The Orions made a name for themselves in the third season of “Star Trek: Discovery”, as the powerful Emerald Chain practically ran the galaxy. One of the Orions that everyone loved to hate was Tolor, who appeared in “Scavengers” and “The Sanctuary”. The nephew of Osyraa, the head of the organization, Tolor was an oafish bully who ran one of his Aunt’s salvage yard and met an untimely fate at the mouth of a trance worm. While his time on-screen was short-lived, Tolor left quite an impression on fans, and the man behind the make-up couldn’t have enjoyed his time on the show more.
Ian Lake is a classically trained actor who has appeared in many productions of Shakespearean plays, including the titular character in that Scottish play, “Macbeth” in the illustrious Stratford Festival. You may also recognize him from his appearances in “Bitten”, “Murdoch Mysteries”, “Mary Kills People”, and “The Art of Racing in The Rain”.
Ian jumped at the opportunity to audition for Star Trek, although the script he read for the scene had nothing to do with the character he would play.
“It was specifically a scene where a guy in a position of power had a female captive and was interrogating her,”
Ian explained during the latest episode of the Trek Untold podcast.
“But she kind of had the edge on him because she was saying, ‘Your boss isn’t going to be happy when they when she finds out what you’ve done. So he was in a position of power, but he was kind of on the losing end of the argument. That was the scene, which is kind of the core of what Tolor’s nature really is. He has power, but it’s totally empty… There were references to L’Rell in the scene to maybe mislead one to think it was a Klingon story or something like that, so it’s a lot of cloak and dagger.”
Believe it or not, Tolor’s makeup was not just Ian walking around with green paint on his face. In reality, he was covered in prosthetics that took over three hours to apply. It wasn’t until the hairpiece went on that the character clicked for Ian.
“When [the make-up artist] held it up to me, it looked kind of dumb… and then he put it on my head. And I just thought like the most perfect design choice for him to have that kind of hair, which was so against the type of the of a big, bad, heavy dude. It was very much boyband hair, with like bright streaks of green and Auburn in it.
“And so what was interesting about [the make-up process- was it wasn’t the mask that was my ‘A-ha’ moment, because I got to sort of slowly watching my face change, but the wig just pops on. The wig hangs down like right on the edge of my eyes… it just showed me how Tolor looks at the world. I already had a really strong idea from the internal side of who Tolor was. But the wig is, I think the strongest visual aspect of him.”
“The moment it went on, I could not have been more gleeful because I I felt like I knew what my vision of the character was and even more so because he made a choice that I probably wouldn’t have come up with. Every day, the look of Tolor came to life when I put the wig on and, and then there was just no way you couldn’t not be a dirtbag wearing that wig. And he’s just really like an irredeemable character. He doesn’t possess any really commendable qualities. He’s not smart. He’s not nice. He’s not talented. He’s just one of those guys that that continues to climb the ranks even though they possess no real abilities, you know? So the wig. Yeah, the wig was my ‘A-ha’ moment for sure.”
One of Ian’s favorite scenes from “Scavengers” was his fight scene with Soneqhua Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh, who is known for her background in action films as much as she is for her dramatic roles. The fight was an interesting one since it’s essentially two separate fights happening simultaneously that interweave as it goes on. Ian performed in 95% of the scene (for example, his stunt double took the shoulder throw from Soneqhua), and thanks to his Shakespearean training had a good deal of fight experience, with weapons and hand-to-hand combat.
“There was a devoted rehearsal to it, like, probably a week before we filmed it. And, it was Soneqhua, Michelle, myself, and all of our doubles. And what was great was that, you know, I got to have my double step in to teach Soneqhua the fight. And then Soneqhua’s double would step in to teach me the fight. So we’re not killing ourselves to learn this thing. And then once we were both comfortable enough, then the two of us would fight, and Soneqhua was an amazing fighter, she is so in tune physically with her body, and very coordinated.”
“And we’re both the same in that we love the challenge of – Can I can I do this entire fight without my double having to step in, you know, like, it’s so funny because the double is there. Because actors need to not have whiplash at the end of fighting a scene, even if they can do the move. Like you do it over and over and over again. It’s gonna hurt! But our egos are like, so strong that we’re like, no, let me do it!”
Michelle Yeoh was able to hang back and let the choreographers do their work, while also offering some input when appropriate. Ian said she was a delight to work with, one he had no problem being “punched” in the face by.
“She had amazing body control,” Ian recalled, “So she could learn this choreography and execute it like – boom! She would say these little things to me that were like about body control and about how to sell it. I think she also knew that my ego wouldn’t be threatened by being given notes by a fellow actor. And I was very vocal to her of like, any time you have a suggestion for me, I am all ears.”
“I also got to be finished off by [Michelle], she kicks me in the head to finish the fight. And I was very honored that I was getting a roundhouse kick to the face by the one and only, and when she shot that, if they didn’t really use the shot for that moment… But it was just so cool to watch her work in that arena and how well she just knew herself and was confident about it, but could take a suggestion as well. And yeah, she’s a consummate pro.”
To hear more from Ian about his background in Shakespeare, his other roles, and more stories from Star Trek: Discovery including more details on his fight scene, acting under heavy prosthetics and finding his character through them, advice Doug Jones gave him, and his final appearance with Janet Kidder in “The Sanctuary”, check out the latest episode of Trek Untold!
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Trek Untold is a weekly podcast series that chats with character actors, stunt performers, behind-the-scenes crew and other people who are the contributors of the Star Trek universe whose names aren’t in the opening credits of the shows. Follow Trek Untold on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about upcoming episodes, which are released every Thursday on all major audio platforms, and Sunday on Youtube in video form.