Earlier this month at NYCC, the Star Trek Universe was fully engaged with splashy panel presentations promoting the next iterations of Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard as well as Star Trek: Prodigy. I sat down with some of the core cast of Star Trek: Prodigy in roundtable interviews, including the multi-talented English actress Jameela Jamil.
Jamil has just finished up a run as Titania on Marvel’s She-Hulk. She plays Ensign Ascencia on Prodigy – a Trill who serves on the USS Dauntless under Kate Mulgrew’s Vice Admiral Janeway. We chatted about everything from her childhood love of Star Trek, to her feelings about Titania and what to expect from the second half of this first season of Prodigy.
Star Trek: Prodigy – a show for fans young and old
In the universe among the stars, Star Trek: Prodigy is special. It’s a bridge between generations and meant as something that those very young and new to Star Trek can watch, while also offering something for their parents.
Prodigy is an animated show that follows a group of young misfits from the Tars Lamora prison colony that have found and decided to commandeer, the abandoned starship USS Protostar. They start off, like the show’s intended young viewers, without knowledge of Starfleet or the United Federation of planets.
[Caution: There are mild spoilers for Star Trek: Prodigy ahead.]
After a lot of conflicts involving the series big bad, The Diviner (John Noble), the kids, led by Dal (Brett Gray) encounter a holographic training version of Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) on the Protostar and decide to “join” Starfleet. That is, as best as they can, cut off so many thousands of light-years away in the Delta Quadrant. It isn’t an easy or immediate decision. There’s part of the first few episodes that deal with Dal’s initial dismissiveness towards the Janeway hologram.
The team, includes The Diviner’s daughter, Gwyn (Ella Purnell). Gwyn is initially held captive and wants to return the ship to her father. The group has to work together to overcome universal translator issues, planets that attack starships, and more.
Eventually, in the mid-season finale, viewers encounter Vice Admiral Janeway aboard the real USS Dauntless. Janeway is on a personal and professional mission to find out what happened to the Protostar’s original captain, her former Voyager officer, and friend, Chakotay (Robert Beltran). This is where Jamil’s Ascencia comes in.
Ensign Ascencia is a Trill – the same species that Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) and Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer) who were on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. We don’t know if she has a symbiote, like Dax, or really anything else about her. Ascencia’s only appearance was in the mid-season finale episode, “A Moral Star: Part Two.”
[Note: some quotes have been edited for clarity while retaining context.]
Ensign Ascencia in Star Trek: Prodigy
In our roundtable interview, Jameela Jamil spoke about some of what we can expect from her character in the upcoming episodes.
“You know, we needed to establish her because she’s a very strong character. And so we needed to make sure we had her down from day one. And it was important for them and me that I understood the journey I was about to go on. And that had to be put into my delivery. So hopefully, I’ve executed that. Wow, I tried my best.”
When Jamil found out about the opportunity to voice a character in the show, she didn’t hesitate.
“An all-caps email, which I’ve never sent before to my team. They invisibly hear me screaming from my fingertips. I was thrilled. I didn’t I didn’t even read the material. I didn’t ask how much money it was. I didn’t ask how much they would need me for or where I would be. I just said yes. And then I immediately found my brother.”
Jamil herself has been a Trek fan since she was very young and she spoke to the uniqueness of her character.
“Big Star Trek fan. Big Star Trek fan, although I don’t think there’s anyone quite like my character in the franchise so far. And if you’ve seen more of the show than I think you have, then maybe you understand that. Yeah, but I’m a big Star Trek fan since I was about four or five years old.”
Jameela Jamil on the appeal of Star Trek
Being a big Star Trek fan from a young age, Jamil was asked about some of the themes and other aspects of Trek that mean the most to her.
“I think the fact that they were one of the only shows, especially back then, that were tackling race, class, gender, disability. Even with Geordi, like there was just all kinds of different things. Data, data represented a certain section of society that maybe is socially awkward, or feels a bit disconnected. I know that was definitely me as a kid, and my brother, and you know, we definitely identified with him and the way that he would try to seek to understand how to feel. And I wasn’t very good at communicating, like that and I also used to give too much detail about everything was very obsessive. And everyone wanted to tell me ‘Shut the fuck up.’ (laughter) And watching that happen in a really affectionate way, I think also taught that generation to maybe be a bit kinder, more affectionate. Sometimes don’t read the social cues, taught me to maybe learn how to read them.
But yeah, I think the fact that we tell important stories, there was so much diversity back from like the Captain Kirk days. That to me is something that is very exciting and a legacy that no one can match. And also, they’ve been so ahead of the game and the stories that they’ve told and the stories from 40 years ago with the stories that we still need now more than ever, like people who come from different places, different backgrounds, who speak different languages, who don’t even understand each other who politically do not agree with each other.
Even the journey of like the Ferengis, I’m like, we need to see more stories of people who come from different places, finding a way to work together. That’s what The Good Place is also really beautiful with people from different places who have different outlooks and coming together to create a better solution, you know. And so maybe it’s because they have common enemies like the Borg or whatever, but I think that we just created a very fantastical way to tell actually very grounded stories. They did, not we. I just joined.”
On introducing Star Trek to younger audiences
When asked if she ever worries that trying to deliver “heavy philosophical truths to a younger generation” and whether there was concern it may be going over their heads, Jamil responded.
“I don’t because I… like, in Hageman brothers I trust, right? They’ve written something that is so beautiful, that exists on two planes, where it can be understood by kids in one way and understood by adults in a very different way. Like I was able to read this and it didn’t feel like material that was dumbed down for me or diluted for me in any way. And so I, I trust them. And then having seen how brilliantly executed the first part of season one was, I have no concerns whatsoever. I just thought it was some of the most fun and excellent writing I’ve read in a really long time I would die if we made this into a live-action.
On her love of certain Star Trek: Next Generation characters
The actress was asked Star Trek alien species or characters she would most like to meet.
“I have a soft spot for Wolf. Obviously, Data is my favorite. And Data is so unique and amazing. But like, I have a strong love of Worf. I think he always got really raw deal. And honestly, how funny he was and how straight his delivery was. The mating call delivery was one of my favorite lines in the history of Star Trek. And so I have big love for the Klingons I’m also really grumpy, you know, I’m English. English. They were deeply relatable to me.”
On She-Hulk, Titania, and misogyny
Lastly, Jamil commented on her very recent role as Titania in Marvel’s She-Hulk series and the messages about female misogyny within the story.
“I am. I really am drawn to things that have a great message. I think you know with She-Hulk, it was very much so this. The story that I was trying to tell was one of like female misogyny, and how it only ever punishes women, for us to look at each other as a threat. My character plays someone who’s so threatened by another woman, and women have this scarcity mindset. There’s only room for one, and we must knock each other out.
And so I think anywhere like that, where I feel like there is a bigger story to tell, I’m interested in. I’m not I don’t want to make frivolous things. I get lots of offers from, you know, well-paid silly things. I don’t, I’m not going to enjoy showing to a young person. I would personally like to, as much as I can, make things that combine fun, and a really strong resonating message because right now, it’s become so impossible to have political conversations. Everything gets heated so fast and everyone’s so judgmental. And I think art is one of the last ways that you can have these conversations about class, race, sex, any of these things where it doesn’t become instantly inflammatory. They’ll watch the whole episode they’ll get to the end of your plea or your argument. And so I think art is very important in that way.”
Star Trek: Prodigy returns to the screen on October 27th. You can watch it, as well as your favorite other Star Trek series on Paramount +. Check out our latest review of the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Are you excited for the second half of the season of Star Trek Prodigy? Please join the conversation and share your thoughts with us on Twitter @MyCosmicCircus.