[Photo credit: Joe Deangelis Photography]
The secrecy behind director J.J. Abrams’ next “Star Trek” movie is incredibly high. We still don’t know the names of many of the characters from “Star Trek Into Darkness” or what the connection is between Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain and the timeline of the original series. When I speak to actress Nanzeen Contractor about working on the film–her first 800 lb gorilla summer feature–she says that she wasn’t even allowed to read the script in its entirety.
“At the end of each day on set, there was a guy who would collect our sides (script pages). We couldn’t take them home, and they were all color-coordinated and had watermarks with our names on them,” Contractor tells me. “And then when I asked J.J. some questions, he’d say, ’Oh, but it’s in the script” and I’d say, “but I haven’t read the script.'”
For the young actress, this was a little bit of a challenge given that her character is someone she describes as being pivotal to the film alongside “Doctor Who” actor Noel Clarke who plays her husband. Could they be the parents of the galaxy’s most dangerous genetically-engineered child?
Up until now, the Mumbai-born Contractor has been a familiar face to fans of serial dramas on TV: she had a 26-episode stint on the Canadian series “The Border” before coming down to L.A. for 21 episodes of “24” where she played the imperiled daughter of the president of a Middle Eastern democracy played by Indian superstar Anil Kapoor, and she has a role in an indie thriller under the working title of “Torment” on the way.
The “24” set was very different, a nearly year-long role (it started in May and finished the following April) that saw her character kidnapped, betrayed by her lover, and forced to watch her father die in front of her (still not the worst things to happen to a character in FOX’s series). “I’ll tell you what “24” really helped me do in all honesty, and I thought I did it all season,” she jokes. “I really know how to cry. It was tragedy after tragedy for my characters.”
She credits the series showrunners with being open and welcoming to a new performer, a far cry from the black box of mystery on the “Star Trek Into Darkness” set where the master script for the film would be kept in a locked safe in the middle of a room. Here’s a tip: get close to one of the costumer designers for the film who will likely know more than just about anyone what’s going on–Contractor says that during costume fittings, she’d be clued into some of the changes with her character for the film.
Her addition to the cast–announced last January–was a hurried process, and she was cast only two weeks out from the start of principal photography. Again, that veil of secrecy was heavy: Abrams, rather than allow anything from his films to leak out will simply provide performers scenes from some of his favorite movies. When she signed on, Contractor was told by a Bad Robot rep to come down to J.J.’s office to pick up her part of the script. “Then he said you can only read pages where you are specifically mentioned or [that you are] reading. I thought he was joking, and he said no.”
She and Clarke’s character will have a child–a little girl together. Wait, a little girl? So the Khan theory is garbage, right? Whether it’s because Paramount and Abrams have all of the performers playing coy, or what, Contractor can’t help but allow for a long, knowing pause when I ask her if she’s playing the mother of Khan before offering a “no comment.”
“Hahah, that’s a really interesting question. I don’t know if I can answer that. No comment. So sorry. I want to work with J.J. again.”