If you watch Star Trek, then there’s a great chance you’ve seen her. You might remember her as Lt. Jae from The Next Generation, as she appeared in over 100 episodes of the show and three of the four TNG films. But you might not recognize her from the 16 characters she played on Deep Space Nine and Voyager because she was in full makeup. Her name is Tracee Cocco, and since her time on Trek, she’s been a fixture at conventions across the nation and around the world.
From stunts to modeling to acting, Cocco has done it all. But it is her involvement with Star Trek that holds a special place in her heart.
Cocco started her Hollywood career with the 1989 film Gross Anatomy, which starred actor Matthew Modine. She then was cast to the original Baywatch show, where that series star, David Hasselhoff, told Cocco that she had “it.”
From there, Cocco was brought into Eddie Murphy’s Another 48 Hours for her stunt work when she was spotted on the set by a Paramount executive. He recommended that she talk to the casting team with The Next Generation.
“He said he thought they’d really like my look,” says Cocco. “So, I said ‘ok.’ But I had no idea about Star Trek. I had only watched the original.”
That Paramount executive was right. Cocco was cast to act on the bridge.
“I didn’t realize at the time that when they put me in the black and gold (uniform), those were the best colors,” says Cocco. “You only do three things.” Those were security, operations, and engineering.
Cocco says that she made her debut right after Denise Crosby’s Tasha Yar was killed off — the episode “We’ll Always Have Paris.” Cocco usually sat at the navigation console while Geordi la Forge (LeVar Burton) manned the helm.
“I started out with one pip,” says Cocco, regarding her character’s rank, which was Lieutenant JG (junior grade). She says that she had a regular schedule on the show, where she’d be called on for three days of acting per week, and it was almost always on the bridge set.
An interesting story is how her character was named. In one of the episodes, Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) had a line addressing Cocco’s character. In the script, it called for her to be called “Lieutenant JG,” but Frakes only got out “Lieutenant J.” Thus the name for her character — Lieutenant ‘Jae.’
She also said that she and Patrick Stewart would often be placed together at the start of a scene on Ten Forward. They usually shared a table.
“We said that it was our date,” she laughs. “I knew something was going on — they always had me with Patrick.” She said that he even told some of his fan mail questioned why the captain was always having drinks with Lt. Jae.
During Star Trek: Generations, Cocco was supposed to be with the TNG crew. They promoted Worf on the old sailing vessel in the holodeck. She says that something changed, and instead, she wound up piloting the Enterprise as it crashed.
“Jonathan asked me if I would do a stunt during that part — and I said ‘sure’!”
Cocco’s character was at her station when an explosion shot her out of her seat in the film, and she was supposed to die. But she made a deal with Frakes that if she did this stunt, Lt. Jae would be able to return for the sequels. Frakes agreed.
When the time First Contact came up, Frakes kept his word. Not only did Lt. Jae return to work on the bridge of the new Enterprise-E, but Cocco was also the stunt double for the Borg Queen (Alice Krige).
Cocco says that the TNG cast loved working with Frakes as both an actor and a director.
“He’s ultimately fantastic!” says Cocco. “As a director, we loved him. We called him ‘One Take Frakes.’ We never had to do ten takes for just one scene because if he liked it, then we’d move on!”
“He knows his stuff as a director,” says Cocco. “But as an actor, he’s great. And then he’s a practical joker.”
After her time with the cast of TNG was over, she thought that she’d move on entirely from Star Trek. Instead, her phone rang, and organizers from Trek conventions in London, Germany, and Australia asked her to appear. This began her long relationship with the fans at conventions around the U.S. and the world.
“I’m a people person,” says Cocco. “I really miss doing the cons. Right now, I’m living in a box and going crazy.”
Even though she was involved in Trek conventions, she got pulled back onto the shows, thanks to someone who thought she’d make a good alien.
“Michael Westmore — the god of makeup at Paramount — wanted me to play an Antican,” says Cocco. “That was on Deep Space Nine. I call the Antican a wolf-dog!”
From there, Cocco appeared in costume as 15 other aliens, including the following species:
- Tak Tak
… and a whole bunch of “unidentified alien species” involved in the shows one way or another.
Cocco says that besides Lt. Jae, she really enjoyed portraying the Borg drone.
Interestingly, Cocco notes that even though the shows were all “Trek,” the cast and crews were all different, and each show had its distinct vibe. She says the cast of TNG was always having fun and joking around, while DS9 and Voyager’s cast were much more serious.
It was on the set of DS9 where she met the late Aron Eisenberg, who she said was an extraordinary person. Fans will remember Eisenberg as the character Nog, the first Ferengi to join Starfleet.
“He took me under his wing,” says Cocco. She said that she and Eisenberg became close as they traveled together for the various conventions.
“He was such a gentleman,” she says. “Ohhhhh… I miss him.”
Lately, Cocco is involved with several film projects, where she performs as an actress and in stunts. Some of these films have been released, but a few are still in production or yet to begin. Look for Cocco in the following movies:
- Night Mistress — as the head bodyguard for mafia
- Assassins Apprentice 2 as Gwen
- Alien Danger! With Raven Van Slender – an alien on the bridge
- Staycation – as the TV anchor
- 14 Ghosts – as the lead ghost
She says that she gives credit for her career longevity to her many fans, who she says are both “wonderful” and “loving.”
As far as a return to Star Trek — Cocco would be all for it.
“From what I understand, I was the most cross-trained from all the casts,” says Cocco. “Who knows. Section 31? I could do that! Or I could show up on Picard too! Oh my god!”