Star Trek: Picard's Todd Stashwick Found Himself In A Patrick Stewart-Jonathan Frakes Sandwich [Exclusive Interview]

This post contains spoilers through "Star Trek: Picard" season 3, episode 5.

This season of "Star Trek: Picard" has been more than well-received by critics and fans. The show gives us "The Next Generation" movie we never got, and also introduced us to the irascible Captain Shaw, the captain of the U.S.S. Titan, who is far less enamored with Picard and Riker than others in Starfleet. Shaw is played by Todd Stashwick ("12 Monkeys"), who — as a Trek fan himself — is enjoying taking on the role.

"There's a shot in [the latest episode] that will just live in my little nerdy heart for the rest of my life," Stashwick told me in an interview a few days before the season's fifth episode dropped. "It is Shaw in the captain's seat with Picard on his right and Riker on his left, and just this great framed shot of the three of us. I'm flying my ship with my crew, and it just was peak Shaw."

Stashwick isn't the only one who appreciates peak Shaw moments. I talked to him about some fun behind-the-scenes moments from this week's episode, what he thinks about a potential Shaw spin-off, and that blue meat he was eating in his first scene on the show. Read on for our full discussion.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'We would have to get Ronny Cox back at some point where he comes on to get all Jellico'

The folks at /Film have been making the joke that this is the worst week ever for Captain Shaw in terms of everything he's been through so far. And in this season's fifth episode, Shaw takes the helm as the Titan flees the Changeling-controlled Starfleet. What was that like to film that moment?

That was so fun because, well, first of all, he's not going against Starfleet. He's obviously protecting Starfleet and once again, doing his job. He's protecting Starfleet against, like you said, bad actors. What was really fun about that scene is that might be one of the first times we see him doing full tilt captaining on the bridge and all of the evasive maneuvers — we were code red, red alert, all of that. Then I have the closest thing that I get to a catchphrase. I say, "Let's get out of here," which I like to think that's what he says every time, instead of "Engage" or "Make it so" or "Hit it" or "Let's fly." He just says, "Let's get out of here," which is a beleaguered, blue collar way of giving his command.

That scene was really fun because there's a shot in there that will just live in my little nerdy heart for the rest of my life. It is Shaw in the captain's seat with Picard on his right and Riker on his left, and just this great framed shot of the three of us. I'm flying my ship with my crew, and it just was peak Shaw.

It was so cool because you get a glimpse of what was a common scene [before Riker and Picard showed up] — to see him step up, him take charge, him running his ship, not handing it over to other people, not waiting for anything, it's like, "Okay, I've made the decision, here we go." It was really fun.

I know there are a lot of fans who are advocating for a Shaw spin-off show, probably on the Titan, which I'm sure you wouldn't mind, either. I wondered for you, hypothetically, if there was such a show, who would you want to see on the crew with you? It can be anyone from "Trek," it doesn't have to be just "Picard" folks.

Oh, wow. Well, I love all of my bridge. I love them. They're wonderful humans and I think they're really compelling characters that we could learn a lot more from and see a lot more from. What I think would be really fun, because of the era that we're in, is to see episodes with characters from "Deep Space Nine" and episodes with characters from "Voyager."

We would have to get Ronny Cox back at some point where he comes on to get all Jellico; he's probably an admiral at this point. And then the evolved version of Shaw would have to connect with him. That would be a lot of fun.

My next question actually relates to Jellico. What captains in the Trek lore do you think Shaw would get along with the most? Except for Jellico, as that's the obvious one.

Well, I think obviously Sisko, he shares a lot of history with — they may or may not have known each other but they share a common wound, I should say. [Editor's Note: Both Sisko and Shaw had traumatic experiences with the Borg.] He obviously would connect with Sisko on that level. I also think Janeway. She's not a space cowboy, not in the Kirk way. I also think his specific beefs with Picard, I don't know if he would have the same opinion of Picard that he has if it wasn't for "The Best of Both Worlds" [the "Next Generation" episode where Picard as the Borg attacked Starfleet, killing many, including Shaw's crew mates]. I think Picard, in many ways, was more similar to Shaw prior to that event.

'What does it feel like to be the center of a Patrick Stewart-Frakes sandwich?'

It's interesting you say that, because another scene from this latest episode of "Picard" is when the whole crew is getting ready to reconnect with Starfleet, Shaw questions the notion that Picard and Riker are legends. I think you literally say it's like a chicken or egg thing.

Well, they caused their own problems that they solve. They're the ones who have put the galaxy in danger, but then had to bail themselves out, which I think is fun.

Was it fun filming that scene?

It was really playful. It's a little meta, obviously, but it's a man who's done his research, and maybe didn't even need to, because these are notoriously infamous moments in Starfleet history. Yet it all keeps coming back to those two. One funny thing that happened on that turbo lift is at one point, Patrick Stewart snaked his arm behind me and grabbed Jonathan [Frakes, who plays Riker], and squeezed me in between them. And then he goes [in voice like Stewart's]: "What does it feel like to be the center of a Patrick Stewart-Frakes sandwich?"

No, he didn't. Oh, man.

Yeah, I was like, "There's a line at a con that would pay for this moment."

Yeah, there is.

He was just so silly. And I think the line, "Those were the days," [that Picard says after Shaw dresses him and Riker down], that came up in the room on the day. That was a pitch, and then, "Those were the days" was the one that we landed on. We were all like, "That's perfect."

And Patrick's delivery of that is so nice. It's humorous, but also nostalgic.

Yeah, it's really how we're all feeling.

I do have to ask about your first scene on the show: What did that blue streak taste like?

It was space meat.

Space meat, but you were actually eating it, right?

Yeah, I ate the space meat.

What did it taste like?

It tasted like space.

It was very blue.

Super blue. It's from space.

Did it dye your teeth or anything like that?

Why would it? It's blue. It's not dye. It's space. That's my story, I'm sticking to it.

'We watch him slowly evolve as these situations present themselves'

All right, sounds good. Hopefully we can all have space meat someday. So I know we're at the midpoint of the season, and without getting into spoilers, is there anything you can tease about Shaw's journey through the course of the season that's left?

It's funny, like any character — and I've had the good fortune of performing in Terry Matalas joints before [like "12 Monkeys"] — what I love about Terry is the way he uses what I do to get people to hate me at first, and then slowly wrestle them into going, "Oh, he has a point. He's a little funny sometimes." I love the journey that Shaw goes on, the evolution and the new places that he comes to when faced with these dire situations.

It's not that he hasn't faced his share of space adventure before. He's been in Starfleet, boldly going through the final frontier for at least five years on the Titan itself. He's a growing individual who, when we first meet him, has a lot to learn. And we watch him slowly evolve as these situations present themselves.

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