6:15am PT by Phil Pirrello
How 'Star Trek' Actor Overcame His Patrick Stewart Jitters
When details of Star Trek: Picard were announced last year, fans were surprised to see that their favorite (and former) Enterprise captain would be joined by basically the Trek version of Legolas from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies.
"That's what I've been hearing," Evan Evagora tells The Hollywood Reporter. The New Zealand-based actor plays Elnor, the sword-wielding Romulan assassin-in-training and protector of Patrick Stewart's iconic hero. And according to Evagora, the surprise factor that an "outside-the-box" character like Elnor brings to the franchise was very intentional.
"We, or at least I, had some thoughts like — is [my character] maybe a little too close to what some fans have seen in other things — in other franchises like Lord of the Rings," Evagora says. "But in talking it out with Michael [Chabon], and with Alex [Kurtzman] and the other great writers — and with Patrick — I quickly realized we are giving audiences something similar but different, this almost moody teenager. Something that feels new to Star Trek, for sure."
Elnor has had several key action scenes — including one particularly gruesome decapitation in the episode "Absolute Candor." That type of action is not what Trek fans expect to see.
"We're lucky we have very, very good writers," Evagora says of how the action scenes are scripted. "When they're written, it's the dialogue and character that come first, so the choreography and the fighting has to work around the scene and it has to follow the story. It's not ‘action first.'" Evagora also praises the "really great stunt people" the show utilizes to help execute this vision. "They're really great actors, too. It's not just getting hit or falling down. They make sure there's some depth to their characters."
Elnor helps deepen audiences' understanding of this older, retired version of Picard as well. And why he brings about a sense of guilt and regret for the retired Admiral, who seems to have a surplus of both this season. Picard first met and befriended Elnor when he was a young boy. And when the Romulan relocation effort failed — and cost thousands of lives — Picard retired to his vineyard and avoided contact with Elnor just as the teen was bonding with his new father figure. That type of behavior — shutting down and shutting out — is antithetical to what fans have grown accustomed to in the always mindful and compassionate character they idolized over seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And, again, that reaction — and the role Elnor played in that — was by design.
"It felt disingenuous to us, and to Sir Patrick, to show a Picard that has gone through such an experience — one that compromises him, one that challenges and strips his worldview of all he's known from Starfleet — that walks away from that emotionally unscathed," Picard showrunner Michael Chabon says. Picard executive producer Akiva Goldsman echoes Chabon's sentiments, adding that it was important to Stewart that he, as an actor, play the character in new ways compared with what he already did on TNG and in the Next Gen movies.
But what Stewart did maintain from the old days was his sense of fun and expertise on set, which Evagora found helpful as the role brought him to Los Angeles for the first time ever.
"I was kinda terrified, obviously," upon meeting Stewart for the first time, Evagora recalls. "It was, like, the worst first meeting ever. On my first day of filming, I felt so very nervous. And Patrick, he just — he took me aside because he could tell. But it's not like he told me a story about being nervous or anything like that. He just helped me feel at ease and more comfortable, just by talking to me."
Evagora was also impressed, and humbled, by how the number one actor on the call sheet set the tone on set.
"He really loves being in the ensemble — and not just the cast, but the entire crew. He — we're all equals and he sets that tone every day."
The young actor got to experience that mentality every day on set, with one shooting day in particular proving especially memorable — and fun.
"My favorite story of working with him was — there was a day when I was sitting across from Alison Pill [Dr. Agnes Jurati] and Patrick filming a scene, and those two together — I was watching them and forgetting I was even being filmed. I just sat there, like I was an audience member, watching them. Just enjoying it."
The finale of Star Trek: Picard streams Thursday on CBS All Access.