Former Star Trek Klingon moves into another universe
What: The Gin Game
Where: Roxy Theatre
When: Previews 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday. Opening March 17. Continues to March 27.
Tickets: $32 to $42 (250 382 3370)
Chatting pleasantly in the Roxy Theatre’s lobby, Gwynyth Walsh doesn’t look particularly nefarious.
But her most famous role, B’Etor the Klingon, was about as evil as they come. She and her Klingon sister, Lursa, were two mega-baddies who traversed the Star Trek universe, wreaking havoc along the way.
“Yes,” Walsh said with a grin. “That’s exactly how we saw ourselves.”
The Vancouver actor is in Victoria for something completely different.
Walsh stars with Scott Hylands in The Gin Game (1976). The Pulitzer-winning play is about two seniors in an old-age home playing gin-rummy together. It commences playfully. However, the battle gets real when Walsh’s character, Fonsia, literally beats her opponent at his own game.
Trained as an actor at the University of Alberta, Walsh got her start on the stage. But it was the role of B’Etor, which she played for about five years, that garnered the most recognition via TV and the 1994 film Star Trek Generations.
Mind you, even die-hard Trekkies would have a hard time singling Walsh out in a crowd. That’s because as a Klingon (a humanoid alien) she was required to wear a turtle-shell-like half mask and wing-sized eyebrows.
Walsh said she loved playing B’Etor. That is “loved” in the past tense — the role ended when B’Etor and Lursa perished in Star Trek Generations while ill-advisedly attacking the USS Enterprise-D. One thing she doesn’t particularly miss is putting on her Klingon mask and makeup. The combo took 31Ú2 hours to apply and another hour to remove. Some actors would sleep during the lengthy process. Walsh sometimes used the time to memorize lines.
Another thing she doesn’t miss about playing B’Etor was looking absolutely grotesque in her getup.
“I think for women it’s really difficult to be that ugly. It’s really hard,” she said.
Because Star Trek is so popular, any association with the show leads to a level of adulation. B’Etor and Lursa started as minor characters, but because the pair proved popular with fans, their roles were expanded.
Walsh had no real idea of how much people loved B’Etor until she attended her first Star Trek convention as a celebrity guest.
“It was overwhelming. I was in a state of shock most of the time. To have hundreds of people really excited to see you is mind- boggling.
“It really has nothing to do with me,” Walsh added. “They’re projecting all their hopes and dreams and love of Star Trek onto you.”
Another perk of the job was hanging out with movie star Malcolm McDowell, who played B’Etor’s villainous sidekick Tolian Soran.
There’s a photo of McDowell with his arm around Walsh (in full Klingon regalia) while she’s knitting. Walsh was making a blanket for friends who had just had a baby.
“It was a very non-Klingon activity,” she said with a smile.
“Malcolm’s always got a little bit of a twinkle in his eye. He’ll be teasing you up to the last minute. And then he drops right into character.”
The Gin Game doesn’t require elaborate makeup or masks. But it has its own unusual challenge. Both characters must deliver lines while playing cards. Such stage business isn’t as simple as it sounds, Walsh said.
“You sit down and start playing cards and it all goes out the window. It’s really hard. It’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.”