Kitty Swink didn’t exactly grow up a hardcore Trekkie, but she certainly found her way deep into this world. Swink performed two roles in Star Trek DS9 alongside her husband, Armin Shimerman, but her initial knowledge of Trek came from time spent with her brother.
“My brother Don grew up to be a rocket scientist. He’s six and a half years older than I am. It was always clear that he was going to be a scientist, it was always clear,” Swink explained in an episode of the Trek Untold podcast. “He’s a chemical engineer and an aerospace engineer because of his love for Star Trek. And the only thing better than watching that as a child with him… was when Armin became a regular on DS9, and he and his wife and kids came to town.”
“We walked them through the space station, and he was like a kid in a candy shop. When he went back to work on something – he was working on a space shuttle project at the time – and he said he was just on Deep Space Nine, and all of the science geeks were like, wow! So the fact that Armin and I could provide that for my brother, Don, who I love dearly, was pretty great.”
Swink is originally from the world of theater, and spent many of her formative years working in NYC – the same place where she met her eventual husband Armin. The pair have performed together on stage and on-screen numerous times, although their paths did not cross on the days she filmed her parts for Star Trek.
Kitty made her Trek debut in the second season DS9 episode “Sanctuary” from 1993, an episode about a group of alien refugees trying to find a new home and choosing Bajor, which leads to tension. It’s an uncomfortable episode that remains relevant to this day.
Kitty recalled the audition process for her first episode being a bit more difficult for her because she was a cast member’s wife. Once she booked the gig, it was smooth sailing and nothing but great memories:
“I’d never auditioned for TNG. It was my second DS9 audition. And at that time, they really did not hire spouses or that kind of stuff. So that was a challenge.”
Incidentally, Walter Koenig’s son Andrew also appeared in the same episode, so while nepotism was a no-no in Trek, it’s interesting footnote for this episode.
“Avery Brooks was unbelievably kind to me on the set… Having been a recurring character on a few shows and doing theatre and being an artistic director, I did a lot of episodes when we first got [to California] like soap opera called ‘Santa Barbara’. You know, you’re part of the family but coming in, even as the wife of somebody who was a regular on the show, being a guest star or a one-day guest – it’s the hardest job in the world because everybody else is up to speed… and you’ve got one day to make it work. And Avery could not have been more gracious. It was lovely, I had a good time.”
Regarding the heavy political content of the episode, Kitty was up for the task:
“I don’t think it’s a big surprise to anybody who knows anything about the Star Trek world, but I’m pretty up on liberal politics. You know, like, getting arrested as a teenager for protesting the war in Vietnam. So there you go… and of course, I had to be the person on the, you know, I’d be the person who was building the wall on the southern border of the United States, which is always interesting to play against your own personal beliefs.”
“It’s in some ways, more fun may not be the right word but It’s interesting. Because you have to make yourself right. You’re an actor, you have to believe, you have to think the thoughts that person thinks. So you have to make yourself right. And it was hard. It was fun.”
Kitty returned to DS9 in the seventh season episode “Tacking Into The Wind”, this time as a Vorta named Luaran which required a much more intensive session in the makeup chair.
“The ears were fine but they make you a little deaf. I had never worn contact lenses at that point so I found them really uncomfortable… I had three hair pieces on to make the hair thing work because at the time my hair was [long], so that was uncomfortable.”
“And I think I started at like four o’clock in the morning and finished it one o’clock in the morning that night. Because they shot some stuff while I was in makeup… but it was really fun.”
Check out the full interview with Kitty in video form below, where she tells more stories from Star Trek, we discuss how she meets Armin, what it’s like performing with him on stage and screen (something they have done together countless times), theatre talk and her role as co-artistic director of the Antaeus Theater Company, and she shares her amazing story of being a pancreatic cancer survivor:
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Trek Untold is a weekly podcast series that chats with character actors, stunt performers, behind-the-scenes crew and other people who are the contributors of the Star Trek universe whose names aren’t in the opening credits of the shows. Follow Trek Untold on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about upcoming episodes, which are released every Thursday on all major audio platforms, and Sunday on Youtube in video form.