Babs Olusanmokun on Playing Dr. M’Benga on ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds takes us back to the original Star Trek era where Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) led the Enterprise and her crew on daring missions to explore the vastness of Space and make new discoveries and advancements on behalf of the Federation. The crew of the Enterprise is has a vast range of experience and skill they bring to their mission, and one Dr. M’Benga, played brilliantly by Babs Olusanmokun, gets his own featured episode this week.

We had the opportunity to speak with Olusanmokun ahead of his featured episode this week, “The Elysium Kingdom,” asking him what Star Trek means to him, how Dr. M’Benga deals with his current struggles, what viewers can anticipate, and much more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

NOC: What’s it like filming on Strange New Worlds and what’s the dynamic like on set?

Olusanmokun: All of the dynamic is fun. It’s been a brilliant time. We’re towards the very end of shooting the second season. So we’re very excited and a bit tired but love it, and it’s just been really a beautiful experience all around. Everybody is really committed everybody’s there to do what they need to do to serve the piece. And it’s been fantastic. It’s been really, really fantastic. Everybody behind the scenes together, we get along and enjoy each other and we’re very supportive of each other and yeah, is literally just beautiful times.

And it really comes across that way while we watch the show and it’s just it’s such a beautiful show in so many different ways. I’m curious on a more broad level, what does Star Trek mean to you and what do you personally think its most important lessons are?

Star Trek means it means, to me, peace. It’s a project that demands more than just the work, so to speak. It’s your representative of something. And that assumption is hope, optimism, which sometimes in this world of ours, it can be quite difficult to hold on to. But it’s a show that demands that our view the message of the show historically has always been that that’s been its legacy. Also a legacy of inclusion. In a world where people want to punch down, like those that are better finding trying to find themselves in our world. I think Star Trek urges us to live. The fact that we are all one and without each other. So we have to take care of each and every one of us. And I think that is I believe that is the most powerful message of the show of the series in general, and I think that is enough. So to be on a show to be doing a piece of work that has that reach and and seeks to have that reach and is does it forthrightly, I think that’s a beautiful thing. There are many actors that will do lots of different projects and, they might end up doing not even one that would resonate the way this resonates and has resonated historically with people from all walks of life. So it’s quite a special thing to to be a part of that.

Dr. M’benga has this kind of really tragic situation with his daughter who has this terminal illness. He’s secretly keeping her aboard the Enterprise and he’s probably doing some things that are outside of Starfleet protocol. But I suppose in general what do you think think leads him to be so secretive about his personal life with others on the enterprise? Maybe even besides the like, breaking up protocol?

He’s a very responsible man. And he takes his duty as a Starfleet Deputy very seriously. And realize and knowing I think it’s it’s a there’s a massive conflict. Of course where he’s got is he has to invest in it has to save his child. As much as he adores or respect Starfleet, he has to say this time, so he knows it’s wrong, according to Starfleet, and he is ready to pay the price. for that. But there is no way he would involve anybody else. Because of what he knows it entails it really is going against the code of Starfleet. So therefore, I think it’s just a matter of responsibility and shield and others from having to carry that burden. That is why he kept it from from all the others.

Leading up to your centered episode, which will be airing this week. We get to see Dr. M’banga, we get to see you leading what is ironically despite this tragic situation, a more a classic Star Trek “silly premise” episode. We’ve seen these before and what was it like for you filming that and how is it different from what you usually shoot on set?

I mean, there’s a lot more of me. So it demands the demands. You’re essentially, anytime one of us has to be sort of like, a center of the episode, you’re shooting a film, and you’re sort of taking the lead and you have to sort of be the through line for this piece. And so, it was a lot of work in over this one in particular, I got the script like the day before we started shooting but it was a beautiful challenge. I loved it. I loved working on it. We had a lot of fun. It was, it was the set was just beautifully, beautifully designed. And the art department was just amazing. Every room I walked into is quite different. And I was just taken by the artistry of all of that. And then I just put this nice guy through this journey.

And so it was really, really beautiful to play. All the rest of the cast was just fantastic. And we had a we had a great time. Definitely it’s my favorite episode so far. I’ve yet to see it. I probably won’t see it anytime soon. But yeah, it was definitely it was definitely to just live sort of in this other world was really special. And I think that’s, that’s the great thing about our, our show. Every episode we get to play in a different playground. And as an actor, that is just really really, really wonderful to experience and explore. And fantastic costumes. It was beautiful. It was really being being on a playground and enjoying himself. So yeah, it was really wonderful.

You can watch “The Elysian Kingdom” this Thursday, June 23 and you can watch Star Trek: Strange New Worlds every Thursday on Paramount+.