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The Real Reason You Don't Hear From These Sci-Fi Stars Anymore

Few actors get pigeonholed more than sci-fi actors. Comedic actors often turn to drama, action stars will make slower paced movies — but once someone is labeled a "sci-fi star," that's often their lot in life. Leonard Nimoy famously had a hard time finding roles outside Spock, so much so that his first autobiography was titled I Am Not Spock. This, in part, explains why so many just disappear — which we're going to be looking at here.

These aren't just actors who have taken on smaller projects or became indie darlings when mainstream audiences weren't looking — these actors just up and stopped acting, period. Of course, it's hard to remain too anonymous in the internet age, especially when many of them weren't even hiding in the first place. Many just took new jobs in the industry, while some left it entirely. Here's explanations for why you don't see some of your favorite sci-fi stars anymore.

Roxann Dawson stepped behind the camera

Roxann Dawson rose to fame as half-human/half-Klingon B'Elanna Torres on Star Trek: Voyager. Fans watched the Maquis-turned-Starfleet officer grow, get promoted, fall in love, and have a child over the course of seven seasons. Behind the scenes, Dawson wanted a chance to do what so many other Trek actors did: direct an episode. She got her chance in season six, directing "Riddles," and would also direct "Workforce Part II" in season seven. She then directed 10 episodes of Star Trek Enterprise and has spent the last 15-odd years as one of the most in-demand TV directors in the business. She's helmed episodes of everything from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to House of Cards to This Is Us. She also had her first theatrical film, Breakthrough, debut in 2019.

Dawson stopped acting regularly in 2003, with her last credit coming as a guest in a 2011 episode of The Closer. It's not impossible that she'll make an acting comeback, but don't count on it. As she told StarTrek.com, "I would be sad to think that I'll never act again, but there's not really an opportunity now. I can't pursue it and I don't have the time at the moment. I don't miss it, but I always think that I'll do it again at some point when it becomes convenient. But it hasn't been yet."

Keith Hamilton Cobb went back to the theater

Keith Hamilton Cobb played tough-as-nails mercenary Tyr Anasazi on Andromeda. As natural as he was at playing an intergalactic leg-breaker, the role was something of an outlier for Cobb — he was a trained theater actor who made his name on soap operas. He returned to the soap world after Andromeda wrapped, and hasn't appeared in any kind of screen role since 2007. He hasn't, however, abandoned acting — he's just moved entirely to stage acting, alongside several other creative endeavors like furniture making and writing.

In particular, Cobb has spent the last several years working on and touring with his show American Moor. Based on an uncomfortable audition for a Shakespeare play, American Moor acts as Cobb's dissection of the issue of race in theater. During the 90 minute show, an actor — played by Cobb himself — auditions for the title role in Othello, all while the unseen director pushes back against the performance. The first reading took place in 2013, and he's since toured the country with it — including an off-Broadway run in 2019.

Robert Duncan McNeill turned to directing

Robert Duncan McNeill started his career with small sci-fi guest roles in the 1980s Twilight Zone and Quantum Leap before hitting his first big role in 1992: Cadet Nicholas Locarno in fan favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The First Duty." Three years later, he landed the role that defined him: Tom Paris on Star Trek: Voyager. After Voyager wrapped after seven seasons in 2001, McNeill made a few TV guest appearances before phasing out acting entirely. He hasn't disappeared — he's just moved behind the camera.

McNeill had wanted to direct before Voyager but his shows kept getting canceled before he had the opportunity. He told StarTrek.com that on the first day of the Voyager pilot, he approached producer Rick Berman to make it clear he wanted to direct an episode as soon as possible. McNeill started shadowing other Trek directors, including Les Landau and Jonathan Frakes, while spending time in edit bays and screenings with Berman. The first episode McNeill directed was "Sacred Ground" in season three, a personal landmark but one he wishes he'd done differently.

He directed three more episodes of Voyager, including the acclaimed "Someone To Watch Over Me." He later directed four episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise before going on an extensive career directing television shows of every conceivable genre. He was a big part of Chuck's production team, and has credits on everything from Desperate Housewives to Supernatural to Star Trek pastiche The Orville.

Brandy Ledford lost her career to addiction and recovery

Brandy Ledford started her career as a Penthouse Pet, but dropped nude modeling and went to acting school. Her first movie role was a small part in Demolition Man and she had a major part during season two of Syfy's The Invisible Man, but her most notable role was the android Doyle in season five of Andromeda. She still describes it as her favorite role, saying on the Recovery Rockstars Uncut podcast, "I just got to be real strong and fierce and sexy and beautiful but still smart, and that was rare." But acting work dried up not long after that, due partially to motherhood but far more to addiction.

Ledford started smoking marijuana at age 11, and by 14 she was regularly doing coke and drinking alcohol. She spent almost all her modeling days doing uppers and downers to keep going, and would stay clean while shooting but party too much after work. Having a child kept her clean for a few years, but her old habits eventually destroyed her marriage and her relationship with her son. She stopped acting altogether. 

After a mental health incident forced her into rehab, she started getting her life back together. She also had what she deems a "miracle baby" at age 44. Ledford has been sober since 2012 and regularly shares her story of addiction to help people. She hasn't retired, and with a story like this a comeback can't be ruled out.

Aliens star Carrie Henn became a teacher

Carrie Henn played Newt, the soot-faced beating heart of Aliens. Despite a strong, memorable debut performance, Henn never acted in another movie ever again. She instead grew up normally and went into a different profession.

Henn was picked for the role at age nine when she was living in the UK. After an audition, Henn got the role despite having no acting experience of any kind. She speaks fondly of her time on set and highly of Weaver, who she remains in contact with to this day.

Not long after Aliens came out, the Henn family moved to America. Attempts to include Newt in Alien 3 fell apart, but Weaver invited her to the premiere nevertheless. By that point, Henn wasn't involved in acting anyway. Instead she was a normal high school student, albeit one who got a little more attention.

The main reason Henn didn't return to acting was that she simply had no desire to do so, instead focusing on teaching. As recently as 2016, she was an elementary school teacher in northern California — one who, as she told WIRED, still had to sign the odd Aliens DVD for students. 

When asked if she'd ever return, Henn told Black Gate, "As a busy wife, mom and teacher I'm not sure I would have the time to devote to reprising my role. However, I would love to do a cameo in an Alien franchise film if the opportunity arose."

Jenette Goldstein runs a specialty bra store

Jenette Goldstein is best known for playing space marine Vasquez in Aliens, which was just the start for the character actress. She'd appear in many sci-fi properties afterwards, including Max Headroom, Clockstoppers, and Star Trek Generations. She also played Janelle Voight, John Connor's foster mom in Terminator 2: Judgment Day – yes, that's her saying "Wolfie's just fine." Her screen credits started slowing down around the mid-2000s, with her last major live action role being a 2010 guest spot on Medium. This is, in large part, due to her starting a new business venture.

Goldstein started Jenette Bras with her husband in 2009. Stemming from her frustration in finding bras that could accommodate both her large bust and small ribcage, the store lives by the motto "the alphabet starts at D." She started by importing high end bras from Europe and her business grew so much that she now has five stores in two states. Goldstein told CNBC in 2016 that she was on pace for $1.7 million in sales that year and she was now more recognized around Los Angeles as "the bra lady" than as an actress.

Terry Farrell left show business to start a family

Terry Farrell played Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for six seasons before getting killed off after producer Rick Berman refused to let Farrell have a lighter workload. After a few seasons co-starring on Becker and the odd movie role, Farrell stopped acting on screen altogether after 2003. This was deliberate on her part, instead focusing on her new family.

Farrell and then-husband Brian Baker — best known as the trench coat-wearing salesman in early '00s Sprint commercials – moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania not long after she was fired from Becker to raise their son. Farrell wanted stability for her child after watching her own mother go through a few divorces, telling StarTrek.com, "I thought we'd probably have a better shot at having a healthy and strong marriage if we weren't doing what we were doing, which was essentially waiting for whatever job to come along[.]" She also wanted to raise her own son full time.

Farrell also found non-family events to keep her grounded. She became a yoga instructor, logging the requisite 200 hours and teaching a class at her local rec center. She and Baker starred in a play together at a local playhouse in 2009, but that was the sum total of her acting for years. She told StarTrek.com that she was retired from acting in 2011 but finally came out of retirement in 2017 to appear in fan film Star Trek: Renegades.

Anthony Simcoe retired and started a consulting firm

Anthony Simcoe was the human behind D'Argo, Farscape's Luxan warrior. Playing the role from 1999 to 2004, the 6'5 Australian combined his intimidating figure with a natural charm to make one of the most memorable characters of the series. The heavy prosthetics meant that he could have had a long career post-Farscape just as himself. Instead, he spent a few years taking smaller roles before leaving acting altogether.

Simcoe's Twitter page describes him as a "former actor." After he retired, he started Simcoe Consulting, a global firm that teaches business communication. He's hired by companies across the world to help with professional training, using skills he learned during his time acting. He stated on the Punching Sideways podcast, "I've got a real passion for helping people get along," adding, "I'm one of those lucky people who found their thing." He's also a doctoral student studying storytelling and machine learning.

Sabrina Lloyd slid away from acting, moved to Africa

Sabrina Lloyd played Wade, one of the original lead characters on Sliders. She was one of the busier TV actors of the 90s, also taking a lead role in the decidedly-not-sci-fi show Sports Night. Her roles slowed down in the new millennium, with her only notable role coming in Numb3rs, before fizzling out entirely because she — quite literally — moved on with her life.

Lloyd had settled in New York during her acting career with her future husband, who was working at the United Nations. One day he proposed marriage and suggested the move to Africa, to which she enthusiastically agreed. Lloyd wrote in the Design Mom blog that when people ask how she could give up such a successful career, her response is, "How could I not? I knew the acting world so well. I knew the streets of my city so well. And here was the love of my life stretching out his hand saying let's go see the world."

They moved around the world together, including stops in Uganda (where she adopted one child) and Rome (where she gave birth to another). They now live most of the year in Kenya, where her husband is posted at his job, but also spend part of the year in Vancouver, British Columbia. She also writes about her own life, including other creative endeavors like pottery, on her own blog.

Jake Lloyd hates Star Wars, left acting, and has had mental health struggles

Jake Lloyd was a rising child star when he was cast as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. It's hard to imagine a role with higher expectations, a burden too big for anyone — let alone a kid. Response to his performance, which many at the time deemed unremarkable if not worse, fed into issues that led to his retirement from acting.

Lloyd quit around 2001, but still made the odd convention appearance. In 2012, he made clear in an interview with the Sun (via the Daily Mail) that his disillusionment with acting was traced directly to Star Wars. "My entire school life was really a living hell," he said, "and I had to do up to 60 interviews a day." His schoolmates bullied him about the role, often making lightsaber sounds to mock him. Lloyd blamed George Lucas in particular and destroyed every piece of Star Wars memorabilia he owned.

In 2015, after Lloyd physically assaulted his mother, she confirmed to TMZ that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 19. Later that year, he was arrested after a high speed chase for reckless driving, driving without a license, and resisting arrest. He was moved to a psychiatric facility while awaiting trial, and his family issued a statement to Geek News Now in early 2020 saying that he had moved closer to them to help with his mental health struggles.

Patricia McPherson put down the wrench and picked up a megaphone

Patricia McPherson played Bonnie Barstow, KITT's chief mechanic, for most of Knight Rider. Her chemistry with both KITT and David "Michael Knight" Hasselhoff remains a big part of the series' continued appeal. She had a few roles after that, including a one-episode guest spot in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but has almost entirely severed herself from show business for a new calling.

McPherson retired from acting in the early 90s and has since dedicated her life to environmental protection. She's spent the last decade-plus as president of Grassroots Coalition, a group focused on Los Angeles environmental policy. In 2005, the group was part of a successful lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for faulty methane mitigation in Playa Vista. She still regularly gives presentations about wetlands, how corporations exploit loopholes that harm the environment while developing land, and the role of Water Boards.

Jennifer Lien left acting but keeps struggling

Jennifer Lien played Kes, one of the original ensemble members on Star Trek: Voyager. She played an Ocampa, a psionic race with a life expectancy of eight or nine years. Both her powers and her short lifespan were fodder for many stories, implying that viewers would watch her entire life within the series. Alas, this was not to be — Kes was written off the show in season four to accommodate the arrival of Seven of Nine.

Lien worked for a few more years after leaving Voyager, such as voicing Agent L on the Men in Black cartoon, before retiring from acting around 2001. During a 2010 interview with StarTrek.com, she said "I have kids, I study, and I'm active with a life that doesn't involve acting anymore." She added that she was taking college courses with the goal of becoming a nurse, dietician, or nutritionist — whatever would give her the most time with her family.

Things have taken a pretty sharp decline since that interview. From 2015 onward, Lien has been arrested and charged several times, stemming from mental health issues. In April of 2015, she was arrested after ramming the front of a police cruiser during a chase. Later that year, she was arrested for indecent exposure, apprehended nude after refusing to put on clothes. Both these charges were later dismissed after she paid restitution. In 2018, she was arrested twice in two weeks for driving with a revoked license.