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Beloved Marina Sirtis of 'Star Trek' Playing Wicked Queen in El Portal's 'Snow White'

It may be hard for audiences to fear her when she so endeared herself to their hearts in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation.'

After the success of last year’s holiday show , the Lythgoe Company is back to produce another fairy tale in the . , which opens Nov. 30, stars another new actor the company discovered through auditions, and some well known stars in supporting roles, including as the magic mirror.

Marina Sirtis plays the Wicked Queen in the Lythgoe’s production of Snow White. It may be hard for audiences to fear her when she so endeared herself to their hearts in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In seven years of television and four movies, Sirtis played Counselor Deanna Troi, the Enterprise’s sympathetic ear and love interest to Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in the post-Kirk and Spock era.

The day before her Snow White rehearsals began, Sirtis made time to speak with Patch about her play. She offered a frank and honest perspective on the NoHo theater scene that goes unspoken by many local actors, and a preview of the pop songs that get reworked as Snow White musical numbers. On a Saturday afternoon, perhaps her last free one of the holidays, Sirtis also indulged the Trekkies with memories and a preview of the new Blu-rays. 

 

PATCH: What do you anticipate playing the Wicked Queen will entail?

MARINA SIRTIS: Well, trying to get as many laughs as possible is usually the idea, [laughs] in any which way you can. That’s what panto is about. It’s not something you Americans are familiar with. It’s something that’s ingrained into the DNA of all British people. We’ll try and get it started here because it really is a fun thing to do at Christmas, go and see a panto, even if you’re not a kid.

PATCH: Well, with the Lythgoe company doing Cinderella last year, the panto invasion is starting.

SIRTIS: It’s starting. Even if it’s only in NoHo, it’s starting. I think it’ll catch on. In Britain every town has its Christmas panto. It’s a tradition and it’s really something that sets the tone for the holidays and gets you in the Christmas mood.

PATCH: How does the Wicked Queen engage the audience?

SIRTIS: Well, you know, they hate me. That’s the whole idea. I’m the bad guy so I have to be booed constantly. [Laughs] If I’m booed constantly then my work is a success.

PATCH: We know you as a film and television actor. Do you do a lot of theater?

SIRTIS: I haven’t done a lot of theater in the United States. I haven’t done theater in Los Angeles before for a couple of reasons. They expect you to work for free [laughs] which I’m not inclined to do anymore, if you do straight plays around town. I actually think it’s appalling because some of these shows have bigger budgets than the shows that are off Broadway. Yet shows in New York, the actors get paid. I’m not even talking about a vast amount of money. I’m talking about not being out of pocket to do theater. To me that’s the biggest thing. It shouldn’t be out of pocket doing what you love. All these little theaters all around the city, where they do a lot of good work I have to say. There’s a lot of fantastic work out there because there are a lot of actors who don’t feel like I do about that and they just want to do theater, so God bless them. The other thing is about Los Angeles, it’s a movie and TV town. Sometimes I feel that people think that you’re doing a play because you can’t get a movie or a TV series. I love the theater too much to have it disrespected like that, so that’s another reason.

PATCH: So is the El Portal special?

SIRTIS: It is. It’s a wonderful theater. They put wonderful shows on there. It’s beautiful. It’s very well frequented by the people in the area. They’ve done a really good job there.

PATCH: Do you live near the Valley?

SIRTIS: No, I don’t. It’s going to be a schlep. I’m on the Westside. It is a commute but you know what? It’ll be worth it.

PATCH: Have you met Lindsay Pearce, who [will play] Snow White?

SIRTIS: No, I haven’t met anybody yet. I’m meeting everyone tomorrow morning. It’s really funny because the last time I did a panto was 30 years ago in England and I was Snow White. So it’s kind of come full circle. If she wants my advice about anything, I’ll be more than willing to give it. If she doesn’t need my advice, I’ll just watch her do her thing quite proudly having come full circle.

PATCH: Of course there are two Snow White movies coming out and the TV show Once Upon a Time. What do you think it is about Snow White right now?

SIRTIS: I don’t think it’s now. I think Snow White’s always been one of those stories. It’s just one of the quintessential fairy tales. It has everything. It has the good person, the evil person, good triumphs over evil, the prince’s kiss. It has everything so I think it just appeals to the whole family.

PATCH: Will you be singing in the show?

SIRTIS: Yup. They’re all rewritten pop songs, which is what pantos do. The scripts are rewritten every year because there are topical jokes in them so we have our share. We have a joke in there probably about the Kardashians so that it’s relevant every year. It’s not a set script. It’s not Shakespeare. This is changed every year.

PATCH: What are some of the songs going to be?

MS: I know one of them is Huey Lewis’ “The Power Of Love.” One of them is Lady Gaga, “Born This Way.” “Thriller” is in there as well as a tribute to Michael Jackson. Obviously some of the words are rewritten. Sometimes they’re not. “The Power Of Love” I don’t think is rewritten at all and I don’t think “Born This Way” is rewritten. I think they sing it as it is.

PATCH: If your fans come to see you in the show, can they get your autograph after?

SIRTIS: Yes. I don’t know how the situation is at the El Portal, whether they have a stage door or whether people wait out front, but wherever they want to wait, they can get my autograph on their playbills at the end of the show.

PATCH: What if they bring a Star Trek item?

SIRTIS: Yeah, a lot of Star Trek people bring Star Trek stuff. As long as they don’t bring 30 items, we’re good. [Laughs]

PATCH: Right, one per person, but it can be Star Trek.

SIRTIS: Yes, that’s fine. That’s a given. When you’re involved in Star Trek, that’s a given.

PATCH: Would you hope to see a version of The Next Generation in the new Star Trek movies?

SIRTIS: I don’t think that’s going to happen. I would love to because I never wanted the job to end in the first place. This was my job of my life. I loved my seven years on it. I loved doing the four movies that we did, but it’s not going to happen. As we were the young kids who came along after the original Star Trek, now it’s the next next generation and I wish them all the best.

PATCH: So you would have done one more movie?

SIRTIS: I would’ve done 10 more movies.

PATCH: A lot of us wanted you to!

SIRTIS: Yeah, I know. I know. I get this all the time from fans who miss seeing us in anything new, because they still watch us in reruns all the time.

PATCH: What if they cast new actors as the young versions of Troi, Picard and Riker, like they did for Kirk and Spock?

SIRTIS: Exactly. You never know because you’re right, after this spate of movies, they might decide to resurrect The Next Generation with us recast young, which would be amazing. I’d be fascinated to see who they picked to play me younger.

PATCH: The Trek fans remember every episode. Which ones do you remember vividly?

SIRTIS: I suppose episodes where possibly something different happened. There was an episode called “A Fistful of Datas.” We didn’t leave Paramount very often but for that episode we went over to Warners and we shot it on their western set because we didn’t have a western set at Paramount. So that sticks out because that was a really good episode I thought, really fun. Then I think obviously the ones that I featured in, I remember more than ones that I didn’t feature in as much. I think my favorite episodes were the ones that were true to Star Trek and Gene [Roddenberry]’s vision. I think an episode like “Measure of a Man” where Data was put on trial to see if he’s a sentient being was really one of the best.

PATCH: And now they’re all on Netflix, so not just reruns, people are viewing them instantly.

SIRTIS: I know, and the other thing is they’re bringing them out in Blu-ray now. I went to see them and the one thing I always thought about TNG watching it now, like when we came along the original show looked dated, I felt that our show looked dated with all the technology that’s come along since then. But I have to tell you, the Blu-ray quality is like we shot it yesterday. It’s brilliant. I’m afraid the fans are going to have to start forking out more money if they want a really hi-def version of their favorite show. [Laughs]

PATCH: We love that though, because it makes it look like a whole new show.

SIRTIS: It does. It’s actually brilliant. I was in awe when I saw it. I was really, really thrilled.

PATCH: Troi was so beloved by fans. Was that good for your ego?

SIRTIS: Yeah, I suppose the best way to describe it is I was one of the first of the cast to do conventions on a regular basis. A few of the cast were a bit nervous about doing them but they would always ask me on Monday morning, “What was it like? What was it like?” My response was, “Well, if you have a problem being adored for two days, then don’t go.”

PATCH: Even going as a fan it feels like a love fest. It’s a great energy.

SIRTIS: It is. People say, “Do you ever feel in danger?” And I’m like, “More they’ll love me to death but no, I’ve never felt in danger ever.”

PATCH: Was making the movie Crash a memorable experience?

SIRTIS: It was in as much as it was one of the first things I did after TNG that was a total character part. It was the direction I had always imagined my career going in, playing parts where A) you don’t expect to see me in them and B) when I am in them, you don’t recognize me. One of my best friends didn’t realize it was me in the movie and had to go back and see it again. Of course it ended up winning an Oscar so I was thrilled. To be involved in a movie that won so many awards was one of the biggest thrills of my life.

PATCH: This might not be one of your favorites, but you were in Death Wish 3. Was it fun to be part of that big franchise?

SIRTIS: No, that was the worst job of my life. That was a very, very unpleasant experience all the way around. They shot it in England because it was cheaper to shoot there back in the early ‘80s and we tried to make south London look like New York. It was basically some of the people involved who will remain nameless and the whole work environment was appalling. I have to say though, that doesn’t include Charles Bronson. He was an absolute gentleman and an absolute joy to work with.

PATCH: Are there any other roles you were happy for people to discover after you became well known from Star Trek?

SIRTIS: Oh, goodness. Actually, most of my movies have been indies so they don’t get the kind of public exposure that the studio pictures get. I did a picture in England a couple of years ago called 31 North 62 East which was an anti-Afghanistan War movie, a British movie which I was very proud of. That went on general release in the U.K. We got it into 50 theaters including the Empire in Lecester Square which is where we used to always have our Star Trek premieres, so it did get a wide release.

PATCH: Did you know the Lythgoes from England?

SIRTIS: No, I didn’t. I knew Nigel from one of my favorite shows, So You Think You Can Dance, which I watch avidly every season. No, I didn’t know them. I had met Nigel briefly at a restaurant a few years ago. I’m very forward. When I know someone and I like their work, I always go up and introduce myself. I was amazed that he knew who I was too so that made me happy. But no, I didn’t know them socially at all. 

LA’s BEST Parenting magazine presents the star-studded Grand Opening Fundraiser Gala of “A Snow White Christmas” on November 29, with all proceeds benefiting LA’s BEST After School Enrichment Program. The Lythgoe Family Production will run November 30-December 18 at the El Portal Theatre.

A Snow White Christmas opens Nov. 30 For showtimes and tickets, visit www.elportaltheater.com.

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