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Jeri Ryan talks Law and Order, Parenting and Star Trek

Jeri Ryan was a teacher-turned-lawyer on TV’s Boston Public, a DA on Shark, and of course, the hottie ex-Borg Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager.

But her other role is mom to fourteen-year-old Alex (with ex-husband, politician Jack Ryan) and one-year-old Gisele with her husband, Christoph Eme, chef at the chi-chi L.A. eatery Ortolan. Ryan is coming off maternity leave this month, and will be a series regular as defense attorney Patrice LaRue on Law and Order: SVU.

Ryan talked to Babble about how she’s just like the rest of us (screaming baby, hormones, work-family stress), whether her daughter will follow in her acting footsteps, and what it was really like inside that silver Seven of Nine catsuit. – Jennifer V. Hughes

So you took some time off after your daughter Gisele was born – what made you decide to go back to work now?

[Laughing.] My bank account. I took a year off, which was phenomenal and idyllic, being at home with her. But it’s time.

What did you enjoy most about being home, and what was the hardest part?

Oh gosh, the first three months were the hardest part – she was a tough baby. She screamed non-stop like she was being stabbed. [Laughs.] I will say that it’s physically it’s a lot harder to have a baby at forty than at twenty-six. It’s a lot harder. It took me ten months before my hormones felt like normal.

It was a tough recovery, but it’s been amazing to watch her blossom into this amazing, funny, little sparkly person. She’s so much fun. I appreciate so much more how fast it goes by now. With my son I was working so much I missed so much of his early childhood. I know how quickly that goes by – you blink your eyes and they’re fourteen. I don’t want to miss that part, because now I know how precious it is.

What is it like having kids spaced so far apart?

It’s really strange, but he is a wonderful big brother and she idolizes him. She absolutely adores him. He’s so patient and lets her tear apart his video games. He’s always wanted a little brother or sister and now I tell him, “You’re lucky. You have one but you won’t be fighting all the time.”

I read that you are going to split your time between L.A. and New York – how do you handle that with a little one and a teenager?

I’m not sure. The first episode was quick – I was only gone three days. Going back to work is a big enough deal as a mom but to have to leave for three whole days was rough. I’m hoping that for the next episodes it will be a week at a stretch so I can take her with me as opposed to just flying in and out.

This role is yet another legal one. Why do you think you get pegged as an attorney so much?

I don’t know! I’m comfortable with it now. That legal jargon just trips off my tongue. It beats the techno-babble of Star Trek.

Being a reporter I think gives me certain skills that help me as a parent – I’m hyper-organized, I’m an excellent multi-tasker. Are there things you’ve learned over the years as an actress that help you as a mom?

[Laughs.] Coercion is always a little easier when you have an acting background. Maybe not so much being an actor as being an Army brat growing up – I’m more adaptable to the whims of a little one. My daughter, on the other hand, she is definitely an actress. Oh my goodness.

Really? How so?

She can turn it on – with any man in the world she knows how to work it. She’s really funny. She’ll stare at me and make this really serious face for like a second and then start cracking up.

Maybe she’ll follow in your footsteps.

I pray not. Thankfully she’s got that chef’s blood in her, so I’m hoping that will win out.

She’s a little chef?

She is fascinated anytime she’s near a stove and she wants to cook and help. Most kids you can sit them on the floor with a bowl, but she has to have a pot on the stove. I mean, of course, it’s not on! But she’s very cute and she’s actually a big help.

What does your daughter like to eat? “You would not catch me in that costume today, that’s for sure.”

She eats everything. She’s a little vacuum cleaner. Any green vegetable she’ll eat it all day. Yesterday, what did I make? Lamb steaks and kale, and she ate like a horse. We had crepes for breakfast this morning. I’m really lucky the way she has a phenomenal appetite and a phenomenal palate. Her first solid food was carrots that I grew from seed. That was so cool – I felt like the perfect earth mother.

So, I know this was a while ago, but as a Trek fan I have to ask a Seven of Nine question. I read somewhere that you didn’t know much about Star Trek when you got the gig. How do you go through life and not know anything about Star Trek?

I’d seen a few episodes when I was a kid with William Shatner, but I didn’t know what a Borg was. I figured my character wouldn’t have known anything about it either, so it made sense.

Pretty much everyone I know – male or female – you mention Seven of Nine and . . . Well, let’s just say that the word “hot” comes up a lot. So maybe this is a dumb question, but I just have to ask . . . what is that like? I would think it would be really weird.

[Laughs really hard.] Uhhh . . .

I mean, is it weird to be known for being so freakin’ hot?

That’s very flattering. That was a long time ago. I can tell you, you would not catch me in that costume today, that’s for sure.

I always felt kind of bad for you in that super-tight silver suit. I always wanted to see you walk onto the bridge one day in dirty sweats eating a giant sandwich.

Well, I can tell you that you could always tell the shots before lunch and the ones afterward. The costume hid nothing. Nothing. We would joke about the post-lunch midriff bulge. That costume was not particularly forgiving.

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