The third season of Star Trek: Discovery sent the crew of the USS Discovery into the 32nd century. There, Commander Michael Burnham met the courier Cleveland "Book" Booker. In the episode "Scavengers," Burnham risked her Starfleet career to rescue Book and, in the process, also saved the Adorian named Ryn. Ryn tried to fight back against the Emerald Chain's leader, Osyraa, but his insurrection only lost him his antennae and landed him in an Emerald Chain work camp. However, Ryn returned in this week's Star Trek: Discovery episode, "The Sanctuary," where he showed an entirely different side of himself in helping to save Book's homeworld.
Noah Averbach-Katz plays Ryn in Star Trek: Discovery. He's also a lifelong Star Trek fan. To commemorate his first Star Trek appearance, he released a wonderful retrospective video chronicling his history with the franchise all set to the tune of Star Trek: Enterprise's famous opening theme. He also happens to be married to Mary Wiseman, the Discovery cast member who plays new acting first officer Sylvia Tilly.
ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak with Averbach-Katz about all of this, from his history as a fan, to his Star Trek: Discovery debut, acting opposite his wife, and even running the cast Dungeons & Dragons. Here's what he had to say:
Congratulations on the video you put out with Star Trek: Enterprise's opening theme. It is a work of art.
Noah Averbach-Katz: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I spent about a year conceptualizing that, so I'm glad it paid off.
I couldn't think of better way for a life long Trekkie like myself to celebrate being on #StarTrek than to make a compilation video of some of my most embarrassing/cherished photos. I hope you love Ryn as much as I do. LLAP #StarTrekDiscovery pic.twitter.com/geZUcY27vs— Noah AK (@N_A_K) November 19, 2020
It's pretty clear you've been into Star Trek well before you became Ryn. How far back does that history go? What's your relationship been like with the franchise over the years?
I don't know when it started. I think my mom probably had Star Trek on from the moment I was born. So there's no real starting point. I went to conventions with her and some of my friends who she dragged along when I was probably 10, 11, 12, 13. You can see some of the pictures in there where I'm looking just my absolute best as a 13-year-old in a Star Trek uniform. And then when I was in undergrad, a friend of mine, Eli Mandel, this really, really great comedy writer ... This was when syndication vindications were kind of big, where people would basically just like do live performances of an episode of television that they liked. In undergrad, we did a syndication vindication of one of the Next Gen Groundhog Day episodes.
It kind of just continued all the way through. I played Riker in that, and I grew whatever peach fuzz beard I could and threw my leg over a chair, which was fantastic. And that's the picture in the video where my mom was kind of looking up at me, and I'm probably in my early 20s, because she drove down from Marin to come to Santa Cruz because she had to see that.
And then the last true convention I went to was in 2013 in Chicago, where we got our picture taken with Patrick Stewart. And after we got that picture taken, my mom immediately started weeping, because it sort of felt like an extremely important moment in her life's journey that she had completed, which was very, very funny. And then in grad school, in New York, I wasn't able to do too much, because I was very busy, but I did go to a screening.
It was the premiere of the Blu-ray for Next Gen. And they did a screening at one of the bigger Regal cinemas in Midtown, which LeVar Burton showed up to, which was very fun, and answered some questions, but it's been on the burner my whole life. And then of course, after I graduated in 2015, in 2016, Mary booked the show. And then it was like I was back in a whole different way, getting to see behind the scenes and be on the set and getting to know the actors. So it has grown, and this is the next part of it, being on the show for a little bit.prevnext
Becoming a Part of the Universe
No. I've spent a lot of time just walking around the sets. I'll just go into a soundstage that I'm not allowed to be on and just walk around and look at stuff. And the sort of level of detail that was in Next Gen, in all these other shows, it's continued on to Discovery.
They'll have a panel which will have the Star Trek Discovery ship number on it. And no one is going to see that on the show. Maybe somebody might freeze-frame it and then see these blurry numbers, but the detail is just so clear, just like it was on all the other shows. And so, I just think getting to walk around the sets, and it's crazy how big these sets are, I can literally walk through a starship and get lost, or I can go down this hallway for five minutes and bang and left, and I'm in the transporter room.
It really satisfies that fan dream of getting to be on set, of getting to be on the ship. It doesn't feel like, "Oh, I peek behind the curtain and this is just all cardboard, and I'm going to push it down and fall over." Actually, getting to peek behind the curtain really shows how hard people work on the show, how much they think about it, how much care and detail and blood and sweat people put into the show, and how the mise en scène of the show, the sets and the costumes and the specific nature and the thought-out nature of everything really contributes to the feeling, that I think the fans get, which is that real sense of reality.prevnext
Along those same lines, as someone who grew up with Star Trek, how did it feel not only getting to be in Star Trek to play one of its founding alien species as an Andorian? And also, is your video with the Enterprise music a hint that Ryn is a many generations removed descendant of Jeffrey Combs' Shran from Enterprise?
[Laughs] I hope it's not a spoiler, but I don't think Ryn is related to Shran. I don't think that is the case. I hate to destroy that theory, as much as I would love for it to be true.
But I do think what's so cool about being an Andorian is how little canon there is. For something that's in the original series, there is so little canon, especially when you compare it to Klingons or Vulcans or any of these other aliens that you can so fully explore. The canon really comes from the text of Enterprise, what Jeffrey Combs is saying. But I think even more so the canon of the Andorians comes from Jeffrey Combs' performance and the way that he styled his performance and the performance decisions he made of creating this character, Shran, who was confident and bombastic and sly and very, very full of life and energy. I feel like that is where so much of the canon is based.
And so, I think for Ryn, we kind of meet Ryn in the middle of his journey, and he has lived this bombastic path, where he tried to knock this huge villain off of her throne, and it failed. And so, we're actually meeting him much at the same point when we meet Shran, at a deep, emotional moment when his mate has died, or when his daughter is kidnapped, when he has all the outward trappings of an Andorian stripped away, and there's just a deep well of sensitivity, a deep well of a loss and humiliation.
And so that's where I tried to pick up with Ryn, as somebody who is in that part of his journey, and then maybe is trying to build back up to the confidence that Shran had. So in that sense, there is a direct line between Jeffrey Combs and his amazing performance of Shran and what I'm trying to do with Ryn, hopefully. We'll see if people think it's successful, but that's my hope.prevnext
Star Trek, maybe more than any other franchise I follow, can be a family business, partly because the casts become so close over the course of their series, but sometimes it's literal like with Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O'Connell. That's the case with you getting to work with your wife, Mary Wiseman, who plays Sylvia Tilly. You get to share some really great scenes with her in "The Sanctuary." What was that like for the two of you?
What is so funny about, especially our first scene in "The Sanctuary," where I storm in and ask, "Who's the captain?" and I'm kind of bossy, she just puts me in my place. The first thing I noticed was the last time I had really acted opposite Mary was in grad school, which is almost five years, four years, probably more, since we had been opposite each other. And she had three years of experience working on TV. And I was, just as an actor, I was completely struck with the level of ease and confidence on that set and how confident she was in her acting abilities. And I really felt she was in control of that room, both from an actor and a character standpoint. I really felt like, "Oh, she is in control here. She's really, really feeling confident." So that was just so much fun as her partner, as somebody who's watched her on stage and on screen for so much, to really get a sense of how much her acting has deepened since just being on the show. It was really exciting.
But I think the funniest part was, we were so excited to get to do something opposite each other, it was so, so thrilling, and we both were like, "All right, we're going to just chew the scenery. We're going to come after each other. I'm going to come in at a 100%. Where's the captain? Give me this." And she was like, "Well, I'm going to say, 'Get out of here.'' And it's just going to be like a hot heat going right at each other.
And separately, Jonathan Frakes, as a good director did, pulled us both aside and was like, "Hey, can you just cool it? It's not that. You guys aren't doing a couple's fight." So we both left the set that day, being like, "Oh my God, we got a talking-to from Jonathan Frakes. I can't believe it." And then both realized that we had the same note because we were both playing the same thing, which is just because we were so excited to be opposite of each other.prevnext
The Star Trek Message
I think that Ryn's story is a redemption arc, which I think are so prevalent in Star Trek. I think Star Trek does redemption arcs so well because so often they're either complicated or they're tragic or they're incomplete, which is very much true to life.
Often in Star Trek, the redemption arcs don't end with the person getting everything that they want, or saving everyone, or doing everything perfect all of a sudden. A lot of the time, those redemption arcs end with some sort of tragedy, or with a failure, or that things aren't perfect, but they can be better. And I think that sort of taps into the larger Star Trek ethos, which is trying your best to do your best, even if it fails, and that the trying, the attempt to do better, to continue the attempt to be better, whatever that might mean to every individual person, is as important as the end result of how it turns out.prevnext
That's a wonderful note to end on, but I wanted to ask you a somewhat adjacent question. I can see from Twitter that you're acting as the dungeon master in a Dungeons & Dragons game involving some of your co-stars -- Mary Wiseman, Blu del Barrio, Emily Coutts, Anthony Rapp, and Ian Alexander. Can you tell about how that came to be and what that's been like?
I've been getting into D&D over the past three years, I've had some friends, some great friends, who had introduced me to it and just kind of getting obsessed with everything D&D: Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, and all that good stuff.
Session #5 of our #DiscoDoesDnD campaign tonight was fantastic. Our brilliant DM @N_A_K intro’d us to a new mercenary cowboy dude — who’s got a gun — who led us into the mountains on a mission, where we got ambushed by goblins & their pet dire wolf but vanquished them. 1/? pic.twitter.com/op3OXZ5BwY— Anthony Rapp Voted for Biden Black Lives Matter (@albinokid) November 29, 2020
Anthony posted on Twitter, "I just played this D&D game. I really like it. I want to play it some more." And, we were going to go back up to Toronto. The lockdown's here. We're all sequestered away. This cast isn't hanging out. And I thought this is a great way for the cast to get to know each other, spend some time together, not talking about work, away from work, doing something fun. And Anthony is just the best kind of nerd. He is pure nerd. There's no part of nerddom he's not interested in and that he won't go full out on.
So we would do these Zoom cast meetings, where everyone would just say "Hi," check-in, everything's weird. And at the end of every meeting, Anthony would go, "Oh, and Noah's running a D&D game. So if you want to join, he's running it."
I'm just like, "All right. I guess I am then." And it's just been really fun. It's just a great way for people to get to know each other, to be silly, to tell a story that is separate from work, because as fun as Star Trek is, the days can be long. It can be exhausting, and you kind of don't want to talk about it once you've done it all day. You need a little break, which usually we've been able to organize in-person. Sonequa was so great about running party nights or whatever, but we're not able to do that right now.
So I just thought this would be a fun way to have everybody hanging out. And I think the one main takeaway I've gotten from it is that I've gotten to know Blu and Ian way better, and I really am so excited for their involvement in Star Trek. I think that they're going to be amazing ambassadors for a new generation of Star Trek. I think a lot of people are coming to it with a lot of understanding of it.
And I think that it can be difficult for somebody who is younger, who is maybe even born after even the Chris Pine movies, to say, "Where the heck do I enter this? This seems like I don't even know where to start." And I think Blu and Ian are going to be that entry point for so many new Star Trek fans. And I just couldn't think of two better ambassadors to a new set of fans. I just think that they're awesome. So this has really given me a chance to get to know them and just be excited for them.prevnext
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Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Commander Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber, David Ajala as Cleveland “Book” Booker.
Are you excited for the next episode of Star Trek: Discovery? Let us know in the comments. New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery debut weekly on Thursdays on CBS All Access.prev