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Orla Brady was not ready to say goodbye to her Romulan character introduced last season on Star Trek: Picard. So it goes without saying that Brady was thrilled to learn that she would return for the second season of the Paramount+ series in a double role as both Jean-Luc’s (Patrick Stewart) love interest, Laris, and also as a new character, Tallinn, a mysterious figure who serves as a guide to Picard in the 21st century.
However, the Dublin-born actress is quick to point out to The Hollywood Reporter that while fans may be frustrated with Jean-Luc’s inability to be happy in love, Laris, his housekeeper, is fine and certainly not pining over him by any means. Jean-Luc rejected her romantic advances in the opening moments of this season. However, it is clear he wants to love her in return, but something is holding him back.
“Sometimes the best way to play a role is to not know, follow the writing and see what happens,” Brady tells THR of not knowing Laris’ arc beforehand. “One of the things that came along is: Laris loves Picard. She just does. But it’s not viable. No one is going to do anything about it. It’s in another life. And none of us knew that was going to happen.”
Brady explains that the writers and Stewart wanted to explore to a great degree Jean-Luc’s seeming inability to be happy in a viable relationship. Why so many near-misses with a long-term companion?
“The writers felt that was an opportunity to go deeper with that, to find out what his hold-back is and what does it relate to,” Brady says. “His self-vindication comes from his extraordinary commitment to work and his career. We see in the beginning: Can he go there? And he couldn’t. It was too much for him.”
Laris, of course, is to a degree wounded that he cannot allow himself this happiness, but she would never bemoan the situation, Brady says. “She has a healthy sense of self, which is partly her Romulan-ness, if you like. Many women are this way and many are not. She has a sense of herself that she can love deeply, she can commit. And if someone rejects her, her conclusion is then they are not for me because I will meet someone who loves me as deeply. She is not the woman to sit around moaning about the one who got away. It hurts, but she is not incomplete.”
Brady is pulling double duty this season as both Laris and Tallinn, who was introduced in the closing moment of the March 24 episode “Watcher.” In last week’s episode, “Fly Me to the Moon,” viewers learned more about Tallinn, who is tasked with protecting Jean-Luc’s ancestor Renée Picard in the year 2024. But, what is going on? Are Laris and Tallinn connected?
“From my point of view, when Tallinn appears, she is clearly very reminiscent of Laris,” the actress says. “I think that we are seeing Tallinn through Picard’s eyes. She is not Laris. She is a different woman in a different time. We learn that maybe there is a connection, but she is an entirely different woman. Other people would not see as much of a similarity as he does.”
As for Laris, Brady credits first-season director Hanelle Culpepper for helping her find the character and understanding her inner strength and solid foundation. “There was something about Hanelle’s input about the emotional light and the tempestuousness of this woman that set me off on this path,” Brady says. “It was wonderful to be directed by a woman because it remains reasonably rare.” Lea Thompson directed two episodes of Picard this season, including “Watcher,” with Brady noting, “Lea is lovely and makes it easy and fun.”
With a lion’s share of this season being set in Los Angeles in 2024, very much a reflection of the current time with homelessness, racism and climate change, Brady understands some viewers are out of their Star Trek comfort zone. She certainly is, admits the actress.
“I was quite obsessed with Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) when I was a child — a woman who is in command, being trusted in the top team — because it wasn’t my world in a very repressive country,” Brady explains. “It gave a vision of the future that was very inspiring, and we felt that we could do this. And I think what this season is trying to say is, ‘We won’t get there without the effort.’ It is uncomfortable, and part of me wants to go back to the pristine future of Star Trek. But, I admire the show tackling this.”
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