Emotions Run High on Star Trek: Discovery — James Frain and Shazad Latif Explain Why

Spock’s daddy and the newest member of the Discovery crew have been swallowing their feelings.

by | October 22, 2017 | Comments

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James Frain | Shazad Latif


New to Discovery, Former POW Lt. Ash Tyler Quickly Finds His Place

Lt. Tyler is on a different emotional path than Ambassador Sarek. Having just broken free of captivity, he seems sincerely grateful for Lorca’s offer of a position on the Discovery. Of course, if Lorca sees everyone and everything around him as a tool for war (and/or his own revenge), Tyler — very likely more fragile from his imprisonment and sex slavery than he appears on the surface — may be in for more than he bargained for.

In “Lethe,” Lorca charges Tyler with Burnham’s safety and return. Longer term, however, Burnham may have a stronger case for the role of caretaker.

(Photo by Jan Thijs/CBS)

Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: When we met him, last week’s episode, that he was essentially a sex slave on a Klingon ship —

Shazad Latif: Yeah.

RT: Are we going to see more emotional repercussions of that captivity?

Latif: Yes. We’ll see that unfold more, how certain things might trigger stuff, and make him have to deal with these kind of things, yeah.

RT: Because between last week’s episode and the upcoming episode, he’s been sort in survival mode and adjusting to these new characters that he’s involved with. But I feel like there’s an undercurrent that we haven’t quite seen entirely yet.

Latif: Yes. It’s bubbling under, and there are things that could easily boil over onto the surface, which we’re going to see as we go along. Because if you’ve been through things like — if you’ve been tortured, if you’ve been in a POW, there are little triggers that can set you off. And you’ll see stuff like that throughout the series.

RT: Could say a little bit about when Harry Mudd was talking about Lorca’s background, like what would have been going through your character’s mind at the time?

Latif: When he tells about what Lorca did to the Buran? If any soldier heard that a captain had blown up his crew — it’s just a shocking thing to hear, especially for a soldier. For anyone, but for a soldier to hear that a senior officer would do that, it’s a hard thing to take. But maybe he could understand why, and understand the courage of that decision. And he respected it. And I think it was a conflict of both those things. You have respect, and fear, and shock.

RT: I didn’t really understand the story so much: How was the captain in a position to blow up his own ship but survive?

Latif: Yeah, did he explain how he got off the ship? I can’t remember now. How he got off the ship — yeah, good question. I don’t know.

RT: I expect that it will be coming out over the course of the season. We’ll hear more about exactly how it went down, but I just thought, His eyes were damaged — really? Where was he standing? 

There were some hints at New York Comic Con that Michael Burnham is going to get a love interest. Is Ash going to be that love interest? Can you say?

Latif: There’s definitely some chemistry there. Yeah, we’re going to see how things play out. He’s — they spend a lot of time together.

RT: That brings us to this episode: Things move very quickly for Ash. One minute he’s playing with Lorca’s toys — which was really a test, right?

Latif: Yeah, he’s testing to see if he’s in the right mind state to take on a challenge. He knows he can do it, but it’s just what a captain has to do just to make sure.

RT: And then he very quickly gets a position on the ship. He’s got nowhere to go, is that what essentially that scene is telling us?

Latif: If you go through like an incident like that with someone, you shared that intense experience with someone, and they’re both in desperate situations, they use their skills to get away. Lorca knows he’s qualified, but also there’s a bond there. For Tyler, Lorca is that: another captain figure — who he’d lost on his other ship — and is a father figure. It’s all of those things directly than one really. And maybe Lorca thinks, Oh, I can use this guy.

RT: You’ve had a lot of scenes with Jason Isaacs so far, how’s it been acting with him?

Latif: As a young actor, he’s a hero of mine. I’ve grown up watching his movies. I remember first seeing him — me and my brother used to be interested in Armageddon when we were like 10 years old. He was the MIT guy. He’s just been great ever since, and I’ve grown up with him performing, and now I’m interacting with him all the time. He’s such a detective, he’s so on point, and he’s so open, and we just try things. Great actor and a great person.

RT: With Sunday’s episode, you now have a lot of scenes with Sonequa Martin-Green, how’s that going?

Latif: It’s great. Again, she’s such an open person, and I just love being able to go to work knowing that I could just relax into it, let go, and don’t worry about if the other person — they’re just very open people. We can try things out and just listen to each other, and we had a very nice work environment. I enjoyed time between action and cut very much, and that’s a joy for an actor.

RT: Just thinking more about the episode, when you’re on the shuttle with Sonequa, there are a lot of special effects going on there. Have you had a lot of opportunity to work with that level of effects?

Shazad: No, not at all. It’s my first experience with lots of green screen, and you just have to use your imagination a lot, and it’s not a big set, but I thought it was going to be more green screen. I mean, we do have such great sets and things, so that you’re in these worlds, and it’s a lot easier to imagine because everything has been done with such great budgets and also such detail.

RT: Were you a fan of Star Trek before you got this gig?

Latif: I wasn’t a super fan at all, no, but my grandad and my uncle Bern, my mom’s cousin, he was a very big fan. He used to record like every episode, and I phoned him as soon as I could. But yeah, I had to become a fan. It was always on in the background, you know like BBC 2 at 6:30, I can’t remember, early 2000s, ′90s? Must have been the ′90s or 2000s. Patrick Stewart and Next Generation, and yeah I had to become a fan. I’m a fan now.

RT: Can you explain how you got the role. What went down?

Latif: I did a take with my mother in the kitchen, who is actually in the kitchen right now. We just sent the tape off I suppose like the day before, and — I ended up just directing her more. I think she’s a great actress actually. I want my mom to be in tele. She’s really good. And then we did a seven-week Skype audition, and I had to get some notes outside at a jazz club. My friend was doing this gig — this guy called Jack Tyson Charles, this really good funk and soul singer — and I had to be in this gig, and I could only the receive the notes on that day. I had to leave the club and get these notes stuck in my ear on a really loud London street with police sirens and that kind of stuff. And it was very hilarious. And luckily I didn’t have to fly out for like one day. It’s great. It worked out.

Star Trek: Discovery streams Sundays at 8:30/5:30 p.m. ET/PT on CBS All-Access.

James Frain | Shazad Latif

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