Louise Fletcher called Armin Shimerman and Fletcher said "Yes."

The year was 1993. Fletcher, the Academy Award-winning star of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, phoned her friend Shimerman, alias Quark of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, to say that the producers of ST:DS9 had invited her to play a recurring character on the show. The actress wanted Shimerman's opinion, and he implored her to accept the part of Vedek Winn, who eventually became Kai Winn, the Bajoran spiritual leader. Fletcher said yes, and thus was born one of ST:DS9's most intriguing, conniving and best dressed recurring characters.

"I loved those costumes," enthuses Fletcher, who first turned up as Winn in the second season finale, "In the Hands of the Prophets." "I loved the theatricality of the character. I found it a lot of fun to work at Paramount, and all of the people I worked with -- Avery Brooks and Nana Visitor and and all the others -- were very nice.

"She was a typical politician, but one with grand ambitions," she reasons of Winn. "Sometimes ambition can lead a person to commit evil acts, but I don't necessarily think Winn was evil. Maybe she had a little bit of evil in her, but I tried not to play that very much."

Winn appeared in a good many episodes over the next five seasons, among them "The Siege," "The Collaborator," "Life Support" and "Shakaar," earning her the deserved reputation as a master manipulator, a most ambitious religious leader (who may not be looking out for the best interests of her followers) and someone capable of going one step too far.

By the time of ST:DS9's seventh season, Winn had become Kai, and she indeed went too far, as proved by her actions in the likes of "Strange Bedfellows," "The Changing Face of Evil," "When It Rains," "Extreme Risks," "The Dogs of War" and, of course, the season finale, "What You Leave Behind." There's nothing like a few Pah-wraiths and the prodding of Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) as a Bajoran to push one over the edge.

Now, of course, it's all over, and the always working Fletcher -- who, during her days with ST:DS9, appeared in such other projects as the television series VR.5 and the films Virtuosity and Cruel Intentions -- is out and about seeking new and diverse acting challenges. But she won't quickly forget Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. "I just enjoyed being a part of it, having a recurring role that was interesting and didn't lock me into anything for too long," she says. "I loved what I got to do as Winn. She was larger than life. She sat back and kind of smiled at everybody.

"There wasn't much of me in Winn, just as there wasn't much of Nurse Ratched [Fletcher's character from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest] in me. I did use the friendly, charming pleasant side of myself, both when Winn was actually being pleasant and when she was smiling while delivering those horrible lines. The combination was a little unsettling for people, which I loved."

Copyright July 1999 Star Trek Monthly.