Interview with Michelle Forbes

The Awakening of Ensign Ro

Michelle Forbes played Ensign Ro, the first Bajorian the viewers of Star Trek The Next Generation had ever met. Her no nonsense attitude and strength of convictions, even against the mighty Star Fleet Command and Captain Picard have made her a very memorable character.
Ro fascinated the viewers but all too soon she ended up leaving the Enterprise. It's been a long journey, but finally Michelle Forbes, aka Ensign Ro, is back and ready to answer some questions.

Anne & Sue: Ensign Ro was one of the strongest women roles ever on Star Trek. How much information were you given on your character?

Michelle: I received a script with this woman Ro in it. It was such a good story it really took my heart and I thought I knew exactly who she was. The only thing I was worried about when the producers asked me to come back was, are they going to homogenize her, because if there going to, it would be such a shame. It is really sad when there are only a few strong woman on television, when there are so many in real life. What has happened in the past, the networks or whomever get scared of it and start homogenizing and trying to make women less of a threat. With Ro, I never saw her as being stronger than anyone else, but perhaps I was a bit more outspoken.

Anne & Sue: In "Ensign Ro", your first episode, it seemed as if she had to fight every bit of the way.

Michelle: Right, but I think it had very little to do with Ro as a woman or based on her femininity. I think it had everything to do with her as a person having nothing to lose.

Anne & Sue: Did you audition for the part?

Michelle: I had done an episode before, a long time ago, which was also quite moving. I was not a Star Trek fun and I had never seen the show, except for an episode a friend of mine, Elizabeth Dennehy, did. When I saw that show I said, 'Oh my god this is really a good show'. Their stories are like little morality tales.

Anne & Sue After a little while your character did soften up.

Michelle: I think when I softened was during the episode with LeVar. If everyone goes through life being that hard and that tortured you're bound to die from some sort of disease. We all have to have awakenings in our life. I think it was more about that. Life threatening experiences soften up the soul and makes one more aware.

Anne & Sue: Did you have any input on your character?

Michelle: I never really had that much say in it, I was always pretty pleased with what they had written. I remember being very happy with this awakening of Ro and the questioning of one's faith/ one's life here and now and realizing that to be so alone, to be so cut off from the people in your life, is not a good thing.

Anne & Sue: You really like Ensign Ro?

Michelle: I really do. When they asked me to come back and do this last episode, I really wasn't looking to do any television at this time, but Ro was always so close to my heart. I really enjoy my time with the cast and crew. Jeri Taylor (Producer) had called me and said that the audience wanted to know what happened to Ro and they had this idea in mind. So we had a story meeting and the story was so beautiful, I was more than happy to do it.

Anne & Sue: Do you feel Ro is a lot like you?

Michelle: Well no, not necessarily like me Yes, I understood her torture and anger and her outspokenness. I probably identified with it more when I was younger than I do now.

Anne & Sue: Would you be friends with Ro if you met her?

Michelle: Sure, I think so...Yeah! (laughs) That's a tough question. | think, yes, of course.

Anne & Sue: Since you are one of the only Bajorians on the Enterprise, did they give you any background on Bajor?

Michelle: Just what was in the original script, that we were pariahs. The opening story for Ensign Ro, which was entitled 'Ensign Ro', gave all the back story on that. We went to a Bajorian camp and all the back story was there.

Anne & Sue: How long does it take to get your nose piece put on?

Michelle: In the beginning, it took two and half hours, not just for the nose piece, but for full makeup and hair. When I went back this last episode they had modified the nose quite a bit, since there are so many Bajorians on Deep Space Nine. It only took me about an hour and half to get everything done. Much better! Especially considering that it takes Michael Dorn two and half hours to get his makeup done.

Anne & Sue: How long has conflict been going on with Cardassians?

Michelle: I knew that it was going on all of my life. My father died when I was seven the Cardassians killed him, which means we had been living in a state of war since my incarnation.

Anne & Sue: Any hints for the future of Ro? Will your character be on Deep Space Nine or the movie?

Michelle: I really have no idea. I've been working pretty steady since Star Trek. They offered me Deep Space Nine, but I had to turn it down. I hope I can settle this rumor, everyone thinks that I turned it down to do feature work, which is not true.

Anne & Sue: This question is actually from Armin Shimerman. He would like to know what your reasons were for not taking the role on Deep Spsse Nine, because it was planned to be Ensign Ro instead of Major Kira, right?

Michelle: It was a decision I made at this point in my life where I want variety in my life. They were asking for seven years and that's a long time for me. I wanted variety and knowing this about myself, I chose not to stay. It was a difficult decision to make. Deep Space Nine would have been security. It's a lovely group of people, but at this point in my life I just want variety. I think they just assumed I was going to do it. I was away doing a film and when I received the script, I was very honored and very flattered, but I just didn't want to play one character for seven years. I tend to get drawn into what I am doing and give as much of myself as I can and I tend to get very tired when it is all done. It had nothing to do with the show or the people involved. It was a wonderful environment, which is why I am so happy to go back and do the last episode. I just couldn't make that decision to stay at that time. Actually, Jeri Taylor was so sweet to me and we talked about it a little bit. She said, 'well you made your own decision based on your life and your own experience'. She started laughing and said, 'just like Ro'. (laughs) Jeri is a very lovely lady.

Anne & Sue: Still, it's great that they asked you come back to explain what happened to Ro in the last episode of TNG.

Michelle: Absolutely! Once again, like the first episode, "Ensign Ro", it was such a beautiful story filled with myths and fighting the good fight and good versus evil.

Anne & Sue: What is this last episode about? Is it focused on Ro? Any little hint?

Michelle: It's once again Ro questioning her place, I almost said, "on Earth". (laughs) Questioning her place in life, the world in which she lives and questioning her heart and trying to find a home for herself which she thought she had on the Enterprise. I don't think I will say any more, they get kind of angry when you do, but it is about questioning her place in this world and making her decision based on that.

Anne & Sue: Are you recognized when you're out?

Michelle: Yes and no. There are quite a few times when I have been. I look a little different now, I just cut all my hair off. I'm still surprised, because I haven't done the show in two years, but I forget how often it's watched and how often it's rerun.

Anne & Sue: Do you get a lot of fan mail?

Michelle: I do actually, not that I've been able to answer any of it. I try to go, through and sign what they have asked me to sign. I've done a few conventions and I found the people quite fanatical, but at least they are passionate about something good and they are having a good time. It is almost surreal. (laughs) Anne & Sue: What are your future projects.

Michelle: I'm wading through quite a few scripts. I am looking for, as they say, "the right thing". I finished a film in the beginning of the year, called Real Life with Kevin Spassy and Frank Whaley. We'll wait and see what is next.

Anne & Sue: Have you, like all the others on TNG and DS9, done a lot of theater?

Michelle: That's the other great thing about the show. Rick Berman and the other producers like to hire (stage) actors. Most of the people on all the shows have done quite a bit of theater. I think the stories are more oriented towards theater as opposed to reality television.

Anne & Sue: Do you think having done theater helps when working in television or film?

Michelle: I think they all help each other. Although I haven't been on stage in years. I love the immediacy of it...of being able to do something from the beginning to the end. Patrick and I were actually talking about this, that in this country there is such a stigma placed on you if you're a theater actor. If you're a television actor, you are only that and if you're a film actor, you only do that. I think that we should be able to jump between all mediums, because I think they help you round out your abilities as an actor.

Anne & Sue: Which do you prefer?

Michelle: When I went back to do this last episode I was in almost every scene and I was working those seven days so quickly. I got the script two days before we started and the re-writes were still coming in as we were going on. I've forgotten how fast, television was. (laughs) I've had the luxury of doing films for the last two years, where I got to sit with the script for a month before shooting. By the end of the episode I had to take a little vacation. I don't like to sit around a lot, so l like the quickness of television, but I'm not sure if I can take that schedule. (laughs)

Anne & Sue: We must say we both enjoyed your character!

Michelle: I am always so happy to hear that, because I had such a good time doing it. As I said, Ro has always been close to my heart and the show was a very happy place for me to go to. The people on Star Trek are really like a family after seven years.

Interviewed by Anne Moore and Sue Schneider.
Copyright by Superstar Facts & Pix.
Taken from The complete Star Trek, No. 31