Actress Melanie Smith played the character of Tora Ziyal in Deep Space Nine and she explained how she got the job and her approach to playing the daughter of Gul Dukat.
Smith was one of many trying out for the role, but her take on the character won over the producers. “I went in and I had had my take on Tora Ziyal. When I walked in, everybody else was in combat boots and fatigues and muscle shirts, and I was wearing a sundress. Because I saw her as a real innocent, peace-loving kind of…child, POW, wants peace on earth.
“So I left, and my agents called me and said, ‘We don’t know what you did, but you got the job. They just have to meet the other actors. But it’s yours.’ So I was like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty amazing.’ It was funny, because I thought I made a big mistake when I saw the way everybody else prepared. I think that they watched the storyline. I didn’t. I just read the script. I was like, ‘Wow, she’s got so much love in her. I just can’t wait to play that.'”
Ziyal, said Smith, “wanted her father and this woman that was, for all intents and purposes, her inspiration and mentor…she just wanted them to love each other. It wasn’t really like, ‘I’m this,’ or, ‘I’m a half-breed. It was just, ‘Why can’t we all love each other?’ If more people have something they loved and believed in, that brought community and passion and compassion, I think we’d have a whole different world. That’s how I feel Tora Ziyal lived her life. She was an artist, and she was a dreamer.”
The character was all about love. “I was in the middle of two love stories,” Smith said. “With Garak and with my Dad. So one was trying to build love. Right? With my Dad. And trying to forgive it, so I could love. The other one was this innocent falling in love with a man who kind of couldn’t understand why. And in the midst of finally getting my Dad’s love, and finally feeling at home for the first time in my life, and feeling like maybe I had a future with a man that I could love, boom! Bye-bye. Ain’t life a you-know-what?”
If Ziyal hadn’t been killed off, what would Smith have wanted for the character? “One was I would have gotten my father into relationship counseling, because I think he really wanted to have deep, deep relationships, but he was so broken,” she said. “More…globally, I wish she had the chance to close that gap between the Bajorans and Cardassians, because I think it was possible. I think she really, truly, in a pure and innocent way, represented that potential. And that got shot down.”
These days, Smith is a transitional coach with her own business called Well Lit Life.