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The Trek Nation - Nicole deBoer

Nicole deBoer

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at August 19, 2002 - 11:01 AM GMT

Nicole deBoer arrived on Deep Space Nine during its final season to play Ezri Dax and immediately became a favorite among Star Trek fans. Now she stars as Sarah on The Dead Zone, a project from DS9 co-creator Michael Piller. As Ezri, deBoer found herself in a complicated love triangle with Worf, who was still in love with the Dax symbiont's former host Jadzia; as Sarah, she finds herself in an equally difficult position, for she is married to Sheriff Walt Bannerman when her childhood sweetheart and the father of her son comes out of a long coma. This August, deBoer talked to the Trek Nation about her character's confusion, long-running shows and the Trek legacy.


Trek Nation: How's your hiatus going?

Nicole deBoer: It's been great. I don't go back to work until September 15, so I've been going on little trips. I just got back from Vegas; a friend of mine got married there.

Trek Nation: You weren't at the big Star Trek convention last weekend?

deBoer: It was funny that they were all there! I was staying at the Hard Rock Hotel with my husband, and we realized there was a convention because we saw Dominic and a couple of the guys by the pool. But we were more excited by the Sopranos guys, actually! They're in L.A. and we shoot in Vancouver, so I only see them at conventions. Michael Piller doesn't come up that often; he stays at home where he can write. We have Shawn Piller up there, and he's our connection. He's amazing.

Trek Nation: Did Michael Piller come looking for you for Dead Zone?

deBoer: I don't really know. I suppose he might have asked, but it felt like another audition. It was the tail end of pilot season, so I was going out for a lot of things, and it was one of the things I was going in on. Once I got there, I realized 'Oh, this is Michael Piller!' And then obviously he must have liked my read.

I think he liked me as Dax -- I think it helped a little bit -- but it was really more the chemistry, because Anthony Michael Hall was there for the auditions to read with the women that came in.

Trek Nation: Had you met him before?

deBoer: No, never. I'm a fan of his work, for sure. I was kind of like, 'Where has he been?', although I had seen Six Degrees of Separation, which I thought he was really good in. I hadn't seen The Pirates of Silicon Valley, and I'd heard that he was really good in that.

Trek Nation: Did you grow up with John Hughes movies?

deBoer: Totally! I totally grew up with that. But I was really impressed as soon as I met him. I think he's been doing a really, really good job.

Trek Nation: What's the Dead Zone set like -- is it the kind where people have fun together and play practical jokes?

deBoer: I think it will be more, now that we're past the first season. It's definitely there in everybody, but everybody was working so hard. I think it's really shown in how well the show has gone over, because everybody worked so hard and put so much into it. It could have been just okay, you know? And I think it's been a lot better than that, which is a testament to Anthony Michael Hall and to Michael Piller.

Trek Nation: Are you having fun working on it?

deBoer: Yes, there have been all sorts of different things going on in each episode, so it has kept us sort of entertained. They said the characters were based upon Stephen King's characters, so obviously I went out and watched the film again and started reading the book. My character is based on that, but there are differences. When Johnny comes out of the coma in the book, she's married, but she doesn't have his child.

There are a lot of elements to her, and her personality. He can be a bit of a wacky guy. He does a little bit of unorthodox things when it comes to teaching, before the coma, and she's obviously someone who was attracted to that. She's a smart woman, she's a teacher, and she's probably romantic, so I took a lot of that from the book.

Trek Nation: Do you think she's still in love with him?

deBoer: Oh, yeah. It's tough. She loved him, for sure, but it raises the question: can you love more than one person? And there's different types of love.

Trek Nation: I just saw the 'It's a Wonderful Life' episode where she was trying to find a girlfriend for Walt -- her poor dorky not-husband.

deBoer: Wasn't that funny? He's a different type altogether, and I guess he was like her knight in shining armor when she was told her fiancé was never going to come out of the coma. She's pregnant, and she's alone, and there's Walt, who's a wonderful, wonderful guy, and not hard to look at!

I think in any marriage, there are ups and downs. You're going to be together for years, so you're going to go through hard times -- there's going to be times when it's better and times when it's not. And throwing your old flame into it, that's a real glitch in the system! Of course it's going to throw you off-kilter. He puts up with a lot, that husband of mine.

Trek Nation: Do you think he knows the extent of Sarah's feelings about Johnny?

deBoer: I think so, but what choice does he have? I think he's so cool because he ought to make a big stink about it, but that can push someone further into the other person's arms. So you be cool about it and hope it's going to work out for you. I think he's really awesome to put up with so much.

He's sort of made little jabs -- there was one episode where I bought Johnny a phone and kept phoning him all the time, right in front of my husband, 'What do you mean you're in love with this other woman?', I was jealous, and my husband was like, 'Hey! You want me to leave the room or something while you have this conversation?' So he hasn't really freaked out yet, but I think he needs to have a bit of a freakout. But I think they're worried about that, because he has a gun! They don't want him to become some brutish, awful, mean guy; they want to kind of root for him.

Trek Nation: The writers are writing Walt and Johnny like they might really be friends, but there's this woman between them, forever. And a kid.

deBoer: It would be easy if he was a jerk! 'Screw off, I'm going to go be with this other person!' But it's so much harder when everybody's good, and trying to do the right thing.

Trek Nation: Do you think it would be any easier to be with a guy who zones out every time he touches someone?

deBoer: I don't know! That's the whole thing. What would you do? If she said goodbye to her husband and went with Johnny, and it's such a small town...it's a lot to deal with.

Trek Nation: What do you relate to in Sarah?

deBoer: Her intelligence! She's very, very bright -- maybe you don't know that yet! I'm kidding. I don't know, I think there's 'you' in every character, but I don't know if I could really pinpoint what it is. For me, it's always extremely organic -- I'm not really someone who thinks a lot about it, I just kind of know.

Trek Nation: You don't keep a little black book where you have to write down your secrets...or the personalities of your former hosts?

deBoer: Sometimes I do and sometimes I just throw that book out and don't look at it. It depends on my mood -- sometimes I really feel like I know what I want this person to be, physically. I'm really not good at talking about it! I've been doing this since I was a kid, so it's been a lot of trial by fire. I've been learning on the job, without a whole lot of classic study.

Trek Nation: Does that make it easier when you're working with kids, since you have a child on this show?

deBoer: Some kids! Kids are kids, and some kids have it, plus they have the discipline to know when to say the lines. But if they can't concentrate, actually do it on the day, it can really screw you up. I really love kids -- some days I wake up and I want to have kids now, but other days I wake up and want to wait a bit.

Trek Nation: Gee, if the show runs for a lot of years and you have a baby, you could end up giving the show a nice dilemma...

deBoer: Exactly! Is it going to be Walt's or is it going to be Johnny's?

Trek Nation: What would you want?

deBoer: I think the three of them could end up having a very interesting relationship!

Trek Nation: Were you a Stephen King fan going in?

deBoer: Not a big one. I like some of his stuff -- not the really scary stuff, more the psychological kind, and of course Stand By Me. His writing has ranges, you know? I did like The Dead Zone, although I never read the whole book. In the book she didn't have his baby, so that's a big difference. That's why I didn't read all of it. I like this kind of Stephen King, and I've always liked Star Trek, but I wasn't a major genre fan.

Trek Nation: How much are they going to get into the plot from the novel?

deBoer: They are -- in fact they introduce the character of Greg Stillson in the last episode of the first season. He's the politician who ends up being the evil guy in the book, who's basically Johnny's nemesis, and they met back when they were children. Sean Patrick Flanery plays him, and he's really, really good. So they're just starting to introduce that now.

It's weird, though, because they are trying to play the timeline thing, but they want to be able to play around and have these episodes air out of sequence. So I don't know how they're going to do that.

Trek Nation: Everyone seems so dead-set right now against making serial science fiction like Deep Space Nine.

deBoer: But then when they do it, I think it's so cool! I love it. Deep Space Nine did it so well. We did some of the best ones, really, because there was that whole arc going on with it.

Trek Nation: It seems like there are a lot of people from Star Trek working on Dead Zone -- I know Joe Menosky wrote some, and I read that Robert Hewitt Wolfe is writing an episode.

deBoer: Michael Piller is bringing them in to write for us, and it's really nice to see the gang. They're good writers.

Trek Nation: Was it weird for you when you came onto Deep Space Nine that last season and you were the only one who didn't know everyone?

deBoer: Not at all. I don't know why -- I had come from another series, so you kind of get used to that family feeling. If anything, it was like them adopting one extra person. They were very welcoming. I've done so many episodics that I've gotten used to getting in there and getting to know everybody. It didn't bother me at all.

Trek Nation: Did you try to connect with Terry Farrell or did you want to come in and do it fresh?

deBoer: I got some episodes and watched them, but I didn't really want to be affected too much by what she did. Jadzia was going to be one of many people inside of me, so I just did the clasping-the-hands-behind-the-back like she did, which I think also Joran did as well. It kind of gave that little nod to her, but she was going to be one of, what, eight people inside me?

Trek Nation: But she was the one whose husband you had living next door! Did you want Dax and Worf to stay together or did you not care?

deBoer: I just wanted to stay together so that I could jump into the films with him! That was my only selfish reason that I wanted them to stay together. They handled that really well; I thought it was as good as you could get in a situation like that.

And it was exciting for me to kiss Worf! Because I'd grown up watching the show, and I thought about when I was fourteen on the couch watching it with my parents, and if anyone had told me 'One day you're going to be on the show,' it was like, 'Wow! I just kissed Worf!'

Trek Nation: Speaking of complicated romances! Do you think Dax and Bashir are going to go the distance?

deBoer: That whole thing kind of surprised me, really. I wasn't expecting it. I would get the new scripts, and I would be like, 'Ooo-kay.' It's fine -- I like Bashir, and I love Sid -- he's an awesome guy. But I was kind of not into too much of that storyline at the end.

If there were to be some kind of a movie, which I would love -- if they would kind of combine the few shows, because I don't think they would do a movie for just Deep Space Nine or just Voyager -- I think they should do something where people get to where they all went. I think that'd be nice.

Trek Nation: I want to see Kira in command!

deBoer: Yeah! I was excited about it at the end of the show: Kira and I are going to run this place, man! I'm going to send Bashir away to some colony that needs some medical help or something and get busy with Kira. We're going to be really cool running the place! He can go stay with Miles.

I was so excited to work with Colm Meaney, because I loved all his films.

Trek Nation: Have you done conventions with Terry Farrell?

deBoer: I met her because she was shooting Becker right nearby, so she came by one day on set and I said hi to her. She was very nice -- she seemed happy to be on Becker. But I miss it a lot sometimes. It was a great show.

Trek Nation: Everybody I've interviewed says you really made the seventh season -- that it gave a completely new dynamic, but it still had continuity.

deBoer: That's really nice to hear. It was different -- it was a different vibe, and the energy of the character was lighter. I wasn't sure how some people were going to take it. But I think it was a good move overall; I certainly had so much fun doing it.

Trek Nation: Do you know with Dead Zone whether they're thinking past next year, or a couple of years, or how long it might run?

deBoer: Oh, these guys are ready to go for the full seven years! Whatever they can get out of it!

Trek Nation: And then the movie!

deBoer: Exactly. I'm not so sure if I'm up for that! It's a long time away, but they're totally ready to do it for a long run, for sure.

Trek Nation: Have they talked to you at all about what will happen next year, or what you want to see happen?

deBoer: They're very open. I don't know if you've checked out the web site, but they're so great about giving information to the fans and they're open to almost anybody. They've got their ideas mapped out, but certainly if I have anything that I want to offer, they'll listen, for sure.

Trek Nation: What would you like to see happen?

deBoer: I'd like to see Sarah as a teacher, in the classroom, and have something happen with someone there -- some way that she's worked into Johnny's life a little bit more, because if I flip one more pancake I'm going to scream. They keep having me in these kitchen scenes. When I first read it, I realized she's just gone back to work after staying at home with her kid. That's not me, but I understand people do that, so that's okay that she's not some big career woman, but it's been starting to grate on my nerves.

I've decided the whole reason Sarah went back to work is that I think it's grating on her nerves. She's been home, taking care of the husband and the kid, and she's like, 'Okay, this is boring. I'm bored now.' So I think she finds the whole Johnny thing kind of exciting, and I want her to get in there and help him.

Trek Nation: Are we going to get any ugliness between her and the red-haired reporter?

deBoer: Oh, I'm sure! They do not like each other! Jealousy! But it always happens that when you hate someone, sooner or later you have a drink with them and maybe become friends with them.

Trek Nation: How difficult is it when you have an emotional, tearful scene that wouldn't ever happen in your real life because you don't know anyone who can tell the future?

deBoer: It's just something that I have, that I guess actors have, even when we're not acting. You spend your day in these little fantasies -- you see someone in a line and think about their life. 'Oh my god, what if this happened, what would I do?' That's just how actors' brains work. I'm constantly bringing myself to tears in the middle of the day because I'm playing out some fantasy in my mind: 'How would this feel?' We kind of torture ourselves that way.

So it's mostly a matter of the focus and doing it on set, inside of three takes, when everyone is there waiting for you to do it. That's the difference between just doing it in your mirror or in your car!

Trek Nation: Do you still get a lot of feedback from Star Trek fans?

deBoer: I get mail, and I get stopped on the street. They're awesome. There were Trek fans who didn't like Ezri, who never wanted to let go of Jadzia, but then I'd go to a convention and see you can't go by the same fifty people writing in to the web site. I'd worry that they really didn't like me, because we'd have these real hardcore people saying, 'She shouldn't be like this,' but then I'd go to a convention and see that there are lots of people who don't necessarily write in every week but they really enjoy the show -- and they actually enjoy a little romance, unlike some guy who's writing in on the web and he's like, 'Get rid of all that romance crap; let's see more fighting!' Everybody's different.

Trek Nation: What are they saying about Dead Zone?

deBoer: I think people are loving it, from what I can see. It's attracting a wide audience, it's totally getting women which they're really happy about. It's getting that 18-34 group too. Everybody really. If you just tune in and give it a chance, I find that people are kind of hooked on it. I have friends who told their families, 'You know, Nikki's on a show,' and they watched and now their families are hooked. Everybody who's checked it out is now hooked on it. I'm really proud of it.

Trek Nation: It's so nice with Dead Zone that they're actually courting women viewers, unlike a lot of genre shows that only care about 18-year-old guys.

deBoer: Michael Piller was really happy to get the women viewers. I think X-Files had that kind of thing too, where women watched it for that chemistry going on, and David Duchovny. It had all those other great elements, so young people watched it too.

Trek Nation: What are your long-term goals: do you want to direct, or do you have a project you want to do on hiatus?

deBoer: I don't know. I'm happy right now, so I'm not very good at making plans! I'd like to produce, maybe finance and star in some indie films with some friends of mine. I'd like to do comedy, to tell you the truth; I like doing drama, but I really love doing comedy, and I'd like to do something where I get to utilize that part of my talent. Doing Kids in the Hall, I really loved that.

Trek Nation: What was your favorite part?

deBoer: Anything with Kids in the Hall I totally loved -- I had a recurring character with that. But I'm proudest of a genre thing which was actually an Outer Limits that I did with Robert Patrick. It was really cool -- it was a two-hander, just him and me trapped in this alien cell, and it had a really cool twist ending. It's called 'The Quality of Mercy.'

Trek Nation: So you are a little bit of a genre fan.

deBoer: I actually did two Outer Limits -- I've done so much of this stuff. But anything that involves comedy, I really love.

Trek Nation: Do you get any time off in between episodes you aren't in?

deBoer: It came up that I wasn't in a couple of times, which is totally fine and understandable -- you can't saturate it with Johnny and Sarah all the time. It's only a two-hour flight, so I would pop back and forth to see my husband and my dogs. Vancouver is lovely anyway, and I have some good friends out there. Have you interviewed Gordon Woolvett [of Andromeda]? We worked together on a genre show too, called Mission: Genesis, that was on USA. He is so funny, and he's got so much energy. I didn't even realize they were shooting in Vancouver until recently.

Trek Nation: Do you keep in touch with any of the Deep Space Nine actors?

deBoer: I got to conventions now and then, so I see them, which is nice. I don't go over for a barbecue to anyone's house, although Armin Shimerman has invited me -- he's totally awesome, but whenever he was having one, John and I would be flying to Canada. We were never in town! He was the guy, as soon as I came to the set, who said, 'If you need anything, just ask me -- I'm here for you.' He was great.

Trek Nation: What's been your proudest moment?

deBoer: I guess reuniting my family, taking my grandfather back to Scotland when he hadn't been back since he emigrated to Canada. I had a convention in Scotland, and my mom decided that she wanted to go because she hadn't been back since she came over when she was six. So my mom and my stepdad were coming, and my cousin wanted to come who had never been on a plane, and we asked my grandfather, 'Do you want to go back?' So we took him back, and he got to see family, and got on a plane which was a huge deal because he was shot down in the war and swore he'd never get on a plane -- they took the boat over to Canada. So that was really nice. I think we were in a pub when finally my aunts and stuff showed up, and we all met, at the hotel where the convention was, and my grandfather got a tear in his eye. I was really proud.


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Michelle Erica Green reviews Enterprise episodes and Star Trek books for the Trek Nation, as well as Andromeda episodes for SlipstreamWeb. She has written television reviews, interviews and other features for magazines and sites such as Cinescape and Another Universe. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.