CBS All Access is offering up a different kind of space adventure with Star Trek: Lower Decks, the charming animated series from Rick and Mortywriter/producer Mike McMahan. Rather than putting the focus on the bridge crew, the series — which drops new episodes every Thursday —highlights the underlings who don't always get the glory but are just as important as their more well-known counterparts.
Each episode delivers an outlandish adventure as the show's underappreciated support crew, including neurotic rule-follower Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid,) and proud slacker Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome), tackle grunt work, unexpected mishaps, and anything else that's thrown their way aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos, one of Starfleet's least important ships. For Dawnn Lewis, who plays Captain Carol Freeman, the opportunity to join a Star Trek show fulfills a lifelong dream.
"I used to risk getting into trouble in order to watch Star Trek because it would come on when my brothers and I were supposed to be asleep," Lewis told TV Guide. While her mom went to night school, Lewis and her brothers would sneak episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series; trying their best not to alert their babysitter who lived upstairs.
"We would get in front of our little, small black-and-white TV with blankets and sheets covering us to make a tent to muffle the sound so that we could watch the adventures of Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) traipsing through the galaxy," she explained.
The actress, whose credits include A Different World, iZombie, Carmen Sandiego and Season 2 of The Boys, admitted that it's been her dream to play an alien of some kind in a Star Trek series, be it a Klingon, Romulan, or Borg. And while she may be a part of a Star Trek series on CBS All Access — which is home to loads of other Star Trek shows including Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the forthcoming U.S.S. Enterprise-set series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds— that doesn't mean she won't stop campaigning to portray an alien in the beloved franchise.
"Please make me an alien in Discovery, Picard, somewhere. Please make me an alien. I want to do it," she added.
In the meantime, Lewis takes the reigns as Lower Decks' highly accomplished Captain Freeman —a fiercely dedicated Starfleet leader who's struggling to keep her rebellious daughter Mariner in check. While Freeman wants her daughter to aspire for something greater, Mariner is set on coasting by despite being an extremely intelligent, capable woman who speaks several languages and is accomplished in her own right. Their relationship will continue to ebb and flow this season as Freeman attempts to find new ways to connect with her unmotivated daughter.
"Their relationship reminds me of growing up a preacher's kid. Whether they were a minister, the first lady, the head deacon, they set such a high standard and you often find that the preacher's kids are probably the baddest kids in the church. They are trying to break every rule, trying to be everything except what their parents have been trying to encourage everybody else to be. So even if you're one of the best parents, sometimes your kids can still make choices that you really wish they would not make," Lewis said. "So as Mariner's parent, she's probably had this high expectation of excellence and responsibility for her whole life."
This tightrope between mother and daughter brings a grounded dynamic to the series which is teeming with colorful characters. Their relationship feels real and authentic, even as they're bouncing around a giant spaceship and dealing with mind-altering alien bacteria. Although Mariner and Freeman don't often see eye-to-eye, there are moments where, according to Lewis, Mariner lets her guard down just long enough to bond with her mom.
"She kind of hints at, 'Okay, maybe we can find common ground,'" Lewis said. "And before too long, you realize that was short-lived."
Catch new episodes of Star Trek: Lower Decks every Thursday on CBS All Access.