Dr. M’Benga is almost ready to see you, and he will do so on May 5, 2022, when “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” begins streaming on Paramount+, with Babs Olusanmokun in the role. Longtime “Star Trek” fans will recall that the actor Booker T. Bradshaw played a character named Dr. M’Benga in two episodes of “The Original Series,” which, according to Memory Alpha, were “A Private Little War” and “That Which Survives.”
According to the Internet Movie Database, Olusanmokun was born in Lago/Nigeria and has amassed more than 30 film, video game, and television credits. Among those credits are “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “Max Payne 3,” “The Defenders,” “Black Mirror,” “Red Dead Redemption II,” “Wrath of Man,” and the science-fiction blockbuster, “Dune,” in which he played Jamis. “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” beams the actor onto the U.S.S. Enterprise, where he serves as the ship’s medic under the command of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and works alongside Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush).
Check Out the Dr. M’Benga Promo Trailer
Olusanmokun, on April 18, 2022, participated in a Zoom call with several news outlets, and Heavy on Star Trek was on the call. Here’s what the actor had to say about “Star Trek,” Dr. M’Benga, playing a doctor during a pandemic, and the possibility of a seven-year run on “Strange New Worlds”:
You’re the latest in a long line of “Star Trek” medical professionals in the franchise. Did you watch much of other doctors in “Star Trek” history to get used to operating, no pun intended, in your sickbay environment?
I watched, of course, “TOS.” I think I watched one other show, and I left it at that because you don’t want to be doing what everybody else has been doing. Or you don’t want to get too many influences, so to speak. I just tried to craft something new and different, something that I can bring my qualities to, whatever they may be.
There’s a nice relationship-building moment between Dr. M’Benga and Chapel when he says, “You’re my favorite.” What kind of backstory were you given on their relationship?
We have known each other for a while, and they’ve been on some adventures together. I don’t want to specify what those adventures may be, as that might be a spoiler, but there’s definitely a backstory of respect for each other’s work, for engagement, and for having spent time together in more adverse circumstances. I think that informs their relationship. It’s from a deeper, familial point of view when he says, “You’re my favorite.”
There’s an episode coming up, not to spoil anything, about genetically modified species. Do you feel that rules are sometimes a necessity? Rules that are in place to protect humanity from themselves?
People write rules, and of course, people are not infallible. Therefore, sometimes the rules that are created are meant to be taken down and stepped on in certain circumstances. So, yes, rules are not something that we should live and die by.
You play the medical professional on”Strange New Worlds.” How meta did it feel to make a show during the pandemic?
First of all, with all that was going on, we were really cocooned. It definitely gave it weight and in at least one episode we touched upon something like that, without saying anything. It tells us we need to be respectful of what’s going on, just really button up and do what’s best for everybody around us. Not just ourselves, but everybody else around us. We have to care. We’re carers in the sickbay. So, it was definitely a factor for me, at least.
Dr. M’Benga is Ready for the Final Frontier
How much of you, the actor, is in the character you play? Any similarities or differences that you think have cropped up over the course of your time with this character?
I would say so. I would say so. I would say his warmth is something that comes from me. I’m probably a little sharper with my language at times, but I’m working on it. He’s a wonderful guy. I think I am, too. All we really have is the self. We can bring ourselves to it. Then, of course, we’re not exactly our characters, but our qualities and how we use our qualities to engage what a character is on paper is what the character then becomes, right? That’s the performance. Whether he’s always strong, or he’s vulnerable, the fragility that he might bring, or vulnerability that he might bring to certain moments, those choices when he decides to bring it or not bring it… I think those are the qualities that an actor must have, and the engagement of them with the written word is what gives you what you then see on the screen.
“Star Trek” shows can run a long time, in some cases, seven seasons. How exciting is that? And at the same time, how daunting is that?
Oh, I think it’s a special thing, without a doubt, to be part of this endearing legacy. It’s a job, as an actor, but very quickly you realize it means more than that because of how many people are so invested in this work, in this show, and all the series through the years. So, we have a challenge ahead of us. Seven seasons, six seasons, sounds wonderful, but we want to be able to give worthy episodes and seasons, and keep it meaningful for people. We don’t want to just clock in every day. We want to make this as truthful, and as meaningful and powerful as possible for those that engage with it.
“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” begins streaming on May 5, 2022, on Paramount+.