Warp Factor Trek

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How did you get the job of playing T’Rina on Star Trek: Discovery?

My agent called me in the fall of 2019 and told me I had a “self tape” audition “due tomorrow by noon.” He said the production code name was “Tennessee Honey” but confirmed this was Star Trek: Discovery. The character was an Admiral, I believe, and there was no designated species – i.e. I had no idea I was auditioning for the President of Ni’Var. So, my husband helped me record the audition, I submitted it, and learned a couple days later I had booked it.

It wasn’t until the read through of “Unification III” that I realized there was more to the story.… The director approached me to welcome me and shared that he was a big fan of my work. It turns out that heJon Dudkowski – was an editor on Impulse (another series I had worked on) and wanted me to read for this episode of Discovery. So, I’m not entirely sure how it all came to pass, but I’m deeply grateful that it did!

For your portrayal of T’Rina, did you take any inspiration from previous Vulcans, such as Spock, Saavik, Tuvok or T’Pol?

I mean, I think the word “Vulcan” itself brings with it so much iconographic information… that ultimately, yes! On one level, I was deeply inspired by my Vulcan predecessors. That said, I did not go back and study any particular actor’s performance. I think the dominant quality people ascribe to Vulcans is their ability to be logical, rational, mindful.

To equip myself to step into T’Rina’s skin/mind, I took a lot of inspiration from the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. T’Rina is part human & part Vulcan… and as she herself says (to Book in “Choose to Live”), it’s not that she doesn’t feel emotion, it’s that she has cultivated the ability to mindfully override emotion.

Did you do any research into Vulcan mind melds before portraying one yourself?

Mind-melding with Book (David Ajala) in “Choose to Live” (CBS-Paramount)

OMG. I remember reading this script and saying, “Holy Shit, I get to do a mind meld!!!” Like, how crazy cool is the world I work in?! And yes, for this particular moment with Book I did go back through any footage I could find to research. I mean, talk about iconic! You don’t want to screw that up.

Did any of your previous acting experiences inform how you played the character of T’Rina?

I believe that all of our previous experiences inform who we are today… and this would apply to my acting work as well. But to be specific, I would certainly argue that my classical theatre training, and years acting on the stage, prepared me very well for Star Trek.

The world of the show is truly epic and teeming with very big ideas; the scripts, as they wrestle with those big ideas, can be incredibly dense and complex and one needs authority to be able to inhabit this world credibly and share these thoughts with clarity and conviction.

Strangely enough, I think the character i played on Impulse – Esther Miller – also primed me for T’Rina. Esther was a very repressed Mennonite woman… so any thoughts/emotions/feelings she experienced lived way below the surface of any corseted expression that found its way into the world.

How long does it take to apply the prosthetics for the role of T’Rina, and have you had any input on designing either those and/or the costuming for the character?

Total processing time is three hours, give or take; this includes wig prep, prosthetics, wig placement, and full make-up. The Vulcan look is pretty well established, and the prosthetics department is incredibly skilled at what it does. Only once was one of my eyebrows so awry that I asked for it to be adjusted. The ears are created from a mold of my face that was taken prior to shooting “Unification III” in Season 3, so they fit my (Tara) ears impeccably.

In terms of costume, Gersha Phillips is so insanely gifted that all I can do is stand in awe each time I try on one of her designs.

Have you enjoyed working more on Season 3 or 4 of Discovery, and why?

Oh, Season 4, hands down, because I have been given so many lovely things to play! It’s the difference between popping on for a cameo, or being an integral part of the story.

Of the fourth season Discovery episodes which have aired so far, which has been your favourite?

Hmmmm… that’s a tough question. I think episode 4, “All Is Possible”. I really loved Tilly’s storyline (I mean, what’s not to love about Mary Wiseman?!), and I also quite enjoyed the developing relationship between Saru and T’Rina.

Saru gifts a tea plant to T’Rina in “…But to Connect” (CBS-Paramount)

Some of the fans have been noting romantic potential between T’Rina and Saru. Is that something that’s been a conscious decision between yourself and Doug Jones and/or between the show’s writing staff? Has that potential been evident from the scripts?

Ha! That’s lovely.

Definitely not a conscious decision between Doug Jones and myself. Don’t get me wrong – I love Doug Jones. But i think what the audience is seeing is a natural chemistry between Doug and myself. And that’s a rare and very special thing that sometimes exists between two performers.

As to how that “potential” manifests itself.… Well, the audience will just have to stay tuned to see what unfolds.

Do you have any head canon or backstory thoughts about T’Rina?

I do… but they are still in gestation and not yet ready to meet the world.

What do you like most about portraying T’Rina?

Well, let’s start with the fact that she has an impeccable sense of style. OMG. One immediately feels like a goddess when one dons T’Rina’s unrivalled wardrobe pieces!

But on an internal level, as I myself am quite an emotional person by nature… I find the act of embodying her deeply challenging… hence tremendously fun and rewarding to play.

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