Fans are Friends: Marina Sirtis on ‘Dark Sublime’

Fans are Friends: Marina Sirtis on ‘Dark Sublime’

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The one thing that strikes you when speaking with Marina Sirtis is how open and frank she is. Easy to talk with, welcoming but ready to lay facts out on the line for all to hear. In the world of Hollywood, that’s refreshing.

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I’ve been lucky to meet the Star Trek: The Next Generation star in the past, but more recently, I was even luckier to sit down and chat with Sirtis about her role in the upcoming stage production Dark Sublime, and explore the nature of the relationships performers have with their fans.

“It’s a comedy… about an aging sci-fi actress,” she chuckles, “So I won’t have to do any research! Part of it is about her relationship with a fan. It’s my West End debut, so I’m excited and terrified at the same time!”

I was fascinated by this notion of being friends with a fan, so I asked Sirtis to expand on her thoughts.

“Well, it was interesting because when William Shatner heard about the play, he said, ‘That’s definitely a sci-fi!’ That’s his experience with fans, but not mine — because I do have some really good friends who started out as fans and became friends.”

Marina Sirtis photographed for ‘Dark Sublime.’ (Photo: Scott Rylander)

It’s no surprise. Sirtis boasts a tremendous – and lively — following on social media. Her opinions are vociferous and, at least in my experience, has never been short a kind word about a cause she believes in, or one to back down from trolls. Her fans are loyal and supportive, so it’s no wonder that she has such a positive rapport with fans.

“I actually met the producer/director of Dark Sublime at a Star Trek convention last year in Birmingham. He and I got along really well, and we decided to find a project that we could work on in London. I was going to be in the West End anyway, and I was looking to do more work in England, so this was a perfect vehicle for me to come back to.”

That’s the thing that caught my attention. It’s pretty clear that Sirits doesn’t just entertain her fans, she actually listens to them. This is a fan-created business venture that offers a new avenue of appreciation for her fans, a professional opportunity for the actor, and demonstrates her openness to hearing her fans out.

Directed by Andrew Keates and written by Michael Dennis, performances of Dark Sublime are expected to kick off in June 2019 and run through August, with tickets already on sale for those eager to save a seat. Here’s the official synopsis of the show:

Oli arrives at the door of Marianne, a now-forgotten sci-fi TV icon, impatient to make an impression, to make a friend. Marianne, a jobbing actress, knows about waiting – for the phone to ring, for her best friend to see her differently, for her turn at something more substantial than a half-remembered role on a cult TV show.

He wants an autograph; she doesn’t want anything from him – or so she thinks. Yet as they start to explore each other’s worlds, they begin to discover what every good relationship needs: time and space.

Sirtis meets a fan during a convention signing. (Photo: TrekCore)

When I first chatted with her, I couldn’t help but notice how accessible Sirtis was. Though I make no claim to know her very well, it was clear to me that she was someone who enjoys sharing aspects of her life, her opinions and essentially herself with her fans. It’s that openness that directs her relationship with her fans and clearly made this opportunity happen.

“I was very attached to this production from the start,” she said. “The character is very much like me. That was another thing that really attracted me to the role. Her relationship with her best friend is very similar to my relationship with my best friend!

I’m the outspoken one who opens her mouth and puts her huge feet in, and she’s the one who keeps me under control and chastises me when I’ve been too naughty! So there was that element to it, so although it’s a sci-fi theme to the play, it’s actually about relationships and I wanted to do that.”

It seemed so convenient for this fan to direct a play that seemed tailor-made for her, a veteran of the long-running Star Trek franchise. How did her time on Trek play into this production, I wondered?

“I happen to be an actress who was in a sci-fi show,” she said, “but I didn’t want to do a sci-fi play — and this isn’t about sci-fi. It’s about the relationships with certain fans. It has a sci-fi theme, and an actress who was in a sci-fi show — that’s who I am [in real life], but it doesn’t define me.

It was a serendipitous thing that ticked all the boxes for me. It just felt that this was my part. This is a new play – it hasn’t been published yet.”

Marina Sirtis photographed for ‘Dark Sublime.’ (Photo: Scott Rylander)

Sirtis’ views really speaks to her time interacting with the fan community since her Trek debut thirty years ago.

“I’ve had great experiences with fans — but, make no mistake, I’ve had dodgy ones as well,” she laughed. “To some actors, it’s a total oxymoron to be in a relationship with a fan. You know, they just won’t do it. But my experience is 180 degrees away from that. I have some very close friends who came to meet me at conventions.”

I asked if she drew on any particular real-world fan experiences to prepare for her role in Dark Sublime.

“Not really,” she said. “I mean, this is very different — [the fan in the play] actually knocks on my character’s door. Whereas, the relationships with fans [in real life] evolves from meeting time and time again at conventions. If anyone knocked on my door in real life, I wouldn’t let them in!” she laughed.

So, my next question had to be to ask Marina what her Trek compatriots thought about the role.

“All my TNG cast-mates have been very supportive,” she confirmed. “LeVar [Burton] was very supportive. They’re all very excited for me. Michael Dorn, who is my best friend in America, is actually a little upset that I’m going to be gone for so long – especially after I’ve been gone for so long THIS year, as I’ve been doing a show over Christmas! He’s a little despondent that I’m going to be missing for a great wait of time!”

Someone needs a Klingon cuddle, I suggested.

“He does, yeah,” she agreed!

Sirtis visits Trek pal Jonathan Frakes on the set of ‘Star Trek: Discovery.’ (Photo: CBS)

There’s no such thing as a post-Star Trek world for Marina Sirtis, as she continues to be in contact with her former cast-mates, and she also has a longstanding history of plentiful and positive fan experiences — but looking for new directions is a must for any performer, regardless of what stage of their lives they are in.

“England isn’t as ageist as Hollywood,” she said,” so,I think there will be more [acting] opportunities that will present themselves in the UK as opposed to Los Angeles.”

Star Trek will always be eternal to its fans. The characters remain, much like any other story, eternal. For that particular story, those characters will always remain the same age. But that isn’t true for real people. In this case, we see the actress who plays a much-beloved character in a well-loved franchise re-defining herself in a role that underlies the relationship between fans and this sort of performer.

While a bit of reality is a part of the experience, it’s also important to recognize the personal significance that Counselor Troi played in people’s lives. In my mind, this implies a bit of hero worship, and I think, it was important to address that part of Sirtis’ experience that the audience of Dark Sublime might expect to see.

“I don’t regard it as ‘hero worship,’” she countered. “Most of the feedback I get from fans  is that a lot of the time, TNG helped them through a difficult time in their lives. I get that a lot. It was family time for a lot of people, and it as the only thing that they did together. If the parents had passed, it was a time when the family came together and watching the show brought back a lot of fond memories.

It’s not hero worship – it was you were in something that had a great impact on [somebody’s] life. I’m just an actress. I never imagined that I would ever be involved with anything that would have such an effect on so many people.”

Marina Sirtis photographed for ‘Dark Sublime.’ (Photo: Scott Rylander)

I wondered if that was the secret to Star Trek’s longevity.

“I think so,” she agreed. “I think it’s so hopeful, and I think if we look at the times that we are living in now, it’s the opposite of what we are living in now. It gives people optimism that things can be different; not judgmental and more inclusive.

The world as we know it seems to be going in the opposite direction and it’s comforting to watch something like [Star Trek].”

Given that Marianne in Dark Sublime is an actress always on the hunt for a role, I had to ask if Marianne – or Marina – would ever get back on board a starship in either of those respective shows.

“Marianne’s life experiences after her show (in Dark Sublime) are very different to mine on TNG. I think she would do it, but I don’t know if I put that space suit on again,” she laughed.

“It won’t happen in Los Angeles, that’s for sure. I mean, there’s rumours of Gargoyles will turn into a live-action film. I can guarantee I won’t be in it. Who’s going to cast a 63 year-old woman as Desdemona?”

Marina is remarkably candid and blunt. It’s part of her charm. But regardless of how she dismisses her age, she omits to note the importance of her role in continuing the timeless appeal of Star Trek and in a way that hist very close to home, that’s a relationship theme that Dark Sublime promises to explore.

Dark Sublime makes its West End debut starting this June at Trafalgar Studios in London. Tickets can be preordered online now.

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