Star Trek: Prodigy's Ella Purnell And Brett Gray On The Futures Of Their Characters [Exclusive Interview]

"Star Trek: Prodigy," released under the Nickelodeon umbrella, is about a group of teenage aliens who live very, very far away from the auspices of recognizable Trek iconography. They have never heard of Starfleet or the Federation. But when fleeing a cruel slave master, the teens happen upon an abandoned Starfleet vessel called the U.S.S. Protostar. Thanks to the help of an emergency instructional hologram made to look like Captain Janeway (played by Kate Mulgrew), the teenagers form their own rudimentary crew and slowly begin absorbing Trek's utopian philosophies. 

The ersatz captain of the Protostar is the roguish and brash Dal R'El (Brett Gray), a clever kid who is still trying to overcome his ego and his instincts toward irresponsibility. His first officer (and really the ship's co-captain) is Gwyndala (Ella Purnell), who is fleeing the dark legacy of her slave-owning father while recovering from a bout of mental damage accidentally inflicted upon her by a Medusan crew mate. In "Star Trek," Medusans are energy beings whose appearance is so beautiful and strange, it drives most humanoids mad. 

At the outset of season 1B of "Prodigy," which returns to Paramount+ this month, Gwyn and Dal have located some Starfleet contacts, but find that their ship is housing a dangerous secret weapon meant to destroy the Federation. They need to make contact ... but they also need to stay away. 

/Film recently interviewed Gray and Purnell about the large, intimidating architecture of "Star Trek," and what the future might hold for Dal and Gwyn once they grow up.

Kilngons vs. bears

"Star Trek" is decades old. It's large and intimidating to neophytes. How much did you have to familiarize yourself with the extant universe? How much did you get into "Star Trek" before knowing you were going into these roles?

Gray: I didn't know anything. I had seen some "Star Trek" growing up and I'd always known what it was and about the sort of massive hold on culture that it has. But I'm actually learning for the first time with these characters. And it's cool because as I learn now going backwards into "Star Trek" and doing my research, I'm pointing out the Kobayashi Maru from my show, even though it's actually from another. So it's like I'm now seeing the relation as I learned it going backwards. So it's cool. It's like mining.

That's fitting for your characters, who are also unfamiliar with all of the "Star Trek" stuff.

Purnell: Yeah, same with me. This is my introduction into the universe and it's definitely very intimidating because obviously there's so many years of history and so many people and the fans are very, very passionate, so you want to do right by them — you want to do it justice. Speaking Klingon was probably the scariest thing I've ever had to do in my entire career, and I've done a film with a bear! We had literally a Klingon translator because if you mess it up, it's game over and you'll get fired! [laughs] But everyone's been so welcoming and it's been a really fun adventure.

The sub-Reddits

Have you had any chance to interact with, or at least heard from, any fans? Are Trekkies intimidating?

Purnell: [To Gray] You went to the Comic-Cons — the last one and then this one — so you probably had more interaction with people. Yeah, I have not. I've just been looking at the sub-Reddit and that seems [shudders].

Gray: Yeah, for me it's mostly been Twitter and I got the chance to do Star Trek Day. [I did] Comic-Con last year, and then a little bit later, too. Yeah, I feel like the first time we went out for Comic-Con, the show wasn't out yet or maybe it was out on just Paramount+ or something, so there wasn't really a way to gauge how people were feeling. But now I get a sense of people are loving the show. And not just kids, but adults as well. And people who are longtime "Star Trek" fans are appreciating the freshness that's coming from "Prodigy" and the visual aesthetic and the characters and the storylines. So fingers crossed, hopefully it's doing really well and we get to keep going for a long time.

A futures of Dal and Gwyn

If you do get to keep going for a long time, how do you think your teenagers will grow into adulthood? "Being young" is not a character trait for very long, so what kind of people do you think Gwyn and Dal will be?

Purnell: That's a good question. I don't think we've ever been asked that. 

Gray: No, never. I think they're going to be pretty awesome as adults. I think they've had such tumultuous stories and really deep origins and backstories and have been through so much on their own — without even Starfleet — that they're going to be taking names and kicking butts in adult life and they all have each other. Yeah, I feel like they're going to be dope.

Purnell: I would agree with that. I think that they would've been through so much. I like to think they'd be like Janeway.

Gray: Totally.

Purnell: I like to think that they would be mentors to the younger generation and share what they've learned along their journeys.

New episodes of "Star Trek: Prodigy" will be available to stream on Paramount+ on October 27, 2022.