The sea is a harsh mistress, and is full of things that would make a great white shark turn tail. It takes a strong woman to help tame her and Kathy Evison signed on board SeaQuest as Ensign Lonnie Henderson to do just that.
Evison isn't all that comfortable with life at sea. "I've never been much of a water person, actually," she admits, owing to her roots as a true landlubber. "My family lived in places like Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Great Smoky Mountains, Sequoia National Park -so I've always thought of myself as more of a mountain person. I had to be saved from drowning when I was an exchange student in New Zealand! I hate to admit it, but I'm even a little bit afraid of the water. To get a little bit of naval background, I did talk to my grandfather, who was a weatherman in the Navy, but it's interesting to me now that when I'm out on or near the ocean, I have this feeling that I work there".
With regard to her role in SeaQuest, "They wrote me in almost as an afterthought to introduce another woman into the show. Since the first few scripts were written before my character even existed, that's the main reason why I just had an 'Aye, aye, Sir! ' here and there in early episodes".
Like her co-stars on the show, Evison was drawn to the series shot in Florida on the spur of the moment. "I had been part of a very broad open call for the part of Wendy Smith (which Rosalind Allen eventually got). I knew I was probably too young for the part, but I went just to try and do a good audition. I never really gave it another thought until about two weeks later, when I was called in to see the producers for the Lonnie Henderson part. I walked in cold, and ended up reading this very short piece they had given me. When I walked out, my co-reader said, 'Well, I hope you want to move to Florida, because you're the best one today'. And I went, 'Florida?' I didn't even know it was for a series regular!"
I got the call to return to the network the next morning while I was in my car driving home," she continues. "My husband was on a 'plane, so I couldn't even get in touch with him to let him know! When he did get home, he said, 'Kathy, you can't pass this up.' I really wondered if he might give me some opposition -I almost wanted some of that, actually- and there he was saying, 'Go! Great! Wonderful!' So I went to the network interview and then on to another audition that same day. On my way home, I got the call saying, 'You're moving to Florida.' It hasn't really been a problem."
As for the pressures of a bi-coastal marriage? "When I modelled, I spent a lot of time in Japan, and when Randy and I were married, it was during a stretch where I would be over there for two months at a time. He travels extensively as well, so it's not as if we weren't already accustomed to being away from each other."
Born in Boulder City, Nevada, Evison had the kind of childhood most kids only dream of. Her father was employed by the National Parks Service, so she lived most of her young life in national parks all across the country. So what was it like growing up 'on the road'? "Until I went to College, it was the only life I knew. We moved around all the time. The longest I had lived in any one place was three-and-a-half years. My dad started out as a Park Ranger and ended up as the Assistant Director of the National Parks Service. It was really wonderful for him, because he loved going to all these places. When you grow up that way, you don't really think of it as unusual... it's all I knew. I think back now and wonder just how the hell my mother did it, moving that often!"
Evison attended the University of California at Davis, and graduated cum laude with a degree in rhetoric. She began working as a model to pay her tuition, appearing in Self, Shape and Seventeen. "I graduated from college and wanted to be a writer or broadcaster," she explains. "Because I really wasn't ready to settle into a nine-to-five job, I gave in to all the people who kept telling me I should model. I said, 'Sure, yeah, right.' But I tried it and it worked. Before I knew it, modelling lead to commercials, and I began to enjoy that so much that I decided to take acting lessons. My whole career has been rather serendipitous. I met my husband when I was a YMCA camp counsellor outside San Bernardino. He's an LA boy, born and bred, so that's how I ended up in LA.
According to Evison, her travels, the places she has been and the people she has met have aided her development as an actress. "It seems to me that moving so much as a kid, having to constantly meet new people and make new friends, has really helped me. I was a pretty shy kid, but what I found I could use to my advantage was that I could take whatever aspects I liked about a particular person and actually be that person at the next school I went to. The new kids didn't know any better!"
It came very naturally to me, but I do remember being very conscious of the fact that when I moved on, there was no reason why I had to be the same person I was before. I mean, I was still the same Kathy Evison, but I would enhance my personality or style by adding someone's sense of humour, or self-confidence, or something to improve myself each stop we made. I was able to change just enough each time. I think I'm a pretty solid person to begin with. It's not as if I'm a schizophrenic or anything", she laughs, changing expression and the tone of her voice in a scary Sybil-like transformation.
It's been a bit of a culture shock, though," Evison confesses. "I'm used to living in the South, with the heat and humidity and all, having lived in Tennessee, but it was more a shock leaving my friends back in California, a place where something is always happening," Evison shrugs. "It took about two months for me to really settle in and get used to it." So how does she feel about her SeaQuest compadres after her experiences on those other ensemble shows? "We're crazy about each other here. We really are. Because we were all transplanted here, we've relied on each other to get by, and we're happy to do that. Somehow this mixture of people is just plain great together."
At Christmas time, after one of our last shooting days before the holiday break, we all slipped over to the Peabody Hotel and had one big 'love fest' -carrying on and hanging all over each other screaming, 'I love you! It's so wonderful being here with you.' So, in a nutshell, we go out of our way to embarrass ourselves every chance we get. It's scary the things I've done since I've been here!" she jokes.
As one of only two female cast members, Evison has had no choice but to become one of the boys. "When Rosalind (Allen) first came here, she had her daughter with her, so we didn't see her much. Everything is always so last-minute, we go out right after work and we often don't know when we'll be finished, so it's difficult to make plans. At first, it was difficult for Rosalind to come along on some of these 'impromptu excursions,' but I've never felt like the tantamount little sister or anything. I do feel like a sister sometimes, but I've never felt unwanted by the guys. Personally, I think it's a blast hanging out with the boys. That's kind of the way I see Henderson: she's everyone's sister, just one of the boys."
Writing is one of Evison's many passions, and the opportunity to write scripts in the not-too-distant future could arise. "When I think of the kind of writing I like to do," she explains, "I think a novel or short story would be more my speed instead of a movie or TV script. That's more along the lines of the kind of writing I could see myself doing, but I certainly wouldn't discount the possibility that I might have a script or two in me. I catch myself often thinking, 'Why doesn't anybody write stuff like...?' "
If the opportunity to work in films comes, that would be fine. If I have a future in television, that's great too. Working is wonderful, period. Working is always better than not working. But I suppose if I end up a mom in Topeka, Kansas, that would be just fine too!"