Star Trek: Lower Decks' Kether Donohue Discusses Peanut Hamper's Mathematically Perfect Return (Exclusive)

Following last week's trip to Deep Space 9Star Trek: Lower Decks' latest episode brought back one of the most memorable guest characters from its first season, the exocomp named Peanut Hamper. She was supposed to be a Starfleet officer but ditched the USS Cerritos crew when the time came to step up and save the day. When last Star Trek: Lower Decks fans saw Peanut Hamper, she was drifting through the vacuum of space. Today's episode, "A Mathematically Perfect Redemption," catches up with Peanut Hamper as she finds herself on a planet inhabited by what seems to be a pre-warp society. The story that follows is probably not what anyone expected.

(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/Paramount+)

That includes Kether Donohue, the actress who returns as the voice of Peanut Hamper. Donohue spoke to about becoming part of the Star Trek universe, voicing an exocomp, and her future on Star Trek: Lower Decks. Here's what she had to say:

I remember watching this episode repeatedly thinking, "They're really doing this. Oh, they're really doing that. Oh wow."

Kether Donahue: Oh, totally, and amen to that. That sums up how I felt recording it. I was like, "Oh, okay. I'm now having sex as a robot with Rouda. Okay, this is interesting."

What was your familiarity with Star Trek going in when you signed up to do the voice of Peanut Hamper in Star Trek: Lower Decks?

I'm not going to lie, I don't want to give an answer that just sounds good. I'm going to be completely transparent here and say that I did not know what I was doing and that I was honest. The truth is I was intimidated. When my voice agent called and said that I had the offer for Peanut Hamper, I was really excited, but I was mainly intimidated, to be honest, because I know it's a world where you don't want to mess it up because it's a world that has such a loyal and dedicated viewers.

When you're entering into a world that people just love and know, the last thing you want to do is not do justice to the character. So I'm going to be honest: when I went into it, I think "intimidated" would sum up the main feeling I had, because I just didn't want to mess it up. I didn't expect Peanut Hamper to keep coming back, so I'm just excited and grateful for any time Peanut Hamper gets to play with everybody.

Were you as surprised as I think a lot of fans are going to be that, not only did Peanut Hamper come back, but she's getting her own spotlight episode?

No, I was not expecting that at all. It was a few years ago that I got the call that Peanut Hamper had a guest spot in an episode, and that was exciting in and of itself. Since then, anytime my agent called, saying, "Oh yeah, you're booked again on Star Trek for Lower Decks" or "Peanut Hamper," it was honestly a pleasant surprise that I was not expecting. And this episode, honestly, Mike and the team really just killed it. And Kim, who wrote this episode, they all just killed it with the level of specificity and layers and twists and turns and truly fresh writing that makes me excited when I'm in the booth to be an actor.

Given what you said previously about Star Trek in general, I assume you had no idea what an exocomp was when they told you you'd be playing one.

Oh, yeah, no. We did some interviews a few months back, and I went up to Mike in private and I whispered to him, "Honestly, I feel a little embarrassed that I'm asking you this question at this point in time, but what is an exocomp?" Even after I recorded the episode, I still felt like I wanted to ask. Maybe that's embarrassing to publish. Maybe I shouldn't reveal my level of ignorance.

Honestly, I think that may be to your benefit because Peanut Hamper is such an atypical Star Trek character.

Exactly. See, what I love about her is that her human qualities are the same qualities in human beings that we see in live-action shows that the writers have put into her character. However, she's also very much equal parts a true robot, in the sense that she does detach. The whole point is that robots are not human. They could remove themselves from emotion. That's what fascinates me about the writing of Peanut Hamper is that they somehow pulled off this really wonderful recipe of human and robot qualities in a character. It's really honestly exciting to read and get to play. It's so complicated and cool.

Especially because, usually, you see these robot characters -- I feel like Star Trek has created some new synthetic life form a dozen times -- and it's always either they want to wipe out humanity or they're incredibly noble, like Data. But based on my experience with algorithms and the internet, it makes sense that they might be just kind of self-interested, like Peanut Hamper is, and just want to go about their business.

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Given the density of the Star Trek references in Lower Decks, did you ever have to stop and basically be like, "Wait, what's this?" Was there anything that tripped you up?

What I love about how Mike works is that I come from New York. I was born and raised in New York, and I did a lot of theater in New York. Mike honestly works with voice actors the same way I was used to rehearsing in theater. I'll be in the booth and he'll go through the scene. He'll break down the scenes one by one and read through them multiple times, very thoroughly, and he'll give me insight into what they were intending and thinking when they wrote specific parts of the scene, even before we record, so he might build space within the recording process of the booking time that we're booked in the booth, to actually thoroughly go through those things, that are very character-driven. So I appreciated that part of the process.

And so, yes, there were absolutely a 100% hands-down many times throughout the recording of the episode where I would ask questions and ask for clarity of what was happening or what a certain word meant, but it was built into the process. It did not slow things down and didn't make anything uncomfortable. It felt like it was welcome and part of the fun rollercoaster of making the episode.

Something that I think is interesting about this episode is that there's an interesting conversation around redemption stories these days. Audiences used to roll with them much more willingly, I feel, whereas now there's a lot more discussion about whether a character is actually worthy of forgiveness and redemption. I feel like this episode maybe is a parody of those stories or a commentary.

Oh, I love that, because honestly, that's a theme in general that I'm very interested in is redemption, resurrection, reconciliation, honestly, anything that begins with the "re-" prefix. I'm someone who is, I'm sober, almost celebrating three years sober, at this point, so redemption and the theme of second chances is something close to my heart. That's actually something I really love in the episode. I feel like there's a real way that its nuance is handled very honestly. Nothing is cookie cutter or buttoned up or tied up in a bow.

Just when you think you know where things are going or where things stand, there's a twist and a turn. Even how it ends, I like that there actually is a world in which Peanut Hamper and Rouda could have a reconciliation. I do think there's a built-in window at the end, where Peanut Hamper could be redeemed. I like how subjective it is and not on the nose. Nothing's on the nose, which I really like. I'm excited to see where it goes. There are so many opportunities and windows to see what happens with that.

On that note, you started playing Peanut Hamper as a comedic side character. You came back as the lead in a spotlight episode, Should we expect more and for your role to keep growing? Are we looking at a Peanut Hamper series next or a movie?

Honestly, like I said, anytime I was asked back to do more Peanut Hamper, it's been the most wonderful, pleasant surprise. I like to be in that space, where, if any future occurrences with Peanut Hamper happen, I like that vibe, that I'm just grateful and surprised when it happens. Of course, I would absolutely love Peanut Hamper to come back more, but I trust Mike so much with his vision of the show and how he writes these characters that, like I said, I would personally be very excited to revisit Peanut Hamper and Rouda. I feel like that's something that, when characters get back together, you're like, "Oh yay, their story's not over." There's something in me that feels like their story's not over. I think they could learn from each other. I think that Rouda opened up a soft spot within Peanut Hamper. I do think deep down inside she does have a genuinely good heart and she is just very protective because of her past, and I think Rouda brings out her soft side.

Well, I look forward to hopefully seeing more of Peanut Hamper in the future.


I'm excited to watch this week, and I just want to say thank you to everybody and everyone who's watched and supported! We will bask in this week.

Star Trek: Lower Decks debuts new episodes on Thursdays on Paramount+. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.