Ryan: mom of 2 loving life!
by Kevin Downey
Jeri Ryan is probably best known as Seven of Nine, the sexy Borg she played on Star Trek: Voyager. But Ryan, an affable mother of a toddler and a teenager, has been racking up memorable roles for nearly 20 years.
Ryan initially guest-starred on shows like Who’s the Boss? in the ‘90s. Then Ryan enjoyed a long run on Boston Public earlier this decade and was recently on the too-short-lived Shark, with James Woods.
This past summer, Ryan began a seven-episode gig as Tara Cole on TNT’s fabulously clever crime drama Leverage, with Timothy Hutton. Leverage kicks off the final six episodes of its second season — with Ryan — on January 13.
Jamming with Jeri
SheKnows: How does it feel to be best known for Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager all these years later?
Jeri Ryan: I’m really lucky to have been given a role that was so beautifully written, that was so rich to play as an actor and which became an iconic character. You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I’m very grateful for that — that’s very rare. It’s nice that it made an impression on people and that they enjoyed it that much. But it’s also scary to sign on to Star Trek because it’s notorious to for pigeonholing actors. I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve been working pretty steadily ever since.
SheKnows: Actually, you’ve been working steadily for almost 20 years.
Jeri Ryan: Good God! (Laughing). Wow, it is almost 20 years.
SheKnows: In 20 years, you’ve been on several shows that ended before viewers were ready to let go, such as Shark. How do you feel when a show is cancelled?
Jeri Ryan: With Shark, I was home on maternity leave, so my mind was in a very, very different place. I was really quite fine with it – that one did not hurt. At that point, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go back to work. Boston Public was tough, though. I think it was a great show and I don’t think it was given a fair shake by Fox. They bounced it around different timeslots and didn’t necessarily tell the audience when to look for us. So, that was tough, compounded by the fact that it was a perfect work experience. I loved everything about that show: the character, the show, the people. The acting was great. The writing was great. We were proud of what we were doing. It was sad to see that one go down.
SheKnows: Now you’re on the hit Leverage. But you’re joining an established show for only a limited run. Is that difficult?
Jeri Ryan: No, actually it was very appealing to me that it was only seven episodes, partly because it shoots in Portland and my family is [in Los Angeles]. But it’s also incredibly freeing. You don’t have to worry about a multiyear storyline. You don’t have to worry about how a scene affects the characters’ relationships in seasons three, four and five. It’s fun. It’s a quick in-and-out.
SheKnows: Your character on Leverage, Tara Cole, was introduced as a buttoned-up lawyer. But it soon became clear that she’s smart, clever and definitely not a lawyer. Was that fun?
Jeri Ryan: She’s a ball buster. She’s out there. She doesn’t care what other people think about her, if they like her or not. She’s there doing her job — she’s having a good time and enjoying herself. She loves what she does. It was a lot of fun.
SkeKnows: Is Tara significantly different from other characters you’ve played over the years?
Jeri Ryan: She’s incredibly different. She’s much more in-your-face, streetwise and funny. I’ve been lucky. I’ve played a lot of strong, intelligent women. But I’ve also played a lot of lawyers. There’s only so much humor you’re going to get on a legal show. (Laughs). That’s what I have in common with Tara – her sense of humor. Although, she’s a lot more out there than I am. She’s a lot more comfortable in her skin. She’s not apologetic about her sexuality and doing whatever she needs to do to get the job done. She doesn’t care what people think about her.
SheKnows: Last thing. Except for briefly becoming fodder for gossip magazines a few years ago (divorcing her first husband), you’ve been a working actress who keeps her personal life personal. Is that by design?
Jeri Ryan: Absolutely. There are some movie stars who are so massive that, no matter what they do, the paparazzi will follow them. But, for the most part, people who are followed by the tabloids have cultivated that. That’s not anything I have ever been interested in — certainly not for my family. I chose this career; my kids didn’t.