Oyin Oladejo loved every second of both Star Trek: Discovery’s first season and her time at Star Trek Las Vegas a few weeks ago, and for good, deeply personal reasons. Aside from the fact that they were both “fantastic” experiences, Oladejo, in the days before landing her role as ops officer Joann Owosekun, had just about abandoned her dreams of acting. So now, here she was, celebrating Discovery’s first season, meeting excited fans all weekend long and gearing up for the show’s sophomore year. StarTrek.com caught up with Oladejo at STLV to discuss all of the above and more. Here’s what the soft-spoken actress had to say in this, the latest in our series of StarTrek.com interviews building toward the November 13 release of Star Trek: Discovery: Season One on Blu-ray and DVD...
How familiar were you with Star Trek when you became involved with Discovery?
I actually did not know much about Star Trek. I had heard of it in the same vein as Star Wars or Lord of The Rings, as things that you should see. But also, I did not know it was Star Trek before getting the job. It was after I got the job that I realized it was Star Trek. I was like, "This is going to be a Southern show or something." Then, the audition was very scientific. I'm like, "How... Southern show?" Then I just decided to let it go.
Can we assume that once you figured out it was Star Trek that you went and did some research?
Yes. Yes. Because I needed to know how they spoke. It was a huge franchise and I spoke to my agent about it, and she said, "You need to watch it from the beginning.” I found out there were 700 episodes. I didn't know how to do this, but then somebody directed me to go to The Next Generation. So, I watched a few of those and I realized that there was more than just a science-fiction aspect to it. I was pulled in. I was sold, like, “This is what I want to do.”
As a woman of color, did you check out Nichelle Nichols at all on The Original Series? She broke a lot of ground.
No, I did not... I did not think about it that way until later on when people started saying, “This is such a huge thing. Nichelle did this, started this and that's how you are able to get on it…” Then, I went and did research about Nichelle and, oh my God, she opened a lot of doors for a lot of people.
What was your audition process like?
It wasn't much. I was ready to quit acting. I was completely done. I love performing. I love the arts. I stumbled into it. It wasn't something I chose to do when I was young. But then I was just feeling that I wasn't being fulfilled, so I decided that I was done with acting. I told my agent that and she said, “Do this one last audition.” Two days later, she was like, “They want you -- and by the way it's Star Trek." I was in Vancouver, cleaning houses and landscaping, and I got the call saying, "You got it. You need to fly back in two weeks."
That's really a life-changing call...
Yes, it was. But it was all self-taped. I was like, "Fine I'll do this one last audition." I taped it, did a few takes and I'm like, "Fine, I'll send it in." I did different auditions in the past for film or TV, and I never booked anything because people told me, "Your accent…," or things like that. I was like, "I'm not going to get this TV stuff." But I did.
What's your sense of Joann? Who she is and what she's about? How much of that has to be for backstory in your own head until it's developed on screen?
That's actually what it feels like right now because we don't know where she's going to go, what her backstory is. Watching the way she is on screen right now, I feel like she's very close to me. I feel like she's a very, very strong person and a fighter, but she's very soft inside. She's very sensitive and very spiritual, but she needs to appear very strong in order to deal with life and deal with the expectations of being Starfleet, and for people to take her seriously and want her to be in a position of responsibility.
Which episodes were most interesting for you? Were there certain character moments that you were glad you got to play?
I really loved the Mirror Universe. One, because of Michelle Yeoh. I am a huge fan of her, but also to be on the opposite end, to be on the backside, it's pretty freaking cool. That’s the episode I think that stood out for me the most. I thought my outfit was pretty sexy. I'm not sure I could fight in it if I ever got into a real fight. I went in for a fitting. I saw the dress piece with the long boots and I was sold. Then, they were like, "There's more,” and they put the shield on me. Then, because we are bridge crew, we don't carry any weapons. I have a knife and a phaser. They said, "This is what you're wearing." And all I said was, "Yes, yes, yes."
How did your games of Mafia go? Jason Isaacs swears that Sonequa Martin-Green cheats…
Sonequa has the Mafia nights to bring everybody together. She's the best at that game, but she's horrible. She will tell you to your face, "I'm not lying to you." She'll be so serious and you'll believe her. Of course, she’s lying. She's killing us. She's taking every single person out one by one.
How's season two going?
So, so good. So good. I feel a bit more relaxed. I feel a bit more comfortable to take risks, make mistakes, and the crew, cast, everybody's just as supportive as last year. The stories that are being told, I'm being moved more than I've ever been moved. Every table read so far, I always leave with tears because the stories just hit you. It's going really, really well.
You're a fresh face to many people. Where are you from and how and why did you got into acting?
It just happened. It wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to school for law. I had a case that I had to be in court for. I was just watching the way lawyers were and I realized, “I don't want to do this.” That was it. I didn't have anything else to do. I was working as a box office person at a Canadian opera company, answering phones and selling tickets. I got promoted as a supervisor after a few months, saw my first opera and said, "They look like they're having fun. I want to have fun for the rest of my life." A friend said, "Apply to theater school." I googled theater school. This was all in Toronto. I applied to the first theater school that came up in Google. I got in, and since then I've been doing this. It's not something like I've always wanted to do it for my whole life.
You just saw an opportunity and took it…
Exactly. I moved from Nigeria when I was 16. That was 2001.
Any other acting credits people should look for?
I was in a short, but it was just a snippet. I’d mostly done theater before Discovery. This is really my first gig.
Last question: How happy are you that you decided to do this one last audition for your agent?
Very, very happy. I feel like the universe was like, "If you don't do this, then you're stupid."
Star Trek: Discovery on Blu-ray
Fans in the U.S. and Canada can pre-order on Amazon.com now.
Star Trek: Discovery's second season will premiere on Thursday, January 17, 2019, in the U.S. and Canada, and in the rest of the world on Friday, January 18, 2019.