Star Trek: Lower Decks: Paul Scheer on Billups' Surprising Backstory and the Season 2 Finale

Star Trek: Lower Decks, the first animated comedy set in the Star Trek universe, brings its second season to a close today. The season finale episode, "First First Contact," brings back an unexpected Star Trek: The Next Generation character as the crew of the USS Cerritos must save an entire Starfleet starship from disaster. Among them is Lieutenant Commander Andarithio "Andy" Billups, voiced by Paul Scheer. Episodes from earlier in the season revealed that the chief engineer with a pleasant demeanor is royalty on his home planet. The season finale revelation that [SPOILER WARNING] Captain Carol Freeman is considering taking a higher-profile posting on another Starship brought out another, more hot-headed side of Billups. But the crisis at hand forced Billups to step up in a new way, which may continue after Freeman's arrest at the end of the episode. spoke with Scheer over Zoom ahead of the finale's debut to discuss Billups' journey throughout these first two seasons of Star Trek: Lower Decks and what the future may hold. You can find our conversation below. [This interview has been edited for clarity, flow, and length.]

(Photo: Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images, Paramount+)

How was this job, voicing a character in Star Trek, presented to you? What was your first impression of Billups when you got the script and finally looked into him?

Paul Scheer: Well, I'm a huge Star Trek fan. I've been going to Star Trek conventions since I was a little kid. I've met all the original cast. I've met a lot of the Next Generation. Kate Mulgrew was on NTSF:SD:SUV. A bunch of great Star Trek actors came on NTSF. So I am a huge fan.

And when I found out that Mike McMahan, who I'm also a fan of, was creating the show, I just simply reached out over Twitter. And I was like, "I am so excited about this show. I cannot wait to see what it will be like." He's like, "Come in and let's chat. And so we sat down, had lunch together, pre COVID, and just really geeked out about everything that we love about Star Trek.

I'm trying to think if I even auditioned for it. I probably did. Yeah. I probably just auditioned for it. And then that was it. But it didn't matter what the character was. I was definitely going to say yes.

So you're in on all the in-jokes that Mike McMahan and the writers put into the show's scripts.

I mean, it's amazing. I mean, the fact that they got back Alice Krige as the Borg Queen, I mean, that's not an in-joke, but there's so many things. I mean, what was it, the episode last week, where it's like, "I'd rather be climbing a rock," whatever the shirt that Kirk was wearing in Star Trek V. Yeah. Oh, I love that stuff. I mean, it's so fun.

And I think what I love about the show is it's incredibly funny, but it's not making fun of Star Trek. I do think that it really is a comedy show for Star Trek fans, which I think is a really tough nut to crack.

We just saw the season two finale, and we got to see a different side of Billups in this one. He comes off as so pleasant most of the time, but man, he gets worked up this time around and has to step up a bit. Was that fun to get to show that side of him finally?

Yeah. Billups has some anger and has some moments where you can really see it. And I think this season, we had a great episode where he goes back to his world with his mom. And you get to see that whole relationship, which is incredibly weird. But more and more sides are coming out of Billups.

I'm thrilled that I have a chance to do more and more on the show. But yeah, the idea to step up a little bit and see, I think it was in the first season, where I think the camera was panning in on him. And it was like, "I just want you to know... you did a great job!" I think that there are these moments with him.

Look, he's in a pressure cooker all the time. I don't think we ever got to see Geordi getting so pissed off. So I'm thrilled that we get a chance to see these other sides of him.

I want to ask you about that backstory that came out. How early did you know about Billups' secret royal heritage that we finally got revealed earlier this season?

I believe when I was recording stuff for episode one, they're like, "Oh, you cannot wait until you see what we have worked out for you in the second season." They had already had the idea, and they just were dangling it. And that was what was so fun about it. And then when I read that episode, and they told me they wanted to get [actress/comedian June Diane Raphael, also Scheer's wife] to play my mom, it was perfect. It was really, really great.

Did you and June get to record together?

No. I've never recorded with anyone. I just met Jack [Quaid] a couple of weeks ago for the first time. I know Tawny [Newsome] really well. But yeah. So it's interesting. You get in these zones where you don't get to know everybody that you work with. Eugene [Cordero] and I are old friends, so it's really fun to get to do those scenes with him, again, never in person. Jerry O'Connell is like my good buddy, and[Noel [Wells]. I know everybody on this show, but I don't really get a chance to see them.

Was it more or less weird doing that episode with your wife playing your mom?

It was great because she wasn't there. I think it would have been odd. It's only odd for you to see it, knowing it. But when I was there, it was like every other episode. It didn't feel bizarre because I didn't have to do those scenes with her.

I remember I watched that episode. I was like, "This is a very different experience for anyone who doesn't know about their relationship between these actors."

Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, people were freaking out about it. It was making me laugh so hard.

I enjoyed the subtle callback in the finale. It isn't even a joke, but Billups is talking to Shaxs about someone he thinks is coming on to him. And I love that in any other context, that's a conversation about him wanting to get with them. But in this context, it's all about like, "No, calm down. You have nothing to worry about."

I know. Well, because you get to see why he's saying that. Yeah, exactly.

I don't know how much you've done of the third season yet, but can we expect more digging into his royal heritage as we go forward?

So far, I haven't seen that. I think it's just a part of his story now. There was talk at one point, I believe, about maybe developing -- I think that there was going to be  -- I don't know if there's a tie-in comic book series, but I know that people wanted to do different things.

I think one of the fun things about being a side character on a show like this is that there is a lot left that you don't know. So I'm sure something else will pop up eventually and continue to reveal more and more about Billups, but I don't think we're going to go back to that planet because I feel like there's no more story there. We did the story there. But I think just like Troi's mom coming into the mix, I think we could probably see a June come back, although that's not based on anything but a guess.

You play a very technically-minded character. Do you ever struggle with the technobabble that comes into Star Trek? Or has years of fandom prepared you for it.

No. Well, I mean, years of fandom definitely pay off. It's something I incredibly look forward to doing. But here's the best part of doing a Star Trek animated show: the lines are always in front of you. I don't have to memorize it. I don't have to be Tig Notaro on Discovery. I don't have to be like Geordi. They're always in front of me, so I can say them with such confidence.

I remember Kate Mulgrew was incredibly unfazed every single time we would do a scene [in NTSF:SD:SUV] because she was a pro at whatever it was. Didn't even have to make sense. She'd just get it in her head and say it perfectly and with meaning. It was amazing.

I'm not fishing for spoilers here or anything, but in your mind, do you think that Billups has command in his future, especially given what happens at the end of this episode?

Well, I mean, look, George Takei, Lieutenant Sulu, became a captain, had his own ship. I believe that you get into Starfleet because you want that. You want that command. But as a person, I don't want to leave this crew. We've only just begun. I feel like we're just starting to get to know Billups within here.

Look, if we're talking spinoff -- if we're talking of a Billups and Friends -- and maybe we do a Deep Space Nine spinoff of the show, I'm in. But if we're not taking it to spinoff, I don't want Billups to be leaving the show.

You mentioned earlier the idea of a tie-in comic. I know you had some history with comics. You did stuff for Marvel. Would you ever want to pursue that avenue yourself if IDW Publishing develops a Lower Decks comic? Because I feel like Lower Decks is perfect for a comedy spinoff comic.

I would think so. I think it would be really fun. I just did this new comic, a Batman comic, that just came out. Gosh, did it come out last week? But yeah, there's a Batman podcast, and we did a companion comic-book piece. And everybody who's in the podcast got a chance to write their own thing.  [Editor's note: He's talking about Batman: The Audio Adventures Special #1, which came out this week]

So yeah, it could be interesting. But with comic books, it's such an intensive thing to do, or at least I find it to be intensive. I'm right in the middle right now of doing another big Marvel series. So I'm not going to throw my hat in the ring at this point, but I think the person that could and should are the writers and everybody here.

If anybody who knows you, knows your work, maybe listens to your podcast, still hasn't come to check out Lower Decks, what would you say to them to get them to make that jump finally?

Lower Decks is the perfect show for the extreme Star Trek fan and the person who knows nothing about Star Trek. Because if you are a Star Trek fan, you will find references and Easter eggs and all these amazing payoffs and answers to questions to lingering issues in the series and films that are so satisfying.

But if you know nothing about Star Trek, it is just an ensemble comedy workplace that happens to take place in space. And that is it. And I think it's the best way to get into Star Trek because it does lead with comedy, and you get these really great fun adventures every week.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is streaming now on Paramount+. Its third season is already in production.