Marina Sirtis is a veteran actress of film and television. Countless fans know her for roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation and NCIS. I recently chatted with Marina about her upcoming role on the Joey Adams scripted dramedy Internity. Read what she had to say below.
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Can you tell us how you got involved with Internity?
“Joey Adams, the creator of the show, and I have the same manager and when he wrote Internity…I don’t know if you knew that we had the same manager…but apparently, he wrote it with me in mind. So getting it to me was easy. (Laughs).”
What can you tell us about your character on Internity?
“She’s a middle-aged woman. In Hollywood, that’s huge to have a show about a middle-aged woman. She’s been in an unhappy marriage. She’s now divorced. Her kids have left home so she decides that she’s going to do what she really wants to do with her life and follow her dreams and become a doctor. So she ends up in this hospital as an intern among a group of interns who are decades younger than her. It’s a fascinating role and I think it’s very relevant for a lot of women especially if they marry young. I think that once their kids have left home, they’re still vibrant, important women. So, to have the guts to sit in a classroom with kids the same age as your children, I think that takes a lot of chutzpah.”
Why do you think Internity is an important show to bring to television?
“One of the biggest complaints that I hear from people and people think they can complain to me because I’m an actress and they somehow think I’m responsible. (Laughs) Of course I’m not at all, but they feel I’m a conduit. Their complaint is not seeing people like themselves on television. People want to relate to the people on television. In England, we don’t have this problem. We do what we call kitchen sink drama so the people on television look like real people. They are not all skinny, glamorous, perfectly coiffed women like we tend to see on American television. So, people recognize themselves and consequently, they can easily attach to the characters. I think in America, television is really glamorous the way it depicts people with never a hair out-of-place, makeup perfectly done, and skinny, double 0. Really? Who is like that?
I live in Hollywood and I don’t know many people who look like that in real life. Actually, I’m a little too old to play this part, but fortunately, I look young for my age. (Laughs). I have that good, Mediterranean skin (thanks Mom). We belong to a generation where we are told that we should wait until we are 40 to have children and that’s really not true. We’re a different generation and we’re really not represented on television. I really think that it’s important that Hollywood begins to change. Yesterday we got equal pay and that is so huge! People think that because we’re in California it’s different because we’re on the West Coast and all that stuff. But Hollywood itself is not like that. Hollywood is not the forward thinking, revolutionary kind of place that people might think it is. It’s actually quite old-fashioned in many ways.”
Are there any other actors besides your former Star Trek: The Next Generation costars you would like to see on the show?
“I would love to work with my fellow actors from my heyday on Next Generation. I would love to work with all of them again. They are all so special in their own, unique ways. They’re still my family and my best friends, so that would be amazing. But I’ve always felt, maybe it’s because I come from theater, but I’ve always felt that it doesn’t matter who you are, the best person should get the part whether you’ve heard of them or not. I know it’s good to hire people with name recognition, but often it’s someone out there who just needs an opportunity to show what they have.
I’d like the show to be a mixture of established people and also new. They don’t have to be young. There are older actors who haven’t been discovered. I was very blessed. I came to Hollywood and booked Star Trek six months to the day I arrived. People say you were so lucky and my response to that and I didn’t come up with this, I read it somewhere was ‘Luck is when opportunity meets preparation’. We just have to give people the opportunity.”
What would you say is the message of the show?
“I think it’s life. That’s why it’s a dramedy because life is a dramedy. Life isn’t all serious or all funny. We have funny things that can happen out of the most dire consequences. There’s a line in Steel Magnolias which is one of my favorite movies of all times where Dolly Parton’s character says ‘Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion’. That says it all. That’s my feeling on how life is. You can be laughing and crying at the same time. I love that aspect. That’s what I find most exciting about this show. It’s going to represent life. Yes, we have some fantasy sequences and some dream sequences, but everyone has fantasies and everyone has dreams. Again, that’s part of life. I’m just hoping that’s what we depict. You know, true situations.”
How is your character on Internity different from other characters you have played?
“I have played a professional woman before, but not very often, mind you. (Laughs). For me, one of the exciting things is that I’m going to be playing a mother. I’m not a mother and I’m wracking my brain trying to remember if I’ve ever played a mother before. I know I did an episode of Star Trek when I had an alien baby. Besides that, I don’t think I’ve ever played a mother before so this is going to be huge for me…actually, I played a mother on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. To be in a situation surrounded by youngsters, that’s going to be…I don’t know what kind of experience that’s going to be. (Laughs). It’s new to me to be the oldest person on set. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be using it as a teaching moment for all the children on the show (Laughs). They can teach me all of the technical stuff. They can bring me into the 21st century.”
Are there any attributes you share with your Internity character?
“I think we share a strength and a sense of purpose. I think that she must be a very strong woman to do what she’s doing. I hope that I am a strong woman. I hope that I’m independent. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to be in a relationship. It just means you have to have your own opinions and your own life outside of the relationship. I think we share a lot of things. She has opinions. I think the biggest difference is that she works from a proviso ‘You get more flies with honey than vinegar’ and sometimes I forget that.”
You’ve played many dramatic roles in the course of your career. Do you look forward to tackling comedy.
“If you ask any of my friends… It hasn’t come out today because I’ve worked out and I’m feeling a little mellow…but they’ll tell you I’m funny (Laughs). Levar Burton said to me recently, ‘Marina, you’re horrible’ and I said ‘Yeah, but I’m funny’ (Laughs). He said ‘That’s why no one has killed you yet’.
I love doing comedy. Before I came to Hollywood, I did comedy in England. I did sitcoms. I did comedy with theater. Once you’ve become famous for a role, people tend to cast you in the same type of role again. People don’t think of me as a comedic actress. I am so looking forward to this. I can’t even tell you how excited I am about doing this! There’s nothing better than making people laugh.”
While Internity fits within the comedy genre, the project lends itself to dramatic and political issues like gender equality, equal pay and ageism. Do you like the mixture between comedy and drama to address important issues?
“Nothing is ever too serious! I was a huge fan of Jon Stewart before he went off of the air. I loved the way he was doing comedy with very serious subjects. I think in all acting you have to be authentic and if you are, the desired result happens.”
What would you like to say to people supporting the Indiegogo campaign to fund Internity? Is there anything else fans can do to get the word out?
“I’ve been saying it for days. If everyone who follows me on Twitter gave a dollar, we could make this show tomorrow! We’re ready to go. That would be amazing. Since we’re using social media, I’m thinking older people don’t go on the Internet as much as younger people do so we have to get the word out to older people. This is a show that they want to see on television, this is a show that they will be able to relate to on many levels. Whether they like drama, comedy, horror, or sci-fi, we pretty much do everything. I think that a lot of people are going to be very happy if they just give us a chance.”
Besides Internity, are there any other projects that you are working on that you are able to share with us?
“Michael Dorn and I…he’s my best friend in America…Michael Dorn and I have been trying to get a Maria Callas project off the ground. I want to be Maria Callas because I think it’s time that Maria Callas is played by a woman of Greek heritage being she was Greek. Every other nationality has played her but a Greek. It’s time for a Greek to play her (Laughs). Michael wrote it and he will direct it. I just finished shooting a movie called The Fifth Passenger and that is in the editing room. And of course, I do show up occasionally on NCIS. I’m not sure if I’ll be back this season. I hope so. I keep busy. I keep myself out of trouble (Laughs).
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