Season two of Star Trek: Lower Decks introduced Lt. Kayshon, the first Tamarian in Starfleet. To bring the security officer who speaks in metaphors to life, the producers brought in comedian Carl Tart. TrekMovie had a chance to speak exclusively with Tart about how he took on this challenge.
When we talked to Tawny Newsome earlier this year, she said her favorite guest star of the season was you.
I’m honored, I’m floored. I’m flabbergasted.
She said your “goofy weirdo” style was perfect to bring a Tamarian and their way of speaking into Lower Decks. You worked with her and Paul F. Tompkins before on Comedy Bang Bang and other things, is that how you landed the job?
They probably were the people who recommended me, because that’s how cool they are. I also have some friends who are writers on it, like Ben Rogers who is a good buddy of mine. We did an improv show together on Sunday nights called Shady Jobs at UCB. He definitely was telling me about the project and about the character. So I think he’s the one that put me up for it. But I still had to audition for it, just like anything. And I’m happy that I was able to get it because everybody is so dope. Everybody who works on the show are some really good friends and some great people.
How familiar were you with Star Trek and with the specific TNG episode “Darmok”? And what did you do to prep?
I’m gonna be real with you, not very familiar. I watched some Next Generation when I was a kid, and a little bit of Deep Space Nine, but I wasn’t really into it. And so I had to go back. Ben Rogers sent me [“Darmok”] and I watched it a few times and kind of got the rhythms of how Paul Winfield played the character and was like, ‘Okay, how can I bring some lightness to this,’ while also still maintaining that same gravitas, and strong energy from Kayshon. That’s how I prepared, watching that episode over and over again.
By now the Tamrarians have progressed a bit and can actually speak Federation Standard, but Kayshon goes back and forth. So are you playing it like someone who falls back on their native language when they get flustered?
Yeah, basically you hit the nail on the head. He’s trying so hard to fit in and he knows that he’s kind of weird. And everybody’s being so nice to him. Some people are trying to speak the language back to him, but he really wants to fit in. I lived in a different country for a while and people there loved to speak English to me. While I’m trying to say words in a language, they’re like, ‘No, no, no, we’ll speak your language.’ So I think it’s that balance. It’s both sides being like, ‘We’ll welcome you in, by being like you.’
And so I think he is just kind of struggling with fitting in. We’ve all been new in a place, like if you ever had to move schools. I moved from Mississippi to LA, and I was different. I had a real strong Southern accent and people would make fun of it. But yeah, I think he’s just really trying to fit in with everybody and trying to not wear out as welcome.
Kayshon was introduced as the new head of security, but then they brought back Shaxs. So does that leave Kayshon sort of in the middle between the lower deck characters and the senior officers?
Perhaps, I’m not sure. He might be a certain way about it. We might learn more about how he feels about it later.
You mentioned your improv background, which you share with a lot of the other actors who have had a chance to use those skills on Lower Decks. Have you been able to do any improv for the show, or have you just trying to stick to the script?
I pretty much got to stick to the script because there are some very sensitive words in there. And they have to be done correctly. So I stick to what they write for me. When I am in the booth, I’m always, “Was that good? Did I say it right?” Because, I don’t want y’all coming after me, man. [laughs]
Do you feel as you get more into it you can maybe add some improv?
Yeah. I say I get to do “emotional improv.” I get to do many different takes on deliveries and things like that. But with animation, you kind of got to stick to the script a lot of the time, especially if they’ve already drawn it. If they haven’t drawn it yet, then maybe you do get to play around a little bit. Sometimes it would be just like pencil drawings on white paper almost, where you kind of see the movements. And then with those moments, we can play around a little bit more and they’ll draw around us. But sometimes I come in and it’s already complete and I have to stick to the script because it has to fit a certain time.
They kind of threw you in the deep end with your first episode titled “Kayshon, His Eyes Open.” Do you have a favorite that you have done so far?
I think that first one was my favorite. I think the favorite thing I have done so far was trying to pick up the woman in the bar. That was the most fun I had.
Any hints on what’s next for Kayshon for the rest of the season or season three?
I don’t know! You got to stay tuned to see!
New episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks stream Thursdays in the USA on Paramount+ and CTV Sci-Fi in Canada (where it’s also available to stream on Crave). It streams on Fridays on Amazon Prime Video in international territories around the world. In Latin America, Lower Decks debuts (both seasons 1 and 2) in September.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.