Statuesque talent Denise Crosby rose to fame in the mid-1980s as the formidable Tasha Yar on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated 1987-1994) before departing the series to embark on a prolific career as a guest star on countless television series. The granddaughter of iconic performer Bing Crosby, she began her on-screen career in the late 1970s, working steadily in largely decorative roles for directors like her future father-in-law, Blake Edwards, and Walter Hill. "Trek" provided her with a first taste of stardom thanks to the franchise's devoted fanbase, but Crosby chafed at the gradual diminishment of her role, which began as a major character before devolving into a glorified background part. She left the series in 1988, but defied critical predictions of her immediate obsolescence by finding regular work in features like "Pet Sematary" (1991) and "Jackie Brown" (1998) and episodic television. She also embraced her "Trek" legacy by producing "Trekkies" (1997) and "Trekkies 2" (2007), a pair of affectionately tongue-in-cheek documentaries about the wildly diverse and offbeat fauna within the "Trek" fan community. Such projects, as well as frequent appearances at "Trek" conventions and participation in related video games and fan-made projects, kept her in good standing with the franchise's devotees while she continued to work steadily in series, most notably in recurring roles on "Southland" (NBC/TNT, 2009-2013) and "Ray Donovan" (Showtime, 2013- ). Crosby's connection to the "Trek" universe, as well as her inherent versatility as an actress, was among the many reasons for her enduring popularity.
Born Denise Michelle Crosby in Hollywood, California on November 24, 1957, her early years were the focus of a Hollywood scandal. Her father was Dennis Crosby, a minor entertainer best known as one of beloved performer Bing Crosby's four sons. After marrying Las Vegas showgirl Pat Sheehan - a former girlfriend of his father - in 1958, Dennis Crosby was served with a paternity suit by Marilyn Miller Scott, who claimed that he was the biological father of her daughter, Denise. The ensuing legal case, which made headlines on a regular basis as it played out over the next few years, was eventually settled by Crosby and his family, all of whom suffered considerable embarrassment during the proceedings. Denise Crosby would never meet her famous grandfather, who died in 1977. Ironically, by that time, she had decided to follow one of his career paths and pursue a career as an actor. Crosby initially struggled to find a foothold in the industry, and briefly supported herself with a 1979 layout in Playboy. That same year, she made her screen debut with an uncredited turn in Blake Edwards' "10" (1979). Crosby would eventually marry Edwards' son, writer/director Geoffrey Edwards, and enjoy bit parts in several of his father's features, including "Trail of the Pink Panther" (1982) and "The Man Who Loved Women" (1983).
Crosby soon established her career outside of the Edwards' orbit through turns in features like "48 Hrs." (1982) and the TV-movie "Malice in Wonderland" (CBS 1985), which cast her as screen legend Carole Lombard. Her big break came two years later with the launch of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," which brought the venerable science fiction franchise back to the small screen. Initially cast as Counselor Deanna Troi, she switched roles with fellow actress Marina Sirtis at the suggestion of series creator and executive producer Gene Roddenberry. Crosby's performance as Security Chief Natasha "Tasha" Yar quickly minted her as a fan favorite for her finely tuned blend of toughness, sensitivity and occasional sensuality, most notably in the acclaimed "Naked Now" episode, which found her seducing Brent Spiner's android Data while under the influence of an mind-altering virus. But she quickly grew disenchanted with the series over what she perceived as a gradual shift in Yar's participation from the forefront to the background of each episode, and departed "The Next Generation" in 1988 after only 22 episodes. Unlike many "Trek" players, Crosby successfully segued into steady work in features and episodic television after leaving the franchise. She enjoyed the second lead role as a grieving mother in Mary Lambert's 1989 film adaptation of Stephen King's "Pet Sematary," and enjoyed supporting turns in the critically acclaimed "Arizona Heat" (1988) and Blake Edwards' "Skin Deep" (1989). On TV, her roles included guest appearances on "The Flash" (CBS 1990-91) and a recurring turn as the villainous Dr. Gretchen Kelly on "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC 1993-97). From 1991 to 1994, she also returned to "The Next Generation" for a string of appearances as both Tasha Yar, who returned in a pair of time-travel episodes, and her half-Romulan daughter Sela.
While continuing to appear on television and the occasional feature like Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" (1997), Crosby served as executive producer and on-screen host of "Trekkies" (1997), a humorous look at the far-flung world of "Trek" fans and the franchise's impact on popular culture. She then enjoyed a supporting turn in the disaster epic "Deep Impact" (1998) before returning to steady work as a guest player on numerous high-profile series, including "NYPD Blue" (ABC 1993-2005), "The X-Files" (Fox 1993-2002) and "Dexter" (Showtime 2006-13). In 2007, she returned to hosting and executive producer duties on "Trekkies 2" while also co-starring with her second husband, actor Ken Sylk, in the independent drama "Ripple Effect" (2007) with Forest Whitaker and Virginia Madsen. The following years were filled with more guest roles on critically acclaimed hit series like "Mad Men" (AMC 2007-15), as a riding instructor with romantic feelings for Betty Draper (January Jones) and "Southland" (NBC/TNT 2009-2013) as the wife of Detective Daniel "Sal" Salinger (Michael McGrady). In 2009, Crosby returned to the "Trek" world as the grandmother of Tasha Yar on "Star Trek: Phase II" (2004- ), a fan-produced series that was broadcast via the Internet, while also reprising both of her "Next Generation" roles for "Star Trek Online" (Atari 2010). During this busy period, she also found time to enjoy a recurring role as Elliott Gould's mistress on the crime series "Ray Donovan" (Showime 2013- ).