After high school, she was accepted at Princeton University, but then auditioned for the chorus of a show and got it. "Then job after job came," she says, "and I kept deferring and deferring. I think everyone was pretty relieved that I didn't become the black sheep of the family and not go into show business."
Where did the name "Visitor" come from? "It's an old family name," Nana says. "I guess someone decided we were just visitors here and took the name."
In late 1980 Nana Tucker was in the play The Gentle People, reviewed by Irwin Shaw of the New York Times. Nana portrayed Stella Goodman, "a normal, high-strung American girl, who has seen too many movies and prefers a taxi-taking racketeer to her boyfriend... When Stella steps out...she can put on a silver gown to match her silver nail polish..."
Following her tour with Angela Lansbury in Gypsy, Nana Visitor later appeared in My One and Only (1982) as Prawn, one of the fish in the chorus, although she was also Twiggy's understudy there. (The soundtrack to My One and Only represents Nana's only appearance on an original cast album, but unfortunately she sings on it only in the chorus numbers.) A year later she appeared as Peggy Sawyer in the Los Angeles revival of 42nd Street, a role that demands not only a good singing voice, but also knock-your-socks-off tap dancing.
In 1985 Nana moved to Los Angeles, where her next pressworthy role was that of the police commissioner's daughter in an ABC-TV movie called The Spirit, based on a comic-book character created by Will Eisner. The reviewer panned the film as being sappy, but had some good things to say about Nana: "It's...funny when Ms. Visitor hobbles into a crowded room while bound at the ankles and screams, 'Run for your lives.' A bomb is supposed to go off. Then she learns the bomb has been defused and whispers, 'Never mind.'"
Nana also spent much of her late 1980s career making guest appearances. Among the shows she appeared in were Empty Nest, Baby Talk, thirtysomething, Jake and the Fatman, L.A. Law, In the Heat of the Night, Remington Steele and Matlock.
In the northern summer of 1988 Nana starred in another questionable TV movie called Father's Homecoming, in which she played Laura, the girlfriend of the lead. The critic here claimed: "Everyone here is trapped in a noxious blend of the melodramatic and the stupefyingly ludicrous. There are no survivors."
That fall, she returned to the stage to play Ellen in a Los Angeles production of Ladies' Room. If you set a play in a ladies' room, you get a female counterpart to jock locker-room humor. That doesn't mean ladies' room jokes can't be funny. They can. But it also means they're going to be racy, rowdy and trashy. The main focus of the play was on the ad agency women: the untrustworthy office queen of trash Kathleen (Carol Ann Susi), the newly promoted VP Liz (Talia Balsam) and bimbo secretary Ellen (Nana), who gave up a career as a Playboy bunny to move up to typing someone else's ad copy.
Other plays followed, as did extended roles on the ABC daytime soaps Ryan's Hope and One Life to Live. Her first regular television starring role on was as the "company witch", Bryn Newhouse, on the short-lived NBC sitcom Working Girl, based on the hit film.
Even though Nana had nailed the role of Major Kira on the first reading, her manager felt that she shouldn't accept the role because Deep Space Nine would be syndicated; he felt she should hold out for network shows. Initially concurring, she changed her mind out of love for the character: "This is what I became an actor to do. This kind of role. Not playing a woman in relation to other people: a mother, or a wife, or a prostitute, or a killer. [Kira] is fully realized."
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