Ilia, like Will Decker, appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Unlike Decker, she had been cast. In the end, there was apparently only one woman who was being considered. That would be the woman who ended up getting the role, Persis Khambtta, the first Indian woman to land a major role on Star Trek. Khambatta was an Indian model turned actress, who was excited to get the part of Ilia because it meant steady work for at least four years.
That’s part of the reason why she agreed to shave her head for the role, steady work was worth it. She wouldn’t have to worry about having long hair for photoshoots anymore, as modeling would have taken a back seat to the work done on Phase II.
The only problem is, she was already cast and ready to go by the time Phase II was canceled. So the series was shifted to the film, her series contract was changed to a film contract, and her four years’ worth of work was reduced to about a few months at best.
To say Khambatta was upset would be a bit of an understatement. That said, she still did a great job bringing Ilia to life on the big screen.
The original version of Ilia would see her as a sex-focused alien from Delta-V. Her race would be pretty open with sexuality to the point that it consumed every personal relationship they had, something that would be a problem for her on the Enterprise.
In a lot of ways, she was designed to be the opposite of Spock and Vulcans in general. An emotional race that showed their affection and emotions rather than suppressing them.