After four episodes of Star Trek: Picard, Seven of Nine is finally back.
Jeri Ryan, one of Picard’s most talked-about castmembers (thanks to several trailers teasing her role on the CBS All Access show), reprised her role of Star Trek: Voyager’s former Borg drone in the final moments of this week’s episode, “Absolute Candor.”
When The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Ryan ahead of the season, the actor was unable to reveal what her character has been up to since audiences last saw her on the small screen in 2001, or even what episode she appears in. “Candor” teased some of the former: Seven has spent some time near and around the Romulan relocation settlement on the planet Vashti on her fast, unidentified, fighter-like starship. In the episode’s climatic battle, Seven used (and lost) her ship while saving Picard and crew from an attack by an unseen space pirate of sorts and his Original Series-era Romulan bird of prey. Like Picard and Patrick Stewart, Seven and Jeri Ryan are also re-entering the world of Star Trek at a time when both the franchise and the real world are much different than when fans last saw them. So what was the biggest change for Ryan’s newest Trek experience?
“The scale of the show. The scale of these sets, the costumes, it’s crazy. It’s like you’re doing a feature film every week.” Ryan says with a big smile. What impressed her most was the advances in set design and tech from her days on Voyager.
“In one of my scenes, where I had to go in and work a console, we go in for the first rehearsal and I had to touch buttons and the screen actually does something! And I totally flipped out, like: ‘Oh my god, actually having buttons that work!”
There was another change from working on Voyager that surprised her.
“What’s funny is that they actually added time to my ready time. They made [Seven’s] prosthetics more complicated to put on. So now I actually do have prosthetic makeup to add, outside of the full Borg suit and makeup, that I didn’t have on the old show.” (And yes, fans, she still has Seven’s original facial appliances somewhere in her house. “Though it’s pretty crunchy at this point,” she says. She also got to keep her first new set of appliances from Picard.)
What Ryan didn’t have was previous experience working opposite Patrick Stewart, as Picard marks the first time the popular characters have shared the screen together. And according to Ryan, her first day paired with him was a memorable and somewhat challenging one.
“My first scene, the big scene, was the one you see in the trailer, when we’re in his office/ready room. That was my first day on set. It was daunting — not just because it was Patrick — but because I was still petrified — or ‘Patrick-fied’ — of if I could find the character again. I was still trying to figure out who she was.”
What helped Ryan rediscover Seven 19 years after Voyager went off the air was being supported by both Stewart and another Star Trek: The Next Generation veteran.
“I was so fortunate because Jonathan Frakes was directing my first episode. So with that, I knew I was in good hands. [Frakes], more than anyone else, would get the importance of revisiting and being true to these characters. Because the challenge for me is: Where has she been for nearly 20 years? Finding her voice was the hardest thing for me; when I read the first script — I just couldn’t hear her voice anywhere.”
Ryan went on to recall that it took her the first couple of takes before she felt like she “found Seven,” but once she did, “Frakes just sort of walked in and said ‘there she is.’”
Where exactly Seven has been all these years, and how she acquired her (now destroyed) starship, will very likely be revealed in the next episode. And while Ryan couldn’t tease anything about what her character’s new storyline entails, she did let on that she will share at least one more space battle with the former Enterprise captain. And despite having spent four seasons on Voyager and recently wrapping the first season of Picard, getting to be on a Star Trek show still has its “pinch me” moments for her.
“Yeah, I feel that way all the time. I mean, even after having finished the first season, I see the promos come out and go ‘oh my gosh, I’m actually playing Seven of Nine again.’”
New episodes of Picard air Thursdays on CBS All Access.