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Callum Keith Rennie as Rayner in `Star Trek: Discovery,` episode 1, season 5, streaming on Paramount+. (Photo credit: Marni Grossman/Paramount+)
Callum Keith Rennie as Rayner in "Star Trek: Discovery," episode 1, season 5, streaming on Paramount+. (Photo credit: Marni Grossman/Paramount+)

Q&A: Callum Keith Rennie joins 'Star Trek' in final season of 'Discovery'

by jmaloni
Wed, Apr 10th 2024 09:00 am

Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni


“Star Trek: Discovery” brought the famed franchise back to the small screen in 2017, and paved the way for the televised (or streaming) return of Spock (here and in “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds”), Seven of Nine, the Borg, Data and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (via “Star Trek: Picard”). It expanded the origin story of some of “Star Trek’s” most famous faces, while gifting fans with amazing new characters including Capt. Michael Burnham, Emperor Georgiou, Lt. Cmdr. Stamets, Cleveland “Book” Booker and Mr. Saru.

The series is taking its final spin around space with the crew’s biggest mission yet: to find (and protect) the origin of life.

A “red directive” has been issued, which means the Federation is on panic (attack) alert. A recently discovered Romulan artifact stored on an 800-year-old vessel poses both the greatest reward and the greatest risk the galaxy has encountered.

Callum Keith Rennie has joined the “Discovery” team for this assignment, playing Rayner, a rigid captain whose tunnel vision immediately clashes with Burnham’s freestyling, undo-the-Kobayashi-Maru piloting. Rayner sees the problem and dives headfirst into fixing it; Burnham, on the other hand, considers the consequences when targeting each task.

In their first pairings, Rayner and Burnham (naturally) find their lives in jeopardy – and need each of their ships to work together to prevent lost lives.

Episodes one and two of “Star Trek: Discovery” are now streaming on Paramount+. New stories debut each Thursday.

Rennie, who had no plans to become an actor until he was college-aged-plus, now has more than 100 credits to his name, including “The Umbrella Academy,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “The Man in the High Castle,” and Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking “Memento.” His characters are often gritty and no-nonsense, though the actor was affable and funny in this edited Q&A.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Capt. Michael Burnham and Callum Keith Rennie as Rayner in “Star Trek: Discovery.” (Photo credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+)


BTS: What can you tell us about your character?

Callum Keith Rennie: Rayner? He’s a hard-@ss.

BTS: Yes; yes he is. That is accurate.

Callum Keith Rennie: (Laughs) He's from another time and another way of doing things. It’s strange. He's a bit of an authoritarian, dictator-style commander, and a wildcard at the same time. He's trying to fit into a world that he doesn't know after actually getting a demotion, so he's just doing his best.

BTS: Obviously, this is one of the world's great film and TV franchises – certainly one of the largest. I'm wondering at what point does it get on your radar, or at what point do you get on its radar, to join up with the “Discovery” team?

Callum Keith Rennie: That was out of the blue, really. It was just like people letting me know that there was a part in the show, if I'd be interested in reading it, and seeing if I liked it. And if I liked it, did I want to do it. And then I went, “OK.”

And not really putting into context the entire 60-year canon of like the whole thing. I was just kind of, “No, no, this is an action/adventure. You get to ride in a space thing. It'll be great.”

I mean, that's how I go.

BTS: I mean, I think you have to give a little bit of attention, certainly, to the 60 years, the backstory and that. And because it is one of the world's most well-known franchises – and because its fans are so passionate, shall we say – does it give you pause, or does it make you more excited for the opportunity?

Callum Keith Rennie: See, that's a complex question, because you're coming into set, like I go, “It’s ‘Star Trek.’ OK.” It's like “Battlestar Galactica.” You're coming into it, it’s like, “Is it what it was before? No. It's this. OK. This is ‘Star Trek.’ This is ‘Discovery.’ ”

And I wasn't being trite. I just know to go to work is not to think about the history that came before – though respected and understood. There's a whole bunch of stuff and stories that I can't possibly learn about in the two weeks before going to shoot.

You just go find the key points that you need to know of how this evolved into what it is, because I watched the earliest season, the first “Star Trek,” and just popped in at little bits of the other ones; but I didn't have a great understanding of where everything was and where it had gone. So, I just played off, “OK, I will figure that out, or get the information as I go.”

And I'm learning now, like by doing these (press junkets), actually. I forgot, completely, the world of “Star Trek,” and its fan base, and a lot of that focus, and it's amazing.

I mean, I've done lots of shows. Sometimes you do press on them. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes you do great work, and it's not seen or it's not commented. Like it's a very odd thing. So, this is interesting to me. I’d say that.



BTS: It's been fun watching you integrate with this cast. It's been fun getting to know your character. Of course, this is a cast that's been together for a long time; this is a crew that's been together for a long time – through several seasons now. When you walk in and you see the cast, and you see the crew, and you see how they operate, what are some of your first thoughts?

Callum Keith Rennie: Intimidated. That's it. Like, completely out of the gate. Because you know you're walking into a franchise, but also you're putting that at the back of your mind. You're putting on the outfit. You go, “I'm a captain on ‘Star Trek.’ ” You're putting that out of your mind.

For me, I was putting a lot of things out just to do the work. And to join any established thing, you know you're a fish out of water. You know you're the new kid in school. And you don't know who your alliances are: who you're trusting; who you're not trusting; who will become friends, enemies. Most of the people I've never worked with before, so you come in kind of raw and, much like Rayner does through the season – like I am like through the season – as I'm trying to gain footing and sit in that place on the show, within the stories.

BTS: You sort of alluded to this at the beginning of our conversation, that this is a fun, action-packed show. I would think, as an actor, part of the appeal might also be an opportunity to be more playful. How much rope do they give you to do some of these things that you’re doing and, to the extent that you get to do some of the stunts or some of the things that are a little bit more “Star Trek”-y, if you will, how much fun is that aspect of this?

Callum Keith Rennie: They let me do the stunts. All the stuff on there, I don't think I have a stunt guy for any of that stuff. Maybe there was one around. But some of the fighting by me, all that action on the space things, that was all me.

I was looking forward to another season for myself, just because I went, “OK, now I can see where everything (goes). OK, I know the playing field, and it'd be fun to get into it in a different way.”

It's odd because you're not sure – much like Rayner on the show – you don't know how much space to take sometimes, and whose toes you want to step on, and how much you want to jumble aspects of a thing that's already in place and already working, already running the way it runs.

Doug Jones as Mr. Saru on the Paramount+ original series “Star Trek: Discovery.” (Photo credit: Brendan Meadows/Paramount+)


BTS: It looks like your time in makeup and wardrobe might be reasonable. I don't know; I certainly haven't clocked you. But how relieved were you to not get “the full Doug Jones” for this part? (Jones is unrecognizable as the almost 7-foot-tall Kelpian, who is Burnham’s No. 1.)

Callum Keith Rennie: I am amazed at Doug Jones, like amazed. I'm amazed at what he's able to convey through that. I'm amazed that he's able to sit there that long. I'm amazed how he can walk on those shoes. He's amazing. And I'm sitting there, getting my ears on for an hour, and I’m losing my $hit. And then you have to get up early, and then that becomes part of that. OK. And I hadn't done a lot of prosthetics before. But it was a great (makeup) trailer with great music, great coffee, great fun, and it became a beautiful part of the day. And it's like starting and ending with some really great people.

The final season of “Star Trek: Discovery” is streaming on Paramount+. New episodes air each Thursday.

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