It's hard to argue that The Orville is the best non-Star Trek, Star Trek series because so many on the FOX-turned-Hulu series also worked on the Paramount franchise, including co-EPs and writers Brannon Braga & André Bormanis. Seth MacFarlane, who created and stars in the series, was able to help breathe new life in the science fiction genre (coinciding with Star Trek's current renaissance on Paramount+) while partnering with the franchise's past creative talent. One who benefitted from both worlds is Penny Johnson Jerald, who plays Dr. Claire Finn on The Orville from its start on FOX in 2017 to the current third season dubbed the New Horizons era of Hulu. Prior to joining MacFarlane's series, Johnson Jerald had already appeared in two Star Trek shows, guest starring in Next Generation as Dobara and more prominently in Deep Space Nine as Kasidy Yates. While the future of The Orville is uncertain for a fourth season, Johnson Jerald spoke about her time filming DS9 and her initial doubts about joining the Star Trek franchise.
"There's nothing I liked about Kasidy. It's everything that I love about Kasidy. It was the first time because you're talking about the 90s that I felt empowered as a woman of color," Johnson Jerald said. "She was a captain. We didn't have that. And there was a relationship between she and Sisko [Avery Brooks]. 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."
Johnson Jerald also recalled the episode being directed by the late Rene Auberjonois, who also played Odo on the series and acted opposite Brooks, who she knew from the '80s action series Spencer for Hire. "When I came on, I met with Rene, 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."
For more on Johnson Jerald's suggestion to DS9 executive producer Rick Berman to revisit the series via movie, her reaction to the Kasidy Easter Egg on Picard, The Orville's future & more, you can check out the rest of the interview on Heavy.