•• What actress who guest starred on Star Trek: Voyager went on to earn an Oscar nomination? That’d be Virginia Madsen, who played Kellin in the fourth-season episode “Unforgettable” and notched a Best Supporting Actress nomination in 2004 for her performance in the film Sideways. The actress is also something of a genre veteran, with sci-fi and horror credits that include Electric Dreams, Dune, Highlander 2, Candyman, The Prophecy, The Haunting in Connecticut, Red Riding Hood, The Event and more. Madsen recently attended her first Star Trek convention, taking to the stage and meeting fans at her table during Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas last month. The chatty and ageless Madsen invited StarTrek.com to hang out at her table for a while to talk, and we took her up on the opportunity. Here’s what she had to say.
-How did you land your Voyager guest shot?
Madsen: I was begging to do it. I seriously had people calling them. I wasn’t working very much at all then. That was a really low time in my career and they just treated me like I was a star. It was just wonderful. I think I had two or three people who represent me call them and say, “She’s really serious and she’s a huge Star Trek fan.” I went in to meet with the producers and they said, “We’ve got one episode left and it’s a love story.” I’m getting chills now just thinking about it. I said, “Please, I’d love to be a part of this. I know this sounds terrible, but I just want to have a weird pig nose or anything.” I wanted to be a classic Star Trek beautiful alien. They said, “Don’t worry. However, you do have ears. They’re like Vulcan ears, but they have two things.” I was like, “Yes! Excellent.”
-You had some insane call time to set, didn’t you?
Madsen: Yes! It was my earliest call time ever. It was 2:43 a.m., and it was to put on the ears. I slept because I had to be on the set at 6 a.m.
-How was the shoot?
Madsen: Just as a fan, it was awesome because I got to be on the bridge during a battle scene, and we all had to do the lean. I wondered if they had some kind of light that the cast had to follow or if they had some high-tech thing, but it was just a dude with a broomstick behind the camera going, “This way, that way.” That was so much fun, and they loved doing it, too. Kate Mulgrew was like (in spot-on Mulgrew voice), “Oh, you have to be in a battle.” I got to beam in and out. I got to be in sickbay. I had my own quarters. I had a phaser. I got phasered on stun. I was in a Jefferies Tube. You’ve got to be a Trekker to know what that is. They cut that scene out, but I was there. And I had a romance.-Kellin and Chakotay were old-school star-crossed lovers…
Madsen: It was a classic Star Trekromance. Like with Kirk, those romances would never work out. My romance was with Chakotay and it was really beautifully written. The whole episode was, and it had a really poetic ending where my species, when I leave, everyone forgets us. We take away all trace of our existence from all your data and from your brain. So Chakotay was writing with a pencil and paper our love story, because it’s the only thing that could survive.
-A good chunk of your scenes were with Robert Beltran…
Madsen: I had such a crush on him. A serious, serious crush. He was always gorgeous, and I got to kiss him. You know what else is cool? The director of photography on that show, Marvin Rush, is now shooting Hell on Wheels, that I’m on with Colm Meaney.
-Let’s shift to Hell on Wheels since you just mentioned it. Second season episodes are airing now and you’ve got a recurring role as Mrs. Durant, the wife of Meaney’s character. How did that opportunity come about?
Madsen: That came as a surprise, as usually the best jobs do for me. I was already a really big fan of Hell on Wheels. So you can imagine my delight walking onto set and seeing it all come to life and being able to walk in as a character on the show. I’m playing Mrs. Durant and it’s really funny because Colm is here at this convention, too. We weren’t on the same Star Trek show, but he’s still a part of that whole lore.
-Did that come up in any of your conversations with Meaney?
Madsen: Oh yeah, immediately. I didn’t want to embarrass him, but he knew that I’d been on Star Trek and I knew that he’d been on it. Originally, I had to cancel coming here because of the show’s shooting schedule, but since he was coming I think he made it possible for me to come, too.
-Back to Mrs. Durant, what interested you about her as a character?
Madsen: I can’t reveal too much about her, obviously. But I can say that she’s a very powerful woman who’s married to a very powerful man who is misbehaving. I’m doing three episodes now and I’m hoping if the show comes back that they’ll ask me to do more.
-You’re also doing the film Jake Squared. What’s that and what do you play?
Madsen: That’s a comedy with Elias Koteas. It’s a little indie.
-You have done a lot of sci-fi and horror films. Do you like the genre, and is it a coincidence that you’ve done so much of it? Is it something you’ve pursued or maybe where the opportunities happened to be?
Madsen: I love the genre. Those were always things that I looked for specifically because I am a fan of the genre, but it’s very hard to find a good script in fantasy, sci-fi or horror, especially horror. So it took me all those years after Candyman to find another that I liked in The Haunting in Connecticut. I made Highlander II because it was shooting in Buenos Aires and I really wanted to work with Sean Connery. I totally admit it! Christopher Lambert was great, too. But all of the rest of them have been things I sought out by choice.
-You’re here in Las Vegas. How are you enjoying your first Star Trek convention?
Madsen: I never got to do this before. I’m so elated. I’m like a kid because I’m a fan, too. Right after I did the episode I was like, “Does this mean I get to go to conventions?” And they said, “Yeah, you do.” It never happened until now, and it’s been wonderful so far. I get to meet people and interact with them, and I love that.