ACTRESS Lisa Howard has gone from kicking butt as Capt. Lili Mar quette in "Earth: Final Conflict" to powdering butt as a mother. Raising daughter Sofia, 1, is role she cherishes.
A few minutes into our conversation, Howard abruptly but cheerfully excuses herself. Sofia won't take a nap. About 15 minutes later, she calls me back. Sofia's being entertained by a video, and Howard is ready to talk about her career and her plans.
If you haven't discovered her on "Earth: Final Conflict" (the Gene Roddenberry-inspired series airs at 11 p.m. Sundays on KOKH-25), then you might remember Howard from her two seasons on "Highlander" as Dr. Anne Lindsey, or go back a little further to her soap days playing April Ramirez on "Days of Our Lives." Howard's stint on "Days" ran from 1988 to 1991. Her character was teamed with Michael Horton (Michael Weiss, "The Pretender") in what turned out to be a popular pairing with soap fans. Weiss and Howard met on the set and later became best friends, Howard said. They teamed again in a 1997 episode of "The Pretender."
Howard sees a big difference between soap fans and science fiction fans while acknowledging that her soap experience was 10 years ago. She said soap fans had no outlet for their "fan dom" like sci-fi fans have with conventions, and 10 years ago, there were no online chats with fans.
"Now in the soap days, there were a lot of strange experiences, because the only time they (fans) had any contact with you was when they tackled you at an airport or cornered you in a bathroom at a shopping mall. But the sci-fi fans, they are very respectful. Also, with soaps, you are in their house every single day, so there's no barrier."
During her soap days, she and Weiss had a contract with Perle Vision to make appearances at store openings across the country. It wasn't about meeting the fans; it was a hurried experience that left actors and fans unsatisfied, she said.
Howard says sci-fi fans are better organized, their conventions are well-run, and they provide a structured forum for bringing together fans and actors.
This weekend, the Canada native will appear at the Trek Expo sci-fi convention in Tulsa. It's the fourth convention for the 36-year-old actress.
"I've had a really good time with the sci-fi audience, and it's been a wonderful relationship with the actors and the audience, whereas that kind of infra structure didn't exist for soap operas when I did them 10 years ago," she said.
"When you have a weekend-long convention, you are not there to promote a company; you are there to meet the fans, and all the organization is focused toward making that a pleasurable experience for the fans and the actors. And it's very successful for the most part."
Howard said soaps by nature are emotional, and some viewers get caught up in the storylines and characters, sometimes with scary or embarrassing results.
"For example, when my character, April, was going through an alcoholic stage, Michael Weiss and I were able to go to the Academy Awards that year. We were walking up the red carpet, feeling very fancy, and people started screaming, 'You lush! You drunk!' And I'm trying to be very graceful in my gown. I'm at the Academy Awards, and I was so excited. Goldie Hawn was in front of us, and Meryl Streep was behind, and they're looking at me, and people are screaming, 'You drunk! You're no good for him.' I just wanted to crawl back in the limo and never come out."
She's embraced the Internet as a healthy way to keep in touch with fans, and even relates Sofia's latest achievement or progress during scheduled chats. She said www. lisahoward.net was created by a fan of "Highlander" who got together with other fans and developed the Web site. Howard became a regular contributor and supported their efforts.
"I think with the Internet, it's such a more organized, safer, more friendly way to get in touch with the fans. Whereas before... it was just difficult to find a forum where you could meet the fans in a productive, friendly, open environment," she said.
Howard's character on "Earth: Final Conflict" is a Marine pilot, and the actress made her first forays on the Web doing research for the role. While online, she contacted a man whose daughter was going through Marine boot camp, and he graciously shared his daughter's letters home with Howard. She said the letters read like a biography of Lili. "It was exactly the kind of background the character needed, and that was really, really helpful."
Howard said it's been empowering to play Lili, and that the science fiction genre, which offers almost limitless possibilities for stories and characters, is the best place to play out those really strong women warriors. The physical demands of such a role can be great, but Howard says the real challenge is "to not forsake the femininity of the character or the emotional life of the character, because those things go by the wayside and 'Strong female characters can only be strong, she can't be vulnerable, she can't be feminine.' As an actor you have to make sure those other elements are not ignored."
Sometimes that goes for real life, too. After tackling that challenge for three seasons on "Earth: Final Conflict," Howard says she'll appear only in the first episode of the upcoming season and will devote herself to a job that is more challenging and rewarding: being a mother.
"I'm doing the mom thing. Pretty happy about it," Howard said.
"It is the most creative job ever."Archive ID: 811060