The highlight for Thursday at the Star Trek Las Vegas con was Jason Isaacs. This was the first STLV appearance for the actor who played the enigmatic Captain Gabriel Lorca in the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. While on stage he talked about why he was reluctant to take the job, what he learned about Star Trek, as well as revealing some fun behind-the-scenes tidbits from life on the set.
Stays mum on return of Lorca
Early on in his time on stage, Jason Isaacs addressed what is likely what is top of mind for many fans, by letting the audience know he wasn’t going to talk about Lorca coming back, saying:
You can ask me any questions, any questions you like, including questions about any future sightings of Lorca, anywhere in Star Trek and I will probably continue to lie and keep secrets, like I did last year. You can ask anything you like, but you will get nothing out of me.
Later during the Q&A as he threw fortune cookies into the crowd, a fan did ask if the “good” Lorca would be make an appearance, and Isaacs feigned that he couldn’t hear the question, quipping “Sorry I can’t hear what you are saying…The mic is not working, next person…”
Needed to know Lorca’s secret to take the Job
Isaacs talked about how he “just loved” the original Star Trek when he was young and “worshiped” Captain Kirk, who he saw as a role model on how to be a man. Which is why, he said, he was reluctant to take the part of Lorca when he was first approached. He was concerned that he could only be a “pale copy” of what had come before. However, he became more intrigued by the show when he learned it would be serialized and would deal with “headline” and “hot topic issues.” He was also attracted to the idea that the show would star Sonequa Martin-Green, who he admired from The Walking Dead.
The thing that convinced him was through a series of Skype chats with producers, where it was revealed that Lorca would have a secret, something he relished as an actor, noting “What actors love is a secret. It’s a five-course meal. It gives you something to play.” However, Isaacs revealed that in these early chats, the writers and producers hadn’t exactly worked out what Lorca’s “secret agenda” was beyond being from the Mirror Universe. He recalled the conversation:
They said it’s either going to be that he wants to get back [to the Mirror Universe], or he wants to bring people here, or he wants to conquer it, or he wants to take her there, or he wants to partner up with her, or he wants to kill people. I said I can’t play that, that is a hundred different things. When you have a secret, you know what your secret is. If I am going to act it, I need to know what the secret is.
This ambiguity left Isaacs wary until subsequently (now former) executive producer Akiva Goldsman told him he could be “part of the discussion and part of evolving” the character, which he appreciated, adding “I jumped in and I am so glad that I did. It turned out to be one of the great experiences of my working life.”
Canon and controversy
The actor also talked about some of the early fan discussion of the show, before it ever got on the air, noting that he understood how many were skeptical:
These stories had been told in a world of love and inclusiveness for so many decades and people were rightly very reticent about whether we were going to do it badly and whether we were going to honor Gene Roddenberry’s original vision.
He also assured fans that much care and discussion went into every decision, including things that were different about the show:
What no one realized until we started, and I think you all realized pretty soon, is the writer’s room is full of insane Trekkers, insane geeks, who would spend days arguing over canon and whether something was hard canon or soft canon…They would argue over what was and wasn’t allowed. Believe me, the redesign of things, the Klingons for instance, or of the communication tools, was the subject of endless, endless debate. Nothing was done lightly and nothing was done cynically.
However, the actor had no empathy for online trolls who sent him, Sonequa Martin-Green and others hateful messages, attacking the show over its diversity. He dismissed them as people who “were not Star Trek fans and had never seen an episode and they didn’t know what the great legacy was.”
The actor also went on to note that as they were making the show, he came to appreciate the “huge legacy” of Star Trek and how Discovery was dealing with modern issues, saying:
Something about the process made us all realize that it is so much more than a story and these are so much more than characters. It represents something important and increasingly important in this world where hate is getting pumped out on political platforms all over the world…This is a show that posits a world where the color of your skin and your religion and your sexuality and even your species, shouldn’t be a barrier between beings. And they are all working for the greater good.
And that is something we didn’t realize. We are all actors. I’m an actor. I got there and all I wanted to do is say “Energize” one time. That’s all I wanted to do. Point a phaser at someone and I was done. We all gradually realized we are responsible for something bigger than that. That this legacy and this mission of Roddenberry’s, to tell the world we are capable of better stuff and how important it was. And we all feel that responsibility. As well as to be entertaining.
Game nights and Disco’s solution to the Picard Manuever
The actor also revealed some fun tidbits about life on set for Star Trek: Discovery. One way the cast bonded early on was Sonequa Martin-Green’s insistence that they all socialize with game nights, which became a “regular thing” at his house in Toronto. He noted it was a great way to break down barriers, saying:
We all kind of bonded. Everybody met regularly and we had a fantastic time outside of work. So, when we got to work, it was like a bunch of friends. There was no hierarchy. The people who had no lines or one line were just part of the family.
Isaacs had a lot to say about the costumes on the show, describing them as a “gastric band” due to how tight they were. He joked that this was one area where the show wasn’t living up to its ideals, saying:
Although the future is all-inclusive when it comes races and sexuality and physical types, but there can be no creases, apparently. It was very, very important from CBS that the clothes should never have a crease in them.
He explained how for Discovery the solution to minimize creases and solve the “Picard Manuever” issue of the jackets riding up whenever you stood up was solved by having the jackets zipped to the pants. However, this created a new problem that whenever you lifted your arms up, you would get a “front wedgie” creating what he described as “space camel toe.”
The actor noted that when the first image of Lorca was released, it revealed a “tremendously controversial crease” which he joked resulted in “everybody getting fired.” In the end, the only way to make things work was for him to have two jackets, one for when he was seated and one for when he was standing, and they had to swap them out between takes.
More STLV to come
Thursday was day two for Star Trek Las Vegas, with three more to go. If you want to preview what is happening, check out our highlights from the schedule. Stay tuned for more daily coverage here at TrekMovie.com. Also be sure to follow along with our social media reporting from STLV on Twitter and Instagram.
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