Star Trek: Picard's Michelle Hurd on Raffi's Redemption, Returning TNG Cast, and the Punk on the Bus

Arguably none of Star Trek: Picard's cast of characters is as conflicted and complex as Raffi Musiker, played by Michelle Hurd. In Star Trek: Picard's second season (and the tie-in audio drama), Hurd and co-star Jeri Ryan have developed the relationship between Raffi and Seven of Nine first hinted at in the season one finale. The show's most recent episode, "Mercy," illuminated the complexities of Raffi's relationship with surrogate son Elnor (Evan Evagora). A flashback revealed that she subtly manipulated him into remaining at Starfleet Academy before his death earlier this season. The guilt she still carries drives her on her mission to correct the timeline.

ComicBook.com had the chance to speak to Hurd over the phone following this week's episode. We discussed Raffi's complicated relationships, Hurd's feelings about the return of Star Trek: The Next Generation's cast in Picard's final season, and getting to meet the punk on the bus. Here's what she had to say:

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This season of Star Trek: Picard differs from the first in a few ways. It's set in the 21st century, and we know that it was filmed during, unfortunately, COVID. Can you talk about how different it was for you on set trying to make this season compared to last season?

Michelle Hurd: Oh, well, a big, big difference. COVID played a big part of it. I have to thank SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP for vetting out some safety protocols to try to keep us safe, because I've got to say, we shot for 13 months because we did second and third season back to back, and really we were able to keep our most precious commodity safe, which is Sir Patrick Stewart, which was one of the most important things that I kept thinking about.

But it was a very different kind of experience, not only for Star Trek, for all of the productions in pandemic time. Normally some of the real yummy, perky kind of stuff of working on a show is our downtime in our chairs in between scenes, where we all kind of chat, and tell stories, and just make sure to laugh and bond and all that. And because of our protocols of having to wear masks the entire time, our entire crew had to wear a mask the entire time of shooting, the only people who took their masks off were the actors when we were actually shooting, so while we were rehearsing and everything we always had our masks on.

And also, one of the kind of fun things about being on something as spectacular as Star Trek is bringing a friend, or a family member to set so they can see the spaceships and all the fun sets that we get to shoot on, and none of us could do that because of the protocol. So, it was a very different experience, but I'm really proud of our cast, and our crew, and all the safety protocols because we kept each other safe. And that was the most important thing and we still got it done.

When you started seeing the scripts coming in, what were some of your first impressions, of where Raffi's story was going this season? In this episode, it feels like we reach a boiling point with her and Seven as they certainly seem to be getting worn down by their mission. What were your impressions, because it feels like she starts real high, and then things go off a cliff after that?

Yeah, I mean, gosh, with Raffi, where does she always start? She's got a lot going on at all times, I think. I really enjoyed the scripts coming in. It was really exciting to see what they were going to do, and jumping into time travel is always wild and exciting and can be tricky. But I really liked how we did it. Star Trek has always been a vehicle to hold the mirror up to society, as Gene Roddenberry had always wanted, and we do that this season. We really put it in the face of our fans and viewers about the effects that we're having on this planet. So I appreciated that we were incorporating those things. And we touch on immigration, and you see how Seven is very comfortable in that time period and not even knowing why without her implants, and the society around her seems to welcome her. And Raffi and Rios are having a much more challenging time and that's the impact of their environment, of how they're being treated.

So I liked that. I thought that was straight up in the same respectful concept of what Roddenberry had wanted for what Star Trek tells, how they tell the stories. And I really like how they are vetting out Seven and Raffi's relationship because these are not two school girls. They're not teenagers who are in puppy love. They're two women, grown women, who have vetted out the lives that they wanted, whether it was on purpose or happenstance. And they're both stubborn, and determined, and driven, and guided by other circumstances than just what they see in front of them. Raffi, she lives with her heart on her sleeve. She's a very haunted and passionate person, and she feels really deeply and Seven has a different way of how she approaches her.

And yet she has as much the same deep feelings and vulnerabilities that Raffi has. So I really quite like that they didn't just have us sticking around, and unicorns and rainbows are following them everywhere because I think that would've been not true, and disrespectful to the characters that we've come to love and respect, because these two love and respect each other. But they have a lot of life that they've lived and that's going to come in. And how do those people navigate a relationship? It's tricky, as we all know. Those things are always tricky. 

If there was a honeymoon period for them, it feels like that kind of happened in the gap between the two seasons, as you alluded to. What kind of conversations did you have with Jeri Ryan about finding the right dynamic for where they are now? Was that a challenge given that you skipped over some of the process of the relationship, or did it come pretty organically for you two?

No challenge at all. Jeri and I, it's really, really interesting. We are like two peas in a pod. We work very similarly together. We immediately clicked. We bonded just as women of a certain age, having been in this industry for so long, we have a shorthand of how we can talk to each other about things. And I think it was important for both of us that we tell the story of these two women's relationship in a way that is not always seen. We often see relationships, we see the meeting, we see the courtship, we see the honeymoon, and then maybe we see a breakup or something, but we don't see the stuff, the meat-and-grits of it all, the hard work that comes in a relationship of trying to figure out how it will work, how it will sustain. And I think that's one of the things that we really wanted to show is how these women, with the tasks that they have at hand, how do they continue to do what they do and balance the relationship?

And I appreciate the fact that we see a little hiccup and stumbles. It's not that they argue, it's just that they are very strong opinionated people, and both have a point of view. And they're both going to present their point of view. And we really wanted to make sure that we told that story because we don't always see that. You see the other stuff, and the other stuff is all lovely, and pretty and stuff, but I think it's more truthful, and revealing, and familiar, honestly, when you show this kind of stuff about how people's relationship is not always so easy and paved with a yellow brick road type of thing, that there's a lot of thumbtacks that you step on every now and then, but that there is love because I think you can really see that there's a respect and a real history with their relationship.

You can see that they care about each other, and that they look out for each other, and that they want to support each other and make sure that the best happens with each other. But they also have a task at hand and they're trying to save each other. It's trying to save everybody. Trying to get back to their time and do what has to be done. And there's not really a time to sort of be like, "Hey, let's go have a coffee."

The other big relationship for Raffi this season is Elnor. We get a big revelation in this episode regarding that, Raffi's subtly pushing of Elnor to remain at Starfleet Academy. Did you already know about that part of the backstory earlier on in the season, or did you learn about it along the same timeline that we viewers did?

I didn't know that prior to the episode. I didn't know that that was one of the things. But if you know Raffi, you had to know that there was some other stuff that was going to be invested in any of her relationships, because if you think about her relationship with Gabe, with her son, we find out that Raffi loves her child. She loves. Raffi loves very deeply any person who is part of her life. But she has a real conflict because she feels very obligated and committed to whatever tasks she's been handed. And with her relationship with Gabe, and her husband, she felt that she had to leave them in order to make life safe for the rest of the planet, and the universe, and the Romulans. And she was like, "I was the only one who could do that" in sacrificing her relationship with her child and her husband.

And with Elnor, she loves Elnor. I mean, that last moment in season one you can really see that the hole that she had been left with, the vacancy of her son, was filled by Elnor and she took on that relationship. And she loves Elnor. She loves him. But she also has a plan, whether she decided to convey that with Elnor or not, whether she articulated this or not because I'm not sure if she ever articulates those kind of thoughts. But in some way, she probably felt like, "Ah, perfect. Now I have somebody that's filled this part of me, and will come with me. I will groom him, and I'll make him the best that he can be, and we'll defend this planet and this galaxy together. And how fabulous will that be? Yes. Yes. Let's go," without even thinking that there could be another option or another path for Elnor.

And so when the circumstances happened, and what happens with Elnor, that realization hits her hard. Every time the real truths reveal themselves to her, like after she met with her son and her son said, "No, I don't want this relationship," she tumbled back into her addiction. Just like this, she sort of has that realization like, "Again, again, I did it again. I was forcing somebody to do something without asking and checking in and seeing if it was okay with them. I was just concerned with what was okay with me and what was okay with the mission." So it's maybe one of her downfalls as well as one of her strengths, is her commitment to the people that don't have voices. She really stands up for them. But I think in that, in those actions, she often doesn't hear the voices that are the most close to her, or even her own voice of what she would need to keep her happy and fulfilled. So I think this is the plight and this is the path or the tight wire that Raffi walks.

A few episodes ago, there was a really fun scene where you and Jeri got to reenact the punk on the bus scene with Kirk Thatcher. How fun was that for you? As in, were you familiar enough with The Voyage Home that when he came on and they talked about doing that scene, you got the Easter egg and the joke and were excited about it? What was that like for you on set?

Well, of course, Jeri knew. I didn't know exactly that one, so I actually watched it so I could know. And it was fun. It was absolutely fun. It's always interesting when you see how people mature, so you're like, actually, I knew you quite a few decades ago in that same kind of outfit with the same kind of music. But it was really fun. The hardest thing was that we were downtown LA, and we wanted to keep that as a secret, as a fun reveal. And there were so many people around because you see Jeri and me and you know that something's up. And so they were taking pictures and we were trying to keep the guy hidden because we wanted it to be a surprise and a little Easter egg.

So I think that's what we were all conscious of, like, "Go hide him. Hide him. Don't let anybody see." But it was fun, and I think those are the really fun things that our producers, and our writers, and now Patrick, are really conscious of trying to bring, some fun stories for the new fans, for the new people who are watching Star Trek, and also make sure that the people, the OGs, are given some fun things to find, and giggle about, and call out. So we do that. There's going to be those kinds of things in this season and in season three, and it's fun for us. It's really fun for us.

Obviously, the big one in season three -- and I know it's early to talk about this -- but they just announced that the whole Next Generation cast is coming back next season. I know you don't want to say too much, but what was that like, finding out that in the next season you're going to be presumably sharing the screen with a whole different generation of Star Trek stars?

I'm so not going to speak of it at all, but I will just say, giddy as all get up. My smile was from ear to ear. These are people that I grew up watching, and just like when I first got this job and I found out that I was going to be working with Sir Patrick Stewart, or P Stew, as I like to call him, I just got so giddy and, I don't even know. You tremble from the inside out. I mean, I'm an actor, and these are people who I've been watching, and I'm going to actually stand side by side on a set and speak words and they're going to speak words back to me.

I pinch myself just like a fan.The first season, I worked a lot with Patrick, and with Santiago, Rios, and this season I worked so much with Jeri, and I'm not going to tell you the people I work with on next season, but I feel like I am the luckiest, most spoiled actress. And I am forever thankful for Raffi, and for Star Trek, and for this unbelievable experience and adventure I've had.

There are two episodes left in the season. I spoke to Akiva Goldsman at the junket and he said that the big theme of the season is redemption. Given what we found out about Raffi and Elnor in this past episode, safe to say that's kind of the theme for her going forward the rest of the season?

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Yeah. Yes. I think... I don't want to give too much, I don't want to say too much, but redemption is a theme of the season, and Lord knows that Raffi has a lot of stuff on her shoulders, and I think she does her very best to navigate them all, and I think that she, how do I want to say? She does her very best and tries to come out, not on top, but tries to not stumble back, and learn from the things that have happened. And let's hope that Raffi finds some kind of way to have peace and smile by the end of the season.

Star Trek: Picard releases new episodes weekly on Thursdays on Paramount+.