Interview: Much ado about erigah


This interview contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 5, currently available for streaming on Paramount+.


In Star Trek: Discovery’s fifth and final season, antagonist L’ak (Elias Toufexis) plays a key role whose heritage as a Breen makes him unique among Star Trek characters. Together with Moll (Eve Harlow), L’ak causes big problems for the crew of the USS Discovery.

Elias Toufexis as L'ak and Eve Harlow as Moll in the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY.
Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

The Beat caught up with Toufexis over Zoom to learn more about his playing the Breen courier (and about playing another character on Discovery), to ask about his personal history with the Franchise and to find out which Star Trek: The Original Series actor grew up on the same street as he did (check the subtitle for a hint)!

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


AVERY KAPLAN: How did you initially come to be involved with Star Trek: Discovery?

ELIAS TOUFEXIS: I’ll try to make this as quick as possible. I lived in Toronto at the time. I’m Canadian, I’m from Montreal, but I was living in Toronto at the time. 

I’m a giant Star Trek fan, a huge Star Trek fan. And I remember getting a text from a buddy of mine: “They’re shooting a new Star Trek in Toronto. They’re doing a new show and they’re shooting it in Toronto.” And I freaked the hell out. I called my agent that day and said, “The second you see anything on this, you’ve got to get me on that show. You’ve got to get me in an audition.”

And at the time I had just done guest star after guest star after guest star. I got the audition, and it said “guest star.” Long story short, by the time I was doing ADR for it, the character (“Cold“) had been chopped up so much that it was like, two, three lines. I was so mad because I had burned myself on the show… because the show is linear, so I’m like, “That’s my character now.”

So when I moved to Los Angeles five years ago, I called the casting directors, Orly Sitowitz and Lisa Parasyn, and I said, “Look: there’s three Star Trek shows now. I’m a giant fan. I did great in that first episode, even though you chopped the hell out of it. Can you please just keep an open mind for anything else, and I’ll wear makeup if I have to?” And they all said “yeah.” Casting directors do that all the time. 

And then five years later, I got a call and they said, “We have a part for you.” And it was L’ak. And I immediately jumped at it. I was going to jump at it if it was just one episode, and it turned out to be the whole season, pretty much. 

So yeah: I was really excited. That’s the long story (laughs).

Moll and L'ak, both holding weapons.
Photo Credit: Grossman /Paramount+

KAPLAN: What was your experience with the Franchise before appearing in “Context is for Kings”?

TOUFEXIS: I’m at the age where I literally had a show for every stage of my life, in this weird way. Obviously I’m too young for the original show. But when I was a kid, my dad had the original show on VHS tapes. 

And then I remember, I would watch, they used to do these — PBS, I think it was — weekends of Star Trek. Like, “The Top 10 TOS Episodes.” And I would just watch those religiously; I was obsessed!

And then when I was a little bit of a younger teenager, Star Trek: The Next Generation started coming out. And then I was obsessed with TNG. Well, it came out when I was a kid, but I was in my teens in the 90s when it was really hitting its stride. And then I was becoming an adult teen during Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. So my whole life, I’ve had this kind of connection. I’ve always had Star Trek, it’s always been there.

And the movies, in particular Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan through Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country? Those are part of my DNA. I know every frame and sound. I revere those movies.

I don’t know if you know this, but William Shatner and I are both from Montreal, and we grew up on the same street. Literally, the same street. Obviously, fifty years apart (laughs). But we grew up on the same street. So I always, just as an actor, revered Shatner, because he’s the guy from literally my street. And we both ended up on Star Trek.

So when I got this role, especially because I’m such a fan of DS9 and I heard it was going to be a Breen, I was just like, “Oh my god.” Every day I went to set and it was a new kind of freak-out. I’d get to work and be very serious, and then it was “cut,” and I’m like, “I’m going to go walk around. I’m going to climb up a Jefferies Tube.”

KAPLAN: At what point did you find out L’ak was Breen?

TOUFEXIS: I knew it from the start, but only when I got the role. When I got the role, literally I think the next day or the day after — when I had to go do the plaster mold thing, where you sit there and try not to have a panic attack. I asked for concept art that day. And when I asked what it was, they said “Breen.” And I said, “Breen don’t take their helmets off.”

And then I did the math in my head, wheels started turning: not only am I going to be on Star Trek, I’m going to make Star Trek history. You know where my brain went? (Laughs) “Oh my god, I’m going to be in all the Star Trek manuals!” That’s where my brain went. I was so excited about that. 

Or magazines! I’m already in three or four magazines. I have three copies of each one. I’m at Barnes and Noble going, “Mine. Mine. Mine.”

Moll and L'ak give a poisoned bag to an arms dealer.
Photo Credit: Paramount+

KAPLAN: How long did the makeup take each day, and was it comfortable?

TOUFEXIS: It was not comfortable. The contact lenses in particular were extremely uncomfortable.

The makeup took anywhere from four hours to, if I had to do my hands, almost six hours. But that wasn’t the hard part. That was what I thought too; I thought, “That’s going to be so hard, so difficult.” Getting up at 2:30 am, no one wants to do that, of course. But I’m not the one whose working. I just get there and lie down, and the makeup people are the ones who are working for  five hours. I’m just listening to music and falling asleep most of the time.

But it’s the wearing it for twelve to thirteen hours a day. And trying to do kissing scenes in it, and eating. That was difficult.

And the contact lenses coming in and out… Because you can’t wear them all day because your eyes would get damaged. So you have to take them out when you’re not on camera, and that hurts — taking them out and putting them back in. Because they’re really thick.

I just talked to Brent Spiner (Data etc. on TNG, ENT, PIC) about it. I said, “Worst part? Contacts.” He said, “Oh boy, I’ve got contact stories.”

KAPLAN: How does appearing in the Star Trek: Resurgence video game compare with appearing in Discovery?

TOUFEXIS: Oh my god, it was like five hours of work on the Trek video game. That’s how it compares (laughs). It was like two sessions and then we were done.

Because I do a lot of games. I do them from here, literally right here is where I did the Trek game from. I get up, I still here for four hours, I talk angry, and then I go home – or I go right outside. It’s much much easier.

Don’t get me wrong. There are games that are a lot of hard work. Many, many days. Or you have to do performance capture — that’s long days. But for the Trek game, it was just two three-hour sessions, and that was about it.

And that was before I booked L’ak. So I did that and then three months later I booked L’ak. And I thought, “I’m already in a Star Trek game.” There was a half a second where I wondered, “Is that going to cost me the role? I’m not telling them about it, just in case.” And no, they didn’t care; they didn’t care one bit.

L'ak and Moll make a deal with an android.
Photo Credit: Grossman/Paramount+

KAPLAN: Good; lots of people have played multiple roles, so. I have a couple of favorite questions. Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?

TOUFEXIS: Julius Caesar is my favorite play, because I love Cassius. 

I also love Othello. I hate to say I love Iago, because he’s an awful, awful person. But I love how he’s written. It’s incredible.

Julius Caesar and Othello are my two favorites. And I really like Much Ado About Nothing.

KAPLAN: Favorite Batman villain?

TOUFEXIS: Scarface, the puppet.

KAPLAN: What would you order from the replicator?

TOUFEXIS: A smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal.

KAPLAN: What has been your experience with the fans so far? Do you have any particularly memorable interactions?

TOUFEXIS: You know what? I haven’t been to a con since this aired. Comic cons are like my whole career, so I have many interactions with fans of games I’ve done and other shows and stuff.

But in terms of Star Trek, I’m really looking forward to this coming year. Because I have a whole bunch of comic cons that I’m doing, and I’m really excited to meet fans. And I’m really hoping that L’ak and Moll resonated enough that people are going to want to come talk to me, and come see me on Star Trek panels.

But I don’t have a Star Trek-specific answer for that yet. Ask me again in a year.

Moll and L'ak up close.
Photo Credit: Paramount+

KAPLAN: I know Collider suggested you could be Trek’s next Jeffrey Combs, any thoughts on that? 

TOUFEXIS: (laughs) Well if you include the video game, I’ve played three characters. So how many has Jeffrey played? I’ve got to catch up!

Look, I love Star Trek. And Discovery, it is a big shame about it ending, because it is the best set I’ve ever worked on. That’s the big shame for me. Of course, as fans we lose out on further seasons. But that set was just the best.

So if any of the other Star Trek shows are anywhere remotely as good as that, in terms of on-set? I’ll work on any one of them. And now that I’ve done a big character, I’ll gladly come on and do a day to play some Klingon in the background. Because I’ve already done my big Star Trek character, so I’ll show up: “Hey, that was him, too!” So I can catch up to Jeffrey.


The first seven episodes of Star Trek: Discovery are currently available for streaming on Paramount+, with new episodes on Thursdays.

Keep up with all of The Beat’s Star Trek coverage here.

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