Penny Johnson Jerald has been in the news, including here on Heavy, discussing what she has described as the third and, hopefully, not final season of “The Orville.” The actress co-stars on the show as Dr. Claire Finn, who, in the season finale, married Isaac (Mark Jackson), the titular ship’s robot-like Kaylon character. Jerald was already popular with science fiction fans as a result of her work on “Star Trek.”
According to Memory Alpha, she guest-starred as Boraalan character Dobara in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode “Homeward,” which premiered in 1994, during the show’s seventh and final season, and then recurred as freighter captain Kasidy Yates on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Memory Alpha notes that Jerald made her debut as Yates in the third-season episode “Family Business,” which first aired in May 1995, and closed out her run in the series finale, “What You Leave Behind,” which aired in June 1999. Yates married Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) in the seventh-season episode “Til Death Do Us Part,” and was pregnant with his child when, in the finale, he sacrificed himself and emerged as the Emissary. In a vision, he then came to her and promised to eventually return “in a year, or maybe… yesterday”
Yates & Sisko, “Two African American, Strong & Powerful People” Wed in the ‘DS9’ Episode ‘Til Death Do Us Part’
During an exclusive Zoom conversation with Jerald conducted on August 9, 2022, the actress looked back at her time on “Deep Space Nine,” expressed her delight that Yates was referenced on “Star Trek: Picard,” and discussed her upcoming projects.
Heavy: What did you like most about Kasidy as a character?
Jerald: There’s nothing I liked about Kasidy. It’s everything that I love about Cassidy. It was the first time, because you’re talking about the 90s, that I felt empowered as a woman of color. She was a captain. We didn’t have that. And there was a relationship between she and Sisko. Lots of people will say, “Oh, it’s in the future. We’re not going to see race. We’re not going to see this or that.” But this was in the 90s when we were shooting the show, and you did see that. You saw two African American strong, very strong, and powerful people put together. You saw a man who was a single parent. Put these two together and it was dynamic. So, shooting “Deep Space Nine” was the ultimate. And I didn’t want to do it at first because I was not a Trekkie. I didn’t even understand what that was until my husband, who is also my manager, said, “No, you’re going do this because this is ‘Star Trek.'” He’s a diehard Trekkie.
When I came on, I met with Rene (Auberjonois), who was directing that particular episode. And I met with Ira (Steven Behr), who, I think, actually wrote the character. Then, I met Avery, and the chemistry just in the room of us having a small discussion was so magnetic. I thought, “Wow, I’m in the room with Hawk,” because that’s what I knew him from. Then, I went, “These people are from the theater.” I’d never put it together that “Star Trek” was an elevated way for actors to go and really do their thing. I just didn’t give it enough credit. But I sure was put in my place when I walked on that set and I saw these magnificent talents, the entire cast. Nana (Visitor), amazing. (Alexander) Siddig, just wow. So, doing “Deep Space Nine” was pretty major for me.
Heavy: How satisfied were you with how the finale wrapped up the Kasidy-Ben storyline? And what do you think the baby is doing now?
Jerald: Well, it’s a girl. I found that out. I thought we wrapped it up pretty nicely. It was exciting. It was like a party when we were doing it. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve blurred it behind me for this Zoom call, but I have the final mask that Rene just ripped off his face. I said, “Could you not rip it?” And I put it in a shadow box. I still have it. It’s crumbling in some places, but I have it, and that made me feel really good. But, and I said this to (former executive producer) Rick Berman when we had a reunion a few years ago,”You have to do a “‘Deep Space Nine” movie. That is one of the ‘Star Treks’ that you really should capture in a movie because what was done here was epic.” So, I felt cheated out of the movie. It could still happen. And what is my daughter doing right now? She’s holding her own ship, for sure.
Jerald Played Kasidy Yates for the 15th & Final Time in the ‘DS9’ Series Finale, “What You Leave Behind”
Heavy: I don’t know if you’re aware, but in an episode of “Star Trek: Picard” there was a quick glimpse of a billboard for Kasidy Yates Interstellar Freight. Did you see that, or hear about it?
Jerald: No! Oh, oh, I’m actually flattered! (Laughs) I’m honored. That is so exciting. Thank you for telling me that.
Heavy: What else are you working on?
Jerald: I’m not sure I can say it, but I am just working on things for the interim because I am really strongly believing that “The Orville” is not finished. My heart is on the Orville, I’m not gonna lie. I did go to Africa to do a docu-film about W.E.B. Dubois, and I’m playing Shirley Du Bois. That experience actually changed my life because I’d never been to Africa. I kissed the ground upon arrival, and everything that I went there with, I did not come home with. I came home with nothing, which meant everything. So, I cannot wait for that to come out. And, right now, I’m currently working on something as a recurring character. Again, I’m not sure that I’m I can say anything about it, but hopefully, I’ll be able to later.
“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” is streaming on Paramount+, and “The Orville” is streaming on both Hulu and Disney+.