Spoilers ahead for the most recent episodes of Star Trek: Discovery!
Star Trek: Discovery has been an unusually twisty-turny show within the usually procedurally-minded Star Trek franchise. After recent adventures in the Mirror Universe, Discovery promises to return to one of its big reveals in the final two episodes of the season with the focus switching back to the Klingons. Actor Shazad Latif, who plays security chief Ash Tyler, is a key player in that story, and he spoke to Vulture about how he prepared for the complexities of his role. Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery follow.
In the tenth episode of Star Trek: Discovery's first season, "Despite Yourself," Starfleet officer Ash Tyler learned that he was actually the Klingon Voq acting as a surgically altered sleeper agent on the Discovery. Viewers soon learned that Latif had been playing both characters from the start, and Latif says the dual role informed his performance of both characters.
"It’s a very fun thing to do. Trying to put together a puzzle. Creating a sort of spire of two characters," Latif told Vulture. "Following Voq’s story from being this outcast manifests in everything he does. ... The style of the Klingons is very operatic, classical acting in a way, so I wanted to bring in a quietness and calm to that role rather than it just being a loud, shouty Klingon."
Latif says he always recognized that Tyler's storyline would center on trauma. "That was an amazing draw for me because I knew [about it] from the start. I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t a classic rogue American action hero. Which is fun to do, run around, shooting guns and all that kind of stuff, but you know, that’s the play aspect of it. The main heart of it for me is just to portray a man who can be seen as weak and vulnerable. That’s a strength."
In the show's 12th episode, "Vaulting Ambition", Discovery's Klingon prisoner L'Rell was forced to erase the Voq identity, leaving Ash Tyler in control. Though Tyler may never have been a real person, Latif insists that his experiences still count, and that includes the memories of his sexual assault and torture by L'Rell.
"It’s interesting because in reality Voq was just having sex. And they’re in love, and that’s what’s technically happening, but obviously in Tyler’s mind, because he is in my head, he was a real guy and his memories are real and he’s still a real person, he’s just coming through in someone else’s core being. In his mind, it’s sexual assault."
Latif won't reveal much about what's to come for Tyler (and maybe Voq?) in the final two episodes of the season, except to say that one of his favorite scenes opposite Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham comes in the season finale. "It was one of our last scenes and I thought it was very beautiful. Hopefully, it plays out like that. I want to see it, find out how I did."
Star Trek: Discovery airs Sunday nights on CBS All Access. You can read the rest of Shazad Latif's interview at Vulture.