It’s one thing to dream about being an alien on Star Trek one day, and something else to actually step into the role on the big screen. Noah Averbach-Katz, a life-long Star Trek fan, made his Star Trek debut as Ryn, the Andorian who helps Book’s escape from the Emerald Chain and who helps the Discovery crew on their missions. Ryn has become a fan favorite, and Averbach-Katz’s interactions with fans on Twitter have brightened all of our Twitter timelines.
I couldn't think of better way for a life long Trekkie like myself to celebrate being on #StarTrek than to make a compilation video of some of my most embarrassing/cherished photos. I hope you love Ryn as much as I do. LLAP #StarTrekDiscovery pic.twitter.com/geZUcY27vs— Noah AK (@N_A_K) November 19, 2020
Averbach-Katz, who is married to series star Mary Wiseman, sat down with StarTrek.com to talk about being a Trek fan, what he’s most excited for when we can hold conventions again, and the DnD group he leads with his fellow Trek actors.
StarTrek.com: What was your first contact with Star Trek?
Noah Averbach-Katz: I've been thinking about that a lot, and to be honest, I don't have a good answer for the first contact, because I feel like it has just been omnipresent in my life. There wasn't a time when I encountered it or something. I feel like it's always been on the TV. I feel like when I was growing up, it was the change over from DS9 into Voyager. So we always had Voyager on, so I kind of grew up with them.
Then I think I really built my own Trekiness actually on Enterprise, because that's when I was prime TV watching age. My mom would actually hold these... she would call them Star Trek parties where me and my friends would all go in the back room and watch the latest episode of Enterprise. Then my mom, she would write a quiz for the episode and whoever got the most answers right in the quiz, she would give out some sort of Star Trek themed prize. It was really, really fun. It was just all of us friends hanging out watching Star Trek and it was great. It was just great.
When did you go to your first Star Trek convention, and are you looking forward to returning to cons when it's safe to go back as a member of the Star Trek family?
NAK: So, I think I went to the one in Sacramento, but then somebody on Twitter pointed out that there's one in Pasadena that me and a couple friends drove down from Northern California for. He recognized that Will Wheaton was wearing the same shirt as in the picture of the video I posted [from the con]. So, that was an early one as well. The last convention I went to was 2013 in Chicago — another fan noticed the backdrop and the shirt that Patrick Stewart was wearing with one of the pictures I posted.
When I was in college, an undergrad [and] in graduate school, I wasn't really able to go to any [because I was] too busy. So that was the last one I went to, which was fun. Then at some point, when I was in New York, there was a Blu-ray release party they had at a theater that LeVar Burton showed up to. So, I think that was really the last Star Trek event that I went to as just a pure fan.
I so, so hope that there's interest for me to go to conventions when everything's back to normal. I just can't even begin to conceptualize in my mind how much fun it will be to straddle the line between a totally bug-eyed fan and somebody on the other side of the table. I just am really excited to meet fans and see their costumes and see all the pictures that they have, and just get to share in that with them. I just really can't wait, and I hope that I get a chance to do that.
How did your family react to you being cast in Star Trek?
NAK: So, I talked to my mom and my dad and my mom was the omega Trekkie in the family. She stared at me in disbelief for a little bit and was like, "All right, are we talking, are you in a mask in the background for 30 seconds?" I was like, "No, I have some lines, I do some stuff." Then she started weeping and then she ran into a closet and pulled out a model of the Next Generation Enterprise, as big as a football. It's this golden model, I think it was an anniversary model, and she just started flying it around the house in giddy excitement, and then she wept some more.
That's such a sweet story.
NAK: I have some pictures which I'll put up on Twitter at some point, a compilation of all the different times she heard Star Trek news and started crying
What was the audition process like for Discovery?
NAK: I knew Alex and I had met Michelle once before, because I auditioned in between season two and season three, if I remember correctly. I was actually in Toronto with Mary, and I was going back to New York anyway for a different audition, and my manager called me and said, "Hey, there's this thing for Star Trek." It was unclear what species the character was. It must've been a dummy script, but there was talk about Cardassians and Cardassian prisoners and something. It was just very difficult to make out who everybody was.
I went in and did this audition in New York and flew back and then just got the call later. So, it was actually pretty straightforward in that sense. But it was so much fun to just even get to play around with a fake Star Trek script and get to do that. It was just so great.
What has been your favorite fan interaction that you've had, both before and after being cast?
NAK: That's a great question. I wasn't really able to announce anything until basically last week, so the only people who really knew were friends and family who could keep a secret. So, I've watched Mary interact with fans from afar. Every once in a while she gets stopped on the street. I remember we were walking in Brooklyn one time and this guy recognized her and was so excited that he got to meet her and that season three was coming.
She did an episode of the NPR podcast, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, and I got to sit in the audience. It was just so much fun to see all these people who came and essentially turned this taping of a podcast into a mini Star Trek convention, because we all came in cosplay or had T-shirts on. It was just so much fun to be around that and see how kind and excited people were.
Then really the only fan interaction I've been able to have since the episode came out has been on the internet, which can be a little dicey sometimes. But so far, the response has been so positive, so kind, so excited. I think a lot of people can live vicariously through my experience, because I do think part of being a fan of Star Trek is imagining being on the sets, imagining getting to hang out with the cast, imagining getting to shoot the phaser or get beamed up or just all that stuff. I think a lot of people can hopefully have some taste of that experience vicariously through my own.
So, you tweeted about the first time you saw fanart of your character. What was that like just to see art created by Star Trek fans about a character that you've played after being a fan for so long?
NAK: Oh my God. I loved it so much, because I've gotten to see all of Mary's fanart. I think above all, I love when people participate like that. They get a chance to be connected to the community and on the internet, and a chance to just make something that is fun and feels good. So it's never about the quality of the art, even though sometimes it's so amazing. Seeing myself [on screen], it just felt like, “Wow, I was enough of a part of one episode of Star Trek to get somebody to draw my face!” It really helped solidify the fact that I was on the show, I did it.
💙💙My First Ever Fan Art!💙💙— Noah AK (@N_A_K) November 21, 2020
I love it so much! ...I mean how cool is that?!🖖 https://t.co/MYV4gJN9MW
What are some of the fun behind the scenes memories you have of filming Discovery?
NAK: Well, the first one is, my first day of shooting on 306 was the final shot that I'm in in the episode, which is just me laying on the hospital bed. I was so excited to do it. I couldn't believe I got to go into Sickbay, I couldn't believe I got one of those loose fitting future robes. All the screens on the show, a lot of them are actual TV screens that are built into the wall. So you can see it's not post-production, you can see all this stuff and you can see the readouts of the Andorian body and all that stuff. I was so excited to be doing that.
In the scene, Sonequa and David are standing above me and talking and saying “I think he's going to make it” or whatever. During the rehearsal when they're practicing, I had my eyes open and I was smiling and I was just staring at them, because I was having an out-of-body experience that I couldn't believe. Sonequa looked down at me and she smiled. Sonequa's the absolute best. But she smiled to me, and she was genuinely curious and was like, "Are you going to have your eyes open during the shot?" So I was like, "Oh yeah, I actually have to pretend that I'm unconscious. I can't be a fan and just look up and watch David and Sonequa have this intense moment. I'm in the scene, I have to be asleep." So I thought that was really, really funny.
Then basically the next day of shooting, we shot at this incredible dystopian aluminum factory in Hamilton, Canada. Basically, my first scene was lying in a bed, barely able to keep my eyes closed, and the second [part I shot] was the scene where we basically make a break for it outside. I don't know if it's super clear or if it goes through on the actual episode, but there were these huge fireballs exploding everywhere. So basically, my second time doing Star Trek, the director was like, "Yeah, you're going to run here, stop and then a huge fireball that will explode. Then run here, but don't step on this, because this is a fireball. Then run through, and then you need to jump over this fireball here."
So it was just really diving in on the deep end, where you're screaming and you're directing all these extras to run and you have to hold for the fireball explosion behind you. It just went from zero to 60 incredibly fast, which I thought was so much fun. You really felt like you were just totally inside of it. Yeah, you had to stay away from the fireball, because you definitely didn't want that prosthetic to melt onto your face.
I saw on Twitter, you're leading a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with your fellow Trek actors. So, how did that get started?
NAK: I've been obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons for a couple of years now. I'm a newer player, but I was thinking about bringing it up last year, and then I wound up getting a play, so I left Toronto early. But this year I saw on Twitter that Anthony [Rapp] had posted like, "Hey, I tried this out, it was really fun." I was interested. Anthony, he is a pure geek. He is a true nerd, and this is obviously just right up his alley.
I had played with Mary a little bit. She kind of stuck her toe in the water. This year on set is very, very challenging for people, because nobody's hanging out outside of the set, on set the interactions are very limited. So, I thought this would be a great time, we'd do it over Zoom. It's also been a great, great way to get to know ... I've known Emily [Coutts] and Anthony for a few years now and know them really well, but it's also been a great way to get to know Ian [Alexander] and Blu [del Barrio] and just how great they are and how lucky Star Trek is to have them. I just think that both of them are such an incredible addition to the show, and I think that everyone's going to fall in love with both of them. They're just such, such amazing people. So it's also been great to get to know them, and so far, so good.
Kate Gardner (they/them) is the editorial assistant for StarTrek.com
Star Trek: Discovery streams on CBS All Access in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.