For Shazad Latif, playing two different characters in one body has been fun for the actor.
Latif knew about the duality from the beginning of the show. “We knew it was going to be a double character,” he said.
But how does an actor play two characters in one body? “You’ve got to learn the arc, find the arc, but you start up from Voq, you start from his story and believe everything he’s doing is right,” said Latif. “It’s really that. Following his line into Tyler, and then I had time off with Voq, so I could focus on Tyler’s own memories, Tyler’s own arc, and then joining them together.
“It’s a very fun thing to do. Trying to put together a puzzle. Creating a sort of spire of two characters. Following Voq’s story from being this outcast manifests in everything he does. Following that through to the ultimate sacrifice is very high-concept, extreme stuff, which can sometimes be overplayed or it could have been melodramatic. The style of the Klingons is very operatic, classical acting in a way, so I wanted to bring in a quietness and calm to that role rather than it just being a loud, shouty Klingon.”
Tyler wasn’t portrayed as a ‘loud, shouty, Klingon” or even a character who was quiet and calm, but he as someone who seemed to be weak, according to Latif. “The main heart of it for me is just to portray a man who can be seen as weak and vulnerable,” he said. “That’s a strength. Me and Sonequa wanted to make sure that every time we did a scene, we were thinking about that very much. Even in the sex scene we had, at first I was gonna be on top, the classic thing where a man lays a woman down, and we wanted to go the complete opposite. She ends up cradling me. Just making sure we sort of reversed those [expectations] every time. In those scenes, Tyler is usually very weak. He’s either in the med bay suffering or with L’Rell, and she cradles him when he falls into her arms. He’s around these very strong female characters, so it was okay for a man to be seen like this because we do see him as very strong. He’s a very skilled security officer. We see that side of him, the classic American action hero and I wanted to get away from that. Every chance I could with him, and you’ll see it more importantly in [episode] 15 [Will You Take My Hand?] as well. You know, just wrestling with emotions, which is more exciting to watch, I think.”
Why are Tyler and Burnham attracted to each other? “It’s a very strange romance ’cause we’ve both got our own separate things going on;” said Latif, “but we just wanted to get that balance of male and female energies right, and we can be weak around each other. Because they’re the outcasts. They need each other. They were each other’s tethers. Then again, it also is very complicated because really Voq’s got this whole L’Rell love story going on as well. And both are equally justifiable, so you know, it’s tragic that one has to give.”
So what can fans expect from Tyler the rest of the season? “I just want them to have emoted,” said Latif. “I want to have made them feel something. [Also that] it’s okay to be weak; it’s okay to open up. It’s okay to speak and it’s okay to be around a strong woman. I think that’s really important, and I think that’s what Tyler represents, and also just enjoying this crazy, crazy story arc.”