Michael Ansara is one of the few actors to play the same character in multiple “Star Trek” series. He made his Trek-verse debut in the third season of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” Ansara played the Klingon warrior Kang in the episode “The Day of the Dove.”
Decades later, Ansara reprised the role in both “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager.”
He played Kang in the DS9 episode “Blood Oath,” in which a group of Klingons came to the station to find Dax and ask him to honor his oath of vengeance. A few years later, Ansara appeared as Kang again in the “Voyager” episode “Flashback.” During a mind-meld with Tuvok, Janeway saw an encounter with Kang that Tuvok had while he was serving under Captain Sulu on the Excelsior.
Outside of the “Star Trek” universe, Ansara was well-known for his onscreen and offscreen life. One of the shows for which he was best-known was “I Dream of Jeannie,” which starred his then-wife, Barbara Eden.
Ansara and Eden’s First Date
Ansara met Eden in 1957 through her publicist, Booker McClay. In her memoir, “Jeannie Out of the Bottle,” Eden recounted the odd circumstances surrounding her first date with Ansara. She wrote that McClay told her in no uncertain terms that as she was becoming a big star, she needed a Hollywood boyfriend. She’d been dating a working-class guy named Tony for a while, but Eden wrote that McClay insisted she needed the right boyfriend to up her image.
She let him set her up on a date with Ansara, who was a superstar at the time because of his role on “Broken Arrow.” They were supposed to have dinner and then head to a Halloween party all the “it” guys and girls were attending. Eden claimed that McClay’s scheme was to make sure the paparazzi got a picture of them together so they would make the society pages.
However, that didn’t happen. According to Eden, she and Ansara so enamored with each other that they didn’t make it out of the restaurant before it closed. They talked for hours, completely forgetting the party or any other obligations. Eden wrote that they fell “madly and hopelessly in love” that night.
Eden wrote in “Jeannie Out of the Bottle” that she quickly knew she didn’t want to see anyone else. Ansara felt the same way, as he made clear when he proposed to her just a few months after they met.
He showed up on the set of her show “How to Marry a Millionaire” with a paper bag that looked like it was full of candy. Eden, who admitted that she had a sweet tooth, dove into the bag looking for something to snack on and found an engagement ring instead.
Eden wrote that she was reluctant to get married so soon after meeting him. Her mother had warned her against marrying too soon or too young. So, she didn’t answer Ansara’s proposal right away.
However, she quickly changed her mind when Ansara helped her through a major personal crisis. She accepted his proposal soon after, and the couple was married in 1958.
Though Ansara and Eden both wanted kids, their careers came before family life for a few years, Eden wrote in her memoir. When they did start trying for kids, they found it was much harder than they’d expected. Eden told ABC News that she and Ansara tried for seven years with no success.
She finally found out she was pregnant the very same day that she found out the pilot for “I Dream of Jeannie” was picked up. Eden told ABC News and CNN that she was sure she would have to give up the role because of her pregnancy. However, when she told the producers of the show, they agreed to work with her pregnancy rather than replace her. So, Eden took on the most iconic role of her career.
Her son, Matthew Michael Ansara was born while the show was on hiatus.
A Tragic Ending
Ansara and Eden lived in bliss for a few years after the birth of their son, but things began to fall apart after that. In her memoir, Eden revealed that she went into a deep depression after the loss of her second pregnancy. She also claimed that Ansara grew resentful as her fame eclipsed his. She became a superstar with “I Dream of Jeannie” around the same time that work started to dry up for him.
Ansara has given very few interviews throughout his lifetime. So, his perspective on the deterioration of their marriage wasn’t public. In one of his rare interviews in 1979, Ansara did say that it was very hard for him to get work because he was typecast so often.
The couple split after more than 15 years of marriage in 1974. Their son was almost 10 at the time of their divorce. Eden revealed to ABC News that her son started using drugs after the divorce, which led to a decades-long battle with substance abuse.
Their son died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2001. Eden has spoken publicly about the tragic loss, but Ansara has not. He retired from acting the same year and kept out of the public eye until his death in 2013, as Variety reported.