Alex Moreland sits down with Michelle Hurd, Harry Treadaway, and Evan Evagora to discuss Star Trek: Picard…
“I’m just trying to work out whether I’m allowed to say what I think I’m allowed to say,” paused Harry Treadaway.
We’ve asked the assembled actors if they can tell us a little bit about their characters. So far, the answer has mostly been yes: Michelle Hurd explained that her character, Raffi, “has a very complicated relationship with the Federation. Very strained. She worked with Picard back in the day after Next Generation, and they had a bit of a falling out”. Evan Evagora, meanwhile, described his character Elnor as “a young Romulan boy who’s an expert in hand to hand combat. He’s pretty good with a sword as well, and he was raised in an all-female sect of warrior nuns”. Elnor is an orphan and a refugee; Raffi is haunted by decisions she’s made in the past, both of their lives changed radically by the destruction of Romulus.
But Harry Treadaway is having a slightly harder time telling us anything at all about his character. The three of them confer for a moment, whispering to each other so we can’t hear.
“I’m a Romulan from a very wealthy family… and all is not what it seems. There you go!”
So, Harry Treadaway’s character – who’s called Narek, incidentally – is clearly complicated. But we know, at least, that he’s a Romulan. Just like Evan Evagora’s character, actually. Did the two of them compare notes?
“That’d be like comparing the two of you two,” explains Evan Evagora, shaking his head and gesturing to us. “You may have the same job, but you lead two totally different lives.”
“I think trying to apply a normality and reality to a show – which is intergalactic, and bends time and space – is a really important thing to do, because otherwise you lose all anchors” elaborates Harry Treadaway. “Everyone’s character, whatever species they come from, their own lives are their own lives. I think [there’s a value in] just trying to try and get the reality under what their world is, even though it’s in a very elaborate, creative universe.”
To be fair, it makes sense. Romulus has been destroyed, and the Romulans aren’t so much a Star Empire as a scattered diaspora at this point – you’re unlikely to see Star Trek accused of depicting any alien race as a single monoculture this time around.
Speaking of their characters, though, what was it about Star Trek that drew them each to their roles here? How did the series resonate with them?
“Once you get into it, you realise that you’re part of a project that really focuses on humanity and humanity stories,” explains Michelle Hurd. “I mean, it’s crazy for me. I’m a Dick Wolf child. I started as a cop and all that kind of stuff, in procedural things where I’m very serious and realistic and all that stuff.”
“I think I thought I was telling those human stories in those kind of projects. But what’s amazing, and the revelation that I came to, is that sci-fi is really where you tell humanity stories. Under the umbrella science fiction, you can actually tell all the difficult stories that people are afraid of, and maybe back off of. I’m ecstatic that I get to be a part of that” she finishes.
“The scope and the scale of it creatively and thematically is endless, and that’s an amazing thing to be a part of. I was just totally drawn in by the creative minds behind it and where they were coming from, and where they saw it going,” adds Harry Treadaway.
“I was a big fan of Star Trek”, replies Evan Evagora (and he really is – our interview ended with their PR representative almost dragging him away as he was waxing lyrical about how much he loves Tapestry. Harry Treadaway joked that Evan had watched every episode of The Next Generation twice, but you get the sense he might have been underestimating a bit.) “Given the opportunity to work with Jean-Luc Picard, or even Sir Patrick Stewart, was just a dream come true. Of course I’m going to jump at the opportunity! He is very much an actor’s actor. I’ve learned so much working with him – actually working with everyone. It’s just been nothing but a delightful experience.”
In fact, they’re all full of effusive praise for Patrick Stewart. “When you’re on any kind of production, number one basically establishes the tone for the entire set, from hair and wardrobe to craft services to DP, all that stuff,” says Michelle Hurd. “That man, Patrick Stewart – just like Picard – when he set walks on set, he is our leader. And he is a fearless leader. He’s a brave leader. He’s a kind leader. He’s a generous one. He is obsessed and focused on ensemble. Once again, meeting every single person, not just the actors.”
“A gentleman, and enthusiastic, and loyal, and kind, and hilarious. I suppose some of those qualities are in Jean-Luc Picard, and he played him for seven years, 24 episodes for seven years. There’s definitely a blend that you see as you work with him more and more” echoes Harry Treadaway.
“He’s playful, and self-deprecating, and cheeky, and sassy – and sexy! I’m just going to say it!” laughs Michelle Hurd.
But it’s not just Patrick Stewart they’re fond of: they’ve also got plenty to say about Jonathan Frakes, who not only returns to Star Trek: Picard as Will Riker, but also directed the third and fourth episodes of the series too.
“Jonathan Frakes is phenomenal and we love him. If he could direct me in every single thing ever, I would be a happy camper. To be on set and being directed by Jonathan Frakes, working with Patrick Stewart, is a dream” explains Michelle Hurd.
“Even just listening to the stories, I think” laughs Evan Evagora. “I would be happy to spend a day with them – not even contributing to the conversation! Just sitting there.”
“Just sitting there. Little popcorn” jokes Michelle Hurd. “There’s a calmness that comes over Patrick when he’s there. It’s family. They’re just so calm. Like what Evan said, the best part of shooting is having Patrick saying, ‘Johnny, Johnny, tell them the story about-‘ It’s pretty good. Yeah.”
“The love that you see between the old guard, the guys that were in The Next Generation, is just amazing. You think, ‘My God’. For them to worked that much together and still have this deep… I suppose it was going to go one way or the other. They were either not going to be friends at all after that long haul, or they’re going to be family” ponders Harry Treaday
The same is no doubt set to happen again with the cast of Star Trek: Picard – which has already been renewed for a second series. “These guys are going to be in my life no matter what, for sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. I love this group” enthuses Michelle Hurd.
They know, of course, that they’re joining something huge, with a massive weight of expectation placed upon them. That must have been nerve-wracking? Well, yes and no.
“Once we’re there, we’re still artists trying to tell an authentic story. We didn’t get to the really nerve-wracking part until Comic Con. You’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh. We’re in Star Trek. I didn’t… Did you know that? We’re doing Star Trek!’” explains Michelle Hurd, laughing. “We’re gifted with amazing writing, great directors and phenomenal actors to work with. That’s what you really get into, and you want to do the best you can. Then you step back, and everybody else is like, ‘You’re on Star Trek’.”
“There were a couple of moments during the shooting where you could go from the trailers to the studio, and you just go past twenty aliens in different species just have having a can of Coke or whatever. They’ve got blue horns! And you just kind of… Oh, yes. Star Trek. Okay. Right” elaborates Harry Treadaway.
“But then you go on, and you’re into your scene, and you’re just kind of locked into what you’re doing story wise, really. It is only almost in the aftermath of it, seeing a poster of Star Trek where you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah’” he explains.
That said, though, it’s also a very new Star Trek, compared to what we’ve seen before. “The other thing is it felt very fresh,” Harry Treadaway pointed out. “We were learning about the world and trying to tell the story as well as we could. It wasn’t all identifiably similar to some of the previous inclinations. So, it did feel fresh once we were doing it.”
What’s the most important thing they’d like people to take from the series, in the end?
“I often say that life imitates art. Art imitates life,” replies Michelle Hurd. “For the last fifty years that people have been doing Star Trek, they are fortunate enough to attract really talented writers, producers, directors, actors. We can’t help but be influenced by what’s happening in our present day. From paintings, to dance, to music, to acting.”
“we are absolutely tackling the discord and divisiveness and the discomfort that we all feel in our different countries right now. It’s incredible that it’s ever present. That it’s happening to all of us. And I think that what I love about our writers is that we’re not preaching it. There’s not going to be like sit down and you are getting a lesson, but you absolutely are going to feel a mirror as to what’s happening. And what’s great about our story is that we’re seeking a solution. We’re trying to inject hope”
“Optimism,” echoes Harry Treadaway.
“Optimism,” Michelle Hurd agrees, “and the sanctity and the vulnerability and the preciousness of life, and love, and humanity.”
“That’s always been Gene Roddenberry’s vision. It was always to hold a mirror on our society through every iteration of Star Trek. Every period of time, that’s what it’s always been, and we just continue that legacy” finishes Evan Evagora.
(Told you he was a fan.)
Check back tomorrow for our interview with Isa Briones and Jonathan del Arco, the third of four interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek: Picard. Meanwhile, you can find Ricky Church’s article about Evan Evagora’s favourite episode of The Next Generation here, and our interview with Patrick Stewart and Jeri Ryan here.
The first episode of Star Trek: Picard will be available on Amazon Prime on Friday 24th January.