RED ALERT! This interview contains spoilers for the second and most recent episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2, “Ad Astra per Aspera,” currently available for streaming on Paramount+.

In Strange New Worlds season 2 episode 2, “Ad Astra per Aspera,” guest star Yetide Badaki plays the scene-stealing role of attorney Neera Ketoul. The Beat was thrilled to get the chance to catch up with Badaki over Zoom. We asked about how she came to be involved in the episode, about her personal history with Trek, and about the characters who inspired her performance as Ketoul!

Yetide Badaki as Neera and Rebecca Romijn as Una in episode 202 “Ad Astra per Aspera” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

AVERY KAPLAN: How did you come to be involved in this episode?

YETIDE BADAKI: I was offered the role by Margery Simkin and Orly Sitowitz, who do casting for Strange New Worlds. They knew my work from other stuff that they’d also put me in, and they sent the offer.

The tricky part is that I couldn’t read a script because of all the NDAs. But they sent a synopsis of the character and the situation, and of course – I mean, I was already going to say “yes.” I’m a Star Trek geek, I’m a Trekkie, how could I not? But then they told me the episode, and listen: you’d have to fight me off at that point.

KAPLAN: Do you have a personal history with Star Trek?

BADAKI: Yes. I’m a Trekkie. I’m a proclaimed Trekkie. I have a deep, deep abiding love of the world. My worldview was formed by Star Trek: The Next Generation. I watched it all the way in Nigeria when I was a child.

I immediately fell in love with it. My first two crushes were Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Data (Brent Spiner), so that’s something!

And I just always loved that idea. You don’t see… I actually have a hard time naming another show that speaks about a future for humanity that’s not a dystopia. Trek is one of the first things that I saw that gave the promise and the hope of a humanity that does better. So yeah, it’s been a long history.

This was a dream come true, an absolute dream come true, to be a part of this world.

Ethan Peck as Spock and Yetide Badaki as Neera in episode 202 “Ad Astra per Aspera” of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

KAPLAN: When you did receive the script, what was your reaction?

BADAKI: (laughs) Yes, there were quite a few. First off, this script, written by Dana Horgan, is just incredible. It jumped off the page. 

Then there was a brief moment of panic when I realized how many lines I had, and how many speeches. I was excited about it, but also, that’s the part about being a fan of something that you get to work on. There’s the love and the joy and you’re excited, but you also feel the responsibility to this world. You want to do good by it because it’s something that you’ve loved for so long. And also, wanting to give that experience to the fans, being one of them.

So there was a slight moment of panic, I’ll be honest with you. And then, it just went back into the awe of this space, this world. Getting to do it with this incredible cast. Those were my initial reactions: it was joy; panic; awe.

And that’s another reason I really loved the script: it was everything I really loved about Trek. It felt classic. Classic Trek made you think and made you work toward something. 

That was one of the things I loved about Star Trek. Yes, there were those ideals, and you saw all kinds of different individuals being not only accepted into the world but celebrated. 

And that’s actually why I loved working with Strange New Worlds costume designer Bernadette Croft. She brought the colors back in the uniform because it was a visual representation of people of different disciplines; different areas of study. So not only may they physically be different from each other, but their disciplines are different, and they all come together towards a single goal.

KAPLAN: Did any fictional characters inspire your performance as Neera?

BADAKI: There were quite a few from Star Trek, as you might see. 

Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) was one. I used a lot of her facial characteristics. Because you always saw this kind of knowing smile, but you never really know what’s happening back there. It was a beautiful thing to be able to come in with, with Neera, to use that. And also then the moments that become a little softer and warmer, and empowering another individual – which Guinan always did in Ten Forward – with La’An (Christina Chong). For La’An not to take in that hate that’s coming in from everybody else, and not going into the self-hate space. That was Guinan.

Also, there was obviously Picard. All of those impassioned speeches, that’s what I loved. I really loved those speeches about, “We can do better, and we should do better.”

Then there were also elements of Sisko (Avery Brooks). I’d say specifically, with some of the larger speeches, I thought he would use diction very effectively. He would use the consonants to really put the point across. So there were moments I used that for Neera. 

New episodes of Strange New Worlds are released on Thursdays on Paramount+.