RED ALERT! This interview contains spoilers for the eighth and most recent episode of Star Trek: Picard season 3, “Surrender,” currently available for streaming on Paramount+.
In Picard season 3, Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut plays Ensign Sidney La Forge, pilot of the U.S.S. Titan-A. The Beat leaped to Warp 9.99 for the chance to chat with Chestnut over Zoom to learn more about performing perfectly symmetrical fight scenes, ask what it’s like to join the La Forge family, and to find out her reaction to the shocking developments of this week’s episode!
This interview has been edited for content and length.
AVERY KAPLAN: Do you have a personal history with Star Trek?
ASHLEI SHARPE CHESTNUT: I do. Growing up, my mom was a huge Trekkie. She used to call me “Number One” when I was a kid. So I do have a history, by default, through her.
KAPLAN: How did you come to be involved in Star Trek: Picard?
CHESTNUT: I initially auditioned a couple of years ago. I don’t think at the time I knew I was auditioning for Star Trek; I think it was under dummy sides. Then when I got the official call I found out not only that it was Star Trek, but that I was going to be playing Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton)’s daughter.
KAPLAN: What’s it like to fly the Titan? Did you receive any “training”?
CHESTNUT: No, I didn’t receive any training. I just winged it and started to create my own choreography, if you will, playing with the keys and buttons on my console with my hands.
KAPLAN: Speaking of choreography, was that you in the scene where Sidney mirrors the actions of Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers) in “Dominion”?
CHESTNUT: It was! Except the actual roll is my stunt double. But for the most part, like the ducking and trying to avoid the swings, that was me.
KAPLAN: What was it like planning that out?
CHESTNUT: We initially had a couple of stunt rehearsals, just to make sure that we were comfortable enough to do it on set. Plus, we didn’t do the whole sequence – we cut in between. But yeah, it was so cool.
KAPLAN: What’s the process of recording “psychic dialogue” like? Do you record your lines later?
CHESTNUT: I didn’t do that until later last year, or I had a few ADR sessions earlier this year. I went back into the studio just to record some of those lines.
KAPLAN: Have you seen any fan art of Sidney yet?
CHESTNUT: Oh, yes! I think that’s part of the highlight of being able to watch the show back and being able to interact with the fans on Twitter and stuff. The way these fans have embraced me… I feel super lucky, honestly.
KAPLAN: What are the uniforms like? Are there any details we might not be able to see at home?
CHESTNUT: I know in the beginning, for me and Stephanie Czajkowski (Lt. T’Veen), our uniforms were actually onesies. And halfway through, just to make it easier for us to go to the bathroom and stuff, they separated it. So our pants became separate from our top. But for half of shooting, it was a onesie. For hours, on and on!
KAPLAN: Do you see any of yourself reflected in Sidney?
CHESTNUT: Yeah, I do. I see her tenacity; her strength. Her loving side; her ability to stick up for her crew and her family. Because you see that reflected in her throughout this season. She’s just an amazing human.
KAPLAN: What was the environment like on set?
CHESTNUT: It was obviously always fun. But I think it depends on the moment we were shooting, too.
When the TNG characters all reunited? Nothing but jokes. Just seeing them interact was so cool to see! Those were the moments where it was most light-hearted. You could truly see their decades-long dynamic. On and off camera, it was really fun to see.
KAPLAN: What was it like working with the other member of the Titan bridge crew?
CHESTNUT: Oh, crew love! I love my crew. It was great. We’re still in contact now, via social media. This was our first time working on a Star Trek set, and we each had our own tie to Star Trek. I had my mom, Stephanie was talking about her dad. We all had our own individual connection to this franchise, which was really lovely to bond over.
KAPLAN: What was it like playing a character that is a member of the La Forge family?
CHESTNUT: Good! I mean, stepping into these big shoes to fill. I did my best, I feel really good about it. The fans are embracing it. I keep saying it, I’m sorry, but it’s surreal. I mean, Geordi La Forge was my profile picture on Instagram for years! So the fact that I’m on set, I’m playing his daughter, I’m having emotional scenes with this man.
And, Patrick Stewart… Professor X! It’s been a wild ride. An enjoyable one.
KAPLAN: Is it interesting playing a family member to two actual blood relatives?
CHESTNUT: Yes! But in a good way. They’ve embraced me. I’ve talked about this before: they invited me to Thanksgiving. They didn’t have to do that! I’m telling you, these people are just as nice off-camera as they are on-camera.
KAPLAN: One of my favorite scenes this season is when Sidney visits Seven (Jeri Ryan) in her quarters in “Seventeen Seconds.” Have you seen any of the reactions to this scene in particular?
CHESTNUT: Yes, especially because Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick) calls her Commander Hansen, essentially deadnaming her. And I’m like, “Nope. Commander Seven.” And it’s out of respect – it just shows my respect for her.
It’s like, “I see you.” That was one of my favorites, too. I think that was a lovely moment between Sidney and Seven.
KAPLAN: What was it like playing a Changeling version of Sidney in “No Win Scenario”?
CHESTNUT: Uh, nuts! So in the scene, I’m walking into the room trying to mess some stuff up. The actor Ashlei was trying to make it discrete in a way that the audience wouldn’t necessarily know it was a Changeling until I give this look, right before Commander Seven has a phaser to my head.
It was a fun scene to shoot. I was just trying to find that balance between being a believable Changeling and a believable Sidney.
KAPLAN: How did the scene where Sidney sees “herself” dead on the sickbay table in “Imposters” come together? Was there actually someone lying there?
CHESTNUT: There was a stand-in. So luckily, it wasn’t like a prosthetic version of myself. I think that would have been too weird. But just imagining… when she vomits, it’s definitely warranted. You’re seeing your dead body, and it’s like, what? It’s wild, it’s crazy.
KAPLAN: Are there any storylines or elements of the character you would specifically hope to see explored in a potential Star Trek: Legacy spinoff?
CHESTNUT: Absolutely. I’d love to continue seeing the blossoming friendship between Jack and Sidney. I’d love to continue to explore the sisterhood bond between Alandra (Mica Burton) and Sidney. And I’d love just to continue seeing my crew from the Titan.
There’s a little bit of everything. Alandra’s the engineer. I’m the pilot. We have Jack’s doctor/badass thing. We have a little bit of everybody. The fans are asking for it — #StarTrekLegacy. The fans are asking for this spinoff. I think it would be a service to them and us to continue.
KAPLAN: What would you personally order from the replicator?
CHESTNUT: I like seafood, maybe some seafood. Like the buffet, let’s do that.
KAPLAN: I understand you have stage-acting experience. Did you find this informed your performance as Sidney at all?
CHESTNUT: My background’s definitely in theater. I’ve been acting – I went to performing arts middle school, high school, and got my degree in it in college. Just having that base of knowledge and studying this craft for a really long time definitely prepared me for this.
Because in this sci-fi world, we’re doing a lot of imagination, too. We have a lot of green screens and things like that. It’s cliché, but being able to play pretend and use our imagination really helped me step into this role, for sure.
KAPLAN: Do you have any reaction to Vadic (Amanda Plummer) killing T’Veen in “Surrender”?
CHESTNUT: Yeah! I was sad, okay? Sad! Okay? Distraught! Aw man.
But it is Star Trek, you never know. We’ve seen throughout the history of everything, people come back. So, crossing my fingers. You never know.
KAPLAN: Is there anything else you’d like me to be sure and include?
CHESTNUT: If we’re talking specifically on the show, I think you’re still in for a good treat. These two episodes are going to be jam-packed with the information we find, what’s behind that red door.
Outside of that, I would just like people to note the camaraderie that we have off-set. It’s been a lovely ride. And I hope we can continue the ride!
New episodes of Star Trek: Picard are available for streaming on Paramount+ on Thursdays.
Read all of The Beat’s Star Trek coverage by clicking here!