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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Picard episode “Mercy.”]
Alison Pill has been on a wild ride this season of Star Trek: Picard — and it has nothing to do with space travel.
The actress, who plays the brilliant, but shy and insecure, Agnes Jurati, has shifted gears dramatically through this season after her character was overtaken by the Borg Queen (Annie Wersching). As Agnes gives in more and more to the badly needed companionship and seduction of power, she is losing herself and jeopardizing the mission and the future.
Needless to say, it was a busy production. Not only did Pill have an epic musical number in the episode “Two of One,” but the actress did her first stunts ever in this week’s episode “Mercy” when Jurati, under the queen’s consciousness, fights (and bests) Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and Raffi (Michelle Hurd).
Her head still somewhat swirling from it all, Pill gave a lot of credit for her masterful performances to the writers and guest directors, such as Lea Thompson and Star Trek alum Jonathan Frakes. Still, she explained to The Hollywood Reporter that the journey of playing someone who has good and evil battling it out inside them has been a joy and a unique experience.
First and foremost, how did it feel to be the Borg Queen as she took over more and more of Agnes?
It was very exciting to get to look at the adaptations that occur in Jurati over these last few episodes, as well as spending time with Annie [Wersching] to see what her queen was becoming, because that’s who’s running the show as of now.
Agnes is sweet, but shy and lacks confidence. The Borg Queen takes what she wants. Which is more enjoyable to embody?
Agnes has quite low self-esteem, and the queen does not. (Laughs.) So I think the imaginary quality of suddenly believing in your own power is intoxicating, as it would be for many people. But there is a level of ego — I don’t know if Borg have egos (laughs) — with the driving self-force, which seems great, but it comes at the cost of so many, as I think is often the case with self-obsessed leaders.
They’re so different that they’re both equally enjoyable to play. I mean, I love Jurati so very much. So I think establishing her character more this season, seeing a bit more of what makes her tick, was really exciting. And the kind of opportunities for comedy and for pathos that butt up against each other in the scripts was really a joy. But it’s also fun to play an evil genius. (Laughs.)
Speaking of the scripts, what did you think when you realized you were going to be the Borg Queen, at least in part, this season?
[Executive producer] Akiva [Goldsman] spoke to me about it early on before I even saw scripts, and I was thrilled at the prospect! There was so much writing going on throughout the season, so we were never quite sure where it was all going to land, in which episode or how it would all come together. I spoke to writers about the through-line of why Agnes feels compelled by the arguments of the queen and how her influence on the queen might affect the idea of the collective more generally. I thought it was a fascinating tension to explore.
Today’s episode in particular is quite the physical Agnes. How much of that brutal fight with Seven of Nine and Raffi were you allowed to do or did you want to do?
I was allowed to do some stunts for the first time ever, and I was thrilled! (Laughs.) I told my daughter that I spent the day running across the tops of cars, and she was properly impressed. It’s shot in so many pieces, but there is something thrilling about making a movement and seeing somebody fly backward on a harness. It was really wonderful to be given the chance to do some of the more physical stuff that I never get to do.
Most of your scenes this season are with Annie. Can you tell me about working with her on- and offscreen?
She’s wonderful! I think she brought such an interesting approach to the queen because you understand the deeply seductive powers that she would have over someone like Agnes or over anyone. And she projects this kind of fun, self-confident, anything-is-possible way of being that is really exciting to be around. She’s under a bunch of prosthetics and not the most comfortable costume — and still managed to be one of the crew favorites just because her demeanor was so welcoming and funny. The character wouldn’t have worked half as well with someone else, I think. She managed to capture something really important.
The wonderful Lea Thompson directed a block of episodes this season, both of which featured deep moments between you and Annie. How was it being directed by her?
It was very exciting. First, to have a female director and also to have somebody who was really interested in the emotional lives of the characters. We got the opportunity to talk about motivation and to try new things, since a lot of that was the establishment of our Borg Queen.
The grand gala scene in “Two of One” was epic. And your singing was phenomenal. Can you tell me about that production day?
I was very glad that [Jonathan] Frakes was directing because he’s just a joy to have around generally and so funny. Any nerves that I had about it were quickly set aside by him and his demeanor and his just his comfort in the world.
I was so excited to have the chance to sing and to do this big crazy number and to walk down the stairs. But I was also really grateful to have him and his theater background and his understanding of showmanship to know how far to go and how to manage it.
Speaking of Jonathan, he told me in a previous interview that he thinks you’re one of the most versatile actors he’s ever worked with, which we’re clearly seeing. Can you tell me about your process to hit all the notes (no pun intended) you’re hitting emotionally this season?
A lot of it has been a gift from the writers in terms of these really complex scenes. The plugging in to the queen scene was one of my favorites that I’ve ever gotten to do. They really allowed me to go all over the place, which is always what I want to do. I just like pretending. (Laughs.) Every human contains multitudes. I think the shyness and the genius of Agnes are easily shifted into different areas. Every person I meet has all of these feelings that may be hidden or all of these talents or gifts that they may not share with people but do exist, and they think exploring that is really exciting.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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