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Whether his characters are living in the 24th century or in a world controlled by vicious, immoral superheroes, Jack Quaid knows how to convey speculative stress. For fans of the dark, ruminative series The Boys, Quaid is one of the titular anti-superhero vigilantes, Hughie, but to Star Trek fans, he's the voice of Bradward Boimler, the eager-to-please Starfleet ensign who desperately wants to be promoted and get caught following — and loving — every rule in the book. Although genre fans probably recognize him for the fame The Boys has brought him, it's reasonable to assume his new role in Star Trek: Lower Decks will prove immortal. After all, fellow Boys co-star Karl Urban hasn't been in a Trek movie since 2016, but for a huge portion of the population, he'll always be Dr. "Bones" McCoy. And, funnily enough, those films are directly connected to Quaid's pre-Lower Decks intro to Trek.
"My first real exposure to Star Trek was that 2009 J.J. Abrams Kelvin-timeline reboot," Quaid tells SYFY WIRE. "It was an absolutely perfect movie in terms of getting a whole new generation excited about Star Trek. Even though I was in high school and on a super-awkward teenage date when I went to go see it, I still liked it." Prior to landing the role of Lower Decks' loveable suck-up, Quaid admits he didn't share the deep knowledge of the Trek universe that Boimler does. But, he also knew he had to cram and research as much as possible because he felt the character wouldn't click if he didn't.
"I tried to do as much Star Trek research as I could before recording but there’s only so much one can do," Quaid reveals. "Thankfully, [showrunner] Mike McMahan was there to help explain everything so I knew the context of every joke and reference. You can’t be funny without context and Star Trek has a lot of context. Mike was super helpful throughout the process and even recommended specific episodes and movies for me to check out. He single-handedly transformed me from passing Trek fan to a full-blown Trekkie."
If you haven't watched Lower Decks yet, Ensign Boimler, in some ways, serves as the audience surrogate for the entire series, assuming the audience is composed of full-blown Trekkies who, like Boimler, would love every aspect of their job working on a starship in the 24th century. Boimler's knowledge of arcane Trek lore probably rivals that of the people watching the show because, let's face it, even the most hardcore fan had to look up the name "Roga Danar" when Boimler outrageously claimed him as the biggest bada** of all-time in Episode 8, "Veritas." But Quaid explains that playing Boimler as one-note wonder would have gotten old real fast. There's more to Brad than sucking up, freaking out, or being a know-it-all. As Mariner (Tawny Newsome) says in the first episode, Boimler is "an ambitious little weasel, and inside that little weasel might be a tiny human being."
"He's freaking out most of the time cause he has almost no street smarts, but he’s also a super-intelligent Starfleet nerd who knows every little bit about the Federation and the adventures they’ve been on," Quaid says. "There’s always a danger that your character gets locked into one pattern of behavior. A lot of that is writing and Lower Decks has some amazing writers. From a performance standpoint, I just try to change it up as much as possible. For example, if I see that Brad has to freak-out a couple of times in an episode, I try to make each freakout different from the other ones so that he doesn’t just keep repeating the same bits in the same way."
Part of the way this works on Lower Decks is just the fact that the line delivery from Quaid and the other cast members is hysterical, and often, unexpected. When Boimler tells Mariner that Roga Danar is the biggest bada** ever, he doesn't try to convince her with his signature freakout energy. The reason it's so funny is that he calmly asserts that somebody who almost nobody remembers is super-awesome and deadly. Basically, Quaid reveals that Boimler is funny because there are subtle jokes you may have not even noticed.
"In terms of the delivery of the lines, that’s very much a collaboration between Mike and me," he says. "Sometimes my instincts are dead-on and my first choice is the one they go with, and sometimes Mike has to guide me toward something different. Then there are times when we discover something together or something random happens and we just leave it in. Those are my favorites.
"The best example of that I can think of is the fact that Boimler occasionally calls Captain Freeman 'cap’n' instead of 'captain,'" he continues. "That just came from Mike and I screwing around in the booth. We both found it funny that this guy who’s constantly sucking up to the captain has a hard time actually saying the word 'captain' for some reason. His brain defaults to this weird folksy version of the word. Such a weird bit. I can’t believe they kept it in but I think it works for Bradward. I think his brown-nosing comes from a deep desire to make his mark on the world. He wants the captain’s chair so bad, he just doesn’t quite have the experience yet and won’t for a long time. But he’s learning!"
This week, Lower Decks will finish its first season run, although a second season has already been greenlit, and, with all likelihood, will debut before Picard Season 2 or Strange New Worlds Season 1.
Like the vast majority of the cast members of Lower Decks, it's easy to squint and imagine Quaid playing a live-action version of Brad Boimler in some future incarnation of Trek, a notion that he says he's totally ready for. "Yes! A thousand times yes!" Quaid says. "I think almost every member of the cast could reasonably play their cartoon counterparts. Maybe with the exception of Gillian Vigman as Dr. T’ana, but that’s only because she’s not a cat-person in real life. But then again, there’s always CGI and mo-cap suits, right? And, yes, I would keep my hair purple for as long as I could but I can’t be showing up on the set of The Boys with purple hair. Unless there’s something happening in Season 3 I don’t know about yet."
For now, we don't know what the future holds for Boimler in Season 2 of Lower Decks, but the finale promises to be interesting. Though this is a small-ish Trek series, Quaid's Boimler helps give Star Trek: Lower Decks a very big heart. In fact, this desire to be good is something Quaid thinks Boimler might have in common with his character on The Boys, Hughie.
"I don’t know if they’d be best friends but they could probably get along for an afternoon," he says. "I think Boimler is too much of a suck-up for Hughie’s taste and I think Hughie is a little too much of a rule-breaker for Boimler. But they could definitely bond over their mutual anxiety and the times they’ve spent covered in goo."
The Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1 finale airs on CBS All Access on Thursday, Oct. 8.
The Boys is streaming now on Amazon Prime.