To appreciate or understand the motives bubbling beneath the surface of the 24th century political and religious figure Kai Winn, actress Louise Fletcher suggests an examination of another sometimes enigmatic figure, on prominent in the 20th century: Richard M. Nixon.

"He was a very ambitious man who sought power, enjoyed power, and wielded it to protect himself," says Fletcher of the former president. "His view then blurred to what behavior was acceptable to keeping power -- the end justifying the means -- and that ultimately was his downfall."

That path has resonance for Winn as well. "The corruption of power is one of mankind's tragic flaws and a deadly sin," she notes, speaking from her Beverly Hills home. "I really believe in the Seven Deadly Sins, hubris or pride being one of them. It blinds [Winn] to the values she chose to believe in as a religious leader. She becomes a hypocrite by everything she says and does."

Despite the Kai's fall from grace depicted so vividly in the windup of ST:DS9, Fletcher can still laugh about her role, which she began back in the first season finale "In the Hands of the Prophets." At the time she spoke to Star Trek Communicator, Fletcher was about a week away from shooting Kai Winn's final scene in the fire caves of Bajor.

"During the final episodes, she's just been really outdoing herself in her devious ways," she says and laughs. "Her life has spun out of control. She has become all things that make her luscious to play."

Fletcher especially enjoyed those final episodes, including "Strange Bedfellows," for which she impishly suggests the alternate title of "Kiss the Kai and Die": "You get to see the Kai in ways that maybe you've never wanted to see her before," she quips.

Fletcher says she has gotten little attention beyond that of Star Trek fans for playing Kai Winn. She certainly continues to be more identified for her Academy Award-winning role as Nurse Ratched in 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Yet she appreciates meeting Star Trek fans, she says -- especially while learning to identify one aspect of the series' continuing appeal.

"The greatest thing about Star Trek is its moral code," says Fletcher. "It has a very structured value system that is easy to figure out, even if you haven't seen it a lot. It's like in the old Westerns when you know the players by their black hats and white hats. Through it all, you know what's what. I've had a lot of good experiences with Star Trek fans, and I think that the moral code is what draws good people to the show."

"There was one director who was unfortunate enough to get me!" she adds. "He was pretty new to the Kai, and he was shooting a scene with Kai Winn trying to convince Sisko to do something he didn't want to do. Finally. Sisko gave in and agreed, and I gave him one of the Kai's great big smiles.

"Well, the director objected fiercely to this; I told him that the Kai always smiles when she gets what she wants. He said, 'Well, you look like a little girl who just got her lollipop.' He wanted her to be dour about it. I explained that I had played her a long time, and that she is very magnanimous when she gets what she wants. And ultimately, that's how we played it."

In the final analysis, if the ultimate fate of Kai Winn was hardly spelled out in the beginning, Fletcher notes the result of the series was very satisfying for her as a player.

"I didn't know too much about Star Trek going into it; at the very beginning, I didn't have a grasp that she would turn out the way she did," she says. "I just couldn't wait to find out how things ended. Knowing Star Trek the way I do, I knew they had to kill her to meet the moral code.

"I think she's an exhilarating character, and Deep Space Nine is something that has been a lot of fun for me."

Copyright 1999 Star Trek Communicator, issue 123.