INTERVIEW: Kate Mulgrew, Brett Gray, And Ella Purnell On Bringing ‘Star Trek Prodigy’ To Life

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Star Trek Prodigy Season 1
This article contains spoilers for the first half of Star Trek Prodigy Season 1

The Star Trek universe has found a new spark of life thanks to Paramount+. From shows that cover the franchise’s far future to its humble beginnings, there is at least one show out there for every stripe of Star Trek fan. And one of the newest, Star Trek Prodigy, serves as a perfect gateway into the Star Trek fandom for fans old and new alike. Prodigy focuses on a quintet of alien children who escaped enslavement from a harsh mining planet, and they find an experimental Starfleet ship called the U.S.S. Protostar. The Protostar is equipped with a holographic interface of Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), who serves as a mentor to the Protostar crew as they travel the known galaxy.

The first half of Prodigy’s debut season ended on an insane cliffhanger: the Protostar is encrypted with a computer virus that will shut down all of Starfleet’s systems the minute it enters Federation territory. And as if that wasn’t complicated enough, the real Janeway—now an Admiral—is in hot pursuit of the Protostar as her old friend Chakotay (Robert Beltran) was commanding it before it disappeared. So how do you follow that up? Mulgrew, alongside co-stars Brett Gray and Ella Purnell, took part in a virtual roundtable to discuss where Star Trek Prodigy is headed when it returns in October.

Purnell, who plays Gwyn, said showrunners Dan and Kevin Hageman are more than open to collaborating with the cast while shaping characters. “It’s quite collaborative with the Hagemans. I think me and Brett are quite similar in the sense that we both get in the booth and get crazy with it…they’re super open. There’s a lot of conversation…the more you do it, the more you understand your character, and the more you’re all on the same page.” Gray, who plays Dal, said that Prodigy was his first introduction to the world of Star Trek. “At first, I thought, ‘Oh man, I should do my research and watch everything and make sure that I’m up and ready for these types of things.’ I’ve been enjoying so much of the freedom of not having something to give reference to, and I think that, you know, I really wanted to come into this show and have something of a fresh perspective on what the Star Trek world might be like.” He also added that he clicked with Dal because the two share a “playful” spirit.

When asked if they had met other Star Trek alums, Purnell said she hadn’t yet but that she was happy to be welcomed by the fanbase as Star Trek Prodigy is also her gateway into the Star Trek universe. Gray mentioned his warm welcomes at Star Trek Day events and Comic-Con, and also went into great detail about the time he met Star Trek: The Next Generation’s LeVar Burton. “On my sick days home from school, I would watch Reading Rainbow, which is a vibe,” he said.

When asked about the challenge of playing two versions of Janeway, Mulgrew said that her experience on Star Trek: Voyager was a great help, as well as the freedom voice acting ensures. “She resides within me, I tap on her, but then I get to go further with Vice Admiral Janeway and Hologram Janeway and all the other incarnations that may or may not ensue.” I had the chance to ask her about what Vice Admiral Janeway’s encounter with the Protostar might bring to upcoming episodes of Prodigy, and she replied, “We’re talking about Star Trek, so how do you think it’s going to go down?” She said there would be “harrowing, compelling, and dramatic moments” within the next run of episodes, and fans should stay tuned.

Discussing the differences between voice acting and live-action roles, Mulgrew definitely favored the former. “Live action is a very, very demanding and immediate craft. In the voiceover acting, I have a lot of space, and I use it. I love it. There’s real liberty in that recording booth with these characters.” Finally, when asked what Hologram Janeway would think of her future self, she had this to say: “I think she’d be absolutely impressed and gratified and moved insofar as a hologram can have emotions at all. I think Admiral Janeway has become exactly what Hologram Janeway would espouse to her young ones on the Protostar.”

Having watched the first ten episodes of Star Trek Prodigy, I can say that it’s a series that will appeal to young viewers and lifelong Trekkies alike. Not only does it recapture the wonder of traveling through space and entering the unknown, but it also is a visually stunning feat of animation. I can’t wait to watch the next batch of episodes, as the Protostar’s journey has only begun.

New episodes of Star Trek Prodigy premiere on October 27 on Paramount+.

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