“Star Trek: Picard” became a true family affair on March 10, 2022, when the episode “Penance” dropped on Paramount+. Among the guest stars in that alternate-timeline episode was Jon Jon Briones, who played the Confederation Magistrate, a character married to President Annika Hansen (Jeri Ryan). Briones returned for the next episode, “Assimilation,” according to Memory Alpha, only for the magistrate to die. If the name Briones rings a bell for “Star Trek” fans, that’s because Jon Jon Briones is the father of Isa Briones, the actress who played the characters Soji, Dahj, Sutra, and Kore Soong across the first two seasons of “Picard.”
Isa and Jon Jon Briones didn’t share any scenes together, but the fact that daughter and father both acted on the same show represents a unique bit of “Star Trek” history. Heavy previously reported that Julie Cobb and Rosemary Morgan were the franchise’s first mother-daughter combination to appear on “Star Trek.” Cobb played Yeoman Leslie Thompson, the redshirt reduced to a pile of dust in “The Original Series” episode “By Any Other Name,” while Morgan portrayed the young terrorist Piri in the “Voyager” hour “The Chute.” Cobb’s ex-husband and Morgan’s former stepfather, according to the Internet Movie Database, is veteran “Trek” guest James Cromwell.
Isa & Jon Jon Briones Hope Their Brother/Son Teo Beams onto ‘Star Trek’ as Well
According to IMDB, Jon Jon Briones is a veteran stage, film, and television actor who was born and raised in the Philippines. His credits include the plays “Miss Saigon” and “Allegiance,” the latter of which starred “Star Trek” icon George Takei; episodes of “Las Vegas,” “Monk,” “Designated Survivor,” “American Horror Story,” “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” “Ratched,” and “The Rookie;” and film “Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage,” which was narrated by Patrick Stewart. Isa Briones, according to her website, played Peggy/Maria in the first national tour of “Hamilton,” and has appeared in the film “Takers,” the television movie “Cutthroat,” and an episode of “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace” in which she played the daughter of a character portrayed by Jon Jon Briones.
Heavy spoke to Isa and Jon Jon Briones on June 15, 2022, for an exclusive Father’s Day-themed interview in which they discussed their relationship, respective “Star Trek” experiences, upcoming projects, and more. Here’s what they had to say:
What’s the best piece of advice your dad has given you, Isa, whether it’s about life, acting, or life as an actor?
Isa: I feel like it’s all interconnected, because acting is a big part of my life, but the thing that always sticks out for me is this. At the end of the day, there’s a lot going on. We’ve talked a lot about decisions to make. Ever since I can remember, my dad has always said “Isa, trust your stuff. You know what you’re doing, who you are, and what you can do. Go out there and show them. Don’t question yourself.”
And Jon, happy Father’s Day. How did you and your wife, Megan, respond when both Isa and your son Teo said they wanted to be performers?
Jon: They didn’t say that they wanted to be performers. It just happened. It was something that couldn’t be stopped, something that we didn’t wish for. We didn’t encourage them, but how can they not? They always see it. They come to our shows. Isa has seen “Miss Saigon” so many times. The first time she saw it, she was a year and a half old. She’s been around theater, actors, and fans. The first time she joined me at the stage door and saw people, Isa was like, “This is weird, but kind of cool.” It became normal to her. Her transition from civilian life to this one was flawless. Before we knew it, she was enjoying it. We basically said, “Do it as long as you’re having fun.”
Isa: There are so many actor parents who are like, “Over my dead body is my kid gonna be an actor,” because they’ve seen the business. Honestly, now that I’m in and it’s a part of me, I get it, but they’ve always been so welcoming and saying things like, “Hey, we’re gonna show you what this business is like. There are some great parts, and there are some not-so-great parts.” They were always upfront about that and it made the decision that much more real because it wasn’t a decision for fame. It wasn’t a decision for glory or anything like that. I needed to do this.
What’s special about your dad, Isa, as a father, and as a performer?
Isa: There’s nothing special. (Laughs). That’s a hard one because I think the world of my dad. I could go on and on, but there’s one thing that I feel goes hand-in-hand with being a father and an actor. When you grow up with an immigrant parent, and that drive, passion, and feeling of having something to prove, you grow up watching someone that you love so much that is a pillar of strength and stability in your life. You see them relentlessly and persistently going for it and going for their dreams. That is what you would kill to see, as someone who — as a kid — is trying to go into something as unstable as theater or acting. When you see your parent go through all of that, yet still persist and stay strong, even through the hard knocks, it’s so inspiring. There are moments when you’re like, “How did I not give up?” The only answer is, “I just had to keep going.”
As a father, I saw his passion for providing for us. Knowing that responsibility is there as a father and as an artist, seeing how he just completely throws himself in and becomes who he needs to be… Even as we’re talking now, I’m older and we get more real about what we go through as people. It’s interesting to see your father become more vulnerable with you. You see that and you realize, “Wow, he was scared sh-tless just like I am.” He did it. He went in and did it well. That’s what makes seeing him succeed now and live these last few years of people recognizing his talent so exciting. I’ve always known he was crazy-talented, but now the world gets to see it and it makes that payoff even bigger. It’s so emotional getting to see people realizing how talented and how much of a good person my dad is.
And Jon, how about the reverse of that? What’s special about Isa as your daughter, and as a performer?
Jon: First of all, she’s an amazing human being. To my wife and I, that’s the most important thing. When you are, and you have empathy plus all these other qualities, your human side wins. As an actor, your understanding of the world — the people around you, human nature, and how to deal with things even outside of acting — becomes even better. Isa has always been a very strong, loyal, and protective person. There was one time. She was, I think, a year and a half. She was on a playground. She met these other kids and she was so happy playing with them, but they were being bullied. She stood up for them, to these boys. I was like, “Wow, what an amazing girl this is.” She’s 150% every single time and she’s amazing.
Isa Briones Played Four Characters on ‘Picard’
Your run on “‘Picard” just ended, Isa. You played Soji, Dahj, Sutra, and Kore. You got to die, and you got to sing. You got the full makeup treatment. You got to become a Traveler. How fun, challenging, and fulfilling were your two years on “Picard”?
Isa: I lucked out there. That’s the dream as an actor, to be able to play a complex role. That’s all you want, and I got to play multiple complex roles. With Soji, she felt the most like me, and so playing her was natural. When I got to drop into these other characters, I got to drop into little extremes of humanity. That was challenging, because, of course, you have to tap into parts of yourself when you’re playing an evil character. You have to tap into parts of yourself that maybe are not the best. You’re like, “Oh, that lives in me somewhere. Interesting.” It’s weird, but you are picking through humanity itself, even though I’m playing a robot.
Talk about your last scene as Kore. How did you enjoy working with Wil Wheaton? And if the opportunity arose to play her as a Traveler at some point in the future, how open would you be to that?
Isa: When that storyline came out, I didn’t learn about the details until a few weeks before we filmed that scene. I remember the writers were teasing at it. They were like, “You’re gonna like your last scene. It’s gonna be fun. You get to play with someone.” I was like, “Okay,” Wil is the best person in the world and brings such an iconic character to it. I knew going in that it would be so emotional for fans because they love Wesley Crusher, but also for Wil himself, because he has adored playing this role. The first thing he said to me was, “I have waited so many years to bring this character back, and the fact that I get to do it with you makes it even sweeter.” I felt the impact of that. Already, I’ve been given the honor of carrying on a legacy like Data, but now I get to be a part of Wesley Crusher’s legacy as well. That is huge. And hey, I’m always down. If I get to play with Wil Wheaton, give me that any day. I’ll do a spin-off. Give it to me. I haven’t heard anything, but I’ll do it.
Jon Jon Briones Enjoyed His Time on ‘Picard,’ But Didn’t Get to Work with His Daughter, Isa
And for you, Jon. How familiar were you with “Star Trek” when “Picard” came your way?
Jon: Oh, I watched “Star Trek” in the Philippines. The original one with Captain Kirk. When Isa booked this, she started watching “TNG.” And of course, while she’s watching it, we’d be watching it with her. It was a good show. I was not as familiar with it. The writing was good, and the storylines were riveting.
How did you land your role on ‘Picard?’ And how did you tell Isa?
Jon: My agents called me and said, “Hey, there’s an offer.” They wanted me to be on “Picard” in one episode and it turned out to be two episodes. I said, “Oh, cool. I get to work with Isa.” We didn’t tell Isa until she came to our house, and I said, “Hey, guess what? I booked a job.” She said, “Oh my God, congratulations!” To which I replied, “Yeah. I get to play this character who’s the husband of the President,” and she was like, “Tell me more!”
Isa: He kept saying names! He was like, “Yeah, this woman Seven.” I was like, “Seven?” It took me way too long to put it together. “I kill someone named Elnor.” I was like, “These names sound so familiar.”
You two ultimately did not get to share a scene, but did you ride to set together? Isa, did you get to see your dad work? What was it like if you did?
Isa: I was so jealous. Season two started after the pandemic happened. Filming was very different, and it was new to all of us. This was our first time back. My dad actually worked before I even did. They were rescheduling stuff, so my scene wasn’t filmed until later. He was working with all of them, and I was jealous. “You’re hanging out with all my friends!” I went in for a fitting and made sure that it was one of the days that all of them were working and that my dad was working with the whole cast. I stopped by, and I got to see him in his cool outfit. Shout out to Christine, our amazing costumer. She’s incredible. It was like a colliding of worlds. I’ve seen my dad do plenty of things on TV before.
And you did work with him, playing the daughter of his character, on “American Crime Story: The Assassination Of Gianni Versace.”
Isa: I did! Thankfully, it was not our only chance to work together. We’d played father and daughter, but it was so interesting to suddenly see my dad (on “Picard”) in a sci-fi place when usually he’s playing realistic evil characters. He was still evil, but in space.
Isa Briones Sang ‘Blue Skies,’ a Song Familiar to ‘Trek’ Fans, for the ‘Picard’ Season-One Finale
You got to play First Man to the President of the Confederation, Jon. You got to work with Jeri Ryan and you died a cool death. How did you enjoy your “Picard” experience?
Jon: It was amazing. I’ve been a big sci-fi fan. I’ve been reading Isaac Asimov’s books since I was younger. Being on set, seeing the spaceship, wearing the costumes, being in the green room with all the leads and conversing with them… all of that was amazing. Of course, we were taking pictures and sending them to Isa to make her jealous.
How badly do both of you want to get Teo and Megan on a “Star Trek” show, just to make it a total Briones family affair?
Isa: Let’s write that right now. We’re gonna write it down. Honestly, we were saying, when we were filming, “Hey, Teo could be like a younger version of Elnor.” I would buy it.
What do you both have coming up?
Isa: I am going to be playing Rizzo in Musical Theater West’s production of “Grease.” That opens July 8 and runs through July 24. It’s a very quick run. Come and see it in Long Beach if you’re in town!
Jon: I have a movie that I made for Amblin that’s coming out next year. It’s a horror movie. I also finished filming a mini-series in Atlanta. The movie is “The Last Voyage of Demeter.” It’s taken from “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. The miniseries is ‘Class of ‘09.’