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WARP FIVE: Elias Toufexis Gives Face to the Breen and L'ak's Unfortunate Gamble

The Discovery actor talks making Star Trek history, denouncing his role as the Scion in pursuit of love and freedom, and more.

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for the fifth season of Star Trek: Discovery.

Graphic illustration featuring Elias Toufexis and episodic stills of his character L'ak in Star Trek: Discovery

Getty Images /

Welcome to Warp Five,'s five question post-mortem with your favorite featured talent from the latest Star Trek episodes.

As we near the conclusion of Star Trek: Discovery's fifth and final season, the U.S.S. Discovery's lead chasing their Red Directive mission across the galaxy faces its biggest hurdle yet following the events of "Erigah."

While in the custody of Federation, Moll and L'ak make a desperate gamble to escape their current predicament resulting in devastating consequences. While in his biobed, L'ak self-administers a massive dosage of tricordrazine in order to distract the guards and get them to lower the containment shields so Moll can flee. While his partner and wife manages to take out the guards and seek for a getaway transport for the pair, L'ak's already precarious state takes a turn for the worse. Unfortunately for Moll and Discovery, the Breen Scion is now gone and they've attracted the ire of the Breen Primarch Ruhn who has now lost his key to ascending the Imperium as emperor.

Ahead of the release of "Erigah," had the opportunity to further explore Star Trek: Discovery actor Elias Toufexis about his love of the franchise, making Star Trek history by revealing the true face of the Breen, his approach to his character L'ak, the extent of the Scion's love for Moll, and more.

Point of First Contact

'Red Directive'

"Red Directive"

Like many others, Elias Toufexis first encountered Star Trek in his childhood. "I’ve literally grown up with Star Trek,” he explains, “I mean that in a different way than it comes across. When I was a kid, I obviously was too young to have watched The Original Series [when it first aired], but it was on all the time. My dad recorded it, and I remember watching it with my dad and his brothers — my uncles — all the time."

"Then we would have these marathons," Toufexis continues. "I don’t remember what channel it was, but they would air full days of Star Trek episodes, like top 10 Star Trek episodes. It always ended with 'The City on the Edge of Forever.' 'The Trouble with Tribbles’ was also in the mix. I just memorized those shows, particularly the top five Star Trek episodes. Then, when I was a young teenager, I got into The Next Generation, and it grew with me. When I was about 19, Deep Space Nine came along. That was a much more mature show and I was getting more mature, so I grew with that."

"When I started college, Star Trek took a little bit of a backseat compared to when I was growing up," notes Toufexis. "But I still watched Voyager, I still watched Enterprise, and the movies. Star Trek II is part of my DNA. There’s not a frame of that movie I don’t know by heart."

Toufexis then shares another reason why Star Trek was such a huge part of his upbringing. "Another big part of me loving Star Trek was William Shatner. We grew up not only in the same town in Montreal, but we grew up on the same block. Exactly the same block. Obviously, 30 years apart. We grew up on the same street in Monkland. I was on the corner street he was on. I always looked at him as a role model because this guy literally grew up right here and is one of the biggest stars in the world. I always looked up to him because of that, which got mixed in with my adoration for Star Trek. So I’ve been a fan my whole life."

The Breen Scion

[RELATED: WARP FIVE: Eve Harlow and Elias Toufexis on Star Trek’s Unrelenting Star-Crossed Lovers]

Unlike Toufexis, his character L'ak had a more difficult upbringing as the Scion of the Breen Imperium. In "Mirrors," we saw as the direct descendent of the emperor, he turned his back on the Imperium in the name of love to be with Moll, marking them both with a Breen erigah — a blood bounty. Then, in the latest episode, "Erigah," as the Imperium faces discord between warring factions in a bid for the throne, it's revealed that Primarch Ruhn (L'ak's uncle) needs him back in order to make claim of the entire Imperium.

In the flashback in "Mirrors," Moll questions why L'ak spares Ruhn, he reveals that his uncle was who raised him. Toufexis shares his approach on focusing on the familial aspect of the Breen defector, "I kept it mostly personal. I thought about, 'Okay, my uncle means a lot to me, but he's forcing me into this life I don't want.'"

"The face that L'ak chooses is almost like a screw you to his uncle and his heritage," explains Toufexis. "He's, 'I don't want to do this; this is me.' When Moll asks to see his other face, he tells her, 'It's not me. That's not what I am.' I kept it very personal, the history of it all. I discussed it with Michelle [Paradise] and Tunde [Osunsanmi]. For me, I focused on the personal relationship with L'ak's uncle, what I wanted to achieve by getting out of [the Breen Imperium], what Moll means to me, and what her asking me to go with her means to me. That's what I played. There was a little bit of hierarchy, which is shown in ['Erigah'] when L'ak talks about not wanting to be this; it's worse than death, being this slave to the Imperium."

"Not only was Moll an out for him," continues Toufexis, "but he fell in love with her, a new chance at life. In Episode 5, the idea of going with her does not even occur to him until she says it. When he gets into the muck with shooting his fellow Breen, he decides to chance it and go with her."

Giving Face to the Breen

The Breen Primarch faces his nephew L'ak and reprimands him for consorting with lesser beings in 'Mirrors'


[RELATED: Who Are the Breen?]

The Breen Imperium remains a mysterious yet powerful presence in the Alpha Quadrant and Star Trek lore. With Toufexis' arrival, the Discovery actor not only pulls back the curtain (and helmet) and gives face metaphorically and literally to an indomitable species.

On the opportunities this role presented, following his brief stint as a human convict in the first season, Toufexis proclaims, "When I was offered the role, I was very excited to take it. I would have taken it anyway, no matter what. I thought it was maybe a couple episodes, which I didn't care; I just wanted to be on the show again. I love the show. I love Sonequa [Martin-Green]. I love Doug [Jones]. I've known them for a while, and I just wanted to be on the show. Then when they showed me concept art, and they told me it was Breen, my brain went from, 'I'm really happy to be on the show,' to 'Oh my gosh, now I'm making Star Trek history.'"

"Suddenly, I'm going to be in the technical manuals and the things I collect," continues Toufexis. "I'm going to be in magazines about this stuff. It really blew my mind and got me especially excited, even more than I already was. Being the first [unmasked] Breen historically is amazing and incredible. It's a great feeling, but also as a fan, especially of Deep Space Nine, this is so cool. We get to update the species and what they do. Everyone's been saying the two faces of the Breen, but for me, it's the three faces of the Breen — the one with the helmet, the gelatinous version, and the one L'ak chooses to be, which is inherent to his character, a really big, important choice he makes for himself. The layers of complexity of L'ak because of him being Breen was so enjoyable to play."

Giving Voice to the Non-Federation

On the surface of Salata Major, Moll grips L'ak face as she reassures him in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

For Star Trek, the stories predominantly center on the Federation and the members who uphold its values. However, to show the strengths as well as its limitations is to juxtapose their actions is to highlight those who exist outside of the Federation, who don't understand or resist their tenets, or who actively demonstrates themselves as a foil.

Toufexis enjoyed the entire experience, giving a rich and nuanced look to L'ak and Moll's journey alongside co-star Eve Harlow. Their star-crossed lovers sought to outrun the Federation just as much as their erigah.

"Seeing something outside of Discovery and outside of a species like the Breen, it was my favorite part," Toufexis reflects. "It's its own little story, these people. I play a lot of bad guys. For the most part, their backstory is written for you, and you maybe talk a little about it. But it was different [with L'ak and Discovery]. We got to feel it and show it often. I don't like calling Moll and L'ak 'bad guys.' They’re antagonists for sure, but they're not really bad guys."

"When I saw Episode 5, it had taken us a long time to see it, but Michelle [Paradise] had told me about it," recalls Toufexis. "We were going to go back and talk about their love story, and we get to see them falling in love. That was the best part because I thought, 'This is new.' I don't think there are villains in Star Trek, maybe one-offs in little episodes here or there, but villains don't get to show the reason they're doing this. Because they want love and freedom. If we did our jobs correctly, you want to root for them. You don't want to root for them to kill Burnham or anything, but you want to root for them to get away [from the Federation and Breen Imperium] and be free. That was important to me. The best part about the whole thing was the love story for me and trying to get that across, make people empathize with the characters, was the most important thing."

The Cost of L'ak's Gamble

Following L'ak's passing on a Discovery biobed as Moll emotionally folds over his lifeless body as she craddles in 'Erigah'


In the care of Dr. Hugh Culber aboard the Discovery, but still in custody of the Federation, as the Breen Imperium closing in on them, the severely injured L'ak makes a bad call in order to give Moll an opportunity to escape.

Explaining how he viewed the events of L'ak's actions in Sickbay in "Erigah," Toufexis states, "That’s what it was — a gamble. I didn't play it as a straight up sacrifice. He didn't know that he was going to die. Just that he knew he could die because he was taking a big chance. Moll's safety and freedom is more important to him than anything else. Of course, he wanted to get out of there [with her]. He even says, 'I'm sorry I took too much. I didn’t mean to do it.' He apologizes because he didn't mean to do it. He knew the odds weren't great, which he hints at when he says, 'You’re not going to like it,' about his plan. They didn’t have a lot of options."

"In retrospect, after watching the episode, I wish I could have played up seeing that she's still there after all this," Toufexis reveals. "That he just wanted to get her out of there, but now that he's dying, recognize that she came back and was there with him. He trusts her; they're married. Even if the plan didn't work out, she could do whatever it takes for their freedom, or her freedom at least. That's why he says, 'You'll be okay.'"

At the end of "Erigah," Moll reveals their married status to Breen Primarch Ruhn in another gambit to escape both the Federation and the erigah's clutches, and potentially resurrect her late lover. Despite not being privy to Moll's plans, Toufexis ponders how things could have played out if L'ak would have survived, "If he was still alive, he obviously would say, 'No, no, no, we’re not doing this.' But given the situation, he would understand why she was doing this. She has to get away from the Federation."

"While we built Moll and L'ak as maybe they're not so bad, maybe they could join up with the Federation," Toufexis muses. "And the first thing Moll does when L'ak dies is stab the Federation in the back and throw them under the bus [with the Breen Imperium]. He does trust her."