Monday Returning Shows, Fall 2001
FOX, 8-9 p.m.
Starts October 22
The way Executive Producer Jonathan Pontell sees it, new cast member Jeri Ryan brings two huge assets to David E. Kelley’s provocative high school drama: ”She’s terrific, and I think she’s excited to play a human.” Counters Ryan, who spent the last four years starring as Borg babe Seven of Nine on UPN’s Star Trek: Voyager: ”I’m wondering if I can remember how.” Ryan adds that a bigger challenge came in joining the show without knowing whom she’d be playing — the ever-cagey Kelley told her nothing about her character until four days prior to production. ”That’s a little scary,” says the actress, cooling her heels in her trailer on Boston’s first day of shooting. ”But who better to trust to write something unseen for you?”
Ryan’s mystery woman turned out to be Ronnie Cooke, a hotshot corporate lawyer who discovers her soul during a guest-speaking appearance at Winslow High and decides it’s time to trade the halls of justice for the blackboard jungle. ”She’s coming from a very different background,” says Ryan. ”She dresses in designer clothes, she drives a BMW, and when she wants her students to read a certain book, she sees nothing wrong with going out and buying it for them, which is something that most teachers don’t have as an option.” Adds Pontell: ”There’s going to be different reactions [to Cooke] — jealousy, envy, interest. It’s a way of opening things up and telling more stories.”
It’s also a way of bringing some much-needed star power to the sophomore series. ”We wanted to get a bit more of a profile for the show,” Pontell says. In addition to Ryan, Public has snagged Michael Rapaport (Mighty Aphrodite) for a 13-episode stint as an unorthodox new colleague, as well as signing up ”Titanic” baddie Billy Zane, who’ll take on an arc as a longtime boyfriend that Cooke is torturously trying to leave behind. Leslie Jordan (Ally McBeal) will also join the faculty as a science teacher.
For Ryan, landing a role on Boston Public is encouraging proof that there is life after Trek. ”It’s notorious for having actors get pigeonholed. Some of them don’t do a lot of work after Star Trek,” notes the actress, adding that thanks to her new gig, ”I’m not worried about never working again.” Now the former alien hottie is looking forward to tackling a more earthbound drama. ”Voyager was very much a cerebral exercise for an actor,” she says. ”Seven didn’t have emotions, she stifled them, but I don’t think Ronnie is going to have such qualms.” And while she admits to a fondness for the character — ”It was like saying goodbye to an old friend” — she’s certainly not going to miss Seven’s formfitting space wear. After Voyager taped its final mission, says Ryan, ”I wanted a bonfire to burn the corset and the catsuit.”