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‘Star Trek: Picard’ interviews: Evan Evagora, Michelle Hurd & Harry Treadaway on the new series

While Star Trek Picard may feature the return of Patrick Stewart and many other Trek veterans, there are also plenty of new characters to get excited about. Three of those characters come in the form of Evan Evagora and Harry Treadaway’s Romulans Elnor and Narek and Michelle Hurd’s ex-Starfleet Officer Raffi. We got to speak to the trio about what it’s like to join a universe as big as Trek.  

I wondered if we could start with the Romulans in the room. The show has historically always portrayed the Romulans as villains and shown a very particular kind of style of Romulan on Star Trek. Through your characters, and the way they’ve been treated in this show, it looks like we’re going to deal a bit with racial prejudice, is that something that comes into play via your characters? 

Harry Treadaway: I, personally, haven’t noticed the attention on racial prejudice too much. But I will say that something that has been so strong and so enduring about this show is the way that it brought together a multi-racial cast in the ’60s when there wasn’t really any other casts that looked like that, and also the way that it addresses our fear of the unknown. It implants into space a lot of ideas and insecurities and troubles that we have on Earth. So, if someone does come from another planet it does address those questions of ‘ok, how are we going to work together, how are we going to get along?’ Thematically it’s very interesting in that sort of way, breaking down barriers and transplanting ideas from our world into galaxies far away.

Evan Evagora: I have to agree with Harry really. I will say this, ‘The Next Generation’ introduced Worf, who everyone knows is a Klingon, who were the enemies of the Federation beforehand, and now we’re seeing a similar thing again with the Romulans with my character being added to the crew.

How does it feel coming into the show and joining the huge history of what is Star Trek?

Michelle Hurd: It feels phenomenal, it really does. Touching upon something both Harry and Evan said, to become a part of something that has always focused on creating real human stories about inclusion, immigration, conflict, and striving for solutions is amazing. Being a woman of colour, it’s an honour and a privilege, and I really want to help it keep pushing further and telling those stories.

This is a show that is over 50 years old now, how do you keep it relevant for new shows and seasons? 

Treadaway: Have brilliant writers. That’s how you keep new and fresh. Have great minds behind it, not trying to regurgitate anything and who try to come at it in a new way while still respecting the incredible heritage and birthplace of this show and where it comes from, but also bring fresh eyes and ears and hearts to it. It helps to also have an incredible technical team, whether it’s design, costume, camera, etc.

Hurd: It’s an easy thing to keep fresh. Life imitates art. Art imitates life. When you have phenomenal writers, directors, and artists, you can’t help but be influenced by the present time. For 50 years, Star Trek has been telling present-day stories in space. It’s always been current. Wherever they were, whatever aliens they were interacting with, you could correlate what was happening in the real world. Our show as well has been influenced by what is going on in our real world. The discourse, the discomfort, the divisiveness that we are all experiencing in all of our countries. We are going to tell those stories without being preachy, and tell them in an artistic way that will hopefully give you guys possible solutions and hope for a better tomorrow.

Treadaway: Star Trek has always been a positive, hopeful place for ideas, and that is something that is really special. It’s offering answers to what would humanity if that stuff goes down and how do rise above it.

Hurd: Star Trek featured the first bi-racial kiss on television, and now there’s a bi-racial actress on the show. Almost everything has changed since it started in the ’60s.

Could you tell us a little bit about your auditions? Did you know you were reading for Star Trek? 

Evagora: I knew. My audition was very last minute, they found me kinda at the final hour. I knew it was going to be about Picard, but the sides of the script I was given had the names changed or blacked out. I didn’t know my name was going to be Elnor until I think the week before I landed in LA. I knew it was going to be Star Trek and that just made me want to do it all the more. I was given three different scenes for my audition, and I was in a hotel room in Fiji with a chest infection and a really bad laptop that was my camera, my friend was there and we had a bedsheet up.

Treadaway: That bed sheet is now on eBay. (Laughs)

Hurd: I was in New York and I got an email for a self-tape. I had just had surgery so I was exhausted, there’s no way I thought I could ingest 11 pages of dialogue. It just said a drawing room as a setting, there wasn’t anything on it that said Star Trek, so I was tempted to just delete the thing, but then I told myself no, give the character a breakdown a read let’s take a look a bit deeper into this. The character breakdown was so delicious, so complex and so layered, better than any character I had read for before and I thought let me look deeper. I then saw the names of the executive producers, saw Alex Kurtzman’s name and Patrick Stewart, then I was just like ‘wait a second!? What exactly is happening here!?’ Then I asked to have my self-tape pushed back a bit to give myself more time, but they really needed it by the end of the week. I got so cranky, and I only had sweatpants, put a shirt on and a bit of makeup. I did two takes, wasn’t that happy with them but I was too frustrated to do a third so just sent off those two thinking ‘I’m never going to get it.’ But then, a week later, I got a call offering me the job.

Treadaway: I had lots of chats basically, spoke to the writers and producers and had conversations rather than an audition as such. I remember being in South Devon and had a conversation with Alex Kurtzman as he was pitching me the idea, I laid down on a field and looked up at the stars and just had my mind fizzling with all these ideas about history and time, plots that can happen in Star Trek. He took me from a complete novice with little understanding of the show to, I suppose within an hour, a medium novice. But it lit a fuse in my imagination and heart about the project and just following more conversations from that, it became clear that they were pulling all the best things from Trek and bringing some really interesting design and plot to it. It was clear it was going to be a really cool show.

Were you fans of the show before working on it, and if so do you have any personal memories about it? 

Hurd: Absolutely. As I’ve said I’m bi-racial. My father is a black man, my mother is white and my father was an actor. Growing up, there were three girls, me and my sisters, and it was really important for my father to make sure that we watched entertainment that was inclusive. He was very aware of the fact that he had these three little bi-racial creatures and that it is important to see yourself represented in the world. When I got this job I had a flashback to my childhood, this is a show that my family would actually sit around and watch. We had Uhura. We had that first inter-racial kiss. We had a world and an environment that would tell the stories of other-isms, people who were battling to be seen and heard and didn’t necessarily have a platform to be seen and heard. It’s been a part of my life for a long time. My older sister is a huge Trekkie. When the comic book came out with my character in it, she literally went to four comic book places in New York, they sold out in hours, and she cornered one of the owners and was like ‘my sister is playing Raffi, get me a copy!’

Treadaway: Did she freak out when you told her that you had gotten the part?

Hurd: Totally freaked out, and she just started telling me all this information. She’s who I’d call up if I needed some info, she’s an encyclopedia on this stuff.

Treadaway: I think I might need her number, that could be useful. (Laughs)

Evagora: I grew up watching The Next Generation. I don’t think I ever really understood the message behind it until I grew up and went back and watched the episodes before we started filming. We’re big sci-fi and fantasy fans back home so it was always something I grew up with.

How deep into the archive did you go? Did you have a massive binge before starting the show? 

Evagora: I was given a select number of episodes to watch, some of it on Romulan culture, some of it on the Borg, you know, it was kind of a general crash course into Star Trek, the same sorta list you’ll see going around on ‘what to watch before Picard’.

Treadaway: I started digging into it, then I realised I was going to be swamped if I attempted going into all of it. So I just ended up focusing on a few key beats within it, but really just asked for a couple of pieces of paper that explained everything that I kinda needed to know. But you know, every Romulan is different, mine is very different to Evan’s, my backstory was very specific so it was really working out what that is and what the basic foundations of the world are and not getting too bogged down in it too much and play the story as you would some guy just down the street in a cafe but just up in space.

Hurd: I just watched all the movies again, just for fun!

Star Trek: Picard launches on Amazon Prime from January 24th, with each new episode dropping every Friday.


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