Star Trek: Lower Decks Star Dawnn Lewis On Playing A Starfleet Captain Who Cares Too Much [Exclusive Interview]

System alert! The following interview contains spoilers for the latest episode of "Star Trek: Lower Decks."

Captain Carol Freeman of the U.S.S. Cerritos isn't your typical Starfleet captain. She's pretty intense and does her best to go above and beyond the call of duty whenever possible, which sometimes lands her in more trouble than if she hadn't given it her all. It doesn't help that she's also constantly trying to rein in a wild crew and her even wilder daughter, Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), but Captain Freeman is trying her best. In season 3, she managed to clear her name after being framed by the Pakleds, finally relaxed a little with the help of her engineering crew, and even managed to one-up the notoriously devious Ferengi businessman, Quark. Now if she can just mend things with Beckett...

I had the chance to sit down and chat via communicator badge with Dawnn Lewis, who voices Captain Freeman on "Star Trek: Lower Decks," and we had a blast talking about the stresses of leadership, how Carol lets loose, and the ongoing legacy of "Star Trek." Set phasers to "stunning" and read on to learn everything there is to know about Starfleet's newest and coolest captain.

'She's going to be making soup in season 4'

This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

At the end of season 2, Captain Freeman was in some hot water because she'd been framed for the attack on the Pakleds, but as we approach the end of season 3, she's kind of in hot water again. Where do you think we'll see her go in season 4?

She's going to be making soup in season 4. [laughs] Season 3, she's in hot water and everyone is on edge. She unwittingly shoots herself in her own foot with her daughter. So all we can hope for season 4 is that bridges are mended just in time for something else to explode, to set the Cerritos onto a whole new adventure of "How do we come together? How do we rebuild to get ourselves and stay on track?"

'She's not at 10, she's at 12 on a regular basis'

Why do you think Captain Freeman keeps getting in trouble? What are some of her flaws as a captain, but what are also some of her strengths?

I think Captain Freeman keeps getting into trouble because she cares so much. She really wants to be at her best. She really sincerely wants the best for her crew. She also is dealing with her own personal emotions of trying to navigate and cultivate a relationship with her daughter, who repeatedly seems to be the source of so much of her frustration and how she deals with everyone else on board the ship.

One of her strengths is that, like I said, I think she just genuinely cares so much. One of her faults is that I seriously think Captain Freeman has high blood pressure and just does everything at 12 all the time. She's not at 10, she's at 12 on a regular basis, which is why it's so refreshing when you see her come down to seven or eight and make a joke or do things to interact with the crew or just try her best to let her hair down. But invariably, that doesn't last very long, because she goes right back to 12 to solve the next crisis.

'She's probably going around the whole ship playing practical jokes on people'

That leads right into my next question. Captain Freeman has so much on her shoulders as captain of the Cerritos, and aside from that little trip to the therapy planet, what does she do to let loose?

Does she let loose? I think at her heart, if we saw other behind the scenes, behind the crisis episodes of Carol Freeman, she's probably going around the whole ship playing practical jokes on people. When you see that gleam — those episodes where there's a gleam in her eye of how she's cultivated a way to outsmart Mariner, to use reverse psychology on her to get her to do what she wants her to do, I think [those] are just priceless moments.

Then those times where you see her in the nightclub and she fancies herself a jazz singer, scatting, letting her hair down. I think she loves music, she loves fitness and adventure like Mariner does, where she goes into the holodeck and gives herself these exercises and opportunities to use her fighting skills and leadership skills. And then I think there are other times she's in the holodeck where she's on a sunny beach somewhere in a Starfleet bikini, and her com is sitting on a little café table next to her, next to a drink with an umbrella in it.

'I hope she was worse than Beckett'

Do you ever think we'll get a flashback to what Captain Freeman was like when she was a lower decker? Do you think she was more like Beckett than she lets on?

My gosh, I sincerely hope so, and I hope she was worse than Beckett. I really do. I hope she was insubordinate. I hope she was a prankster. I hope she was Huckleberry Finn talking the crew into doing all of her work for her. That's what I hope. I do. I think that would be fantastic.

'I was always a Quark fan on Deep Space Nine'

Captain Freeman gets to interact with all of the guest stars like Armin Shimerman and Nana Visitor from the "Deep Space Nine" episode. Did you get to meet any of them? What's sort of the process for having guest stars on the show from your end?

Since the pandemic, we record in isolation. We're usually the only ones in the booth, and we're not scattered around the studio with each of us in our own booth so we can still interact with each other. So in that regard, you really have to rely on the direction of our team, whether it's Mike [McMahan] or Brad [Winters] or any other of the producers directing us and filling in the gaps for us as we create the world or recreate the world that so many "Trek" fans have become familiar with.

Fortunately, over the years, I have been able to meet several members of the various "Star Trek" casts. So I've come to know many of them as friends, which is fantastic. And maybe not so much as friends, but as acquaintances, we've gotten to be each other's company. So people like Jonathan Frakes, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei. The list goes on. I've never met Armin though, but I was always a Quark fan on "Deep Space Nine." I thought he was so, so clever. What a clever Ferengi.

'She's so over the top'

If you could bring anyone on for a cameo for Captain Freeman to meet, who would you want to see?

I would want to see Captain Sisko. I would want to see Janeway.


Because their captaining styles are the complete opposite of Captain Freeman. Captain Freeman is so heightened — she's so over the top. She's so at 12 all the time. And Janeway was always so cool and calm, and Sisko was always so suave and debonair and giving out orders and such. I think either she would give them a heart attack, or they would make her feel like, "Okay, I should be taking Valium regularly. I need to calm down."

'She probably would've scared him to death to separate'

I'm curious: How would Captain Freeman have handled Tuvix, the Tuvok and Neelix hybrid from "Voyager?"

Wow. She probably would've scared him to death to separate. Yeah. Because again, she's just so over the top. I think they would've been deathly afraid to even deal with her. I think she would've found a clever way to get them into whatever machine was necessary to split them up and send them to opposite corners.

'In her office, I think she is closer to who she really is as a woman'

How did you settle on Captain Freeman's command voice? She has a very different authority on the bridge than, say, in her office. Was that intentional?

Yes. Yes. In her office, I think she is closer to who she really is as a woman, as someone who's got a list of things on her desk to get done. On the bridge, I think she is really focused on making sure she presents a very exact and commanding [air, conveying the idea that] "I am the voice in the room to be heard, hear me now. No other voice matters except mine right now when I'm speaking."

And I think when she's in quarters, speaking with someone, that her voice is not necessarily the last voice to be heard. She's in her quarters to have a conversation, which means that authoritarian approach of "everyone listen to me" is not necessarily where she is when she's in her quarters. She's in her quarters to get feedback. She's in her quarters to get information, give information. And you can't do that if you're presenting a persona of "everyone shut up and listen."

'She would've loved it, because she could yell constantly'

What do you think would've happened if Carol Freeman hadn't gone into Starfleet? What do you think she would've done with her life?

If Carol Freeman hadn't gone into Starfleet, I think she would've been an NBA coach. I think she would've tried to be the first female NBA head coach.

I love that.

I think she would've surrounded herself by gigantically tall men and felt very comfortable barking orders at them because they could take it. She would be afraid of breaking women in the WNBA. She would be afraid of hurting someone's feelings — "I really don't have time for that. We need to get this done. I don't have time for that."

That's what I think she would've done. And she would've loved it, because she could yell constantly. She'd yell at the players. She'd yell at the refs. She would just be yelling. She would yell at everyone with authority and with good intentions to have everybody perform at their best. NBA head coach.

'We just keep needing to put these messages out there'

I've asked some of the other "Lower Decks" folks this, but I'm going to ask you too. I feel like with "Lower Decks" and "Strange New Worlds," it feels like we're really back in that golden era of "Star Trek" that we were in the '90s all over again. Why do you think "Star Trek" is really resonating with people again?

Honestly, I think in the world today, we are given more and more in the face reasons and opportunities to see each other as human beings and what each person, what each culture, what each race, what each nationality brings to the table. Whether it's because of the growth of broader TV coverage, or internet coverage, or immediate information gathering, we see each other more.

And as more and more groups speak up to be identified, to be acknowledged, to be respected, it calls everyone else to say, "Okay, I did not even know you existed before. I did not know you felt that way before. Let me take a step back, pause, and see or do what I can to try to understand." Or, unfortunately, "Even though I see you, I refuse to understand, because my opinion is more important than your reality." And I think that's where we are.

So our show that comes and searches the galaxy for different planets, different cultures, different races, and finding ways to speak to each other, encourage each other, work with each other, I really think mirrors where we are in the world today. There's no one way to see anything. And our shows, the "Star Trek" universe and franchise, each of these series takes their own perspective on, "How do we see and engage with each other better, as different as we are?" And I think the world needs to see that, even if it's in a dramatized version, I think the world needs to see that. They see themselves more in it now. They don't consider them "other." They don't consider others as "other."

They say like, "Thank you for the information." More often than not, I find people saying, "Thank you for the information," while there are still some who refuse to receive the information and it's more important for them to spew their rhetoric. And it's like, "Okay." But we just keep needing to put these messages out there of "How do we see and engage better with each other?"

New episodes of "Star Trek: Lower Decks" premiere Thursdays on Paramount+.