Interview: Orla Brady On Playing Two Characters And Bringing A Gary Seven Vibe To ‘Star Trek: Picard’

Orla Brady was only in three episodes, but her portrayal as the strong-willed, protective Romulan Laris was a highlight of the first season of Star Trek: Picard. For season two the Irish actress was brought back with Laris playing a pivotal role for Picard, and Brady was also tasked with a new role that is tied into classic Star Trek. TrekMovie had a chance to speak to the actress about doing double duty, and even about a popular feline theory about her new role as Tallin the Supervisor (aka “The Watcher”).

How did you feel when they let you know not only about coming back for season two, but you were going to play two characters?

Well, I didn’t know about the second character at the beginning. At first, I was asked to come back as Laris and I was completely delighted because I had gone in as a guest role in season one for two episodes. And that became three. Going into the job, I thought, ‘Lovely, my mom is a Trekkie. So she’ll be very pleased.’ So I will do this guest role as one does and pop out of it. And then when it was finished, I was sad. I thought, I really liked her. For someone who is only there for a few episodes, they had written her in a very cool way. I felt who she was, and I missed it. So when they asked me to be part of season two, I was absolutely delighted. It was a little bit down the line that they mentioned the other one. I think there was an evolution of the story from the original thought on season two, and they told me about the second character.

From season one: Orla Brady as Laris with Jamie McShane as Zhaban and Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard

So how did you feel about Tallin when they came back with this second character?

I think for Tallin, her primary role, obviously in the story, is that she is The Watcher. She is the Supervisor, which references Gary Seven, as you know. And she is the one who has all the knowledge on this point in history; this person who changes history, but might not be able to in this break in time. So she’s very essential to how they crack the mystery and go forward.

However, the twist is that she is clearly reminiscent of Laris. Now, I interpreted that as [Picard] has not been able to… With Laris in episode one we see that although he has deep feelings for Laris and they have a bond, he has spent a lifetime pulling back from that big commitment, if you like. So he wants to, but he’s not quite ready. And he does what he classically does, which is he’s going to do what he’s good at. He’s going to save the planet and space. That’s what he’s good at, that’s where he puts his passion. But it’s like the universe won’t let him off the hook. They throw a person in his path, who reminds him so deeply of someone he loves. And I think he sees her as more reminiscent of Laris than other people would because it’s on his mind. His feelings were unprocessed if you like.

In the latest episode Raffi brings up how Tallin looks just like Laris, so it’s not just in Picard’s eye, is it? Doesn’t everyone see it?

Yes, she does! [laughs] She does look very like her. More classically, a choice would be if you had an actor playing a different role would be to do a wig or change the color of the eyes or really make them look markedly different. But that was not the producer’s vision. She looks like me. She looks like Laris in human form. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s more that is what is still on his mind and what he is trying to get away from, in some sense, is the very thing that has been pushed into the path. And that is why it’s played by the same actor to make that very clear to everybody, and to him.

Orla Brady as Tallin in episode five

One of the surprises for season two was this romance. Of course, Laris was married, but did you see it coming or have any inklings of a romantic connection in season one?

No, I didn’t see it coming. That’s not what I was asked to do in season one. My role was as a fierce and loyal Tal Shiar agent who has been assigned and has been in Picard’s life for a long time. What I did discover is that she does love Picard. And when I say “love,” I don’t mean where there’s any endpoint or endgame. Just she loves him. He had been very instrumental in accounting for and partly succeeding to save the Romulans. He advocated for them and tried to do the right thing for a species that was formerly enemies, but who he feels should be treated equally and with the same respect as humans. So with all that history, she loves him. She was married and so it would never have entered her head that there would be anything more than her loyalty. However, it’s there in the writing at the beginning of season two that Zhaban does die and she is somebody who is very, very straightforward emotionally, as Romulans are. And she is particularly. So she is able to love again very, very deeply. And that’s how it happens.

When we last saw Laris in that first episode, it looked like she was getting ready to leave the Chateau for good. Is that what was going on?

Yes. She’s somebody that is not willing to sit around thinking, ‘Oh, God, I’ve been rejected and this is the love of my life.’ She does love him very much. It is a rejection. It’s not that it doesn’t hurt. It’s not that there isn’t a disappointment. But she has a sense of self-worth that will tell her that if somebody doesn’t want her, then they’re not for her and she will find love that is equal to her own. So she is leaving. She’s going off to her own life and her own adventures and different people.

Can you say if we will see Laris again?

I would say so. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her. Surely not. That would not be a good moment to end.

Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard and Orla Brady as Laris in the first episode of season two

Laris and Tallin are central to this season. So did you just learn as you were going along or did you know where things were going? So when you are doing episode five, is your performance informed by what’s coming?

One has the outline. Certain details change. Yes, I knew the trajectory pretty much. I knew what the outcome of the particular Tallin and Laris stories would be. You don’t see the writing and you don’t see the fineness of the moments. Sometimes you’re surprised when you read it and you see a beat that you hadn’t foreseen before. But broadly, yes, an actor would want to see where on the journey you are. So, of course, we were made aware of that.

You mentioned Gary Seven, so I assume you did your research and watched “Assignment Earth”  to get into the mindset of a Supervisor?

Of course. I had seen it before because there were several classic episodes that I had seen across several of the Star Trek series. I loved that episode, partly because it was realized very beautifully by Robert Lansing with a really wonderful performance. There’s a lot of richness in there. And I like the idea. Maybe it’s because I’m an ex-Catholic, but the idea of somebody who would watch over humans, like a guardian angel. Now, I don’t believe in that. But I just like the idea that we all find comfort in the fact that there might be someone… especially when people feel alone. There might be a being who cares and who sees them.

Orla Brady as Tallin in episode five

One of the striking things about Lansing’s portrayal and that character was how he stood up to Captain Kirk and dealt with him on his own level. There seems to be an element of that with Tallin and how she sees Picard, which is totally different than the dynamic between Laris and Picard.

Yeah. Tallin thinks, ‘Who the heck is this old guy? What is he doing here messing around?’ She learns in short order he is a time traveler. She doesn’t like that, at all. He’s clearly entitled and bossy because he’s used to having people who have a reverence for him. Remember, he is one of the most well-known people in the galaxy as Admiral Picard, and he has this legendary lifetime, in the timeline we’re normally in. But in this timeline, she just has this white man in front of her. And remember, this is her patch. She has been taking care of this particular girl and taking care of her very well and watching and doing her job that she committed to and sort of her whole sense of self-worth or vindication is in the execution of this job. And then this guy comes in and without explaining anything to her start telling her what she’s going to do. But understandably she is: ‘Hang on a sec.’ If anything, it’s the other way around. So yes, I did notice that as well about Gary Seven, that they were very equally matched.

While they didn’t change your look for Tallin, besides the ears, you did change your accent to the more American accent…

We wanted to not be obviously Irish because there is a story behind Laris. Remember, season one was essentially an immigration story. It was a story about a people who no longer have a home. This could be akin to Syria or Ukraine currently where people have had to leave their own country and have had to go and find lives in other places which the Romulans had to do. Laris was assigned to Ireland because they wanted several actors who were not American to use their own accents. Star Trek being a human phenomenon, not an American phenomenon. So Laris when Romulus was destroyed, that’s where she found a home. And that’s where she learned her English. So her accent would be an Irish accent. There was no such rationale for Tallin, so we just decided to make her more neutral, if you like more.

Sir Patrick Stewart as Picard and Orla Brady as Tallin in episode four

Before we wrap up, was there anything else…

You know what I will tell you… yes, I will, is that a lovely thing that is happening with the fans, who are just, I mean, honestly, the best part of this job. Well, there are many best parts to the job, including working with Patrick and playing a character I love. But one of the things is what fans say to you. And so many people have said that they think that Tallin is Isis, the cat in human form. [laughs] And it’s just my favorite theory. Whether it is true or not we do not know, but it’s just rather lovely. So it made me laugh.

Maybe you just have a feline essence?

There you go. Maybe that. I think it’s just so heavily referenced. And I think Isis the cat was rather wonderful. I think there is some talk about that [episode] as pilot for a spinoff series. Had that been the case, Isis would have become a character in human form because she is shapeshifting. So I rather love that as a theory. I just think Trek fans are so inventive, and always make me laugh, in a good way.

Isis in her human form in “Assignment Earth”


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What a lovely interview with such a great actress. Thank you.

Very nice interview. I’ve always enjoyed her work and thought she was quite underused in season 1, for someone with that talent. Glad to see she has a bigger part in season 2.

I met her once, briefly. Such a lovely, friendly, approachable person, as likable as she is beautiful.

Yeah, but she is not playing two characters………..

Meaning?

If you look closely Tallins padd has Romulan script on it, people think they’re one and the same character. It could be a red herring tho

She referenced being a cat in her twitter a couple of days ago – so…hmm

She is a very underrated actress, so glad they are utilizing her more this season. I said at the beginning of the season that she will be the secret MVP of this season and I feel like that will be true.

Wow. Thought she was in her 40’s, but she’s actually 61! Good for you, Orla!

Same here. I would have said early 40’s.

She’s MY age? Geezus, Indy was right, it’s not the years, it’s the mileage. And she is, in my opinion, what somebody writing TNG s1 would call a low-mileage pit woofie, if I remember THE NEUTRAL ZONE correctly (it has been 25 years since I watched it.) Pretty sensational looking, aging like a Vulcanoid.

Great interview! Also, I hope Orla Brady will be coming to the Las Vegas convention this year and be able to meet the woman who played the human form of Isis all those years back: April Tatro (who is confirmed for the convention).

Other reason Orla Brady needs to come to Las Vegas this summer: John Noble is already one of the featured guests, and Orla played Walter Bishop’s wife on “Fringe.” Get that dual photo op session scheduled now, Creation!

Well, lookee here. Gary Seven. There’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time. Since all before you were born. A very long time.

Ok, we’ll see.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6lmBbV3VWo&t=4s

So does this confirm that the Supervisor and Laris are not connected and that they happen to both be portrayed by Oral Brady because the Supervisor’s face reminds Picard how much he wants to tie the knot with Laris?

Great interview; thanks.

I also always liked Robert Lansing’s portrayal of Gary 7. The sequence near the beginning of the episode when on stepping off the transporter platform he initially dismisses Kirk’s explanation that he is from earth’s future until he see’s “humans with a Vulcan”, always makes me smile.

I love everything about that opening.

I loved Orla Brady as Laris right from the first episode of season 1. I always felt that she and Jean-Luc had serious chemistry. I’m glad that the old fool Picard has stopped running away from love and finally admitted his feelings for Laris. I’m hoping and praying for a wedding between the two in season 3.