Exclusive: Shazad Latif Talks Real Javid Iqbal, Season 2, And Secrets Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

TrekMovie had a chance to speak to some of the cast and crew of Star Trek: Discovery at a press event at San Diego Comic-Con, including actor Shazad Latif. Latif was part of one of the big twists in the first season of the series when his character, Lt. Ash Tyler, was ultimately revealed to be the transformed Klingon agent Voq. We talked about keeping the Voq secret, the parody Twitter account it inspired, and what he is up to in season two.   (Video of the interview is below the transcript)

Keeping the Voq = Tyler secret with “Javid Iqbal”

[NOTE: In January I told Shazad privately that I created the parody account @RealJavidIqbal on Twitter–more details on this below the interview.]

So, what did you think of “real Javid”? Now, we can reveal it was me all along.

Oh yeah. [laughs] You are technically my father. It is strange to be looking at you.

How did it feel for you to keep the secret (that Voq was Tyler)?

It was the weirdest thing I have ever done. Usually, you go to work and film something and then it goes on TV. This was a whole extra saga going on in my real life that I was unaware of, had never experienced before –  social media – it was a very strange thing to be part of. And to use my dead father’s name, he was coming back alive in a sense. The whole thing was weird, but very enjoyable to see play out, actually.

How much do you know about where things are going? With the first season, when you were hired, how much did you know about your arc? And for the second season, is it the same thing?

In the first season I knew what was happening. I knew where it was going to end up. We didn’t know the exact details of each episode because that changes as we go. But, I knew I was a Klingon. I knew the big reveal. This season, we get a certain amount of info. Some people can know what they want, some people can know more, if they want. It’s up to us, in a way. But, we know the basics. We know enough.

The Voq=Tyler secret was sussed out by fans

Who is Shazad in season two?

So, for the second season, what should we call you? Voq? Tyler? Tyvoq? Voqler?

It is up to each audience member to make their mind up. That is the beauty of it. It’s vague. There is an ambiguity about it, which I love playing as well. He is part of Starfleet, he is part Klingon. It is unclear.

When you say he is part of Starfleet, the last we saw him, we left him on the Klingon homeworld with L’Rell. Is that kind of your zone for the second season?

For a while. But, he is going to have to weave in and out. It is going to play out in an interesting way. Yeah, yeah. He has got to sort some stuff out with the Klingons. He wants to see Burnham again. He wants to see her.

What did you guys call it, the “love rhombus”? [with Voq, L’Rell, Tyler and Burnham]

Whatever shape, there are so many shapes. It’s a square, or a parallelogram.

So, there are still feelings with all parties, with L’Rell, with Burnham?

I would say so. If there are two people, there are two feelings, because it is a four-way thing. Definitely.

Tyler and Burnham in season one

Speaking Klingon

Last season there was a lot of Klingon dialog, that went over with varying levels with people. Would you say you are doing more in English or Klingon this year?

I’m not sure.

Well, now that you are on Klingon.

I’m not sure. Sometimes when we read it, there are subtitles. But, I always like the subtitles, because it adds an extra layer. It is like watching a foreign language movie. It keeps you in a different world.

Latif as Voq, speaking Klingon in season one

Watch the interview

Who was @realJavidIqbal?

One of the ways the Voq=Tyler secret was kept under wraps was to credit the actor for Voq, actually played by Latif, as “Javid Iqbal.” Latif chose the pseudonym himself and used his late father’s name for it, but nobody else knew that’s where it had come from. To add credibility to the idea that Voq was played by a real actor, an IMDb page was created for Javid Iqbal (which has since been removed). As the Voq=Tyler clues added up and it became clearer that the fan theory about them being one person was the real deal, I decided to have some fun and created the Twitter parody account @realJavidIqbal as a typical celebrity actor account, from the point of view of someone who happened to have a unique look for someone in Hollywood.

For a few months, @realJavidIqbal would update his 1542 Twitter followers on his life as a “real actor” and talk about his good friend Shazad Latif. Javid would show up around the world, visiting with various actors and members of the Discovery staff and generally live the life of a celebrity.

As things went along, cast and crew from the show got in on the joke and would follow and interact with “Real Javid,” including Shazad Latif himself. Once the big reveal was made I told Latif that in honor of his father I would retire the account. He was very gracious about it, and said he thought it was a fun thing.

Following his retirement, the official Star Trek writers’ room account also gave their thanks to the “real actor” for all his work.

You can see the cast and producers joke about “real Javid” on Twitter in one of their SDCC group interviews below.

More from SDCC

We are almost done with our SDCC coverage. There is one more exclusive Discovery interview coming up from the Discovery press event. You may also want to check out our full panel report and the 8 things we learned from the press conference.

We have also been covering Star Trek merchandise and other Trek-related activities and panels from SDCC. Click here to see all our SDCC 2018 coverage.

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Nachum

Is it true the obvious “secret” was just a ploy to distract from the bigger reveal (Mirror Lorca) later?

Ahmed

@Nachum,

Don’t know about that but the Mirror Lorca theory was out in October after the 4th episode was streamed. I didn’t pay it much attention at the time because it seemed too cheap and stupid twist to explain why Lorca is such an a$$hole Starfleet captain.

Nachum

I didn’t hear of it, but can you deny that it got anywhere near the play that the Voq rumors did?

Ahmed

@Nachum,

The Voq theory was more popular because it was a fascinating idea, at least in theory, and people believe it. The Mirror Lorca theory was out there from the early days of the show but most people, like here on Trekmovie, dismissed it because it was really dumb idea.

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Mirror Universe Theory Changes Everything. Is Lorca really from our universe?
Inverse – Oct 9, 2017

Star Trek Discovery: Is Captain Lorca Crazy or Mirror?
screenrant – Oct 23, 2017

‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Is Captain Lorca From the Mirror Universe?
comicbook -Oct 29, 2017

A Mirror Lorca, a Human Voq: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Twists, Spoilers …
crudereviews – Oct 30, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery May Have Just Revealed Captain Lorca’s Real Plan
IGN – Nov 13, 2017

Wait, Did Star Trek Discovery’s Cliffhanger Reveal A Big Lorca Twist?
cinemablend – Nov 14, 2017

Not to mention threads on Reddit and Trekbbs.

Marja

I didn’t get onto any site but TrekMovie, but I thought all along [sucker!] that Lorca was Section 31 AND suffering PTSD.

Re-watching I can see the clues the writers — and Isaacs, who did a masterful job concealing yet revealing in little “tics” and body language — but on first viewing I was SO shocked and disappointed when the Big Reveal came.

As for Ty/Voq the body-ripping thing was a mystery to me until Tyler’s breakdown on the Klingon ship. I had thought Voq’s memories had been implanted in Tyler’s human body. It still seems ridiculous. My headcanon is that L’Rell was attached to Voq’s physical body. Just how advanced are Klingons in studies of the brain and memory and personality? It boggles the mind.

I’m pretty dense about some plot points until a re-watch, when some fly by so fast. I really get caught up in the moment on the first viewing, empathizing rather than analyzing. My analytical friends always smile at me like, “You poor thing.”

I got to the end of “The Sixth Sense” and said to my friend, “I was so surprised!” and he said, “It was no surprise to me. The guy wore the same shirt every day.” LOL.

Captain Ransom

Ahmed just because YOU didn’t like the mirror Lorca twist does not make it cheap and dumb. Stop putting your opinions in as fact. That is just YOUR opinion. You should word your future posts accordingly.

Ahmed

@Captain Ransom,

Lol!

ML31

Captain,

It seems very obvious that not only was Ahmed writing his own opinion, but he also was reporting that the reason so many didn’t like it was because it was “dumb”. I know I used that reasoning for not liking it myself. As did a number of others. This is NOT asserting that the opinion is a fact. It remains subjective no matter how many agree with it.

I find it poor form to continually call someone out for claiming an opinion is fact when the fact is it is nothing of the sort.

Captain Ransom

ml, you and Ahmed write your post as if your opinions are fact. They are not. They are only YOUR opinions and that does not make them fact. You write as if your opinions are correct. They are just your opinions. Stop generalizing your posts as if you are the end all and be all of everything. It comes across as incredibly arrogant and borderline trollish.

ML31

“ml, you and Ahmed write your post as if your opinions are fact.”

Except we don’t. Just saying, “tomatoes taste terrible” is not saying it is a fact that tomatoes taste terrible. It is obvious to most (I’d say you are in the camp who do not find it obvious) that it is an opinion. The reader and listener do not need to constantly be told that something subjective is opinion. Most people have the good sense to know better.

That is all I am going to say on the matter no matter what you might write after this to support your incorrect notion.

Captain Ransom

The proper way to state that would be… “I think all tomatoes taste terrible.” Then you are stating an opinion.
When. You say “all tomatoes taste terrible” you are implying it’s a fact. See the difference?

ML31

I heard those rumors as well. Like you, I blew them off as ridiculous. I didn’t think a show as serious as STD would do something so monumentally moronic.

BorgKlingon

The Lorca story and eventual reveal was my favorite part of Season 1. Absolutely brilliant writing and storytelling, plus Jason I just nailed it.

Nachum

I agree. When he revealed that he did, in fact, know the captain’s sister I almost yelled.

Marja

I did yell. I was so pissed and disappointed that he wasn’t going back to revolt against the Terran Empire and its conquering and suppression of other races to Die Nobly before Mirror Spock’s time. That he turned out to be such a baddie.

Of course Jason nailed it, he is a fine actor; I was just hoping the character was more ambiguous than he turned out to be. Because Lorca’s ambiguity was what intrigued me so much.

HN4

You’re mad because the guy from the evil mirror universe turned out to be a bad guy?

BorgKlingon

Frankly, I was hoping that this storyline was behind us. Nothing wrong with his performance, but I was hoping to see much less of the Klingons this year, as it was the only weak point of Season 1 for me.

Danpaine

As was I. No slight on the actors whatsoever, they’re only as good as the material they’re given, but I don’t see the need for recurring Klingon characters (or a Klingon storyline) whatsoever.

“Meanwhile, on the Klingon homeworld…” Why?

I much prefer it when the Klingons show up for an episode, have a scrape with the Federation in some way, then we don’t see them again for a few episodes.

ML31

““Meanwhile, on the Klingon homeworld…” Why?”

Yes. This. Having them show up as the season’s B story only reminds us of how amazingly bad the first season was. They need to bury that plot line as soon as possible. Never to be mentioned again.

Captain Ransom

Again, your opinion ML. Not fact. They will not do as YOU say. Seems like just a handful of people agree with you about it. And I’m beginning to wonder if you and Ahmed are one in the same.

ML31

Duh. Of course it’s opinion. Everyone writing here is spouting out opinions. Even you. I don’t see you footnoting your comments as merely your opinion. Because we know it already! Or do opinions become facts only when they coincide with your own opinions?

Captain Ransom

I guess you didn’t read my last reply to you. You write as if your opinion is fact.

Tiger2

Its CLEARLY his opinion. Everyone knows that.

ML31

Yeah. I said I wasn’t responding to him on that subject any longer and I’m not going to. Even when he breaks his own rule about stating opinions as fact, as he just did.

Captain Ransom

Then stop stating it as fact. Simple to do. But you don’t want to because you like the perception you create.

Tiger2

Captain Ransom, I think most people understand its just their opinion. Anyone whose been on message boards for awhile understand 99.9% of the time people are just stating their own thoughts and don’t expect everyone to feel the same way.

That said I personally agree with him but I understand not everyone or even the majority does.

Tiger2

Agreed Danpaine!

I just don’t care about the Klingons to want a continual story line around them. They were the least exciting part of season one for me and probably why I had such a hard time loving that season since they took up most of it. There is a reason Sanest Man and the MU episodes are my favorites because there is little Klingon stories in them.

That said I agree the actors themselves were fine but I just don’t need to see them in every episode.

RikersMailbox

Why did L’rell turn Voq into Tyler? No idea. It wasn’t explained. What was his character ark? No idea. The storyline was pretty pointless.

mwz

Seemed fairly obvious that the idea was to have a sleeper agent in Starfleet, and more specifically (later) on-board Starfleet’s super-secret project Discovery. This would give L’rell (and, sort of, Voq) an advantage over the other Klingon houses. However, they did not count on the… endurance of Tyler’s mind, and his relationship with Burnham.

Tiger2

Yes but zero came out of any of it. And we still don’t have a clue what EXACTLY would he be doing as a sleeper agent? Were they going to use any intel they gathered as a way to defeat them in the war? Did they want the spore drive? Were they planning some major assassination attempt? Did they plan to use the DIS crew as hostages? Or was it all of the above? What exactly was the point of being a sleeper agent if there was literally no direction at any time of the purpose of the mission?

I still can’t figure out how L’reill expected him to follow any orders if she literally had to be in the same room with him to give him those orders?

And sadly I don’t think the writers had any clue where to go with it because it was such a muddled mess.

alphantrion

See, this is why I keep on insisting the writing to be much more tighter in season 2. So many questions about Tyler/Voq and not enough answers. Perhaps they cut out some out the more expository scenes.

Marja

Tiger, I think everything in your first paragraph is what L’Rell set out to ACHIEVE. Then she was imprisoned. Then Ty/Voq started losing it.

As for the post-hypnotic suggestion, I think many of them are designed to work on trigger words [a la Manchurian Candidate], thus Ty/Voq going nuts on the White Wolf. But yeah, I’m not sure how L’Rell hoped to control him unless she thought she’d have some means of communicating with him at all times [which was denied her when she was imprisoned].

They were stymied in their goal.

I hope S2 is more organized with the arcs. I suspect S1 had troubles because of Harbert’s and Berg’s writer abuse, Fuller’s departure and the showrunners’ departure from Fuller’s original idea.

Tiger2

If so it was done VERY sloppily because the show never spelled any of that out clearly. I understand why people didn’t like the Lorca reveal but I did BECAUSE it made complete sense in the story at least. We saw him exact his plan, we knew what he wanted, was slowly building towards it and hell he almost won. It was clear the writers knew where they were going with that and it paid off IMO. Now it could’ve still been better but it was generally handled pretty well. The Voq/Tyler reveal is just SO bad on so many levels. You have to suspend large areas of disbelief like how Klingons who know nothing about humans could clone one to complete perfection that they can pass medical inspections, give him memory implants, speak perfect English and have Voq act so human he doesn’t even know he was a Klingon. At least with Lorca there were clues that he wasn’t prime Lorca so you can go back and see that. There was none of that with Voq/Tyler. The guy even danced like a human lol. Maybe if we saw a bit of Voq’s personality start to come out in areas it would feel more realistic. He basically was just Tyler the whole time until the reveal, so it felt like a cheat. And their ‘plan’ never seem like it was set in motion. In fact I pointed out Tyler was TOO good of a double agent because the guy managed… Read more »

RikersMailbox

Tiger2, you articulate your argument very well. I will push back ever-so-slightly on the Lorca arc for a few reasons. The first is that it was never explained how Lorca knew that the spore drive would be able to provide access into the mirror universe. I don’t even think that Stamets knew of its capability and he’s the one who invented it. Secondly, it wasn’t explained how Discovery gained access to the mirror universe on ‘the last jump.’ Lorca simply flipped a switch mid-jump on his chair console. This didn’t make much sense to me. Third, why on earth would mirror Lorca want to go back to that universe? It seems to me that it would be easier to take over the ‘alpha’ universe rather then go back to that hell hole. He was also grossly unprepared to take over the mirror universe despite his ongoing preparation.

I also didn’t really appreciate that the only thing keeping Burnham out of jail was a mirror universe guy giving her a second chance. If that was the case, why wouldn’t she go back to jail after Lorca was revealed? It would have been a lot better if Lorca was simply an unorthodox captain from the normal universe who took a chance on Burnham when nobody else would.

Tiger2

Don’t get me wrong RikersMailbox, As I said I didn’t think the Lorca reveal was perfect either. There was definitely some big plot issues, the biggest what you said how would he even know the spore drive could get him back to the MU? Yes that was definitely done without any explanation because no one had any lol. In fact, I had it in my own head canon (BEFORE we found out what really happened) that MU Lorca was experimenting with his Discovery’s spore drive and how he ended up in the prime and was secretly using that knowledge to get himself back. Of course they went a different way so yeah. As far as wanting to go back to the MU, that’s not a big deal because that’s his home! That’s where his men were, where his priorities were. Quite a few people have jumped over from the MU into PU (mostly in DS9) but none of them has ever stayed. Yes it’s hell…but it’s still home lol. As far as Burnham, she had already proven herself by saving Discovery several times and helped create a cease fire between Federation and the Klingons (but yeah, that was very….sloppy. I really hated the finale so I’ll just leave that there ;)). So we don’t disagree that much, the execution wasn’t great but at least they had an actual story line and we got a real arc with Lorca. I understand people wanted him to just be a PU character with… Read more »

Marja

Riker’s Mailbox, I agree, ninety per cent.

Is it possible that Mirror Stamets knew the way to travel the mycelial network?

Burnham got her big break because of Mirror Lorca, yes; but she did a lot of innovative/heroic stuff to earn her way back to reinstatement in Starfleet. She learned of the Tardigrade’s navigational ability. She helped thwart Mudd. She rescued Admiral Cornwell. She placed the coordinate thingies on the Sarcophagus.

And at the point where Starfleet is, after the decimation of the fleet and devastation of the war, I could see them promoting her back to her former rank. They now need experienced, innovative officers.

ML31

“I also didn’t really appreciate that the only thing keeping Burnham out of jail was a mirror universe guy giving her a second chance. If that was the case, why wouldn’t she go back to jail after Lorca was revealed? It would have been a lot better if Lorca was simply an unorthodox captain from the normal universe who took a chance on Burnham when nobody else would.”

This this this! Yes. Exactly. It would have been WAY better if Lorca was simply a Prime U Captain. Unlike the other “straight arrow” captains we have had. THAT would have been VERY cool.

Marja

I have always thought, if the Klingons are so expert at mind-sifting and such, why not simply transfer Voq’s personality and memories into Tyler? [Some people say Tyler was already dead.]

Did they get all that info about Tyler’s past life, how to dance, how to make love to a human &c. from Tyler’s mind and implant it into Voq!?

Maybe L’Rell is so attached [culturally or lover-ly] to Voq’s body she had to do what she did. [I think it was an excuse to show blood and agony and hear screaming. Latif excels at screaming, by golly.]

Tiger2

That would’ve made so much more sense Marja and basically Tyler could just be Tyler but have Voq’s consciousness secretly in there with him.

And then all the stuff we seen doesn’t feel as ridiculous because it’s actually Tyler the whole time and not a Klingon who got the greatest facial and body surgery in the history of ever along with complete memories, speech patterns, cultural tics and apparently a complete mind wipe of himself in the process to be really committed to cause.

Just so that entire secret process could accomplish…….?

Hey at least he got do it with a hot Earth girl, so that was alone was probably worth it. ;)

ML31

I really think a better way would have been to just find a Starfleet person who was sympathetic to their cause and just coerce them into providing intelligence. Planting agents into foreign governments and societies is done, but is VERY rare. Better to get someone already “in” to do your work.

Tiger2

Oh I definitely agree, I think they just felt that would be too boring/tame if they had a Starfleet officer turned spy on board and wanted something ‘dramatic’ as a major twist to get write ups about it online. It definitely worked in that sense lol.

But having two major character twists in one season (and both revealed around the same time) just felt like overkill. TECHNICALLY three when we found out MU Georgiou was the Emperor.

I was literally waiting for Cadet Tilly to reveal she’s secretly Section 31….or an augment….or both!

Disinvited

Tiger2 and ML31,

I remind you that every STAR TREK series has established that every Starfleet ship carries crew expert at blending into to new and unknown civilizations. They just don’t refer to them as “spies” but rather “scientists”, i.e. exo-anthropologists.

HN4

Harbert and Berg should have never been left in charged to begin with after Fuller was fired.

ML31

” I suspect S1 had troubles because of Harbert’s and Berg’s writer abuse, Fuller’s departure and the showrunners’ departure from Fuller’s original idea.”

I think the troubles came not so much from abuse, but from the destablization that occurred before they even started shooting. Then they were left with a garbage plot they had to make the best of. It was salvagable but this group seemed to be incapable of improving it. Unless this WAS the best they could do. In which case, the show really needed to clean ALL of their house.

ML31

“I still can’t figure out how L’reill expected him to follow any orders if she literally had to be in the same room with him to give him those orders?”

And this just shows a basic lack of understanding of story telling. What good was the sleeper if L’Rell needed to be there to “activate” him? I guess that was the plan when she demanded she be taken back with the Admiral. But how did she know they were going to have prisoners? Did they plan to have talks only to abduct the participants and then exchange them back? The entire thing, like much of Star Trek Discovery, was not thought through. It was as if they worked backwards from, “Let’s have a surgically altered Klingon sleeper!” “Yeah! That would be cool!” Let’s have our captain be a one dimensional MU bad guy!” “Yeah! That would trick everyone!” (Facepalm)

The Klingon plotline last season was a complete disaster, in my opinion. But Latif and Chieffo are great in the roles, so hopefully they’ll be given better material going forward.

HN4

I loved it.

Tiger2

The Voq/Tyler twist was easily the dumbest part of the season. It was literally a twist for a twist sake since none of it went anywhere, we still have no idea why they did it or what was gained other than screwing with Burnham’s head. And the whole thing of him not even knowing he was a Klingon was another nonsensical idea. What’s the point of changing him and going through the motion if he had no idea of who he was? Yes I get the Manchurian Candidate thing but it goes back to what was even the plan then? Clearly no one had one.

Bad all around.

RikersMailbox

True. And the audience was never really sold on the Burnham/Tyler relationship as they really didn’t build it, so nobody really cared about the reveal. Show don’t tell.

Tiger2

I think this was a case of the producers more excited about surprising its audience instead of trying to tell a well meaning story behind it. It’s one of those cases of just because you could doesn’t mean you should.

HN4

You haters are boring. No wonder no on else posts here.

Meeee

That’s why they changed the look of the Klingons.

Big makeup to disguise the actor.

Paid off and no one guessed it, right?
Totally worth it.

Not.

HN4

Meeee – It was never a really big secret. I knew he was Voq when a scifi blog announced that he was changing his character from a Klingon to a Human.

ML31

I agree. I really think one of the MAIN reasons behind the makeup change was ONLY to hide the actor’s face. That was a HUGE universe change just so you could provide a “gotha'” moment that many figured out way ahead of time anyway.

But I think the Lorca reveal was the dumbest part of the season. Different strokes, I guess.

RikersMailbox

Constructively critiquing something is not hating. It’s quite the opposite actually. I’m also not sure what gives you the impression that nobody posts here.

HN4

It’s hating. It’s what people on the internet love to do the most now.

RikersMailbox

You sound like the type of person who thought the teacher hated them when they received constructive criticism on a paper. If I pose that the relationship between Voq and Burnham was not fully developed, I’ll bet that the producers and writers would have the maturity to agree with that critique. It doesn’t sound like you would.

HN4

When people keep harping about the same thing over and over, it cease being constructive criticism.

RikersMailbox

It ‘ceases’ being constructive criticism. That wasn’t a critique. It was an edit. I’m a “hater” of poor grammar.

HN4

I feel so ashamed. 🤣

Danpaine

Both Voq/Tyler and the Lorca “reveals” were so obvious, imo. Shocking twists which were not shocking whatsoever.

HN4

They pretty much said he was changing character from a Klingon to a Human a month or two after filming started. At first I thought he was just allergic to the makeup and they gave him a new role to keep the actor on the show.

Mirror Galt

When they inevitably turn Star Trek: Discovery into a musical, “You’re My Tether” will, no doubt, be one of the songs.

Can’t wait to hear Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz sing some Kasseelian opera!

DRB

Except that it was never “kept under wraps.” The management of the whole would-be secret was incompetent from beginning to end.

People figured it out and posted the connection between the two characters on the Internet weeks before Tyler’s first appearance on screen. Fail.

Bytowner

Whatever name Mr. Latif’s character ends up taking? That character is a Frankenstein-like creation. Built literally upon Voq’s bones and brain, with elements of the original Ash Tyler added into the mix. And now? We have another unique being, on a quest of his own.