Interview: Brett Gray On Dal’s Origin Story And Why ‘Star Trek: Prodigy’ Has The Right Message For Gen Z

At New York Comic Con, TrekMovie joined a group press interview with members of the cast and producers from Star Trek: Prodigy, which returns with the second half of season 1 on October 27. This included Brett Gray who talks to us about how Dal is fitting into the captain’s chair and learning a lot about himself in the upcoming episodes.

Note: The interview contains some minor spoilers and has been edited for brevity and clarity.  

What would you say is the biggest change for Dal going into the second half of season one?

I’d say he’s much more of a leader than before. Dal kind of gets a bad rap sometimes because he was dropped off as a child on a child-labor mining planet and forced not to speak to anyone. I think that can be very hard for somebody. And for him to come and learn how to empathize with other people, and build a team, and become a leader. I’d say that’s the biggest change.

What’s coming up in the rest of the season that you are most excited for fans to see?

I’m most excited for people to see Dal’s origin story. I think it tackles one of the last prejudices, even of Starfleet. And I think it’s going to be a big moment in the Trek Universe for momentous change.

Do you have any personal thoughts or connections with Dal’s search for his own identity?

Dal has been looking for who he is, who his parents are, where he comes from, and what his purpose is since the beginning of the series. That’s all going to be revealed in this next part of the season. He’s going to have to face it which is hard for anybody to figure out who they are. For Dal, it’s been imperative for him to learn who he is because it’s hard for him to model how he’s supposed to be or where he comes from, or what his purpose is in the entire universe. It can be hard not seeing yourself around and I think I relate even just as an actor sometimes not seeing a lot of myself on screen. And therefore you don’t really know which parts to play, where you fit, or how to speak to people. I think for Dal, especially the position that he’s taken as captain, it’s going to be a tough reality to come to terms with who you are and to be able to accept that and figure out what to do with it after that, especially at such a young age.

Preview from episode 11 of Prodigy

Even aimed at a younger audience, Prodigy has dealt with some grown-up themes and even political themes, has that informed how you approach the character?

One-hundred percent. Again, talking about Dal and how we can feel separated in society by race. That was my immediate way into Dal. When I first read the script, even at my audition, I was feeling sort of like, “Oh, I understand this!” How it feels to sort of be an outlier, or an outsider or alienated in some way. I think this tackling of one of the last prejudices of the whole Star Trek universe is what are you, who are you and where do you come from? And what does that mean for your role in society? I think it’s really important for him to learn who he is but also just for the people watching and the younger audience watching. It’s like that lesson wrapped in danger, adventure, fun, and friendship, and all of these things. At the same time, it’s this big, weighty, meaty topic, but kids are able to relate to it and ingest it as this story about other kids. So yeah, it’s very political. It’s very big topics, but they’re coated with honey.

How did you prepare for something so big?

You’re not going like this answer. I tried to barely prepare it all. I was really nervous coming into it. I thought maybe I should watch every Star Trek and I should go learn about everything and see who the people are and things like that but as I was reading the scripts for the first season, I realized that I could discover this all as myself with Dal. I don’t know if that was the right way to do it but I feel like it’s freed me up so much.

I remember my first captain’s log – I don’t know if you’ve heard any of them, but they’re getting better – but when I first started them it was super flippant and the producers loved it. They said, “Wow, these are usually done very matter-of-factly and super seriously, did you choose to do that?” And I was like, “I don’t even know what a captain’s log is!” I think in some ways, it’s freed me up to bring some freshness and to bring some life into these characters in a different way than we’ve seen before. Also, it has helped me to better chart Dal’s growth because if I don’t know and Dal doesn’t know, then as we both learn together I can inject that into my performance so I tried not to watch anything.

You describe Dal as someone with imposter syndrome and we have seen elements of that in some of the episodes. Is that how you see and play Dal?

Yeah, I feel like Dal has had impostor syndrome since the start. He was thrust into a child labor mining planet sometime during his adolescence. And so I think a lot of his inner monologue has been around making sure he’s awesome, and making things work for him, and making sure that he’s getting what he needs. I feel like now he’s learning who he really is and to empathize with other people how and to connect with other species, races, and everything!

So I feel like he’s always had some sort of imposter syndrome and he’s learning who he is. I feel like all of the characters – even Gwyn learning so much about her father and actually what they were there on Tars Lamora to do and everything she knows being a lie as well. I feel like lots of them have had impostor syndrome sort of thrust upon them. But yeah, it’s a big through-line, self-discovery. And not just in terms of who you are but where you come from, and what that means in terms of your strengths and weaknesses, and how you play into the greater scheme or the greater good.

As you mentioned, you learned a lot about Star Trek just by being a part of the show. How do you think the messages that come out of it apply to people in your generation?

I think Gen Z is one of the pioneers of self-discovery. I think we are unapologetic and not afraid to come in and shake things up in any of the industries, in any of the franchises, and in any of the societal norms that have been put in place. So I think it’s the perfect message for our generation. Coming in, for people to see, “You know what, I relate to this person and that’s cool because of these things and I don’t relate to this person and that’s cool because of these things.” Both of which are enough and okay. I think it’s a really cool way to introduce young people to the mindset of like what our collective consciousness should be. Especially in the world right now. It’s kind of bleak sometimes. It can get kind of rough. It can get kind of limiting. I think the freedom of people and the needs of the many outnumbering the needs of the few is an important thing for everybody to start learning and employing more at any age.

Preview from episode 11 of Prodigy

More Prodigy from NYCC

For more on Prodigy, check out our interview with Kate Mulgrew, our interview with Jameela Jamil, and our interview with the show’s producersAnd see more of our NYCC coverage HERE.

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Prodigy returns October 27

In case you missed it, here again, is the mid-season trailer released at NYCC. [international version at]

Prodigy will return on Thursday, Oct. 27 exclusively for Paramount+ subscribers in the U.S., and on Friday, Oct. 28 in Latin America, Australia, Italy and the U.K. Following the premiere, new episodes of the 10-episode-long second half will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays. The series will air later in the year in South Korea, Germany, Italy, France, Austria and Switzerland.

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Star Trek: Self-Discovery.

BTW Brett Gray’s New Money Same Me (Gucci Bag) is now available on most platforms.