Lien on me

Article by Kathleen Toth

    Just as Kes is the youngest member of the Voyager crew, Jennifer Lien is the youngest member of the cast - at twenty two, not three! Kathleen Toth spoke to Jennifer shortly before the announcement that she would be leaving during the fourth season of Voyager...

     One odd fact to appreciate about Jennifer Lien is that, like the Next Generation's Jonathan Frakes, she plays the trombone! Although she has been plying her craft for shorter time than veterans like Robert Picardo, with whom she has many scenes, Jennifer Lien was already a veteran of a number of stage productions in the Chicago area and an attention getting run as an orphan named Hannah on the daytime drama Another World when she was cast for the unusual role of an alien with a life span of just nine years and an furry lover named Neelix.
     Kes' accelerated lifespan produced immediate speculation among Trek fans that a way would be found to extend it during Voyager's journey through the Delta Quadrant - especially if there is a desire to do Voyager films one day. Lien herself will not speculate about that, although a couple of possible cures for Ocampa mortality have been mentioned so far in the series. The one thing Lien is sure about is that she will not be anxious to head for the exit. "I can't imagine I will ever grow tired of playing the character," she says, "I think the show just keeps getting better and the atmosphere on the set is great.

     During the third season, Kes has undergone quite a few changes. She stood out from the beginning by virtue of being involved in a continuing relationship. But that has changed as she and Neelix have parted company for reasons that remain a bit vague.
     Lien is no wiser than fans about that. "I do what they give me and trust that it will work out best for the character. I wasn't really consulted, but I had heard rumours, so I wasn't surprised. The writers wanted to go in a different direction. I am not clear about their intentions, I don't really worry about that. The one thing I miss is working with Ethan Phillips, who is wonderful to do scenes with.
     This left the door open to a flirtation with an alien that prompted a jealous reaction from the holographic Doctor in Darkling, but no clear new direction for Kes' romantic life has appeared.
     In Before and After, Kes goes both forward and backward in time, dipping into a future in which she is married to Tom Paris after his current romantic interest, B'Elanna Torres, is killed in an accident. There is no guarantee that the future glimpsed in that episode is destined to come about.
     Instead, the major change that seems to have been wrought by that episode is a change in hairstyle and costume. Lien is suddenly sporting her own, much longer hair in place of Kes' pixie cut, with the odd result of concealing her alien ears. Without them she looks like a human crew member, now attired in clinging jumpsuits instead of her multi-layered Ocampa outfits.
     Her performance earlier in the season in Warlord brought major recognition for her acting talents, as demure Kes was possessed by the aggressive, domineering spirit of a dying would-be despot determined to use her body to continue his plan to regain control of his home world.
     The resulting performance was new territory for Lien. "I've never played any role quite like that before," she says, "But I enjoyed being so strong and determined."
     She got quite a bit of teasing that week about her new demeanour, especially when it came time to have a fight scene with Tuvok in which Warlord Kes beats the Vulcan with the aid of Kes' still-developing psychic powers. Staging that scene "was a lot of fun and we all made suggestions about how to do it."

     She knows that with such a large ensemble cast, everyone must wait for their opportunities to be in the spotlight. "It works out well, usually, having your episodes when you are there a lot, and others where you may only work two or three days out of the seven it takes to do the story. I am fortunate enough to be able to work with a variety of different actors. All I can do is try to do my job the best that I know."
Jennifer Lien      Star Trek: Voyager completed third season filming early, which gave Lien an opportunity to take part in a film called American History X being made through New Line Cinema. She plays the daughter in a family with two sons, one of whom is a skinhead (played by Oscar nominee Edward Norton) who tries to leave his bigoted life behind and prevent his younger brother (Edward Furlong) from following in his footsteps. The film also stars Beverly D'Angelo and Avery Brooks (on hiatus from Deep Space Nine), although the two contemporary Trekkers have not crossed paths on the set.
     While her castmates Robert Duncan McNeill and Robert Picardo are turning their energies to directing episodes of Voyager, Lien has not as yet felt the urge. "It's not something I am terribly interested in at this point. I am focused on pursuing acting and getting better at what I am doing now. But, emotionally, I really want them to do incredibly well. I want to be supportive in that situation, but they are very prepared. As time goes on you have an opportunity to appreciate people more.

Text from Dreamwatch - Issue #35 - August 1997 - Pages 22-23
Article used without permission.