[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 1 Episode 11, “The Wolf Inside.”]
Fans of “Star Trek: Discovery” had been bracing themselves for the revelations of “The Wolf Inside” for some time, as Lt. Tyler broke down and acknowledged the truth about his identity after being confronted by his mirror universe self, a Klingon known as Voq.
It was a long-delayed reveal, but actor Shazad Latif knew, right from the beginning, that he wasn’t playing one character but two on “Discovery.”
“I found out from the early stages, in the casting,” he told IndieWire. “I knew I always going to play a double character, and it wasn’t a surprise. It was just very exciting and very scary as well, because it’s double the workload.”
Back when people were just beginning to piece together the idea that Tyler might not be who he seems, one of the biggest pieces of evidence that Latif was also secretly playing Voq was that the actor officially credited with the role, Javid Iqbal, didn’t appear to exist beyond his work on “Discovery” (at least according to IMDB). This is because, as Latif revealed, Javid Iqbal is his father, who passed away six years ago.
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“My real name is Iqbal Amin,” Latif said. “[Javid Iqbal] passed away six years ago, and he was a big film buff. He changed the film reels in a cinema years ago. They said, ‘Well, you can choose a name, you can choose a pseudonym,’ and I chose that. It was just a shout out to him, really.”
(That said, now that the truth is out Latif will be getting retroactively credited for playing both roles, a situation he says his agent and others are sorting out.)
“The Wolf Inside” features an extended sequence where Tyler and the Mirror Universe version of Voq (both played by Latif) have to interact, and while Latif was assisted by having a body double, it still required “two long days,” he said.
“First, I played the mirror version of Voq, and that was the first day. It was like 10 pages; we filmed long takes, and another brilliant actor [Zach Smadu] did the Tyler stuff, which luckily wasn’t that much, so he could sort of learn Voq’s moves for the next day when we would switch.”
Smadu thus did both versions of the scene: “I’ve never experienced anything like it. We spent the whole day together just going through the moves. He’s an actor in his own right, he’s wasn’t just a stand-in, he should be praised beyond belief because he had to learn the dialogues, the movements, the fight suddenly, because no one realized he had to end up doing everything that I did. It was pretty incredible.”
Latif acknowledged that over the course of shooting the season, the big reveal was looming in his mind. “You try not to think about it, but you know that scene’s coming. Like, the night before, you’re just trying to … you’ve just got to get into it.”
Shooting the actual moment with Martin-Green, Latif said, was done in long takes. “We just played it like a theater scene. It was like 10 minute takes, and just played it all the way through. It was very beautiful. We did it many different ways, some where we were crying, some where we’re not crying… we just had to give in and just let go. It was very exciting as an actor, and scary.”
And it was quite surreal, if only because of the history established between him and his fellow actor. “Me and Sonequa have gone through so much. You’re lying in bed the one day and then the next day you’re choking her against a wall,” he said. “You’re actually going through these things, it’s all pretend, but… I’m still doing these things to these characters. It is an out-of-body experience, it’s very weird. As soon as they say action, there is definitely a different energy in the room.”
Added Latif, “It’s very magical, that moment, between action and cut, because there’s a deathly silence and there’s something else going on. I find it very beautiful and very strange.”
Latif does feel that there is the potential for Voq/Tyler to be redeemed in some way, despite his actions. “His defense is that it wasn’t him, he wasn’t in his right mind. That’s always the way out, you know? It’s up to the other people to go, ‘Will I ever trust you? Because you’ve hurt me physically or emotionally.’ Logically, he wasn’t in his right mind; we just have to believe him…if you were looking at it from a legal point of view, he’s got a case. There’s a chance.”
That said, Voq/Tyler’s future might be in flux within the context of the show, and when it comes to the second season even Latif isn’t sure what might be ahead. “It’s such a long process, the writing process is still going on, so we don’t know anything about that. I literally couldn’t tell you,” he said. “We still got 15 hours of exploration with these characters, hopefully we get 30-45 more hours, who knows? But if not, I’d be very happy with the exploration so far. Because it’s pretty crazy.”