Interview: Noël Wells And Eugene Cordero On Their “Intellectual Love Affair” In ‘Lower Decks’ Season 2

Earlier this week TrekMovie had a chance to join with some other outlets to speak to the four main cast members of Star Trek: Lower Decks about the second season. The first talk was with Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid, and today we have the second discussion, featuring Noël Wells and Eugene Cordero. The pair behind Tendi and Rutherford gave us insights into the upcoming season including what exactly is going on between these two ensigns.

What’s the biggest development for Rutherford and Tendi in season two?

Eugene Cordero: The biggest development for me is that we took away some development, and then we added it back. So my biggest development for Rutherford was finding out what he doesn’t know and finding out some new information and then trusting what he does know from the past now that he has some of that information again. I think there’s a weird mix of growth in certain ways. As a friend, he definitely grew, but as himself, he’s finding out new things about himself that he didn’t know in season one even.

Noël Wells: I think for my character in the first season, Tendi’s very wide-eyed. She’s soaking up everything like a sponge. She is a bit naive. In the second season, she maybe had her bubble burst a couple of times, but because of that she gets to sort of take herself to the next level and you see her pushing back a little bit more and having a little bit more agency. Not only taking more risks but standing up for herself.

Tendi and Rutherford were paired up often in season one, will we get other pairings in this season?

Eugene Cordero: My contract says that I’m only doing scenes with Noël because that’s the only one I want to do… I think in season one we set up a really great rapport with each other. So I think they want to keep that going. But because you have the background of all of the lower decks crew together, you will see [each of] us paired up a little bit more. And I would love to pair up even more. I get to do a couple of moments with me and Jack Quaid, Boimler/Rutheford duo happens a bit. And Mariner/Rutherford happens a little bit too. I think that kind of mix is great. And now that you see the dynamic, it just sets us up to do about a million seasons. So we can keep mixing it up.

Noël Wells: We’re swinging! Definitely swapping up the characters. There’s a lot of new dynamics forming.

Eugene Cordero: There’s a bowl with keys in it and we do various scenes.

Season one saw Tendi in support or relation to other characters so how will we see her grow into herself in season two?

Noël Wells: I do think in the first season Tendi’s not like a ‘yes woman,’ but definitely like the kid. She has that sort of vibe that she’s along for the ride. In the second season, she is having to run some things herself and take a little bit more control. And you get to see a little bit more of her dark side, and her sense of her capacity to fight. And if you didn’t know already’ or feel it from the first season, she definitely a three-dimensional 2D animated character.

Will we see more “modes” for Rutherford’s implant in season two? And do you have a favorite?

Eugene Cordero: In this season you’re going to see more modes of Rutherford as a person, not so much as the implant. We’re not going to go through them as much. But he’s figuring out things for himself as well as what happened to him and trying to figure out those things. We get more into Rutherford, but it’s more about what he is as a person than it is about which ways he can play.

Honestly, when we were doing the mode stuff that was so fun to be able to play with all of them. There was one that we did for a while that was kind of Shakespearean that I loved, which I hope comes back for a whole episode. But I doubt that will because I think I was doing a lot of yelling “thou” for no reason. It wasn’t even in the script, and they were like, “You don’t even have to say that” and I was, “I think I do.”

Noël Wells as Ensign Tendi, Eugene Cordero as Ensign Samanthan Rutherford and Tawny Newsome as Ensign Beckett Mariner in season two of Star Trek: Lower Decks

Will the unresolved sexual tension between your characters be resolved? Or is it a Ross and Rachel situation?   

Eugene Cordero: I don’t know if it’s a Ross and Rachel situation. The weird thing about them and the great thing about the Tendi and Rutherford relationship is a kind of intellectual love affair they have for each other. It’s in a way that you would have with a co-worker or somebody who’s just as passionate about the work as you are. I think that happens in college a lot, where you’re like, “Oh, we both love the same things.” And then you think that you are in love, but you’re ultimately just in love with the person as what they grew up to be and how they continue to live their lives. Who knows? Who knows what it is? I think sexual tension within a cartoon is always weird. So I don’t know.

Noël Wells: That’s funny. There’s a lot of sexual tension in Lower Decks. I don’t know how HR would recommend them navigate that. But, you’re right. It is interesting to have sexual tension with animated characters. But it is there. We are not denying. But it’s not a big part… What it does is there’s a lot of possibilities.

You have spoken about how much they are alike, but what are the biggest differences with Rutherford and Tendi?

Eugene Cordero: I feel like the biggest difference between them is – as excited as they are – I think it’s just how they approach other people. There’s a positivity that they have with each other. But if you watch them interact with, let’s say, Mariner or even the captain, I think that they have a very different kind of way into a conversation. I think Rutherford comes in with a very much not-cocky but confident that he knows how to do everything that he’s doing. Then it’s just the mentality of if they believe he could or not. I think that is a different kind of approach than how Tendi walks into a room.

Noël Wells: Yeah, she walks into a room as more of a people pleaser. “Can I show you that I can do this?” Which is not as confident, actually. Whereas with Rutherford, she’s able to be more of her truer, confident self because he is somebody who sees her

Carl Tart as Lieutenant Kayshon and Noël Wells as D’Vana Tendi in season two of Star Trek: Lower Decks

How do you feel about the coming Lower Decks action figures and what accessories should Tendi and Rutherford have?

Eugene Cordero: I’m so excited about the action figure thing. I have in the past been in one but it was like not even close to looking like me. I was almost offended. It was a Kong: Skull Island group of soldiers. I was like, “That’s me? I hate this!” For Rutherford, give me anything, man. I think the implant is going to be so cool. I hope it lights up. I hope that there’s a button on the back so that you can see it light up. If that’s the case, I’d be stoked. Other than that, I’m probably going to line this whole wall with a million of them, and everybody else’s. I want a Shaxs one too.

Noël Wells: I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that has had an actual action figure. But just knowing that when I was a kid and playing with action figures, I just hope that Tendi is very versatile. So you can make her dance and stuff. I hope she’s not really stiff. I hope she’s got a lot of articulation.

And will we learn more about Tendi’s Orion-ness in season two?

With Tendi, I think we see her as this very nice, naive sort of character. And you just assume she is just fresh from some really nice place, because of the way my personality is. But I do think we get to see a little bit more of what she has going on underneath her and that she has a lot more levels. Maybe her main personality is this bright-eyed, easily excitable, really friendly person, but she’s not one-dimensional. She does have a backstory. She does come from a very specific place. And she has different tools of her personality that she’s going to get to pull out that are kind of – I don’t mean to pigeonhole her or anything – but it’s kind of hot.

Eugene Cordero: We just talked about sexual tension. And then you’re saying how hot she is? And you know what, Rutherford’s hot too. I think his toy is going to be the hottest toy you will ever see.

Noël Wells: He has like a 10-pack. He’s got more muscles than are normal.

What is something you are excited about being part of this big science fiction franchise?

Eugene Cordero: I love the fact that I have an implant and part of me that is cyborg. As a kid, there would be nothing more than I’d want than be part robot. Are you kidding me? So then to be that within the world of Star Trek is just amazing. And to fit into the world of representing Asian Americans in anything and the way he’s drawn and how cool he is. I’m like, “This is great!” The fact that I get to be part of it in those two ways, just as a fan of Star Trek. To play and represent a cool Asian cyborg. Yeah, let’s do it!

Noël Wells: I personally have always felt like an alien. So I’m so excited. Anytime I get cast in something where I really relate to it, that’s a win. But to be in this sort of intergalactic universe of all these different people coming together. And what the show actually stands for. The idea of creating peace on a universal level, and the diplomacy of that and how we can all sort of work together. I really like being a part of something that speaks to that and connects with so many people who also feel that way. It’s really nice.

We talked about this earlier, but it’s really cool to see your name in the credits of something that is so iconic and is so in the zeitgeist and is so recognizable. You realize, “Oh my gosh, I’m a part of this institution.” And whatever part you’re playing in that, you can’t ever really take that away. Like that’s now some part of your legacy as a human. Or alien.

More Lower Decks to come

With season two arriving in exactly one week, we will have wall-to-wall coverage over the next few days, including more interviews from the red carpet premiere coming. TrekMovie’s full recap and review will be posted on the site on Thursday, August 12th, which will be followed up with our regular easter egg analysis. This Friday’s All Access Star Trek podcast will discuss the red carpet event and other interviews, with our Friday, August 13th episode diving for full review and discussion of the season two premiere.

Eugene Cordero, Noël Wells, Dawnn Lewis, Mike McMahan, Tawny Newsome, and Jerry O’Connell at Lower Decks season 2 premiere event

ICYMI: SDCC 2021 trailer

In case you missed it, here is the trailer released in late July.

Star Trek: Lower Decks season two arrives on Paramount+  in the USA and CTV in Canada Sci-Fi on Thursday, August 12th. It will be available internationally on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 13th, and in Latin America in September.

Keep up with all the news and analysis for Star Trek: Lower Decks.

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I looked at Noël Wells’ CV and forgot she was a one and done SNL cast member. (Not a knock, more than a few stars have been fired from that show.) Noël regrets joining SNL, on account of it being rather lame and all.

Yea, why would any comedian want to be on SNL when you’ve got much bigger and higher paying show like the internationally renowned Lower Decks? It’s like if the Aurora, Illinois Community Theater wants you, then you drop that lame offer to do that Broadway show of course.

You broke my sarcasm detector, Met.

Until this interview, I always had thought Rutherford was Black.

“Rutherford” isn’t a terribly Asian name, after all. :-)

yeah, me too. But he might be both.