APPEARING SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
Show business has always been the career goal of Cheryl Gates McFadden. Born and raised in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, her first interest in performing showed itself in an interest in dance. Her parents had enrolled her in dance and tap lessons at the age of three. She continued the lessons for years to come and had become quite accomplished very early in life. After high school, she earned her Bachelor of the Arts cum laude in Theater Arts from Brandeis University in 1970 and studied with Jacques LeCoq in Paris for several years. In addition, she had served on the faculties of many theatre training programs, including NYU Graduate School of the Arts, Brandeis University near Boston MA and the University of Pittsburgh.
In the late 70s, her career took an unexpected turn as she began working with Jim Henson as a muppeteer. Her training in choreographer served her well in this. It was Gates who choreographed the ballroom scene in the film Labyrinth as well as choreographing scenes for Dreamchild and The Dark Crystal.
In addition to working with Jim Henson, McFadden worked extensively on the New York stage, both acting and directing. Her roles include leads in the New York productions of To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, How to Say Goodbye, Cloud 9, and Emerald City. But it was in 1987 that she was offered the role that has defined her professional career. Cast as Dr. Beverly Crusher aboard the starship Enterprise, she took her place in television history on Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, not everything was rosy on the set. Rumored disagreements with the producers of the show regarding the development of her character led to the termination of her contract at the end of the first season. She was replaced in the second season by Star Trek veteran Diana Muldaur.
As the show was nearing the end of the second season, Diana’s character proved to be quite unpopular with the fans. Between a letter writing campaign by fans, support from Patrick Stewart, and a personal request from producer Rick Berman, Gates agreed to rejoin the cast in the third season.
Her commitment to Star Trek: TNG did not hamper her from pursuing other projects. During the third season of the show, Gates was seen in Beyond the Groove, a British television production, written and starring the late actor David Rappaport. Other roles included the lead in the world premiere stage production of Derek Walcott’s Viva Detroit in Los Angeles, the one-hour drama Marker during UPN’s debut season, and the feature films Taking Care of Business and The Hunt for Red October.
In 1991, during the fourth season of Next Generation, Gates had discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. She was somewhat taken aback by the news as she had just finished performing her own stunts for the episode Remember Me and was worried that this may have distressed the baby. Her fears were unwarranted. On June 10, 1991, she and her husband, John Talbot, became first-time parents to a healthy baby boy named James Cleveland McFadden-Talbot. When the child was born, she had asked her fellow cast member, Brent Spiner, to be his godfather. After Star Trek: The Next Generation had completed its seven year run, Gates continued to play Dr. Crusher in four feature films. With more time on her hands, she dedicated herself to supporting two charities that are close to her heart: Doctors Without Borders and the Make a Wish Foundation. She had also taken time in 1996 to visit American troops stationed in Bosnia.