Strange New Worlds Star Carol Kane Discusses Her Characters Unique Accent and Why Shes Never Seen Star Trek
When Carol Kane was approached about joining “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” for its second season, the celebrated 70-year-old actor had to make a confession: She’d never watched a single minute of the venerated franchise.
“The science fiction world has not really been attractive to me for some reason,” Kane says. “Now that I’m in it,” she adds with a laugh, “I’m very excited about it. It just wasn’t on my path until now.”
Clearly the producers were on to something. Kane’s role on the Paramount+ series fits neatly within her wheelhouse of sublime eccentrics, from her Emmy-winning role on “Taxi” to for-the-ages supporting turns in “The Muppet Movie,” “The Princess Bride,” “Scrooged” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Here, she plays Pelia, the new chief engineer of the Enterprise and a member of an alien species never before seen on “Star Trek”: Lanthanites, who are extremely long-lived and utterly resemble humans, save for a delightfully inexplicable accent invented out of whole cloth by Kane.
“I wanted her to sound like you don’t know where exactly she comes from,” Kane says. “There is an elegance and a power to it. It’s unique on the ship — nobody else has that accent or whatever it is.”
Despite her enduring career — she made her professional debut onstage in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” in 1966, the same year “Star Trek” premiered on NBC — Kane says she still felt like “the new kid in school” when she joined a reading of the season-premiere script over Zoom. That’s also when she asked to try out her take on Pelia’s loopy elocution for the first time.
“You know, I’m not a very confident person, unlike Pelia,” she says. “I was terrified that at the end of it, they would say, ‘No, we want you to regular voice,’ but they didn’t. They said, ‘Go for it!’ I think that was brave of them.”
Once she began to settle into the role, Kane says she started to understand just how vast of a presence “Star Trek” has in pop culture. “People I knew who I had no idea were big ‘Star Trek’ fans started to come out of the woodwork,” she says. “My oldest friend was telling me about the depths of it, how it really has a meaningful story to tell. I really didn’t anticipate that there were so many emotional connections within the characters. I liked that a lot.”
More challenging were the thick gobs of “Star Trek’s” signature technobabble that Pelia had to rattle off without breaking a sweat. “That’s the hardest part,” she says. Kane credits the show’s cast and crew for explicating to her why Pelia would, say, request that the Enterprise vent plasma out of the warp nacelles.
“I like to know as much as I can about the made-up science,” she says. “But to be very honest with you, I am not a science- or math-oriented person. So I don’t understand all of it, even though they explain it to me. But I do the best I can. Everybody’s quite patient.”
As much as one can, Kane is also preparing herself for how the galaxy of “Star Trek” fans will respond to her. “I’ve been told that when you become part of the world, you will experience a reaction from the fans, which I guess are called Trekkies,” she says. “I don’t know exactly what it will be like, but I’m kind of bracing myself for it, and also excited about it.”
Despite her enthusiasm for joining the franchise, Kane has yet to watch any “Star Trek.” “Well, the writers said that they liked the fact that I didn’t know it — they felt that that would be useful for my character,” she says. “I think I will now.”
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