Star Trek Online: Victory is Life, the fourth expansion for the Star Trek MMORPG, launches today in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The expansion sees a dozen Deep Space Nine actors returning reprising their roles as voice cast for the new expansion, including Chase Masterson as Leeta.
As Leeta, Masterson rose through seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from a
But Masterson is more than her character. She's also created a non-profit, anti-bullying organization known as the Pop Culture Hero Coalition. ComicBook.com spoke to Masterson ahead of the Victory is Life's release about Star Trek Online, Deep Space Nine, and more.
For starters, what can you tell me about Victory is Life and Leeta’s role in it?
Chase Masterson: Victory in Life starts 30 years after the end of Deep Space Nine. So the first thing I'd say is for all of those fans, and there are so many, who have been asking for Deep Space Nine, could they have reprised any of us on the current show or could there be a movie, unfortunately, that's probably not going to happen, but this is where you get more Deep Space Nine. The story is continuing, like I said, 30 years later, so the characters have matured and been through a lot. Rom and I have obviously been up on Ferenginar. I'm the first lady. And we're back on the station to enact kind of a mystery. We have a mystery involved and I can't say too much about, but the Ferengi join forces together and we have to pull something off …
So, there’s a mystery involved? Would you say this is a noir-style story, or more an action-adventure tale?
CM: It's definitely action-packed. I'm not sure how much I can say, but I think I'm at liberty to say there's a little bit of Ocean's 11 in it. it's kind of like Ocean's 11 but for the Ferengi. So that might mean with less glamor and more ears and teeth, but action-packed nonetheless. And it's super fun. We love to see these characters who we used to know as bumbling and not really having it all together definitely the comic relief of the show, we love to see them really rising up and making a difference and that signals to us that we ourselves can rise up and make a difference, so it's everything you'd expect from a fun Ferengi action story.
What does it mean to you to have been able to keep telling Leeta’s story from
CM: It means so much. I never would have guessed that Leeta would have had the ongoing life and legs of the character that they've given me, although that's part of the beauty of Star Trek is that the characters that seem to be not as important grow to be extremely important, and it shows that we are all more capable than even we may think we are. So it's been a real treat, and it's also, I think,
Victory is Life is being released in conjunction with Deep Space Nine’s 25th anniversary. Has that elevated your experience in some way, knowing that is, as you said, probably the closest thing to a reunion that fans are going to get?
CM: It has. We owe the fans some answers, I think. Well, let me scratch that. I don't know that we owe the fans answers, but when you invest this much in characters when the audience has its own stake in these characters and they really care, it's very hard for a show as serial-themed and as well-loved as Deep Space Nine to end. And so they've had a natural reason to wonder what our characters are up to now and who changed in what way, so yes.
The stakes are high, I think, for the audience and for us. And actually, the stakes are high for Star Trek on my end, this is a game that so many of the cast have taken part of and all of us have done it because we admire the excellence that Star Trek Online is made with and the quality of the storyline and the arc and the characters and the dialogue. So the stakes are big with everybody when you revisit something that is as well-loved as Deep Space Nine and we're all happy with the outcome.
You’ve previously come to Star Trek Online to voice Leeta from the mirror universe. How different is it to voice her versus the original, prime timeline Leeta? Do you as an actress feel like they’re two entirely different characters or just different aspects of the same?
CM: Well, they are so different, partly because regular Leeta is truly good. She is a dimensional character but she has a lot of dimensions that are related to compassion and empathy and inner strength and conviction and those things. So it's not hard and it's really fun to find the opposite of those qualities which are craving for power, which is always based on an insecurity, which is always based on fear, which is always based on this insatiable drive to keep going.
So Mirror Leeta has all of these qualities that obviously regular Leeta or Holo Leeta would absolutely rile up against. It would be interesting to see them face off at some point but the bottom line is Leeta in the mirror universe would eat the Borg Queen for breakfast, as I've said, and it's really fun to get inside somebody who is that singularly focused.
If you had to choose one and you could only play that one from now on, which would it be?
CM: My heart really belongs to the regular Leeta because she's capable of real heroism. She has so much at stake, loving her husband and being basically an immigrant on Ferenginar and having a whole set of other rules that she has been expected to live by and has broken out of those rules and has worn clothes as a Ferengi wife and has stood up to Quark. Leeta has her own kind of strength, which is really incredible and it's not to be taken lightly. So I think if I choose it would be regular Leeta, but I don't want to choose because Mirror Leeta is so fun.
There has been a lot of retrospection about Deep Space Nine surrounding its anniversary from fans and those involved in the show. Have you been feeling that yourself? Has any particular memory stood out in your mind from your time on the show?
CM: Yes, definitely. There are so many great memories that we have of doing this show while it was in production. My first day one of the top executives came down from the big office to watch my scene with Dr. Bashir and word was kind of going out like, "Oh he never does that. That's pretty serious. I think they're looking at you for a recurring role." I forgot about that actually. It's not that I really forgot, I didn't really let it settle in my mind that that could be a possibility, and then, sure enough, I got called for the second episode, I found out that I was going to recur because I got a couple calls from wardrobe and they put me for the second episode and kept me for five years and I'm really grateful for that kind of thing. No actor could really ever ask anything more, to be on a show that means so much.
But I think that the most important memories are always from the fans telling us how much it meant. They blow the on-set memories away because if you see someone standing in front of you saying, "Thank you, this meant so much to my life, thank you, we watched this when I was deployed in the Gulf War, thank you, this show got me through my surgery or my divorce or the death of someone I love," and because this show is so packed full of important human themes it really does remind people of the joys and hardships of being human and when fans tell us how that relates to them, that's better than anything.
You’re also reconnecting with Star Trek in another way in the parody film Unbelievable, which has a ton of Star Trek alumni in it. Can you tell me anything about that experience?
CM: It's always great to see other cast members and a different vehicle to work with them in different scenarios but Unbelievable is nothing like the film we were told we were making. The reason we're not pleased with Unbelievable is because they kept changing the story, changing the script and changing the cast. So when that happens, it can be very rough on an actor and reputationally, it's tough for us to be involved in something that we're not proud of.
CM: Pop Culture Hero Coalition is the first ever organization to make a stand against bullying, racism, misogyny, LGBT bullying, cyberbullying and other forms of hate using pop culture stories that we can all relate to. So we take these stories that are onscreen and we make them happen in real life. So our motto is "We love superheroes. Why not be one?" It's so important that we see the transcendent nature of these stories, especially Star Trek and really beginning with Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry said that each episode of Star Trek was a morality play and so why not take these stories and teach children and adults to have empathy and to have inclusion and to see each other as human and have the right to be whoever we want to be and to choose kindness and to stand up for each other?
That has to happen, whether it's in kindergarten or grade school or high school or workplace bullying or relationship bullying or terrorism or war, it's all the same dynamics and if we can teach children early on to choose kindness and choose empathy and to become allies for each other and to have resilience so if they do get bullied, they know they have have a deep sense of who they are, and it doesn't destroy them. All of those things are so important to teach children so that we can have them grow up into healthy adults.
So we started this work in 2013. We got our non-profit licenses in 2015, and we started creating a curriculum that will go into schools for 7th and 8th grade. We're piloting the curriculum in later 2018. We have created the curriculum with clinical psychologists and anti-bullying experts and again, we use these stories so that kids can relate to them. So it's fun. We’re speaking kids’ languages, really, when we say "Be Wonder Woman. You can be Wonder Woman. You can be Batman but for justice. You can be ... who's your favorite hero from X-Men?" You can take those concepts and make them happen in the real world.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the pop culture and fandom space about the changing faces of these franchise and the representation that comes with that, such as the new Star Wars cast, and movies like Black Panther and Wonder Woman. Have you found that having this new level of representation has helped make the organization in its goals?
CM: Yes. Representation is so important and I think that the world of television has belonged to white people and particularly white males for so long that of course people of color and women have felt excluded and for people of color and for women, for girls to be able to see healthy role models or their issues right there up on screen, it helps them to feel heard. And give them a confidence that they personally will feel heard and can be seen and heard and accomplish great things. The power of stories like Black Panther for black children and adults, and Wonder Woman for women and men, is indescribable and crucial.
We've got to continue. We need to see more black characters and women. We also need to see more Asian characters out there in the mainstream. We need to see LGBTQ characters. And I think as white people we need to stand up for that. If it's only people of color standing up for themselves, then it just sometimes, it doesn't ring true. When we stand up for each other, that's when we have real empathy and that's the message of Star Trek.
CM: If you want more Star Trek and more Deep Space Nine in a way that you can interact with, even if you're not a gamer, I'd say play Star Trek Online. Just check this game out. The world is so beautiful and you can really dive in and become a part of it in a way that's super fun. If you are a gamer, you'll love it all that much more, getting to inhabit these characters and these situations.