The newest and most fascinating character on Star Trek Voyager is played by Jeri Ryan. She was born Jeri Lynn Zimmermann on Feb 22, 1968 to Jerry and Sharon Zimmermann. Ryan has lived all over the U.S., an Army brat born in Munich, Germany, and raised on military bases from Kentucky to Hawaii. While in college, she won the sixth annual Miss Northwestern Alpha Delta Phi Pageant in 1989. A junior majoring in Speech, Jeri also won the talent contest singing "On My Own" from "Les Miserables" and co-won the swimsuit contest.
Later on that year she won the Miss Illinois Pageant and went on to place third runner-up in the 1990 Miss America Pageant. But if you think she's all looks and no brains, you're wrong; while in school Jeri was also a National Merit Scholar. Although an accomplished actress, Ryan considers her greatest role to be that of mother to Alex. "As a mom, I'm more patient and feel more complete," she says. "Nobody could have convinced me while I was pregnant of how magical it would be to be a mother." In her spare time, she enjoys snow skiing as well as cooking and baking, "I make some mean pies!" Ryan states proudly. Jeri is naturally 5' 8" and at 6' in her Borg-heels, she is more than statuesque. TV Guide referred to her "whiplash-inducing presence." Syndicated columnist Ron Miller said, "One gets the impression she's going to shiver the timbers of the Voyager males."
Her character's name is Seven of Nine which is short for Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One, or something like that," says Ryan. "We've streamlined it to Seven, which isn't so bad." Voyager executive producer Rick Berman described Seven as "a sensual creature neither fully Borg nor fully human." She's dressed to look like an extraterrestrial version of Catwoman, encased in an ultra tight cat suit, bearing a few remaining Borg markings on her face and hands. Co-star Ethan Phillips says those tight costumes make working with Ryan a little "complicated." Ryan says, "For the first costume, if I would do anything other than have my head straight ahead, it cut off my carotid artery. It was so tight that I blacked out four times," says Ryan, interviewed on the Voyager set in a new costume that she says is looser but still takes an hour to climb into.
The old suit forced her to lie down between scenes to regain her composure. But she didn't complain. "That was my nice Midwestern girl upbringing," she says. "They would bring nurses to the set with oxygen, and I wouldn't say anything. But after the fourth time blacking out, I spoke up." Producers quickly refitted the suit. But the next costume (pictured at right) has problems of its own. "Forget vanity, throw vanity to the wind! And you can forget anything about privacy, because it ain't gonna happen. Anytime I have to go to the bathroom, everybody has to know about it. It's announced over the P.A. system, because production stops for a half-hour. 'We can't roll a shot. Jeri's not here.' 'Why not, where's Jeri?' 'Jeri has to go 10-100.' It's just a whole procedure."
Then there was a third costume which premiered in "The Raven." This latest incarnation of the cat suit stayed until the fifth season to be replaced by a blue two-toned version of the cat suit. Prior to Trek, she's appeared in episodes of "Melrose Place," "The Flash," "Time Trax," "Matlock," and "Murder, She Wrote" as well as several TV movies and the unreleased independent feature, "The Last Man." " 'The Last Man' is about the last three people on Earth, and I'm the last woman," says Ryan. "I know it sounds like sci-fi, but it's really not. I hope they get the film released. It's a small, but very good film." According to Harry Ralston, the film's producer, it should be out around January 1999. She was also in the final seven episodes of "Dark Skies." Looking back on "Dark Skies," Ryan notes that she liked the people and the premise, but that NBC had given up on the series by the time she arrived on the scene. " 'Dark Skies' had a lot of potential," Ryan says. "The show was just finding its footing when it got canceled. "I did a complete 180," says Jeri Ryan, "I was fighting the collective, the (alien) Hive on 'Dark Skies.'
Now I'm part of the collective, the Borg. It's very funny." On those shows, she was billed as Jeri Lynn Ryan. A new manager hired before her Voyager job convinced her to drop the "Lynn." "He didn't think it would sound like a name that would grow with me," Ryan says. "He didn't see me at 44 years old as Jeri Lynn. "Personally, I miss the Lynn. I've been Jeri Lynn all my life, and my family always calls me Lynn, which causes confusion around the set." To help Ryan achieve Borg perfection, the makeup department made a plaster cast of her face, a 45-minute process that involved breathing through two straws pushed up into her nose. That was followed by a two-hour cast of her entire body. "You have to suffer for art," she quips. But she has no problem with being sold as the new sex symbol of Voyager. "There are worse things you could be called than 'whiplash-inducing,' " she says. "But as long as the character is intelligently written and gets challenging stories for me to play, I'm fine with it . . . as long as I can breathe."