Tara Rosling says that this is the way it works for her: She gets a small part on a project, and the producers like what they see, and she gets called back for more.
She cites the science fiction show, Impulse, which she appeared on once during the first season. And, as usual, they liked Rosling’s performance so much, that she was invited to return for Season 2 of the show.
“They kept rewriting my character and they asked me to come back as a regular for Season 2,” says Rosling. The Esther Miller character did play a bigger role on Impulse.
This is familiar territory for the actress. For decades, theater fans across Canada have come to recognize Rosling. Her resume on television and animated projects is impressive, too. But it was thanks to her spot on Impulse, she was able to appear as the president of Ni’Var, on Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 3 episode, “Unification III.”
“I was working on Season 2 of Impulse, and the editor, whose name is Jon Dudkowski was asked to direct on Star Trek,” says Rosling. She said that she had no idea things were in motion to bring her to Trek.
“I didn’t even know it was Star Trek — because it all goes under some mystery name,” says Rosling. She said that they liked her audition enough that the casting team asked her to return for a prosthetics test. They must have liked Rosling in her pointy ears, because she landed the role.
“It was at the table read that Jon came up to me and said that ‘I am one of the editors on Impulse and I really love your work, and I wanted you to audition for this part’,” says Rosling.
She isn’t sure how much “sway” Dudkowski had with her getting the role, but he was certainly the connection for her and Trek.
Rosling has been involved with science fiction shows before, but Trek is different. She says that her role on The Expanse was “very brief.” She did appear on William Shatner’s TekWar series, but did not meet ‘Captain Kirk’ on set. But the part of TekWar was significant for Rosling, as it was her first major part on a television series.
However, she says that when it finally came time to take her place at the Discovery soundstage in Toronto, she was terrified.
“I guess that’s part of the actor’s life, where its equal parts excitement and terror,” says Rosling. “That’s kind of the place where we relish. When you’re really, really excited to do something — then the terror and the adrenaline. It gives you the energy to perform.”
She says that the set is “impressive” and the fact that the crew had three cameras filming at all times can also be intimidating. But the moment when she met the cast, she felt welcomed and reassured.
“I have to say that family of actors and crew are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” says Rosling. “Even with your face mask on, or shield on, or even if you have to stand six feet apart… that’s what makes it bearable.”
“Sonequa is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. A truly, extraordinary human,” she says. “They are such generous [people]. You’re walking on the set of this very big show … but he made me feel so at home. Really, really lovely people.”
Rosling says that the bond between all the actors who spend time getting their masks and ears added to their faces is made better by the great Doug Jones.
“He’s got a heart of gold — he’s very generous with his time,” says Rosling. “And there’s no weird status with him. If you’re in the prosthetics truck, when he steps on, he puts everybody in stiches. And the guy is in a rubber mask for 16-hour days. He has to eat smoothies and he could be really cranky if he wanted to.”
“Both Sonequa and Doug are so generous in welcoming everybody to the set.”
Rosling says that she does not have a tremendous history of Star Trek beyond Discovery, other than watching an odd episode here or there. But she says that she has started going back into previous episodes to get a feel for why Trek is so important as a franchise and why it means so much to so many.
“[To me it’s] about moving peacefully forward, with compassion and understanding in this huge universe,” says Rosling. “I love thematically what [Star Trek] brings to the table.”
Her character, T’Rina, was supposed to be composed and dignified. She was the leader of the combined Vulcan and Romulan people, and must have had the weight of two worlds on her shoulders. T’Rina appeared when the Federation was reaching back out to the Vulcans after many years of separation.
That being said, the producers of Discovery did not require her know how Leonard Nimoy or Mark Lenard would have handled a scene, especially if there was some kind of emotion required. They gave her latitude to figure this out on her own, and a special term when she was veering into “human” territory.
“By nature, I’m a tremendously emotional human being,” says Rosling. “And they cast me in this part, that is, driven by the mind.”
“But what is interesting, and what is written into the scripts and, I like following this particular line — it’s not that they don’t have emotions,” Rosling says. “They’ve cultivated the ability to override emotion and move to logic.”
“I see it almost as practicing Buddhism,” she says. “It’s detaching from the things that cause you to have an emotional reaction. I can process things that way, because I don’t think that I would ever be able to turn off my emotions. In the season, T’Rina and the Vulcans appear in a state of meditation.”
“And because T’Rina has more human in her, it’s a nice fine line,” says Rosling. “Although I will tell you that the most frequent direction that I get on set is ‘vulcanize it.’ That means take a little more emotion out.”
Rosling says that fans should expect to see T’Rina more this in Season 4.
“[T’Rina will be on screen] more than I would have anticipated!” she says. “I was barely in two episodes [in Season 3]. They had me in one and had me back in the finale. So, it’s a really nice surprise that they decided to continue this character.”
Even though Rosling has appeared in so many television shows in her time, she feels very much attached to the theater. Interestingly, it was a few early television jobs which helped her get started as an actress in live theater. She says that going from one medium to the other is not easy.
“It’s very difficult to balance the two worlds,” says Rosling. “If you’re doing theater, you can only do so much TV in the off season, which is October to February. If you’re doing film and TV, it’s difficult to take two months off to say you’re going to do a play.”
Like so much changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of live performance has virtually ceased. This is not different in the Toronto area, where Rosling works and lives. Even the set of Discovery was hit by a recent COVID-related shut down.
“It’s just a hiatus,” says Rosling. “We are planning to go back to camera on May 2 — I think. There have been a bunch of hiatuses, because that’s what happens when you shoot in a pandemic.”
“Of course they are doing their best to keep everyone safe,” she says. “There’s an actual COVID testing station on the lot. And everybody gets tested; like cast and crew and admin[istration] are tested three times a week. But even still, there are positive cases and production has to pivot around that.”
“Currently, we’re working on 409, and I think they’ve missed days on five of those so far,” says Rosling. ‘409’ refers to Episode 9 of Season 4. “There’s a lot to catch up on because COVID has really slowed everything down.”
Rosling has not met Jonathan Frakes yet. If she had, he probably would have welcomed her to the Star Trek family, and that this show will change her life. This is standard procedure for the ‘William T. Riker’ actor and frequent Trek director, as detailed by Dominic Burress.
Though she hasn’t received this welcome, she is aware that she can no longer ‘fly under the radar,’ now that she’s attached to such a gigantic franchise.
She will likely be recognized in the Toronto area pumping gas or at the grocery store. Her daughter may have to start binging past Trek seasons in order to understand why ‘mom has pointed ears on TV,’ and Rosling’s own environmentally friendly side hustle might get a few more customers.
“It all sounds surreal,” she says. Rosling signed with a management and PR company, Coolwaters Productions in anticipation of this sort of attention. She and Coolwaters’ Derek Maki have talked about her possibly appearing at conventions in the future, in a post-COVID world.
“I’m up for the adventure,” says Rosling. “This all, to me, seems very much to be an adventure and I’m willing to try it out. I have no idea what it will be like.”
“If people decide that they dig T’Rina, and they are excited to meet me, that’s fantastic,” she says. “I embrace the notion that things are going to radically change. If they do, then I will jump on board at the time.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic now so to stretch my mind makes me… but if I get to hang out with Doug Jones and Sonequa and sign some autographs and meet some cool people? I’m totally up for the ride!”