'I'm a true Cockney', says Star Trek's Marina Sirtis on returning to London
- Credit: Courtesy of Marina Sirtis
Hackney-born Star Trek actress Marina Sirtis has returned home to London after leaving a divided America behind in March.
The "proud Cockney" has never lost her accent despite a long career, which has taken her over the Atlantic and across our galaxy in American science fiction series, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
"When I was beginning in the business you couldn’t be a Cockney," she said. "You really couldn’t because it is the one accent that tells the world you're working class.
"But I thought, do you know what this is who I am.
"I was born in the east end, I was born within the sound of the Bow Bells. I'm a true Cockney and why can't I sound like me?"
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Marina's iconic role as Deanna Troi saw her embody a female Betazoid-Human hybrid Star Fleet commander from the 24th century.
The Star Trek series, which spanned 178 episodes over seven seasons, aired in the 80s and ran into the 90s.
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But Marina's rise to stardom is rooted in humble Greek immigrant, working-class beginnings. She was born in Hackney in 1955 and later moved to Harringay.
Marina told the Gazette why she beamed herself back to London: "It was a combination of things, I lost my husband and four years of Trump did my head in."
The actress talked of a divided America which had become "unrecognisable".
She said: "I just didn’t want to be in that atmosphere anymore in that environment it was so negative, it was so nasty. "
"It was like there was a plaster on America keeping the poison under control and then [Trump] came along and ripped the plaster off and it all poured out."
The actress, who now lives in Twickenham, says she hasn't regretted coming back to London for a "nanosecond".
She recalls growing up in north London: "It was a normal working class, poor upbringing.
"We always had food on the table, we didn’t starve, Greeks can do amazing things with beans and lentils. We never went hungry but we went without things sometimes like treats and luxuries."
Marina started work when she was 13 as a shampooist in a hair salon in Chalk Farm, having had "many jobs" in her teens.
A good work ethic she says, has helped her forge a long career in showbusiness. Luck, she adds, "is when preparation meets opportunity".
Marina's career started on stage after she secretly auditioned for drama school against her parents wishes in secondary school.
Her Greek "fresh off the boat" parents looked down on acting as a career path.
Marina said: "When I said to my mum I want to be an actress, what she heard was I want to be a prostitute.
"She wanted me to go to university and be a lawyer."
Her mother remarked, just before the actress went to America and got her big break: "You know this acting thing really hasn’t worked out. There's an opening in the Bank of Cyprus on the high street, why don’t you go and apply for the job."
But Marina left for America anyway and landed her iconic role in the show created by Gene Rodenberry.
She says The Next Generation cast had a chemistry "pretty unique in Hollywood".
"We're all still friends, and I don’t mean acquaintances. I mean we are best friends and we met in '87 and we're still best friends."
The Next Generation was also a unique show, Marina explains, because no conflict between the regular characters was allowed into the script.
The actress, now in her 60s, remembers a producer once saying: "No conflict, by the 24th century we have all found a way to get along.
"And you know, you say to an actor or a writer no conflict – their head explodes.
"Because what you are taught as an actor is that drama is conflict - but it worked."
Marina says she feels "privileged and proud" to have been part of the show.
She said: "There was one bloke who had had his legs blown off in Iraq and he'd had 150 surgeries.
"He said, 'Your show saved my life, if I hadn’t had your show to watch I would have given up."
"So when you hear stuff like that it takes your breath away. I’m just an actress I learn my lines I hit my marks and I try not to bump into the furniture."
Marina recently made her West End stage debut in a play called Dark Sublime in 2019, which tells the story of Marianne, a freelance actor and now-forgotten icon of a British sci-fi TV show.