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Interview: ‘Carter’s Jerry O’Connell Talks ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’

August 6, 2020Ben MK

As Superman in such DC animated movies as Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, The Death and Return of Superman and Batman: Hush, Jerry O'Connell is no stranger to using only his voice to convey his the heroic actions of his character. But as Commander Jack Ransom, a senior Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos in Mike McMahan's new animated comedy Star Trek: Lower Decks, O'Connell isn't playing a super-powered alien from another planet, but rather an ordinary man with an ego the size of a planet — who also happens to have a penchant for fighting aliens.

I caught up with Jerry O'Connell to chat about Star Trek: Lower Decks and drawing upon his experience in the DC animated world to bring his character to life, as well as to find out what it's like joining his wife, Star Trek: Discovery's Rebecca Romijn, as part of the Star Trek universe.

First of all, how have you been keeping busy during the pandemic and how have you been adjusting to the weird new normal that we're all in?

O'Connell: I took an RV trip with my wife and kids last week. That was interesting. I would have never done that had it not been for a pandemic. I go to the beach a lot. I live in Southern California, so I drive to the beach with my kids. Spending a lot of time with the family. Trying not to fight with them. Watching a lot of TV — a lot of TV.

Of course, you've been the voice of Superman for many of the recent DC animated films. And in Lower Decks, you play Commander Ransom, a character that arguably has an ego just as big as the Man of Steel is powerful. Can you talk a bit about how you drew on your past experience doing voice acting to bring Ransom to life?

O'Connell: Ransom is like nothing I've really done before. First of all, it's a comedy. And when I played Superman in all those DC animated films, which I am so immensely proud of, we wrapped everything up with the last film. I couldn't be more proud of all the work that we all did. What a fun place to work, that DC animated world.

But Ransom in Lower Decks is a little full of himself. He's very much unlike Superman where he has a huge ego and he thinks everything is his way or the highway. I would say he does take advantage of his position on the Cerritos, whereas Superman is just a little more humble. But in the moments where my character does show signs of bravery and the times where my character does a few heroic things, I guess I do try to emulate stuff that I did in those DC animated films.

I gotta say, when I played Superman I took copious notes from Twitter and Reddit about some choices I made playing Superman. I applied them in the second film I did and it really helped me. I listen to the fans, I really do. It's not easy to read criticism but I do take it in.

Now that you've added Star Trek to your filmography, what's it like to be part of another major franchise with such a big fan following?

O'Connell: For the last few years I've been an in-law of the Trek world because my wife has been on Discovery the last couple years [as well as] Short Treks. And now my wife is in the [Captain] Pike series [Star Trek: Strange New Worlds]. So I've just been going as her plus one — I've just been hanging out with Spock and the whole crew of the Discovery. And it wasn't until I did Lower Decks that I actually was invited to the bridge. But as an in-law of Number One, my wife's character Una, it was really cool to go on the Enterprise bridge and to walk on that set. It was really chilling. It made my heart stop. It was crazy to see the original Enterprise bridge.

Mike McMahan mentioned that he's already working on writing the season two finale of Lower Decks, but was there a moment from season one that was the most memorable for you to work on, personally?

O'Connell: I love it when Ransom fights aliens. That's my favorite cuz he gets real [Captain] Kirk and he rips his shirt off and he gets right in there. Fight scenes are really fun. They're also fun because our creator, Mike McMahan, who worked on Rick and Morty, has a really fun, different way of doing fight scenes while paying homage to the Star Trek universe. So they're just fun to do. I love all those fight scenes.

You probably did your voice recording separately from the rest of the cast, but how was it working with them?

O'Connell: They're great. I can say that Tawny has become a personal friend of my wife and me. I don't know how much Tawny wants me to say about her personal life, but she and her husband are so cool. They have such a great sense of style. I'm so into everything that they do. And Tawny's hilarious in the show. It's funny, Tawny only works on shows that involve space now.

On a similar note, do you have a favorite character in the show (or in the Star Trek universe in general)?

O'Connell: I did base a little bit of my character, Ransom, on Riker. I wanna be like Riker on steroids — I wanna be the Rick and Morty version of Riker. I really like Riker. I also say that because Jonathan Frakes is a good friend of my wife's and mine and I see him a lot.

Last but not least, what are you most looking forward to when the world eventually comes out on the other side of this pandemic?

O'Connell: I guess I'll help my kids with online school in the fall and I'm gonna order a model of the U.S.S. Cerritos. I'm gonna build it and try to paint it and everything. And I'm gonna show everybody online.

Star Trek: Lower Decks premieres August 6th on CTV Sci-Fi Channel, Crave and CBS All Access.

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