RED ALERT! This interview contains spoilers for Star Trek: Picard season 3 episode 5, “Imposters,” currently available for streaming on Paramount+.
In Picard season 3, Todd Stashwick plays Captain Liam Shaw of the U.S.S. Titan-A. A self-proclaimed “dipshit from Chicago,” Shaw holds a singular position in relation to Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Captain William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes).
The Beat was thrilled to get the chance to chat with Stashwick via Zoom. We asked about the actor’s Star Trek origin story, whether or not Shaw has any special replicator programming aboard the Titan, and about the possibility of an animated incarnation of the character on Star Trek: Lower Decks!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
AVERY KAPLAN: Would you be willing to share the story of how you first got into Star Trek with The Beat?
TODD STASHWICK: 1974, Christmas evening: I open a present from my cousin Torrey. And it is my Kirk, Spock, and McCoy action figures.
I had been watching Star Trek: The Original Series, but that’s when I started playing the show. And that’s when I started pretending to be a Captain of Starfleet. My cousin knew that I was a six-year-old fan, and so he got me those action figures and the Enterprise playset. So that was the beginning, all those years ago, how many decades later… I was six years old. Almost fifty years ago!
Now I am a Captain. But still, pretending to be one.
KAPLAN: To me, Shaw seems both very motivated to keep his crew safe and very loyal to Starfleet. What’s it like for him to join Riker and Picard on their mission at the end of “Imposters”?
STASHWICK: Well, he is doing both, still. He is being loyal to Starfleet because he sees Starfleet is compromised.
It’s interesting because I think maybe he’s started to get a glimpse as to why, maybe, in the past, Riker and Picard have had to make the decisions that he sees as reckless and space cowboy-ish. He’s starting to go, “Wow, sometimes you’re put in positions where you have to be the voice of reason, even if does feel reckless from the outside.”
Right now, from many Starfleet positions, they will look like fugitives. But knowing what he knows, he realizes that the best thing he can do to keep his crew alive – they were about to be fired upon by the Intrepid! To keep his crew alive, and to keep his actual loyalty to Starfleet, is to go on the run.
KAPLAN: Is there anything you can tell us about the Titan-A, either the set or the in-universe ship, that won’t be obvious from watching Picard season 3?
STASHWICK: Well, they’re on two different sound stages. It’s not continuously one big ship. It’s over here, and in another sound stage are my quarters.
Where the bridge of the Titan is, is the same sound stage that I shot The Riches on in 2007. So it was a homecoming for me. The same drive to work, walk through those same doors. It’s where the Malloy house was.
And I actually shared that with (The Riches costar) Suzy Eddie Izzard when she called the other day because she’s a huge Trek fan. She was excited to see me as part of the show, and I shared with her the fact that it was the same drive to work as we shared back in the day. So that’s surprising and fun! Not necessarily Trek-related, but it certainly is an interesting bit of trivia.
KAPLAN: During the dinner scene (in season 3 episode 1, “The Next Generation”), what were you eating?
STASHWICK: Space meat. It’s blue, and it’s space meat.
So this is what I was eating when I was telling Picard and Riker to fork off. Space meat and fries. #picardseason3 @startrekonpplus pic.twitter.com/Vn9DVmO6Po
— Todd Stashwick (@ToddStashwick) February 20, 2023
KAPLAN: Every actor I have spoken with about Picard season 3 cites working with showrunner Terry Matalas as a revelation. Given your additional history working with Terry, I’m curious if you can provide any insight into what makes him so remarkable to collaborate with as an actor?
STASHWICK: The key word is there: “collaborate.”
Terry is always wanting your input and insight into a moment. If you’ve shot the scene, he’ll say, “What else you got? You got another way you want to play this? Do you have any pitches of a moment, of a line?” He is super collaborative on the set.
The other thing is, he has – and I’ve made this comparison before – he has that same instinct for delight onscreen that, say, Steven Spielberg has. Terry really knows how to entertain an audience, visually as well as on the page. He has impeccable taste: on the final edit, the final say, what he wants onscreen, who he puts in his writer’s room, who he puts in front of the camera and behind the camera… he has impeccable taste.
Because he is a fan, he wants to pop his popcorn, and just sit down and be taken away on a great emotional adventure. So he knows how to craft great emotional adventures for an audience, because he basically wants to entertain himself, in many ways. He sees himself sitting at home watching it, and asks, “What would I want from a Star Trek story?” And he also intrinsically knows Star Trek.
There, I just compared him to Spielberg, and I said he has impeccable taste. I expect a check from him soon. I am his walking, talking PR.
KAPLAN: Do the Titan-A replicators have any special recipes programmed in?
STASHWICK: Chicago Deep Dish.
Come on! I know, I know, I know. “It’s not pizza.” It’s pizza, it’s just regional pizza that you have yet to come to its joys and pleasures. I grew up… It was intravenously fed into me. Since birth, I’ve been eating Deep Dish pizza.
So of course, this dipshit from Chicago would have Chicago-style Deep Dish in his replicator.
KAPLAN: Any particular toppings?
STASHWICK: I personally like a good mushroom, onion, maybe spinach sometimes. Yeah, or just good ol’ fashioned cheese. Mile-high cheese that you eat with a fork – yes, it’s pizza!
KAPLAN: When did you first hear composer Stephen Barton’s Titan-A theme? What was your reaction?
STASHWICK: I’ve been listening to Stephen’s music… Oddly! This is weird. The first I heard of Stephen’s music was in a game called Titanfall. 2014’s Titanfall 2, on which he was the composer. And then he scored a bunch on 12 Monkeys.
Here is the brilliant @ComposerBarton conducting his Titan theme with all those wonderful nods to Horner in his arrangement. String section only. It’s been stuck in my head for over a year. #StarTrekPicard pic.twitter.com/f5YCKXI6MS
— Terry Matalas (@TerryMatalas) March 4, 2023
So I’ve been listening to Stephen’s music for a good long time, and I’m a huge fan. And to hear him scoring my ship… It just fills my nerdy heart. To know that (a) I’m the Captain, and that’s my ship, and (b) that my ship has a theme song? It’s an embarrassment of riches.
KAPLAN: What is it like working with Jeri Ryan?
STASHWICK: Horrible. She’s so mean.
No. The fun part about Jeri. One, we’re the same age. She went to school at Northwestern, so we share a Chicago history. You look across the table at someone you kind of intrinsically understand. She is a laugher, a self-admitted easy laugh. And I am a monkey. Monkeys like to make people laugh. So that was a joy.
In all these intense scenes between Shaw and Seven, they would yell, “Cut!” And then we are just being children and being silly on set. And having the time of our life. And her skills are so high, and she’s grounded and wonderful to play with.
I think that affection shows in our investment in the scenes. I will be happy to work with Jeri for the rest of my life. I’m lucky to know her.
KAPLAN: Obligatory: Can we expect to see more of Shaw and the crew of the Titan-A? Would you consider reprising the role in animation?
STASHWICK: Well, please reprise me in animation. I would love to see a post-Wolf 359 Shaw on Lower Decks. And then to get to work with Tawny Newsome again, who I got to go on the Star Trek Cruise with – that would be a hoot. So if the producers of that show are listening: my pipes are ready for you!
And look. I’ve said this before: I am Aragorn, and they have my sword. Anytime they need it. We are in Star Trek for life. So if they sound the Horn of Gondor, they know they have their Shaw whenever they need him.
If all I ever get to do is Picard season 3… You know what? That is more than I could have ever hoped for.
New episodes of Picard are available for streaming on Paramount+ on Thursdays.
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