was a gift as an actress to get that character to play because she was so rich and so much prose over the four years I got to play her. But it was hard, it was long hours and I was away from my son a lot, and I regret that now.
You still do the conventions, do you enjoy that? And are the fans as passionate as ever?
I do, and yes they are. [Laughs] Star Trek fans are notorious for how passionate they are. They’re the best, they’re so enthusiastic, and so loyal and supportive, it’s great. It’s really nice.
They’re making a new series I’m sure you’ve heard, would you like to be a part of that in some way?
[Laughs] Not full-time, but who knows. It might be fun to pop in. Might be more fun to visit the set, say hi.
What else do you have coming out that you’re excited about?
Well, the second season of Bosch just came out, which is great. That was another really fun role that was a huge departure from anything else I’ve done. Season Three starts shooting in August, I think.
Well, good luck with it and thank you again for your time.
Absolutely, thank you!