Interview: ‘Prodigy’ Cast On Learning Lessons From Star Trek… And Hologram Janeway

At New York Comic Con, TrekMovie participated in a series of group interviews with members of the cast and crew of Star Trek: Prodigy. In addition to speaking to Kate Mulgrew and the executive producers, we also spoke to voice actors Brett Gray (Dal), Ella Purnell (Gwyn), and Rylee Alazraqui (Rok-Tahk). They told us and a handful of other outlets about their views on Star Trek and offered some insights into their characters through their relationships with Hologram Janeway.

This interview has been edited for clarity.  

Being part of this show, what have you learned about the message of Star Trek and how do you feel it will resonate with other kids?

Brett Gray: It’s awesome. I feel like today I got a crash course in the Prime Directive from Kate Mulgrew herself. Just that ideal of the world being a place that all of us belong to together no matter what species or race or generation or any of those sort of things that we use to place people in boxes. No matter what, we all belong and we all have a spot on the team, and have strengths and weaknesses that we can use to lean on each other to help take us all forward.

Rylee Alazraqui: I think that it’s going to teach people to work together and to realize people for who they really are, and to look at the qualities in people and appreciate them more, and work together and have cooperation with other people.

Ella Purnell: I would agree with what Brett and Rylee have said. What is cool is that we are new to the world as the characters. And we’re learning about it as the episodes go on. We come in with each character caring more about themselves than the collective. I think what they learn—and what I’m gathering as the greater message for Star Trek—is it’s about team building. It’s about being a family and a collective. And I think that extends into the fan base as well.

Dee Bradley Baker, Kate Mulgrew, Brett Gray and Rylee Alazraqui at New York Comic Con 2021

Can you sum up what Hologram Janeway teaches your characters, without spoilers?

Ella Purnell: It’s a really good question… Each character obviously has their own arc and their own lessons that they have to learn and [Janeway] facilitates almost every single one… I think for my character, she teaches her a softer, more vulnerable side of leadership. Gwyn has learned leadership from the Diviner only. And that is not the kindest way to lead. I think she learns from Janeway that it is okay to be vulnerable. And that kindness and love and respect are a greater asset when it comes to that.

Gwyn (Ella Purnell)

Brett Gray: “Think first” is my answer for Dal, because he has the tendency to jump into things without knowing what’s going to happen or have a plan, which is great. The gumption is incredible. But I think Janeway teaches him to think first and how does this affect the people around you. And how are you utilizing the members of your team so that this can be one mission and executed in a way that is strategic and not just audacious.

Dal (Brett Gray)

Rylee Alazraqui: I think Janeway teaches Rok-Tahk to stand up for herself more and be more confident. Because she kind of gets bossed around by Dal sometimes. And I think that she just needs to stand up for herself and she’s learning how to take on more challenges by herself instead of leaning against everyone else. She has to learn how to be responsible.

Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui)

How familiar were you with Star Trek when you got cast? Did you watch any to prepare and what did you like most if you did?

Brett Gray: Unfortunately, I didn’t do any sort of preparation at all. I didn’t watch anything. The only memory I have of Star Trek is at my grandma’s house. She loves sci-fi in general and she would always have, at nighttime, Star Trek. I remember there being this interesting cast of people and they were very respectful and poised. It was admirable to watch, definitely. It was something that I was interested in but I was so young I didn’t really have a way in for myself. So it’s awesome to bring this one through because I feel like it’s the perfect thing for first-time Trek people to come in and start with this new group of kids and learn as it goes.

I know the big characters. It’s funny, I actually did my first Captain’s Log, and it was completely wrong. The Captain’s Logs were supposed to be super poised and like [adopts formal speech], ‘Hello, today this is what happened.’ And my Captain’s Log is like [adopts energetic voice] ‘So let me tell you how…’ Which they ended up keeping and really liking. So I feel like not having the pressure of living up to something has also come in our performances.

Ella Purnell: I have to agree with that. My stepdad always used to watch it and I would come downstairs and he’d be sitting watching the reruns, I couldn’t tell you which… but it was must have been the very first couple ones because my teenage self would be like, ‘The graphics are terrible.’ It’s just different from what I grew up watching. And that was my first experience with the Star Trek.

I actually like the idea that none of us really have any experience or have married ourselves too closely to the original ones, because I think that’s what’s going to modernize it—not that it needs modernizing—but it’s going to carry the sense to the next generation and make it more relatable and attractive for them.

Rylee Alazraqui: When I got [cast] I didn’t know what it was. So we watched a [Star Trek] movie. I don’t know which one… And I didn’t really learn that much from it because either it was too confusing or it was inappropriate for my eyes to watch. I don’t know, there are many reasons and I was confused and I was focused on the marshmallows and my hot chocolate. I think that I’m learning a lot from just doing these recording sessions and reading the scripts. And it’s going to be really exciting for me to learn more and for everyone who’s watching the show to learn about the Prodigy of Star Trek.

ICYMI: Powering up the Protostar clip

Dal and Rok-Tahk power up the USS Protostar and discover the universal translator (also available at startrek.com).

 

Prodigy arrives in 2 days

The Prodigy debut will be available to stream on Paramount+ in the United States on October 28. The series is also coming to Paramount+ in Latin America, the Nordics, and Australia, and  CTV Sci-Fi in Canada. It will debut in 2022 in parts of Europe with the launch of the Paramount+ Sky partnership.


Keep up with the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.

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in 2 days…. holy hell…

I’m a night owl, so for me, it’s 1.

I do wish the cast would watch TAS now that they have a season or more under their belt.

If only to stop having them say it’s the first Star Trek show for kids.

TAS may have been a toned down and animated 4th season of TOS, but it won a Children’s Animated Series Emmy.

I still don’t understand how it won an Emmy. I know it was the 70s, but there was definitely better children’s animation out there even back then.

Science? Ideas? Inspiration about Space Exploration. :P

The actual animation? Perhaps. Stories / scripts? I’m not so sure. I mean, it may not have been absolutely the best thing in that realm, but goodness knows it was certainly among the best that “children’s TV” had to offer.

I don’t know…. The animation was crappy but many of the stories would have made really good full on live action episodes.

They will never stop saying. This is a marketing selling point. And it is not wrong. You have to go back to what Gene Roddenberry said about TAS while they were making it: he said it was a sequel for TOS, same tone, same kind of stories, same seriousness, only animated. Several critics saw the same thing when it premiered. It reached some kids (of course, as TOS also did), and it was shown along with other programming for kids, but it was really a general-audience animated version of Star Trek, not a show AIMED at kids. (If only NBC could grasp that concept then, like most do now, TAS could have been better marketed and could have lived longer than two short seasons.)

Without VHS, the animated series was not as readily available as the Alan Dean Foster books were soon after. So even if TAS was TOS made available to children through one or two broadcasts, the books were out there for teenage and adult fans and greatly expanded what the animated episodes offered.

Yes! I was able to read the books long before I could find the show.

Hi,

I think it’s all marketing. TAS was serious enough to be a sequel to TOS, but it had many young adult elements to it. I noticed it got no love at Star Trek Day and it wasn’t featured in the trailer for it either. CBS wants you to forget about TAS and focus on selling prodigy as the childrens trek. But, then again, new fans aren’t going to know TAS anyways, only us hardcore fans.

I’m ready for the show to launch!

LLAP

I think the other issue is that many don’t consider TAS canon even today. But the main issues is it’s just never really advertised like with the rest of the shows. It’s been like that for decades now. You can look at practically any big Star Trek television special or documentary through the years and it’s either just given a small mention or left out completely.

I used to subscribe to the Star Trek magazines in the 90s (loved it). It would have features of every show and movie up to that time through Voyager. I think MAYBE there was one article about it in one of the magazines I had which I didn’t bothered reading.

I been watching Trek since the late 70s and I didn’t even know TAS existed until the mid-80s. Also it was never run in syndication like TOS. I grew up in L.A. it was never on TV at that time all. You could rent it at some video stores but that’s the only place I remember seeing it as a kid.

These are the reasons most fans don’t really think about it like all the other shows, because the franchise as a whole treats it like a red headed step child. I watched it for the first time in my life just this year and as said I been watching Trek for over 40 years now. I only did it because people here said I should give it a try. And if it wasn’t on Parmount+, the only streaming site that even seems to have it now, I don’t think I would’ve went out my way to see it.

Wow, I had no idea.

I remember reading somewhere Gene did not want it considered canon.

I’ve always considered TAS canon but I didn’t watch it until it was released on DVD. Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen it on tv at all and I watched trek in the nineties on TV.

Fascinating information!

I think I remember hearing that too but I could never confirm it. But since that time so much of it has become canon anyways.

Yeah, Gene came to feel that way. Of course at the time it was being made (with his involvement, at that, even if he wasn’t as involved as he’d been in the first couple seasons of the original series), he felt it was canon then, but that was before there were several movies, and the first four of those in turn were before there was another show. As I understand it, he later said that if he’d known when TAS was made that there’d eventually be so much more live-action Trek, he’d have worked to make sure TAS was more “canon-able”. Apparently he eventually decreed in 1988, during the early years of TNG, that TAS should no longer be considered canon and that then-current makers of Trek shouldn’t feel bound by its lore. But a lot has changed since he died in 1991.

I am looking forward to sitting down and watching this with my nephew. He’s already showing an interest in space, and this looks like it’ll be a great entry point to Trek.

Also, Rylee Alazraqui really is the spitting image of her father.

I hope these kids can steer or it’s going to be a looong way to the Alpha Quadrant!

The way they talk about classic Trek is literally the way most of my nieces and nephews do, they don’t know a single thing about it lol. Can’t tell you a name of a single character from any of the shows and zero interest in watching it. I remember watching one of the Kelvin movies when two of them were over thinking that would be more in their wheelhouse since they are big action modern movies. Nope, they got bored after twenty minutes and did something else.

Many fans here say they got into Star Trek as kids and I include myself in that, but I still think that’s really an exception to the rule, especially for today. The actors from this show are probably more in line with a lot of kids and where Star Trek is more, excuse the pun, alien to them. I can imagine if they live in a household where someone is watching it a lot and consistently, sure. But MOST kids I knew growing up and in my family now just don’t watch it at all. Certainly nothing like watching Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Transformers and on and on. Those are all built in franchises with kids in mind. Star Trek seem to capture most kids by the time they are teenagers but rarely the under 10 set.

So Prodigy does sound like it will be a much easier way in. I mean it has to be easier than watching DS9. ;)

Keep them away from the Alpha Quadrant for as long as possible I’d say – will be fun to have a crew and starship on the frontier no reinforcements, in full control of their destiny. Maybe even let them build a new Federation from scratch out of outcasts looking for freedom and to explore!
There are only a fleet of cookie cutter generic starships, people playing holodecks and the Burn waiting for them anyway.

It sounds like it will go the Voyager route and keep them in the Delta Quadrant for awhile. But it will be different from that show since it sounds like there will be a closer connection to the Alpha Quadrant from the outset IF Captain Chakotay is still there (but his crew could be in the Delta Quadrant too). And if Starfleet sent the ship there on purpose, it will probably be a big mystery of how and why.

I like the idea of setting up a new Federation but I just don’t see how they could do that with just a bunch of kids and a holographic Janeway. I mean it would be like kids in the present day trying to set up some a new version of United Nations somewhere. I know, it’s just a TV show, but still weird lol.

I actually get the sense that they may get close to the perimeter of Federation space, or at least Federation exploration, by the end of season one.

In think that this won’t be a repeat of the seven year journey of Voyager.

Also, if the show starts in 2384, the Romulan supernova issue will be a public threat in the Alpha Quadrant by season two.

The kids will need to see a positive Federation before things start to fall apart the way Picard showed us.

Literally cannot control my excitement for this enterprise to boldly introduce Trek to the next generation of infinite diversity.