The worlds of sci-fi and fantasy came together for NY Wintercon early this month. One of the main stage panels featured a who’s who of legendary women from the genre. Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek), Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing, The Fog), and Virginia Hey (Road Warrior, Farscape) joined for a discussion of their famous roles, legacies, and importance of being women in the industry.
First off, Nichelle Nichols was hilarious. She is coming up on her 84th birthday and was still telling stories and cracking jokes. After Star Trek she was actually a recruiter for NASA! Barbeau said she feels more like she’s been a horror actress, but the parallels between the genres are obvious. When discussing her roles she brought up her favorite, Ruthie on HBO’s Carnivale and said she feels like she never worked a day in her life. She has become an author publishing a trilogy of vampire novels, the second Love Bites is being turned into a film, where she is co-writing the screenplay. Virginia Hey, there as part of the 35th anniversary of Mad Max 2: Road Warrior, started as a model and took the role of Warrior Woman to experience something different and empowering.
Fans got a chance to ask questions to the ladies and the first was about the challenges for women, and in Nichols’ case, as a minority woman at a time in history where it was harder to get your foot in the door. Nichols said that she didn’t feel the racism or sexism as much and that Star Trek was a welcoming set. She was aware of the challenges and tried to rise above them.
As for current projects, Barbeau just came off a traveling production of Pippin, and has a bunch of science fiction and horror projects coming out. She jokes that as long as her kids are in college, she’ll need to keep working. The working title for Barbeau’s screenplay of her novel will be Vein and she hopes to have that in production next year.
They ended by discussing their roles as role models for future generations of women in the industry. While they don’t feel they are necessarily role models, they all welcome questions and are willing to give their advice and input when asked. Adrienne Barbeau was the most active on the panel, as she is one with the most projects upcoming. Virginia Hey and Nichelle Nichols were great fun and Nichols seemed very grandmotherly, to the point where I wanted to go over to her table at the convention after the panel for a hug.