Star Trek: Prodigy's Brett Gray and Ella Purnell Discuss The Journey They've Taken With Their Characters

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It's hard to believe, but Star Trek: Prodigy premiered almost exactly a year ago. A co-production between Nickelodeon and Paramount+, its mission targetted a demographic Star Trek had never made a play for before -- elementary to middle-school-aged kids.

Despite that aim, Prodigy proved in its inaugural ten episodes that its narrative and adventure held appeal for adult fans of Star Trek and quality animation.

In anticipation of the second half of Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 dropping on Thursday, October 23, TV Fanatic joined several other press outlets to speak with Brett Gray and Ella Purnell, the voice actors who bring to life Dal R'El and Gwyndala, respectively.

Brett Gray and Ella Purnell - Star Trek: Prodigy

Purnell was asked first about the emotional and psychological changes Gwyn has undergone. Does she get a heads-up, and how does she prepare?

She admits she's still surprised by the scripts. "I do [get some warning] to a certain extent. At the first audition that we had, I asked some questions that revealed some stuff.

Gwyn Despair - Tall - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 10

"[But] for the most part, the details, the nitty gritty, we only really get as you get the scripts. 'You have a session on Wednesday; it's three scripts.' You read all of them and learn everything.

"The season finale was definitely a huge shock. I have just as many questions as the audience does. I only learn things as we go. So I wasn't expecting it at all.

"I thought it was incredibly sophisticated and complex and deep and just really smart. I'm excited for everyone to see where it goes."

Gray's character changes a lot from the rapscallion we meet on Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 1 and grows into a leader the crew can believe in.

Gray appreciates that Dal has come a long way. "There's so, so, so much more growth. I love Dal's arc because you don't always start off this perfect leader, and it's not always sort of pretty at the beginning, figuring things out and learning how to be a friend to people and to put other people before yourself.

Dal Looking Sombre - Tall - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 7

"Dal was on a planet where he was trapped in slave labor and not able to communicate with people around him for most of his adolescent life.

"And so, I think, assimilating to a group of people and learning how to be able to empathize with other people of other communities and other species and ages -- y'know, when it comes to people like Rok.

"It was awesome that he wasn't the favorite for me because he wasn't my favorite either at first.

"His growth is only going to 10x as he sort of learns who he is and what his role really really is and how he can most contribute to the team."

On Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 10, Gwyn's father, The Diviner, reveals that his mission to destroy the Federation hinges on returning the Protostar to Starfleet, where a secret weapon he has installed on board will infect the Federation's systems and cause them to destroy themselves.

Coming Clean - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 8

How do the Protostar's crew members feel about this seemingly insurmountable obstacle to finding a home within the Federation?

Gray is blunt in how disappointing it is for Dal and his crew.

"It's kind of a bummer. They were preparing for this, and they were working hard to make sure that they were going to be able to get to Federation and make sure that people understood what their actual intention was behind – not only just the ship – but who they want to become in, hopefully, Starfleet someday.

"The lack of communication, as well as the actual reason why they can't go, is really hard on them because, again, it's another obstacle for people to misjudge what they're doing and something else they have to figure out and fix in order to achieve their goals.

"I think it's disappointment and frustration but also readiness and willingness to make sure that they are heard in the correct way."

The Captain and His Hologram - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 9

Of all the adventures the Protostar has had so far, is there something Gray and Purnell would like to do themselves?

Gray is all about immersive experiences. "I love the holodeck and everything around that. I would love to have a holodeck in my house and take my friends on these journeys and go wherever we want to and figure stuff out in the safety of my own virtual reality AI room.

"Hopefully, the Metaverse and all of that gets there at some point in time. Yeah, I'd say the holodeck, the Kobayashi Maru, anything like that where I'm safe but can explore the world."

Purnell is more interested in enhancing her life here and now with Trek tech. "I know it's not strictly an adventure, but it depends on your mindset. I would say the food replicator. I understand it's not really answering the question, but I still think that would be my go-to choice."

Rok and Gwyn - Tall - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 7

On Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 6, Gray's character, Dal, experiences a holodeck simulation of the Kobayashi Maru exercise, a  test of a captain's ability to command in a no-win situation.

The treat for fans was that the holodeck provided Dal with a bridge crew of the finest members of Star Trek canon - Spock, Crusher, Odo, Scotty, and Uhura. What was that like for Gray?

"It was really nerve-wracking, to be honest. [Prodigy] is my introduction to Star Trek as a world.

"I'd always known what it was; of course, it has a giant force on our planet. I remember seeing some Star Trek growing up but never had a way in, so this is my first time.

Spock on Prodigy - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 6

"I remember when I was reading the script and seeing who was going to be in the Kobayashi Maru with me, and I actually asked our producers, the Hagemans, 'Are you guys sure you want to put me next to Spock and all of these people?

"Because I am not going to be able to… one, live up to this [group] of legendary voices, but also, I play way too much. It's sort of going to be … not serious.'

"And I think they really embraced the fact that it was my first time because it was Dal's first time.

"He'd never heard of the Kobayashi Maru either or Star Trek or any of these things, so we got to learn – when I say 'we,' me and Dal – we got to learn together, and who better to learn by than the people I got to be in the Kobayashi Maru with?

"I feel kind of honored that I get to be able to say, 'Oh yeah, I did a scene with Spock before.' [laughs]"

Dal - Tall - Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 6

As a show written expressly to inspire young people experiencing Star Trek for the first time, how do Purnell and Gray hope to inspire their viewers and fans?

Purnell thinks carefully about her answer. "I want to come out with something really smart here. I think for me Gwyn's whole journey is about forging her own identity outside of what she came from.

"She grew up as the daughter of The Diviner, of this sort of evil oppressor, and realizing that she's hurt people and he's not a good person and therefore she has not been a good person. She's done bad things.

"But through that, she emancipates herself from him and from that world of Tars Lamora and becomes a kid and lets her hair down and has fun, learns to value other people and to care about other people and connect with other people and also just be a kid.

Gwyn, Dal, Murf, and Rok-Tahk - Star Trek: Prodigy

"That seems like a very big and intense and complex thing that we, as adults, are struggling with, but I don't think it's that hard, and I think kids would get it about figuring out who you are regardless of the peer pressure or the social pressure or the family ties that you have."

Gray concurs in a beautifully succinct manner. "Yeah, ditto. Finding your place in the universe."

New episodes of Star Trek: Prodigy begin again on Thursday, October 27, streaming on Paramount+ with ten more episodes to look forward to!

Are you looking forward to the appearance of Vice-Admiral Janeway and her Dauntless crew? What about Gwyn's amnesia? Or The Diviner's stasis captivity? There are so many exciting developments to come!

Stay tuned for more TV Fanatic interviews with Prodigy's cast and creators this week as we count down the days until its return!

Diana Keng was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.

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Star Trek: Prodigy Quotes

Drednok: Prisoner Dal Ar-El. What species are you?
Dal: Wow. Getting personal, borderline inappropriate.

Sorry, didn't quite catch that. You'll have to... chirp... a little slower.