Rosalind Chao made her name in Star Trek on Deep Space Nine as Keiko O’Brien but she very nearly turned up as a main character on The Next Generation.
Rosalind Chao will always be Keiko O’Brien, the wife of Chief Miles O’Brien, a school teacher aboard Deep Space Nine, the mother of Molly and Kirayoshi. While debuting on The Next Generation, Chao is more known for her time on Deep Space nine. She’s one of the more beloved secondary characters in all of Deep Space Nine, mostly due to her cunning personality, intelligence, and compassion for her curmudgeon of a husband Miles. After all, you’d have to be if your husband (must) suffers. Yet, she was very close to landing on Star Trek: The Next Generation in a very different role.
Chao debuted as Keiko on The Next Generation, debuting in season four. She only lasted eight episodes and found far more success in Deep Space Nine. Which could’ve all never happened had she gotten the role she originally went out for; Natasha Yar.
Since Denise Crosby wasn’t up for Yar, Chao was the early favorite to land the role. Crosby was the leading candidate to play Deanna Troi until Marina Sirtis came along. The rest is obviously history, Crosby would play Yar for one season before losing her desire to. Sirtis became famous as Deanna Troi and would serve across all seven seasons and the entire Next Generation film franchise.
If Chao had landed the role of Natasha Yar, perhaps the character survives more than one season, but who really knows? Honestly, Chao landed the perfect role for her skills. She doesn’t have the frame or looks to be an imposing security officer, not like Crosby does.
Things worked out for the best. Keiko became an important character in Deep Space Nine, we got the awesome Natasha Yar alternate universe version, Sirtis became a household name and everyone won.
It is interesting though to wonder what might have been.