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In Star Trek: Picard season 3, the science officer aboard the USS Titan-A is Lieutenant T’Veen, played by Stephanie Czajkowski. This character has already captured the imagination of the internet, so Geek Girl Authority leapt at the opportunity to interview Czajkowski about playing Star Trek‘s newest science officer! We got the chance to chat about everything from Memory Alpha’s Vulcan history to T’Veen’s possible Deltan heritage. Grab some spicy replicator tacos and check it out!
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Avery Kaplan: Do you have a personal history with Star Trek?
Stephanie Czajkowski: I do. Star Trek is really threaded throughout my childhood. My father was an avid fan, both of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In particular, he loved Worf. He went to night school. And on weekends, Star Trek was in syndication, and he would be doing his homework and I would be sitting on our green couch watching Star Trek with him. My first memory of being in an actual movie theater is being in line, being really tired, and being taken to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
And then later, my mother was an incredibly gifted seamstress. And she worked for a costume shop. And when Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home came out, she got a lot of business creating the Admiral costumes: making cosplay costumes for Trekkies.
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So it’s funny, it’s been threaded throughout, and I didn’t realize how deep it was until I stepped onto that bridge.
AK: Did you receive any guidance for playing a Vulcan, or did you perhaps have a particular character that you looked to for inspiration?
SC: I absolutely did. So after I went to hair and makeup, I had a meeting with [Picard season 3 showrunner] Terry Matalas and we decided I was a Vulcan. Because that wasn’t specific in the audition. It was something that was left up for interpretation, and that was my interpretation. And then we had a conversation and they said, “well, you’re definitely a Vulcan,” and I said, “I agree.”
But then when it came to how to play a Vulcan, the production secretary was kind enough to send a list of specifically Spock-centric episodes from TOS. Also, episodes that heavily featured Vulcans. I was up in Memory Alpha’s database all the time, just to make sure that I had the background, and I was building character based on canon and history that had already been established.
AK: I understand you have a background in theatre. Did you find that these experienced informed your work as T’Veen?
SC: I did, actually. T’Veen is such an interesting character. And being a Vulcan, I found, was so fascinating. Because from the outside… I feel like the mistake that people do is that they assume that this species has no emotion, and that’s completely untrue. If you go to the history – I went down a super wormhole. “No, it’s Surak. It’s the age of enlightenment.”
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It’s so much more fascinating to play someone who feels emotions so deeply, but rationally is trying to control it. As a theater actor, it informs your work in terms of your carriage, in terms of how your body moves, in terms of how I felt T’Veen embodied her role on this bridge. And in particular, because she’s so aware and she’s so aware of her feelings, and everything else is hyper-attuned – she’s very aware of everything around her.
Which, being on that bridge, with those people, is like, “Rargh!” The feeling of it is just … it’s almost indescribable.
AK: Is there anything you can tell us about T’Veen’s backstory that might not be obvious from watching the show (including anything from your own personal head canon)?
SC: Well, there has been question as to why she is bald. In terms of getting deeper into it as we go – all will be revealed. But Terry and I had a conversation about that, and it is my belief… There’s been a lot of questions: “Is she maybe more than one species?”
And I had thought, going in, specifically because we had decided that she was going to be bald… And it was a decision that was specific, and it was a decision we researched first. Because the last thing we wanted to do is come out and be like, “She’s just bald just ‘cause we say so.” We looked in the other shows, in the movies for bald Vulcans, to know that, in the twenty-fifth century, there could be a bald Vulcan.
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And the thing that struck me was, what if – what if – somewhere in there, she’s got a little Deltan in her? What does that do to all those big feelings? I mean, we talk a lot about Deltans havin’ the sex, but also just how Deltans feel and love to feel, and are really sensual. And you match that up with a species like Vulcans, who feel things, but are trying not to. So, I think it’s a little obvious, and people wonder about it, and yeah. Terry and I talked about it and basically decided yeah, she’s 25% Deltan. There’s a part of her that’s Deltan.
When it comes to personality… For me this show, as I mentioned, is so intertwined through my familial history. Both my parents are deceased. And in a lot of ways, the creation of this character was such a love letter to them. They’re polar opposites. My mother was very much a big spiritual, sensual, lovely person. My father felt things very deeply, and was incredibly stoic and didn’t reveal his feelings. So for me, it’s a weird mirror where you find yourself in a character that reflects back to you these things that have been there that you weren’t aware of.
AK: What was it like to be put into Vulcan makeup? Did you ever leave the set in “Vulcan mode”?
SC: Oh, I so wanted to, sometimes. Because I don’t have that much [makeup], but it took a while. I’ve had prosthetics before. I had prosthetics in the project I was in right before I came to Picard. And it takes a long time, but it’s not claustrophobic.
What I did not realize – they said I’d be heavily recurring. I didn’t know how many episodes I’d be on. Hugo Villasenor, who is phenomenal, was my makeup artist. He also did Michael Dorn’s makeup, and he’s done countless amounts of prosthetic makeup on all these shows.
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From the jump, he asked me if I wanted to shave off my eyebrow. Reportedly, he’d worked with Ethan Peck, who plays Spock on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Discovery. I guess Ethan said – I’m pretty sure of this, but I’m not totally positive – “Oh yeah, let’s just shave it off.” Because if you don’t, you have to cover it up with a silicone patch. Then they make eyebrows and then they put them on. Which adds like another thirty-five, forty-five minutes to your makeup application. And Patrick Stewart likes to start very early in the morning, which for me, started around four-thirty in the morning some days.
In retrospect, I think I might have shaved my eyebrows. I’m not fully sure. It’s so trite… I’m in love with my eyebrows. I went through chemotherapy and I managed to hold onto them. So I said, “I don’t know if we want to pull them out.” So it was not belabored at all, but it took time. When you’re done, looking at yourself in the mirror, you say, “Oh yeah. There’s what I am.”
AK: Have you seen any cosplay or fan art of T’Veen yet?
SC: On Twitter, somebody’s already posted their “dream board.” They’ve decided they want a spin-off, and they have their dream crew, and T’Veen’s on it. So that’s the first bit of fan art I’ve seen. And I said, “Oh, then. Okay!”
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I’ve gotten some fan art from working on the show Doom Patrol. But this is the beginning of fan art I’ve seen from Star Trek fans, and I’m really impressed because – god damn, they’re creative and they’re talented.
AK: Are you interested in reprising the role of T’Veen? Would you be open to playing the role in voice-over on one of the animated shows?
SC: Oh, yeah, sign me on. I’m like, “What do you need me to do?” Any time, any day.
I so love this character so much. How can we explore even more? Where’s the T’Veen show? But I think all actors do that. Or, maybe they don’t! As I circle back to theatre, my thing is to fall in love with this character and make them as real as possible and they become part of me. I want people in love as much with them as I am.
But also Terry – in a way that I’ve never experienced this fully on a show – being someone who is a supporting character but also being included in the creative process. Feeling like your opinion mattered; that he wanted you to collaborate, and bring these characters all the way full. I met him the very first day, because I didn’t know him. I met him when I went in to try on my Vulcan wigs. And just his openness and availability. As the season went on, at the very end, we were all invited (not that we shouldn’t be), but being invited as part of this ensemble.
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When you’re playing with what I call the “big kids,” when you’re playing with Jonathan Frakes, when you’re playing with these people, to be part of that is really special. And that always legitimately trickles down from the showrunner, who creates it. And I feel very grateful to be part of that experience.
So I’m just like, “What do you need me to do, I will do anything within reason.” I think you can see, unequivocally, Terry very much loves and cares about this franchise. It shows.
AK: Is there anything you can tell us about the uniforms that might not be obvious from watching the show?
SC: For the first half, they were one-pieces. They were like jackets, but one-pieces. And in order to get in and out of them, it was like being a Victorian woman. You had to go the bathroom? You needed help. It was hard.
Other than that, they were real comfortable, though. They were the good kind of like stretchy gabardine. There were a lot of fittings involved in making them look the way they look. When you get really close to the colored part, it has the Starfleet insignia in the fabric.
AK: What was the environment on the bridge set like?
SC: It was fun. You know, the tenor changed generally based on who was directing.
But overall, the experience on the set was just really ebullient. You always want to work on a show where everyone, no matter who they are, soup to nuts, really enjoys being there. And the thing about this show is – yes, it’s also work, and you’re like, “My god, I’ve been here forever,” but, this show in particular, everybody was just really happy to be there. I mean, it’s hard work, unequivocally, but it was really just fun.
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I was talking to Todd Stashwick, who plays my Captain, because I was friends with him prior to shooting. Todd said, “I miss my bridge.” And I said, “I miss the bridge too!”
AK: What would you personally order from a replicator?
SC: Now personally, from a replicator, I would order tacos, man. I would order a really good Carne Asada taco. Like a street taco! Especially if I’m on the Titan. “I would like a taco from Taco Zone, circa 2022.”
If they’ve got a habanero salsa, I’m all in for it. Anything that can give it extra spice.
New episodes of Picard stream on Paramount Plus each Thursday.
Stream Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+ for one month free! Click here and use promo code: PICARD.
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