In retrospect, it seems inevitable that Roxann Dawson — perhaps best known for playing half-Klingon, half-human Starfleet officer B'Elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager — was destined to direct.
"It was so obvious, it was almost freaky," she says. "Nobody in my family is in the business, but I was directing plays in my living room from the time I was about six."
She graduated from UC Berkeley and then landed the role of Diana Morales in the Broadway production of A Chorus Line, "Then I joined Circle Repertory Theatre, where I began to write and direct. I knew I loved directing for the stage, but I didn't know if that would translate to film and television."
Well, it did.
During the final years of Voyager, Dawson was given the opportunity to direct two episodes and, later, several episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. She went on to direct other shows — Lost, The Good Wife, Scandal, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Treme and Hell on Wheels, to name a few — and soon her directorial credits outnumbered those for acting.
"The last time I acted was on The Closer. It was good for me to step on the other side of the camera again and remind myself of what I'm asking my actors to do. In a way, it made me a better director."
Dawson recently directed the pilot (plus two additional episodes) of PBS's Civil War medical drama, Mercy Street. "Because I was with the script from the beginning, I was able to have a vision of what I wanted the show to look like, from casting to talking about the permanent locations. Being able to sculpt the show from its inception was thrilling."
Upcoming projects include Amazon Studios' Good Girls Revolt, Netflix's House of Cards and FX's The Americans. "When I first started directing, I had to get past the fact that people thought I only did science fiction," she says. "It's been very exciting to do a wide variety of things. I don't think I've been boxed in, and I feel very lucky about that."