EXCLUSIVE: Jason Isaacs Needed To Know Everything About Lorca Before Starting ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Before the New York PaleyFest Star Trek: Discovery panel (see report), TrekMovie had a chance to speak with Jason Isaacs about about Captain’s Lorca’s backstory, what was going on with him and Commander Landry, whether or not the captain is a hero or a villain and more. The full video interview and highlights are below.

Isaacs needed to know plans and backstory for Lorca

When asked how much he was briefed about Captain Lorca’s backstory and arc before taking on the role, the actor revealed knowing everything was part of the discussion going in:

Everything is planned in terms of [Lorca’s] story arc. One of the joys of telling a story over 15 hours is you can see things and they come to fruition later. I knew everything [ahead of time]. In fact, it was part of the discussions i had going in. They said “It’s a 15-hour story.” And I said “What is it?” They went “What?” I said “So, what is going to happen?” They said “Well, it could be this and it could be that.” And I went “So, which one is it going to be, because I need to know what his history is.” So, there was a lot of discussion and we ended up with what it would be, where he came from, what he had done, what informed him, and then what the plans were. Some of that changes in execution, but I was in discussion all the time, which made it a lot more fun.

Neither hero nor villain, but Lorca is a ladies man

One of the different things about Discovery is how Captain Lorca is not your ordinary Star Trek captain. The actor would not say where Lorca was on the spectrum of hero or villain, noting:

There are very few people that can be classified in those terms [hero or villain]. He is a guy who is trying to win the war his way. There are other ways available. There are some we see on the ship and he comes into conflict with people, but in his mind he is trying to save the Federation and everyone in it, so if he has to break some eggs along the way, so be it.

Isaacs may not be ready to classify Lorca’s morality, but he is ready to declare him a ladies man when asked what was going on between him and Commander Landry (before her death in episode 4):

I think there is a big something going on [between Lorca and Landry in episode 3]…There is a lot of stuff going on. When you watch characters on screen, the most interesting thing is trying to work out what they are thinking, what they are feeling, and what is the stuff they are not telling you. The stuff they are telling you is fine, and will lead you to the drama. But, the things they are thinking and holding back are what make you lean into the screen. I am not going to lay things out for you, but Lorca is certainly very popular with certain members of the crew.   

Jason Isaacs as Gabriel Lorca

Wants ‘Discovery’ to spark debate

Isaacs is often outspoken with his political views and he told us he hopes that Discovery starts discussions after the credits roll:

This is 21st century Trek, for our troubled and divisive times. The idea of Trek was to always was to present great stories, but subliminally to show you a vision of the future where people worked together across gender and sexualities and species. We live in times now where we are told we should all hate each other – hate someone of different colors, hate someone of different sex or sexuality, hate someone of a different countries. So, we deal with those things in ways that hopefully start discussions, if not arguments at home.    

More from PaleyFest to come

TrekMovie has more interviews with Discovery cast from PaleyFest NY 2017. These will be posted over the next few days so stay tuned.

Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusive in the US on CBS All Access with new episodes released Sundays at 8:30 pm ET. In Canada Star Trek: Discovery airs on the Space Channel at the same time. Discovery is available on Netflix outside the USA and Canada with new episodes made available Monday at 8 am BST.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Lorca is a good lad British lad, who likes his beer, smokes and cakes

There’s going to be fanart out there (if there isn’t already) that has Lucius Malfoy or Admiral Zhao as Captain of the Discovery.


Where is all this hate that Jason is talking about? I have been enjoying Discovery so far but every time one of these actors/actresses are interviewed it’s the same thing repeated over and over again. I think this cast has plenty of talent and I really want this show to do well for years to come, but honestly I feel like they are actively trying to alienate a chunk of there audience by talking about how bad America has become. They have the right to say what they want, but it sure would be nice to hear them talk up the country a little bit. Out of all the countries in the world, the U.S is most like the UFP! We are diverse, accepting, and the most compassionate society you will ever find!

It is not just America. I’m in Brazil, and we’re divided as never before. The problem, I suspect, are the bubbles in social media, that are creating very divisive feelings — us versus them is a winner, wherever you go. We must see past that. By the way, one of the most interesting things I’ve heard about DSC’s audience is that is not politically divided in the US. Everybody sees it, not matter if left or right. And that is great! Maybe Star Trek can act as an antidote to social media hatred.

Yes. It’s not clear from this particular interview, but Isaacs definitely isn’t just referring to the U.S. Nor should he be. This sickness seems to be spreading everywhere just now (look at what happened in Spain–Catalonia?–just last weekend. I swear, someone must have put something in the water.

Unity seems farther away than ever. And yet, it has to happen.

Michael This sickness seems to be spreading everywhere just now
There was a history writer on “Fresh Air” yesterday speaking of Stalin in the USSR and later, about contemporary events in Europe. Europe may be getting the same feeds in their social media from the Russian troll farms [who knows?] but the thing, she said, that is scary for some Europeans is the thought that the US is no longer their great ally … that NATO is threatened … and more. Great interview, and creepy parallels of propaganda to not only the Nazis but certain modern politics as well.

I promise you this. USA is just as much an Ally to Europe as it was during WWII. Do not listen to anything else. When there is rhetoric against NATO it is not the alliance but the effort being put into it monetarily. Our President wants America to be his focus as it should be. But he will always come to the protection of our brothers and sisters across the pond. I swear this on my dead father.

Agreed, he’s not talking about just one particular country, but sadly humanity as a whole. THATS what gets missed, all the division we still have for ourselves on this planet day in and day out. Its why we have so many standing armies today. Its why the news is always so depressing. There is division in most countries worldwide and that division grows between other countries themselves.

The internet was suppose to bring people together and it has in many ways, the fact I’m talking to someone in Brazil for instance. But sadly its mostly highlighted our hate and disdain for others worldwide. Comments sections of anything news worthy are usually the most vile, disgusting most racist things you can ever read. Ironically OFF the internet everything feels more civil and cordial compared to the stuff you read when everyone is hiding behind a computer and tell you how they really feel.

Salvador, I think this “darker vision” of Trek is more reflective of scary times than an antidote to them. Hopefully good will win out in the end!

Maybe it can. Let’s hope so!

Maybe we see things quite differently, but I see that there are vast divisions in America, at the moment.

Where’s all the hate coming from? Donald Trump and his Twitter account. The most divisive US president in history.

Most divisive? Not yet. That honor still goes to Abraham Lincoln, who’s election lead to the bloodiest war in US history.

@Arathorn – His election also lead to one of the worst 3rd Season TOS eps!


If Lincoln had a twitter account back in the day, oh man!

Would’ve been a hell of a lot wittier and erudite than a certain president’s Twitter account is these days.


Lincoln did have the equivalent of Twitter: The Telegraph. And yes, Trump’s Twitter dispatches don’t hold up next to Lincoln’s telegrams:



“General, if you are not using your army I should like to borrow it for a while.”

I should’ve said that he was the most divisive “in living memory”

I’m no special pleader for President Trump. However, I believe the winner of the most divisive president award goes to his predecessor. Not trying to be partisan here but it’s the truth. I know you will probably disagree, however.

Of course we disagree. How many times did Obama start silly immature twitter wars with everyone from celebrities to foreign leaders and people in his in his party? How many times did Obama accuse Bush of being out to get him? How many times did you see him call for groups to be stripped of their rights? How many times did he throw out conspiracy theories? And based on completely made up stuff in his head like 5 million people illegally voted? How many times did people in his OWN party denounce him for saying something idiotic?

Open your eyes man, you don’t have to like Obama but he wasn’t throwing out useless insults and accusations to everyone if someone didn’t like his policies or how he ran things. Why do you think Trump has had the biggest cabinet turnover in recent history in under a year in office? Why do you think so many in the federal government has resigned since he became President? Also why do you think he has some of the lowest approval ratings EVER in under a year in office?


Fake exclusive news!

“We are diverse, accepting, and the most compassionate society you will ever find!”


Tell me which one is better? Please, no platitudes. What has happened in your life that’s contrary to what I stated?

Um… have you experienced our president?

“We are diverse, accepting, and the most compassionate society you will ever find!”

Sadly, acceptance and compassion are in short supply as of late. Xenophobia, racism, sexism, religious bigotry are all on display.

Which only proves the adage that history repeats itself.

Even though “his” side doesn’t want to hear that, the hate is coming from both sides. As an outsider, I can safely say I see two sides of the same rotten coin, both entrenched in the rightfulness of their cause and their hatred for the other. Point in case: he so conveniently leaves out “different ideologies” from his rant, as if persecuting and muting differently thinking people by censorship of speech has not been a hallmark of every totalitarian regime and every dystopian science fiction. Same as trying to force a “utopia” onto the majority by entirely fascist means. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

As I see it, right now Discovery is more reflective of this divisiveness, if not adding to it, rather than offering any solutions. Because it’s coming from the starting point “we are right, they are wrong”, which is wrong to begin with.

Old Star Trek at least had profound discussions on the merits of non-interventionism (which ultimately is the Prime Directive), whether the needs of the few really outweigh the needs of the many or whether emotion is always better than pure logic. They gave the other side a fair representation. In contrast, the answers seem to be foregone conclusions in this Trek with descriptions like “She is getting rid of her Vulcan indoctrination and embracing her emotional side”. That is, of course, completely indicative of the times, as it is lazy and tiresome!

Maybe instead of priding themselves of hiring crew “50/50” in entirely superficial terms, they should have started by hiring at least one writer outside the pampered first world Hollywood mindset who is able to contribute “the other side”. The real differences lie in the mind and are not skin-deep.

“As I see it, right now Discovery is more reflective of this divisiveness, if not adding to it, rather than offering any solutions. Because it’s coming from the starting point “we are right, they are wrong”, which is wrong to begin with”

I agree completely. SDT doesn’t seem to be counteracting that divisiveness Isaac’s talking about, but, on the contrary, it seems to be embracing it and making it its central idea. By the way, I find the rest of your comment is spot on.

I think you might be mistaking Canada for the USA, as is often done. Or you WISH the US were “diverse, accepting, and compassionate.” If any nation is most like the UFP (and none really is) it is Canada. We are actually a “federation” of provinces, as opposed to a “union.” (Our human rights record is deeply embarrassing, along with other colonized nations. The empty sanctimoniousness of our own left-wing parties are equally problematic.)

Don’t mistake me, I’m not making a value judgment on either nation. This is not a “better or worse” thing. I’m simply stating that your view of the USA is kinda rose-tinted. If you want to see the UFP happen, it will not be in the present USA. You would be talking about a one-world government. You underestimate the religious right’s deep fear of such a thing. You think they’re militant now? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. The USA would have to shed it’s concept of exceptionalism, which is inherently divisive.

Our lives in North America are pretty damned good, comparatively speaking. This fools us into thinking we can do whatever we wish/dream. Any empire/nation/tribe who has attempted such a thing is now in ruins. Food for thought.

Excuse me, I meant to say “USA for Canada” in the first sentence. My mistake.

He’s also a terrific actor. We’ve already seen him as a great villain (and I’m still not convinced he’s not going to turn out to be Garth of Izar), but I really hope that’s not his character’s arc. Unpredictable shades of gray–MUCH more interesting. Also, if he’s the villain then we won’t get to watch him for multiple seasons, I would think.

So here’s hoping for more of Captain “Morally-Ambiguous” Lorca!

My guess is that is where Lorca will ultimately go, not someone out and out evil, but someone who feels he has to do evil things in a universe that is still more bad than good.

In many ways thats all Admiral Marcus was in STID. There was nothing about the man that suggested he did evil things his entire career. It wasn’t until what happened to Vulcan that set him on the path he took. He wasn’t trying to destroy anyone, he was really paranoid the Klingons were going to hit Earth. I really wish that film concentrated more on that approach (and more Klingons) instead of adding Khan in. Marcus was the one who had the more exciting story line, of a top admiral who threw it all away simply out of fear and was willing to do anything to keep the Federation safe. My guess is this is where Lorca is heading too.

Tiger2 I really wish that film concentrated more on that approach (and more Klingons) instead of adding Khan in.
Oh, GOD, if they could only go back and re-do. I agree SO much. Cumberbatch would have been just fine as Harrison, a man Marcus sends secretly to do a lot of dastardly missions to further Marcus’s agenda. Sad to have such a missed opportunity.

Yes I think most people would’ve been happy if Cumberbatch’s Harrison just stayed as a Section 31 agent who went rogue when he was against what Marcus was trying to do just went too far or simply used it as an excuse to knock him out of the top position and take power using Kirk and crew as pawns. It would’ve been a more tight spy story with the Klingons smack in the middle and Kirk now thrown into this large conspiracy at play instead of turning it into the Khan show in the final act.

Wow, I think this is the first time I have seen a description of Into Darkness that I think I could enjoy a lot. You would have to clean up a lot of the rest of the story logic, but it could work. The movie as provided was terrible in almost all respects.

To be fair I had a LOT of time to think about it lol.

I like the idea that Lorca is complex, that he has secrets, and may a little more complicated than our previous captains; BUT I am going to be pretty pissed if we’re investing in this character as our captain, and he turns out to be a villain in the end. I don’t want him to be some plot device to get Burnham closer to command later in the run. This isn’t some minor character like Seska….this is the captain.

That is my fear as well. I would like to find out he is actually a good guy and maybe even commands the discovery after the war is over.

If he is the villain I am going to really be upset :/ I would like to have a single captain for the show like the old shows, but who knows.

I’m really hoping they know better than to do that.

I’m with you. (Keep in mind I’m only going on from what I’ve read…I don’t know when I’ll get to see the rest of the series.)

The showrunners have said that the show is going to evolve from the warlike footing it’s on now to something much closer to TOS’ sensibility. The point, they say, is how it’s going to get there. I think that sounds pretty interesting and I hope they show how Lorca evolves with it…instead of just making him another Admiral Marcus. Maybe it’s my affection for Jason Isaacs talking, but I think the character would be a lot more interesting that way. We’ve recently seen admirals/captains/officers who couldn’t deal with peacetime or move beyond a warlike mentality (Marcus, Balthasar Edison). Let’s see one who CAN, and see how he gets there.

For example…they’ve said the Klingon war’s only going to last a season. Let’s suppose that as the second season starts, Lorca and Burnham have “switched places” ideologically…she’s on a surer footing now that the Federation is more in line with her former (rediscovered) ideals, and he’s unsure and questioning “so how do I fit in NOW?” (Especially if he gets a faceful of My God What Have I Done sometime during the first season.) And have him go on from there.

The showrunners have also said that the title “Discovery” is no accident…it’s not just the name of the ship, but a reference to what the characters come to discover about themselves. I’d like to see Lorca included in that, especially since Jason Isaacs is such a terrific actor. And after all…what better expression of Roddenberrian optimism than to have one who was once dismissed as a “warmonger” discover he can be otherwise?

He might turn into a garth of izar.

Then get ready for disappointment

I’m pretty sure what he was saying is that he’s neither hero nor villain. He’s in the grey area where his character can’t be summed up in the binary of good and bad.

Here here

I think there is a big something going on [between Lorca and Landry in episode 3]…There is a lot of stuff going on. When you watch characters on screen, the most interesting thing is trying to work out what they are thinking, what they are feeling, and what is the stuff they are not telling you.

I didn’t get the sense that this meant he was close with Landry sexually. It could simply mean they are working together on something secret. And he could also have that same secret with others in the crew.

[sigh] Patience, all will be revealed ….


“I didn’t get the sense that this meant he was close with Landry sexually.”

Actually in a previous article on Trekmovie; Isaacs made it clear that his relationship with Landry was also sexual.

Here is the relevant quote from Trekmovie article “Jason Isaacs Explains Lorca’s “Study” And What’s Up With Landry From ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Ep. 3”:

Jason Isaacs: “I think in this tradition of Star Trek captains and these alpha males who rise to the top, he’s got a taste for the good life and he’s got an eye for his female officers. I don’t know that that’s going to work with Burnham very well, frankly. She doesn’t look like she’s up for that kind of thing, but him and Landry certainly have a relationship that goes beyond, I would think, work. But that’s how I played my scenes with all the women on board, whether or not the writers were on board with that. By the way, that’s my tribute to Shatner.

Yeah even if people watched the latest AFTER TREK episode, he was on as a guest along with the actress (via satellite) who played Landry and he made it pretty obvious he was referring to sex lol. And IIRC she did as well, through a lot of puns.

Issacs is a really funny guy though. His tongue seem to always be firmly in his cheek. I think he loves playing Lorca. How could he not?

I love the fact that Lorca is nothing like Picard. Its fun to watch all spectrum of characters and as Star Trek has shown us over and over and over again no matter HOW enlighten human beings have become over time, no matter what century it takes place in, you still have people who are either evil, misguided, violent, cruel or all of the above. Not a single show or movie series didn’t portray people of power in bad light some of the time. It shows how grey Trek really is, especially in times of war like DS9.

But I will say out of all the Captains and Admirals from TOS through the Kelvin films who has strayed from Starfleet/Federation ethics most of the time they felt they were doing it because it would ultimately be for the good of the Federation or their crew out of desperate situations. Even Captains like Sisko and Janeway did some questionable things to either win a war or get their crew home but they all did it feeling their back was simply to the wall.

My guess is Lorca is going to do things with the same attitude, only that he’s not going to wring his hands while doing it like the other Captains at least did when they did make questionable decisions. For him, its about winning the war at all costs. Thats the entire reason he wanted Burnham because (he thinks) she’s ultimately like him. I think thats where the real conflict will lie but I love Lorca as a character so far even if I don’t like him much as a person.

Lorca will go down as one of Starfleet’s greatest captains!

Probably… unless the writers are setting him up for a huge fall.

Don’t get too attached to this captain. He may be killed off. This is a GOT-style series after all.

“This is 21st century Trek.”

Sorry, but this to me seems more like 20th century Trek… (pre-Cold War).