Despite being the role that helped to propel Jeri Ryan into the spotlight, Star Trek became a challenging project. Issues with co-workers and a whole spate of out of the ordinary occurrences left the entire saga feeling a little different to what most people would have expected.
Having grown up in a military family in Munich, Germany, Jeri spent much of her life in an unstable environment, always going from one location to the next. When her family, the Zimmermann’s, moved back home to the USA, they were still on the move constantly. Moving from Texas to Kansas, Maryland to Georgia; it was a wild ride but it set Jeri up for the chaotic life of showbiz.
Having used her brains and her beauty to win beauty pageants such as Miss Illinois in the late 80s, Ryan had set herself on the path to stardom. Despite coming third in Miss America, that only gave her the motivation to crack on and really move up in the world of performance. She met her then-husband, Jack Ryan, a celebrity blackjack dealer, and they became entwined very quickly. Married in 1991, they soon clashed over differing career ambitions, as Jeri began to find work on shows like Matlock while they spent increasingly more time apart as Jack got involved in with Goldman Sachs over in Chicago.
This kind of strife in her personal life was going to become a common theme.
In 1996, she played the role of Juliet Stuart in the short-running Dark Skies. While that show did not go well, it set up a long-term path in the industry for her; one that would go on to define much of her life to come.
Her next appearance in a sci-fi platform would be in Star Trek: Voyager, appearing at the end of season three as a Borg drone, freed from the rest of the Borgs. Loved by the fans, she became an instant hit with the show and became a long-term series regular. A character with great charisma and a physique that made her stand out from the cast, she became the foil for Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Janeway, and it utterly altered how the shows dynamics played out.
Quickly becoming a main character – to the annoyance of co-workers apparently – Ryan started to see more and more tension on-set. “Consequently, all the scripts revolved around Seven of Nine and her relationship with the other characters, of course — which actually ended up leading to some really rich storylines for the other characters.” she said.
By 1999, her marriage had dissolved and tension at home and on-set was becoming an issue. She began to then see Brannon Braga, one of the producers of the Star Trek franchise today. Even that would not save her from being involved in tense situations, though; Ryan went through a length stalking process where Marlon Pagatakhan sent her threatening e-mails for months on end. Eventually arrested and convicted, though, the problem was not over.
Her divorce and custody back with ex-husband Jack was beginning to go public, and it erupted into a much more public inquiry than both intended. Claiming that Jack had taken her to adult clubs when they were together, it caused a political scandal and made sure that the race that Jack was in for political office came to an end.
Sadly, the real problem with her co-stars was explained; that Ryan was being used to help promote the show for her looks, Mulgrew included. She was a feminist trailblazer in the Star Trek universe, and was apparently ‘more than disappointed’ in how Ryan’ role had overtaken that.
Things never changed and it made for a tense, awkward scenario; one that helped to define the careers of all involved. When it comes to Jeri Ryan, it’s sad to see that someone so talented was seen as such a negative influence on the show.