The secret's out for 'Star Trek: Discovery' star Shazad Latif

The actor who plays Lt. Ash Tyler reveals his most surreal -- and most painful -- acting moments as his character's big twist is finally revealed. Spoilers!

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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" Star Trek : Discovery" star Shazad Latif no longer has to cling on to his big secret.

"It's been crazy, the silence I've had to endure," admits a relieved Latif, who plays Lt. Ash Tyler in the show -- and (spoiler alert!) was also secretly under the heavy makeup of the Klingon antagonist Voq. The episode "The Wolf Inside" finally reveals Tyler and Voq are one and the same man, part of a Klingon plot to infiltrate Starfleet. 

Clever fans worked out the Klingon twist during the first half of the season, putting Latif on the spot in interviews as he tried not to spoil the mystery. But playing multiple characters was an acting challenge that made the clandestine operation worthwhile. "It's scary at first," said the British actor, "but it's something you can really jump into to create a world around you for both characters. Doing two characters makes you understand each individual character better, because you have two different arcs and you have to make them join and connect."

Playing two such contrasting characters meant his scenes with co-star Sonequa Martin-Green transformed in tone during "The Wolf Inside", going from tender love scenes to snarling fight scenes in one episode. "It's horrible", he admits, "but it's nice to play a range of scenes with one person instead of keeping it at the same level. It's not just a simple love story, it goes up and down."

The latest episode saw Voq's Klingon personality take over Tyler's body and launch himself at the mirror universe version of his Klingon body. "That was the surreallest moment of my career," says Latif of the dual-role dust-up in which he effectively fights himself. "We filmed the Voq stuff first as Tyler doesn't really have any lines in it, so I wanted to make sure the stand-in and the stunt director could learn my movements. The next day we ran through the other movements and then I could do Tyler. It was two intense days!"

The Wolf Inside
Enlarge Image
The Wolf Inside

Shazad Latif puts the "me" in "melee" as his two personalities do battle with themselves.

CBS All Access

The episode had other physical demands. "There was a shot when I'm flying out into space getting frozen," he says. "I was on a harness and it hurt... my testicles. A lot. But it was very fun!"

The show's mid-season premiere "Despite Yourself" was directed by Jonathan Frakes, a man with a deep connection to Trek history having helmed multiple episodes and movies -- and of course wearing the mightiest beard in Starfleet as "Next Generation" officer Commander Riker. Latif enjoyed working with the seasoned star, although he didn't look for advice on life after Trek.

"It wasn't really about advice," says Latif, "but you want to bring your A game for him because he was just a brilliant director. He creates such a lovely environment because he cares." 

Having met several Trek stars of previous series, Latif says he feels part of the crew. "Yeah I can feel it. I met Terry Farrell [Lt. Dax from "Deep Space Nine'] the other day. Everyone's been lovely, we feel like we're on the ship."


Latif relaxes now his secret's out.

Leigh Keily

Attending conventions has also brought him into contact with fans of the show. "I love meeting them," he says. "Without them we wouldn't be here."

"Discovery" has been confirmed for a second season, but Ash Tyler's tangled personality -- not to mention his attack on shipmate Dr. Culber -- could make it hard for him to remain part of the crew. And Latif won't be drawn on his prospects as the show continues: "I'm trying to enjoy the moment and who knows what the future brings. It's just great being in Star Trek now."

Following an appearance in Liam Neeson actioner "The Commuter", Latif will next be seen in "Profile", a true-life drama about a journalist infiltrating the ISIS propaganda machine, debuting at the Berlin Film Festival in February. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov, the film plays out through a Skype screen.

Beyond that, what does Latif think about following classic Starfleet crews donning the uniform on the big screen for years or even decades to come? "That would be great," he laughs, "but for the moment I'm playing two characters in a Star Trek TV show -- and it's fantastic."

"Star Trek: Discovery" continues on Sunday on CBS All Access in the US and Netflix elsewhere (disclosure: CBS is CNET's parent company).

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