Star Trek: Lower Decks is the latest installment into the Star Trek universe and is available now to stream on CBS All Access. Lower Decks is an animated series starring Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, Noël Wells and Eugene Cordero as the crew of the Cerritos.
CBS’ Matt Weiss spoke to series stars Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid about the new series, their characters and the special bond they share.
MW: Hey Tawny, Jack, excited to talk to you both today. First off I just want to know for each of you, Tawny, we’ll start with you, how has quarantine been? What have the last few months been like for you?
TN: It’s been good. It’s been good to have this to work on. Lower Decks, as you may know, got pushed up. We were kind of doing a last-minute additional recording and we were able to do that from home. It’s been very busy actually, trying to finish the series.
Beyond that I have a band, so I’ve been writing music. I’ve managed to keep myself busy by really never leaving my home, which has been very cool for me.
MW: Nice. Jack, what about you?
JQ: Yeah, like Tawny said, Star Trek was keeping me busy for a while. I recorded some of my lines right in my coat closet closet, so that was nice. Other than that, I don’t know. I have a podcast, who doesn’t, but I have one as well. [Laughs]
That’s been keeping me busy. It’s nice to hang out with my girlfriend and go on hikes. Even though everything is on fire right now, it’s been nice to spend some quality time.
MW: As actors to work from home, I bet you never thought you’d be able to do that, right?
JQ: That is huge, yeah.
TN: Yeah. I used to joke that ours is the only profession where we physically have to be in a place all the time. When the world was going to work from home, before all of this, I was like, I could never work from home. It’s strange that we are able to do that. I’m very fortunate.
JQ: Tawny, had like a professional setup already, but me and a lot of actors I know as soon as quarantine hit, we’re like, all right we all need these mics and ring lights. We all have our actor do-it-yourself home studio going on right now.
MW: And now that everything is recorded, what does it feel like to be a part of this brand new chapter of such a storied franchise such as Star Trek?
JQ: Oh man, I mean it’s just such an honor. This is a franchise that’s been around for decades. The fact that I got to be on not only a new installment of it but an animated version, not to say this is the first animated Star Trek show, but it’s just so incredibly cool. The fact that it’s an animated comedy, it’s different but it also keeps the heart of what Trek is very much intact.
I just feel absolutely completely lucky. Tawny, you and I talked about this. We didn’t realize our characters were some of the main characters until the table read. It was like, I got the job, cool; then it was like, oh OK we’re going to be on posters, that’s crazy.
TN: We both thought we were like fun sidekicks, I think because the script was so fun. Also a lot of the scripts were code named, there was a lot of secrecy. It wasn’t until we got to that table reading our scripts were in the center that I think we both looked at each other and the scripts like, oh we’re the leads.
MW: Is that the telltale, when the scripts are in the middle that’s how you know?
TN: Yeah. At the table reads. They try to put the people who have to talk to each other the most right next to each other.
MW: Some good insider info there, now were either of you fans of Star Trek growing up?
TN: I was, yeah. I was a big fan of the 90s trifecta of shows, Deep Space Nine is my number one. I also love The Next Generation and Voyager. Then my mom’s a huge Trek fan. Her favorite series is Enterprise. She’ll go on and on about Enterprise. When I got the audition, first of all its code named, so I didn’t know it was Star Trek.
But I knew because my agent was like yes, this is Star Trek. It’s so rare that somebody who primarily does comedy gets to participate in a franchise like this because they haven’t done straight out comedy before. Getting to be a part of it in such a new fresh way, in a way that suits the types of skills that I have been honing and doing. It’s been great.
MW: Sounds like a perfect fit. Jack what about you?
JQ: A little bit, yeah. I had seen, growing up, I’ve seen a few episodes of the original series. Maybe a handful of episodes of TNG. Of course, the Kelvin timeline, JJ Abrams movies, which I love. I wasn’t really steeped in it until I got this job because as we said before we were like, oh we’re like some of the leads in this thing.
I have to do my research, I have to know what’s going on and what my character’s talking about. I‘ve had to really lean on Mike and Tawny for their knowledge; we basically have a text thread going. It’s been me just texting them at like 10PM being like, what’s a boolean and what would be the Klingons take on Thanksgiving or whatever.
I had a lot of annoying questions that I constantly bother them with. They both helped me so much and I watched a lot more TNG now, I’m huge fan. Also, TNG is the era of Star Trek in which our show takes place. It’s been great.
MW: In addition to everything else Tawny, now you’re professor Newsome of Star Trek 101.
TN: I do what I can, but then when I don’t know something Mike McMahan is right there. Then we all get to learn or there are some things that Jack will bring up. I’ve been re-watching things sort of through fresh eyes, which has been a really cool way to dive back into it.
MW: So we know you two are the leads, but what more can you tell us about your characters?
JQ: I do want to have a quick shout out to Noël Wells and Eugene Cordero, who play the other leads of the show. They are so good in the show. Just so adorable and amazing.
TN: It’s a perfect little foursome of archetypal sweeties.
JQ: It’s really great. Our characters, back to us, [laughs] Brad Boimler is the ultimate Starfleet nerd. He is obsessed with ranking up, so that one day he can become captain. He really idolizes people like Kirk and Picard and all the Starfleet captains. In that way he’s very good at his job almost to a fault. He doesn’t have a single demerit, he works really hard, he finishes all of his tasks on time. He’s a total stickler for the rules, but if he’s ever thrown into a situation where the rules don’t really apply, he doesn’t really know what to do.
If it were a driving test, he would nail the written exam, but once he actually gets in the car it would just be a total disaster. That definitely plays with the relationship that I have with Tawny’s character.
TN: Yeah, it really is like an odd couple. It’s a very sweet friendship of people that effects and support each other because their base natures are so different. Mariner is my character and Starfleet doesn’t recruit anyone but the best, so she is very good at all things Starfleet, but she doesn’t like getting caught up in bureaucracy, that kind of red tape, that doesn’t allow her to do what she thinks is the main goal of Starfleet, which is to help people discover things.
Mariner wants to cut right to it, she is a bit of a rogue. People call her a rebel but I think it’s important to remember that she’s doing it because she loves her job; she just doesn’t love doing it the way everyone else does it. They definitely butt heads but there’s also a lot of really sweet support. I really love the friendships in this in between all four of the main characters.
JQ: Me and Tawny were saying today, it is such a great look at adult friendships, which I don’t really think a lot of shows delve into in this way. I don’t know, I just I love it. All the relationships are so cute. I root for them so much. In my very, very biased opinion, clearly.
MW: Awesome. Unfortunately, that’s all the time I have with you guys today. It’s been a pleasure talking to you both and I’m looking forward to watching Lower Decks. Thanks for the time today and stay safe!
JQ: Thank you, Matt!
TN: Thanks, Matt, same to you!
Star Trek: Lower Decks is available now on CBS All Access.