Star Trek: Lower Decks Star Tawny Newsome Is Stoked About Replicator Nachos [Interview]

It's a great time to be a "Star Trek" fan. Not only do we have the incredible new series "Strange New Worlds" to enjoy, but season 3 of the hilarious animated series "Star Trek: Lower Decks" is coming to Paramount+ this summer. "Star Trek: Lower Decks" follows the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos as they go on the missions not quite important enough for, say, the Enterprise. Specifically, the series follows the crew members on the lower decks, the low-ranking, hard-working newbies who have to work their way upward. It's a workplace comedy that just happens to be set in the "Star Trek" universe, and it's an absolute blast. 

To celebrate the upcoming third season later this year and the release of season 2 on Blu-ray and DVD on July 12, 2022, I had the chance to chat via voice comms with Tawny Newsome, who voices the feisty and fabulous Ensign Beckett Mariner. Newsome is a massive Trek fan, and it was a dream to chat with her about "lower decks"-esque jobs in our world, getting random phone calls from Jonathan Frakes, and the "Santa Fe of 'Star Trek.'"

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

'It's got to be us against the world'

So right out of the gate, "Lower Decks" is really relatable to anybody who has ever had a real life "lower decks"-type job in retail or customer service. Did you have any early jobs like that, that helped you bring that to the character of Mariner?

I always joke that I've never had a real job. But by that, I mean I've only ever been in customer service or retail. Not that there's not real jobs, but I just mean I've never worked in an office. So I don't have basic office skills at all. But what all those customer service jobs did give me was a real sense of you and your teammates, "it's got to be us against the world" kind of a vibe. Whether you work at a bar or whether you work at The Gap, it's like you and your crew members there, you really got to have a united front because you don't know what's walking through the door every day. And man, the people that you're serving or working to help aren't always thinking about you, much in the way that a lot of Starfleet isn't always thinking about our lower deckers. So yeah, you've got to have some camaraderie.

'I just haven't seen a lot of reference to things like nachos in the canon, in the past'

One of the fun things about "Lower Decks" is just how much it's jam-packed with jokes and references. Every episode forces fans to think about new ideas in the world of "Star Trek." One I loved was the idea of "Klingon acid punk" as a music genre. Are there any small bits that you remember that you wish you'd gotten to take further or would like to return to in the future?

Ooh. Okay. Love the idea of Klingon acid punk, right? Because in ["The Next Generation"], we talk so much about classical music. We have so much about jazz. And yeah, I love the idea of exploring what other aliens' musical genres might be like. And of course for Klingons, it would be acid punk, or some kind of very warrior-focused, like, death metal. Honorable death metal would be their genre. So yeah. I love exploring anything to do with music. 

I also just love dumb things, like things that come out of the replicators in terms of food. I love anytime Boimler goes on a run about foods that come out of the replicator. He talks about macaroni and cheese with the breaded top. There's a lot of discussion about nachos and different types of Mexican food. Mariner loves margaritas. I just love that these very 2022 Earth meals are still what our lower deckers are enjoying up there. Because yeah, I just haven't seen a lot of reference to things like nachos in the canon, in the past.

'You're not a fake fan. We just made this up. It's new'

And "nachos" is pretty pronounceable, but do you get a guide for pronouncing all of the alien races and techno-babble? Or do you just have to kind of get notes afterward, keeping your P'takhs and your Qapla's straight?

Oh, I think I get corrected in the moment, but I tend to go in pretty confident. I by no means speak Klingon, but after hearing those sounds so much, and I've been a fan all my life pretty much, I have a good handle on what they might sound like. So I usually just kind of take a stab at the line. And then if it's wrong, Mike [McMahan, the showrunner] or our producer, Brad [Winters] will be like, "Oh, I think it's actually like this." Or if it's a new alien race that we've just invented, those always throw me because sometimes I always have that imposter syndrome feeling where I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I must not be as big a fan [as I thought]." 

Because I'll see some wild name. It'll be, like, the Plastarkians. And I'll be like, "What episode would he be from?" And Mike will be like, "We made that up. You can't know what this is. Don't worry. You're not a fake fan. We just made this up. It's new." Yeah. But they correct me in the moment, but I generally go in with a strong idea and I'm usually not too far off.

'It's just like such a classic Trek scene'

Since you're such a big "Star Trek" fan, are there any little Easter eggs that you've seen in the seasons out so far that just really spoke to you as a fan?

Oh, are we talking season 2?


What on Earth even happened in season 2? We're in this mental soup now where they're writing season 4, I started recording season 4. I'm doing ADR, like audio pickups to season 3. My brain is so tangled about what's a spoiler and what's not. I also text Mike McMahan constantly to pump him for info that even the rest of our actors don't always get. So sometimes I have secret spoilers and I'm terrified of saying the wrong thing. So let's see.

The end of season 2, Carol gets carted away. Captain Freeman gets carted away. I don't know. It's not really an Easter egg, but you know that moment where she's pulled away by the guards and everybody lines up? That just feels like such a Trek moment. Like the captain's quarters door is open, or the ready room door is open and there's a line of their crew that they have to walk through while these bad dude admirals take them down. It's just like such a classic "Trek" scene, that it tickles me to see it in our little cartoons.

'I should open a Quark's'

What's it like being a part of the "Star Trek" universe? Do you all get a lifetime memberships to Quark's or anything?

I love it. I should open a Quark's. It should be like the Bubba Gump Shrimp of the "Star Trek" universe. Maybe they'll do that one day and I can run it with all my bartending experience. But yeah, I love it. I recently became friendly with Jonathan Frakes. And I mean, to have Jonathan Frakes text you little snippets of fake Darmok language is something that if you told the 20-year-old Tawny or 16-year-old Tawny, I would not believe you. I'd be freaking out. So that's my lifetime membership, just having Jonathan Frakes' cell phone number.

I'm jealous. That's amazing.

I can't give it out, but he should really set up a hotline and then people can just text and get little updates from Frakes.

A 'theater kid' episode

Are there any classic "Star Trek" episodes that you hope "Lower Decks" one day riffs on?

I talked about this in interviews before, but I really loved the episode of "Deep Space Nine" about Dax where she's revisiting with all of her previous hosts, but they take the form of the rest of the "Deep Space Nine" crew, taking the personality and form of them so that she could interact with and speak to all of them. And it's just such a nerdy, theater kid-type episode because everybody gets to play [something else].

Quark is this woman from [Dax's] past. Kira's just like a tough-a** person. So everybody gets to play a little character on top of the roles they already play. And I would love an episode like that. We kind of had it with "Crisis Point." We have something in season 3 that's going to look a little similar, but not quite the same, but I would love just a full-on, like a play acting sort of episode where all of our characters take on this heightened other character.

Sort of like the "Strange New Worlds" episode that just dropped. 

Very similar. Yeah.

'I just have too much of a streak of just obnoxious rebellious autonomy to join any sort of military'

I absolutely love Mariner. She's the kind of adventurous, slightly underachieving troublemaker that I sort of would imagine myself being in Starfleet. How do you think you would handle Starfleet?

I mean, first of all, I would never sign up because anything where I've got to wear a uniform, I just know that's not suited to my personality. I'd be bad. I would not be good at it. I'm an only child. My dad started raising me as a 35-year-old adult from the moment I could read. So I just have too much of a streak of just obnoxious rebellious autonomy to join any sort of military.

However, if it was like some type of universe where I was ... I don't know if I just did it, I think I would be very much like Mariner. I think I would be good in a lot of ways, but also kind of intentionally self-sabotaging so that I could manipulate the system and kind of stay in the — not that she's staying in a comfort zone, she's staying in a realm where she believes she can have the most impact and she can do her best work and it doesn't follow a traditional promotion structure. And I think I would be similar to that. I'd be trying to game the system a little bit.

'It feels like someone went to Santa Fe once and then wrote a whole type of people based on that'

Are there any planets in "Star Trek" that you would love to visit personally and that you would love to see the crew of the Cerritos visit?

I mean, I don't want see anyone go to Risa because I don't want to see my friends in that way. It's a little too much for me, but I want them to have gone to Risa because everyone should experience joy. Where would I want go?

I kind of want to go to Bajor. Honestly, they just seem like ... I don't know. They seem chilled out. They have a spirituality that seems very comforting and calming. I like all their kind of coral and brown colored roads. I love jewelry. It feels like someone went to Santa Fe once and then wrote a whole type of people based on that. That's where I want to go, the Santa Fe of "Star Trek."

'I want Jack to have to dye his hair permanently'

Is there anything about season 3 that you want fans to know before it comes out?

We are going to see what's going on with Carol Freeman. We're going to see how our lower deckers deal with that. We had a little teaser that we released for Star Trek Day that showed a really fun role-playing type game that [we get to] tackle. So yeah, fun little bits like that, fun little nod to things that are out in the universe a little bit and maybe some legacy characters.

And my last question is, would you ever want to play a live-action version of Mariner in another "Star Trek" show?

Oh yeah, absolutely. And I want Jack [Quaid, who plays Boimler] to have to dye his hair permanently. He's got to. Noël [Wells, who plays Tendi] doesn't have to be green because you know, of course she is ... I don't want her to have to deal with that every night. They can put that in post, I think. But Jack, he's got to dye that hair.

"Star Trek: Lower Decks" is currently streaming on Paramount+.