Meet the man behind the blue antennae — Noah Averbach-Katz

Noah Averbach-Katz
Noah Averbach-Katz

In a recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery, a new Andorian character, joined the story. His name is Ryn, and there is something different or unique about this being. Ryn may play a large role in upcoming episodes and could be vital to solving the mystery of The Burn. Fans everywhere should know that it’s the actor behind the blue antennae who makes Ryn such an interesting character. That person is named Noah Averbach-Katz, and when you see him on screen, know that he is “one of us.”

Most members of the Star Trek cast family — of any era — don’t have an affinity for the franchise; Averbach-Katz is the clear exception. He’s been a fan from almost from the start.

Noah Averbach-Katz as Ryn on the Star Trek: Discovery episode ”Scavengers.” Courtesy of CBS
Noah Averbach-Katz as Ryn on the Star Trek: Discovery episode ”Scavengers.” Courtesy of CBS

“I think I was just born into it,” he says. “I started out watching Voyager with my mom, and then when Enterprise started, my mom threw ‘Star Trek Parties,’ which were basically watch parties before watch parties were a thing!

“She would make a quiz of everything that happened during the episode, and whichever one of us got the most questions right would win some sort of Star Trek prize!”

While Averbach-Katz’s scene-stealing appearance on “Scavengers” was widely seen, Trek fans worldwide got to see the “fan” side of him. Averbach-Katz posted a now-famous slide-show of himself growing, decked out in Trek apparel, at conventions, and even wearing a Star Trek: Nemesis t-shirt!

Getting a job on the show that he loved so much growing up is a literal dream come true for Averbach-Katz. And he says that so far, it’s as wonderful as one might imagine.

“I am just having so much fun,” says Averbach-Katz. “I’m loving all the kind and positive feedback I’ve gotten from fans, and it’s meant so much to me to hear how people are sort of living vicariously through me.

“I think such a big part of being a Star Trek fan is imagining walking the sets, wearing the costumes, [and] hanging with the cast,” he says, “The fact I’ve gotten to do that and have been able to share that experience is just so much fun and such a gift.”

The hard work required to appear on a Trek show could not have been a surprise to Averbach-Katz. Star Trek television and film productions are legendarily challenging, with 6-day work weeks and 18-hour days the norm. Averbach-Katz knew a bit about what to expect for the show’s schedule since he’s married to Mary Wiseman — who we all know as Ensign Sylvia Tilly.

Noah Averbach-Katz with David Ajala. Courtesy of CBS
Noah Averbach-Katz with David Ajala. Courtesy of CBS

Wiseman and Averbach-Katz met at Juilliard, the performing arts school in New York City. The two dated for some time and were married on February 16, 2019. He will tell you that his bride and Tilly share quite a few characteristics but are also quite different.  

“I think being smart is very important to both of them, but while Tilly leans towards science, Mary leans towards poetry and words,” says Averbach-Katz. “They both have their own social anxiety, but Tilly is definitely a little more front footed with hers.”

“I think the thing that really binds them is that without a doubt, they both love feeling feelings,” says Averbach-Katz.

It was through Wiseman that Averbach-Katz was able to meet Discovery executive producer Alex Kurtzman. He says that Kurtzman enjoyed the photos of young Noah in costume and at conventions.

During this time, Averbach-Katz worked in live theater in New York and California but took the time to audition for a few Trek roles.

“I originally auditioned for Spock, which ironically was under a secret character name — an Andorian named Tom,” says Averbach-Katz. “Ethan [Peck] is absolutely perfect in the role, so I think they made the right choice.”

Though he didn’t land the role of Spock, something about his performance must have intrigued the casting team at CBS.

Steve Katz, Rachelle Averbach and the first-ever Ryn the Andorian t-shirts. Courtesy of Noah Averbach-Katz
Steve Katz, Rachelle Averbach and the first-ever Ryn the Andorian t-shirts. Courtesy of Noah Averbach-Katz

“They brought me back for Ryn,” says Averbach-Katz. “I was actually in Toronto with Mary, and I flew back to New York to audition for Ryn — and the rest is history!”

Averbach-Katz says that getting the role of Ryn was a massive relief for him, as it had been dominating his thoughts since the audition. He doesn’t remember his actual reaction, but he remembers what his parents did.

“My mom reacted by weeping, flying an Enterprise-D model around the house, and then weeping again,” he says. His parents were so excited that they got custom Andorian / Ryn t-shirts printed.

“They were wearing [the t-shirts] when they picked me up from the airport on my first visit home after shooting!”

Getting the role and becoming Ryn were two very different experiences for Averbach-Katz. One involved hugs, crying, and phone calls, while the other meant hours in a make-up chair. After it was done, and he saw himself as “Ryn,” he leaned on sage advice from other actors who had been in similar costumes.

“It looked incredible, which was thrilling, but the rubber is actually very thick and not extremely responsive to the subtle movements of your face underneath the prosthetics,” he says.

“I immediately reached out to my prosthetic actor mentors and inspirations — Ken Mitchell, Mary Chieffo, and Doug Jones. That had incredible advice for me, which really set me on the right path.”

Averbach-Katz hanging out with Sonequa Martin-Green and his lovely wife, Mary Wiseman. Courtesy of Noah Averbach-Katz
Averbach-Katz hanging out with Sonequa Martin-Green and his lovely wife, Mary Wiseman. Courtesy of Noah Averbach-Katz

When we met Ryn, he and Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) were helping to free captives from the Emerald Ring. Averbach-Katz says that there is a lot in store for Ryn, and we’re meeting him at a pivotal moment.

“[Ryn] tried to stand up for what was right and was utterly defeated,” he says. “We meet him first when he’s at one of his lowest points. But I think Ryn’s journey is one of redemption and recovery against all odds.”

Averbach-Katz may know as much or more about Star Trek than any of the writers or producers on Discovery. This knowledge includes the secret of what Ryn’s story holds and how that might impact so many things moving forward.

“I’m sworn to secrecy!” he says. “I just hope he has enough of an impact to be a true part of Star Trek lore and that I’ll get to go to a convention one day!”

We can be sure that when Averbach-Katz does appear at Trek conventions in the future, the line to meet him will be long indeed.

Watch Noah Averbach-Katz as Ryn in the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery episode “The Sanctuary.” Star Trek: Discovery streams on CBS All Access.