Not many actors get to return to a beloved role after nearly 20 years away from said role, but some of the stars of Star Trek: Picard, are having exactly that experience. Aside from Patrick Stewart returning as Jean-Luc Picard and some of his cast mates from Star Trek: The Next Generation revisiting their roles as well, fans are getting to see Jeri Ryan come back to the Trek universe as Seven of Nine. But, it turns out that it wasn't exactly easy for the actress to step back into Seven's shoes.
Jeri Ryan took on the part of Seven of Nine for Star Trek: Voyager, beginning with the Season 4 premiere in 1997, and stayed with the series until it's finale in 2001. But the former Borg drone who'd been liberated by the Voyager crew still had a lot to learn about being human by the time the series wrapped up, and coming back to the character after so long, and with so many changes to her, apparently had Ryan "petrified," and for some very good reasons. Here's what she had to say about the challenges of playing Seven again after so long:
My first scene, the big scene, was the one you see in the trailer, when we’re in his [vinyard’s] office/ready room. That was my first day on set. It was daunting -- not just because it was Patrick -- but because I was still petrified —or ‘Patrick-fied’ — of if I could find the character again. I was still trying to figure out who she was. I was so fortunate because Jonathan Frakes was directing my first episode. So with that, I knew I was in good hands. [Frakes], more than anyone else, would get the importance of revisiting and being true to these characters. Because the challenge for me is: Where has she been for nearly 20 years? Finding her voice was the hardest thing for me; when I read the first script — I just couldn’t hear her voice anywhere.
It makes complete sense that Jeri Ryan would be nervous about playing Seven of Nine again for several reasons, and, as she noted in her chat with The Hollywood Reporter, one of those reasons was definitely the fact that her very first scene was with Patrick Stewart. Despite both being fan favorite characters in the long-running Star Trek franchise, Ryan and Stewart never shared screen time before. Ryan's time on Trek was strictly relegated to Voyager, even though it sounds like she almost got a shot at being in one of the movies that TNG cast did after their series was done.
Pretty much anyone would be filled with butterflies, at the very least, over the thought of starting their time on a new show with a veteran actor as esteemed as Sir Patrick Stewart, but it was even a bit worse than that for Jeri Ryan. She was also trying to figure out who Seven was now after almost two full decades of having not played the character, and not fully understanding everything she's been up to or how to be her without having developed along with her for that time.
As we saw in the trailer for Star Trek: Picard, when we see Seven of Nine again she's clearly changed. Seven spent her time on Voyager trying to get used to her humanity again, and while she did do a lot of growing and changing as we watched her, she never got past her stilted, formal way of speaking and moving.
Jeri Ryan has mentioned before that Seven's new, more human, voice led to her "freaking out," but her new comments have me thinking that the difficulty wasn't just over the literal way that Seven speaks now, but finding the character's emotional voice, as well.
Thank goodness for Jonathan Frakes, who, obviously, played Will Riker on TNG and has returned to do some directing on Picard, along with picking up his former on-screen role for a bit. It sounds like, without him understanding the anxiety that came from returning to a character after so long, we might not have gotten the Seven of Nine that fans wanted to see, and Jeri Ryan wanted to show us after all this time.
You can check in with Jeri Ryan and Seven of Nine when Star Trek: Picard airs Thursdays on CBS All Access. For more on what's airing right now, our 2020 premiere guide can help!