In the fourth episode of Star Trek: Picard, Jean-Luc's ragtag crew gets a new member, the young Romulan warrior Elnor. Played by Evan Evagora, Elnor is Trek's latest young protégé, but unlike Wesley Crusher in The Next Generation, if Elnor gets mad, he's probably not going to manufacture a dangerous science project — he's going to cut somebody's head off.
"He's like a moody teenager," Evan Evagora tells SYFY WIRE about his hot-headed Romulan character. "But every time he snaps, he has the potential to kill someone. That's how I played him. What if a moody teenager could just do whatever he wants whenever he flips out?"
The entire plot of the latest episode of Picard — "Absolute Candor" — revolves around Jean-Luc's recruitment and relationship with this explosive yet tender Romulan warrior. Elnor is a Romulan who freaking loves Jean-Luc, even if he is a little bit mad at him. SYFY WIRE caught up with Evan Evagora ahead of the debut of "Absolute Candor" to talk about what it was like to be Star Trek's newest heroic badass, his experience working with numerous Trek alums, and how much of his hot-headed Romulan alter ego reflects his own life.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard, Season 1, Episode 4, "Absolute Candor."**
The introduction of Elnor has a touch of a classic mythological hero's journey feeling. When he was a young boy — the only boy being raised by the all-female warrior nuns of the Qowat Milat — he met Admiral Picard, in whom he found a father figure. Picard disappears for a full 14 years before re-emerging in Elnor's life, desperate to recruit a fierce fighter who can take on the Tal Shiar. Evagora reveals that although he's not a "badass ninja" in real life, there were "weird similarities" between Elnor and himself.
"Art was imitating life in a way with certain aspects of my character," he explains. "Elnor grows up in a house around all women, but in real life, I’m the youngest of seven kids, and I have five older sisters. My house was filled with women all the time growing up. Elnor’s favorite book is Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers. My favorite book is Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. I came to L.A. to film this, and I’d never been here before. I’d never set foot here before. It was a new experience for me. Just as leaving his home is new for Elnor."
His time on the set of the show also reflects what's happening in the story. Evagora says the mentor relationship Elnor has with Picard on the series mirrors his own interactions with Patrick Stewart on set, and that Stewart himself helped to quash the actor's nervousness.
"The first time I met Patrick Stewart, I was terrified. It was the worst first meeting," Evagora admits. "And my first day of filming I was sooo nervous. Patrick took me aside because he could see the nervousness in me. But it's not like he told me a story about being nervous or anything like that. He has this way of making you feel at ease. Him and Jonathan Frakes, they’re very similar that way. They make you feel comfortable on the set. And when you’re comfortable, you can really lose yourself in the moment and the character."
"Absolute Candor" is the first of two episodes of Picard Season 1 directed by franchise stalwart Jonathan Frakes. And though the famous Riker actor doesn't appear in this episode, Evagora said that having Frakes as his very first Star Trek director was pretty much "the best-case scenario." And that's because Frakes isn't just Will Riker; longtime fans know he's the person who directed movies including Star Trek: First Contact in 1996 and several pivotal episodes in the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery, along with other Trek shows.
"He was the dream come true for my first director on Star Trek. Myself and the rest of the cast absolutely adore Jonathan. He knows so much about how to direct and so much about what makes Trek work," Evagora says. "Listening to him and Patrick talk about their old war stories on the TNG set — I could do that for hours. Just listen to them. I don’t even have to contribute."
It turns out one of Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes' "war stories" from The Next Generation became an invaluable piece of information for the entire crew of the Le Sirena. Basically, Stewart and Frakes taught Evagora and the rest of the new cast the secret TNG trick to pretending like you're on a spaceship and going through space turbulence.
"Remember whenever the ship used to get hit and they’d have to do a shake?" Evagora says. "Well, they had levels for those shakes. Like, from 1 to 10. One being the lightest hit ever, and 10 being the heaviest. And we’d watch Patrick and Jonathan do them from like 10 to 1. Patrick would be like ‘Do my favorite, Johnny, do my favorite!’ And Jonathan would yell 'One!' And Patrick would lean like ever so slightly forward and then back into his seat and we’d all crack up laughing."
So, if longtime Trekkies think the space battle scene at the end of "Absolute Candor" scans as familiar, it's probably because this tried-and-true space-shakes system was employed by Jonathan Frakes during the direction.
But it's not all fake. Despite crediting the stunt team with some of the more complicated stunts on the show — including an amazing flip Elnor does toward the end of the episode — Evagora reveals that, yes, in a lot of his fights, it really is him.
"Anything that looks really really hard — like that flip that I do — that’s not me. I wish that was me," he says. "But the majority of the stunts throughout the seasons, I was lucky enough to be able to do. If I'm fighting with the sword, you're really seeing me. I am Elnor."
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard drop on Thursdays on CBS All Access.