Jameela Jamil is an actress at the forefront of pop culture consciousness with her outrageously fabulous role as Titania on Disney+'s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, providing the voice of Wonder Woman on DC's League of Super-Pets, and joining the cast of Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin.
Jamil is also a real-life agent for change -- taking on the diet industry and calling out platforms and celebrities who promote unhealthy body imagery while also promoting racial inclusivity and celebrating women's accomplishments -- so it's fitting that her character on Paramount+'s Star Trek: Prodigy is a game-changer in her own right.
In a stunning turn of events at the conclusion of Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 15, the exemplary Ensign Asencia reveals herself as a Vau N'Akat agent. On Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 16, we learn the tragic backstory that led her to Janeway's Dauntless.
Speaking with TV Fanatic via Zoom, Jamil corroborates her enthusiasm for joining the show the Hageman Brothers mentioned when they spoke with TV Fanatic in October.
This stems from being a long-time fan of the franchise. "[I've been a Trek fan] since I was very young. My brother was a big Trekkie, so I got into The Next Generation as a kid, and that was my big introduction."
While she was keen to take on anything the Hagemans brewed up for her, she is delighted with the role of Asencia.
"I just love the character. I love her, especially when she reveals who she really is, and I think it's a really cool, complicated, and complex role. I love seeing women in those kinds of roles. I love her backstory, and I love how much tragedy is mixed in with all of this vengeance and this rage.
"Towards the end, it starts to feel really confusing as to how much you're supposed to hate her because she's been through so much, and she's been kind of gnarled into the person she is now.
"And she really doesn't think she's doing anything wrong. She thinks she is leveling the playing field. She's just acting from a place of a broken heart. I think that's a humane and cool thing for people – especially young people – to be able to see in a quite surreal way. Deep down, it's quite relatable."
Jamil recognizes that Asencia is driven by different motivations than she is when she acts as an advocate for change but admits to some overlap in passion as well.
"I think mine is a little bit different to hers, but I do think that when I come after the diet industry, I'd like to burn it to the ground. That's because it took twenty years of my life away.
"So I guess maybe that's the closest thing where I'm just like, 'I'm here, and I'm out for blood,' because I know what it's done to me and most of my friends. The way that it currently exists is to harm people, and so I guess I can relate in that way.
"And I'm very into karma. I'm very into revenge. I'm a Pathan, and that is quite symbolic of things, as a culture, we enjoy. I've always been very much so like, 'When they go low, we go lower.' I find that quite delicious about a lot of the characters that I play."
On "Preludes," we learn that Asencia's Vau N'Akat title is The Vindicator, just as John Noble's character has only been known as The Diviner since the series began. Jamil is cagey in answering whether they could ever be deterred from their mission to destroy the Federation.
"You're just gonna have to wait and see, but the path she's currently on – especially when we first meet her – is she can't see straight; she's so angry. It's so complicated, and there's so much history.
"How do you ever make up for what she's lost? And should it be upon these people who weren't responsible for what happened to her to make that up to her?"
The scenes The Vindicator and The Diviner share intimate they share a long and significant relationship. Does seeing him so much more aged than herself add to the rage she holds for Starfleet?
"Yes, and you'll learn more about that relationship and its kind of intricacy through the show. It starts to make more sense as to why she's so invested in him. She can be quite short with him sometimes, quite frustrated, and you learn more about their history. It helps explain her journey and her mission a bit better."
While there are many questions still to be answered about The Vindicator's infiltration of Starfleet since arriving from the future, the most talked about has been how she snuck a Drednok unit aboard the Dauntless undetected or questioned.
Jamil laughs at the rather mundane functionality of the query. "That's a really good question. Again, like I said, I want everyone to just watch the show, but it is kind of fucking ridiculous.
"I think partially what's so cool about playing her when she's 'Ensign' [Asencia] is that she's so plucky, she's so kind of goody-two-shoes.
"Obviously, she comes up she clashes with Janeway sometimes, lightly but politely, but I think that a few people have pointed out that it's actually kind of sad how much potential she could've had because she was an exemplary ensign.
"So I think maybe she gets away with things because she's so impressive and so strong, and she seems so on-team that no one can see this coming
"That was something that I really wanted to make sure I portrayed in the exposition of this role."
Despite appearing for the first time on Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 10, Jamil has been recording the role since the beginning of production, even while she was working on She-Hulk.
Among the young people of the Protostar crew, does she personally connect with any one character?
"I think Gwyn is probably the one I've always been the most invested in. I think she's also got a really devastating story that comes more and more to light over the course of this.
"There's a lot that [The Vindicator and Gwyn] have in common, and I think that's also partially why they clash. Sometimes you clash the most with the people who are the most similar to you in certain ways, but my relationship with Gwyn grows in its complexity, but I think it's really cool."
Star Trek: Prodigy, as a co-production between Paramount+ and Nickelodeon, is the first Trek show ever created to appeal to a young audience. As a fan of the series, Jamil is well pleased to be a part of the endeavor.
"It's great. I think that Star Trek was already amazing for young people, but there were certain themes that were a bit adult maybe for me to see when I did.
"It's cool that they found this new way for anyone to join. Y'know, there are adults who have gotten back into Star Trek via Prodigy or who have, for the first time, started to learn about it via our show.
"I think it's an amazing introduction, and I just love how beautiful it is. There's something in the fact that the animation means that we can kind of do things that we've never seen in the Star Trek franchise before because the imagination is just limitless.
"They've put so much actual CGI-esque animation in there that it just feels so real, feels so fantastical, and I would love to see what a live-action of this looks like.
With Prodigy being an animated series with voice cast members working in relative isolation from each other, Jamil found that Comic-Con was an incredible opportunity and setting where she and the cast and creative team could meet and mingle.
"I work closely with the Hageman brothers. They're probably the people I'm closest to, but Comic-Con was so fun, being able to meet and become friends with everyone and being able to share that experience with them. It was very bonding.
"The fanbase is unlike any fanbase you've ever seen before. It was a roomful of the most love I've ever witnessed, not just for us, but we also got to see the Next Generation walk on stage and just … oh my god, I got chills when it happened.
"We all got on really well. We had a great day together, and it was a joy. I look forward to spending more time with them."
For those watching with dropped jaws as Asencia revealed herself as The Vindicator, it may have initially gone unnoticed how dramatically Jamil changes the character's voice as the trappings of Starfleet fall away.
"It just took half an hour to find the full range of deliciousness of The Vindicator. I built the character as she progresses, but it was something I very much felt in the moment and threw everything into 'in the moment' and worked with Kevin and Dan to make sure that she felt very powerful.
"[And we wanted it to] translate through animation 'cause something gets lost when people can't physically see you. You have to go above and beyond in a voice performance to make sure that it still feels powerful when it's on-screen."
There is a natural geek-minded parallel between the time-traveling Vau N'Akat Order members with their assumed titles and the Time Lords of the BBC's Doctor Who. After all, Doctor Who established characters called The Doctor, The President, and The Master, and now we have The Diviner and...
Jamil sees the trend, "...The Vindicator, I know. And the English accent for all villains. [laughs]
"I actually, weirdly, kept on slipping into – like a little bit of inspiration from – [Disney's The Lion King's] Scar. The more the character progresses, the more Scar. I had a little bit of Voldemort.
"I was definitely pulling from some of my favorite villains who are so amusing that you don't want them to go away.
"You [don't] want them to start hurting the people that you love, but you love to hate them, and I feel like that's what The Vindicator is."
Learn to love to hate Jamil's The Vindicator as Star Trek: Prodigy warps towards its season finale, with mind-blowing new episodes dropping every Thursday on Paramount+.
As always, be sure to return to TV Fanatic after watching for recaps, reviews, and riveting discussions!
Let's get that last bit started here, Fanatics! How much do you love Jameela Jamil and her delicious take on justice and making things right?
Beam your thoughts down into the comments!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.