Lower Decks’ Dawnn Lewis Details Bring Serious Starfleet Comedy

Amidst all the goofy mayhem aboard the USS Cerritos at Star Trek: Lower Decks is the constant, authoritative command of Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis), a veteran Starfleet officer and the resident loose-cannon mother of the Beckett Mariner crew (Tawny Newsome). Although Captain Freeman has diligently commanded the Cerritos and its mission continues and important despite all the irreverent diversions into which its crew embarks, Lower decks Season 3 pushed the respected officer’s frustration to its limit. As Captain Freeman and the Cerritos make an appearance in the penultimate episode of the season, this scrutiny will test his relationship with Mariner like never before.


In an exclusive interview with CBR, Dawn Lewis traces Captain Freeman’s journey through Lower decks. She talked about working with series creator and showrunner Mike McMahan to develop and evolve her character and explained the continued importance of star trek as Lower decks Season 3 is coming to an end.

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CBR: First of all, I’m glad to see that Captain Freeman is completely cleared of these false accusations at the end of season 2. How come season 2 ended on this cliffhanger before you started to get scripts for season 3?

Dawnn Lewis: I was a little nervous. I was like, “How many episodes am I going to spend in handcuffs or behind bars? Am I going to try to reform or organize the inmates of the prison? What’s going to happen?” In all honesty, the idea of ​​being that end-of-season handcuffed leader and woman of color was a bit unsettling at first. Ultimately, since she is so special and important to all of these things in her position, it would also drag down the team that she challenges every day – sometimes at the top of her lungs – [to] come gather around her.

You’ll see people come together in a show of strength and community that will continue to elevate people’s appreciation of our relationships, and that’s what happened at the start of season 3. I’m really glad that happened like this.

Captain Freeman is always trying to make things work well on the Cerritos, even as wacky as possible, and that frustration catches up with her in season 3. How was it with those angrier, more frustrated colors for your performance with Freeman at the spa or preparation for the journalist?

Just when I thought it couldn’t be higher, they asked me to make it higher. I don’t even know how it’s possible without exploding a blood vessel! I really enjoyed the episode where they went to the spa, and you just watched her go through the red zone. You watch the crew enjoy coming together as she tries to relax them and demonstrate that they find joy in their work, so much so that they used it to save her.

I really think they should have developed one of these machines and put it on the Cerritos in the captain’s quarters because it was [as] though she didn’t learn her lesson from the spa when the reporter came because she went all out in the red zone to make sure her ship and crew are in top shape to do their best. Even though she cares and tries, I think one of her character flaws is that she tries too hard, loves too hard, and sometimes wants the best, even [to] his own detriment to his ship and crew and their reputation. It’s really important to her!

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The emotional heart of Lower decks is the relationship between Beckett Mariner and Carol Freeman, and that relationship is tested this season. How does he navigate that dynamic, finding the big emotional beats between comedy?

I was a teenager with a mother that I absolutely knew loved me, and I absolutely loved her, but sometimes I was absolutely certain that she didn’t love me, and I knew that I didn’t. . As you watch us navigate this road of love, miss and connect, you sometimes try to express yourself, even with the greatest frustration, but through love. You don’t always get it right, but at the end of the day you want them to know you love them, but that’s just not what you hear in my tone of voice.

Right now all you can hear is how frustrated and angry and confused I am, but deep down I hope you really know how much I love you. I really believe that’s quite often the dynamic between Beckett and Captain Freeman. They finally know how much they love each other, but sometimes it’s like, “You really don’t love me, and I really don’t love you!” How do we do that ? Sometimes you don’t do it right [and] it comes out just like it comes out.

Three seasons later, with Mike McMahan and you getting to know each other, how has that evolved into Carol Freeman, and how has he participated in and brought to life the growth of that character?

The growth has been great, and I wonder if Mike has been pestering me around my house because with some of the things and reactions that she’s having, I’m like, ‘Wait, I did this last week. Is Mike spying on me?” [laughs] Mike developed this incredible sense of tapping into us as individuals and finding incredible ways to infuse that into our characters. He just takes us on these very real journeys but in a very comedic and heightened way.

I can’t say more good things about Mike McMahan and how he is able to create each of [our] very individual voices in this cohesive world where we all seem to find a way to sit down and intertwine with each other. I like what he’s doing with Carol because getting to know me, I’m a very focused, specific, particular person who probably has one of the most childish senses of humor. I’m one of the biggest kids I know, and he finds ways to put that into Carol Freeman — not that she’s trying to be funny, but she’s really serious about what she does. She really thinks she can sing and save the day; you can’t tell her she can’t! One of the funniest things for me as a singer is singing like I can’t sing. It’s hilarious to me, and I love it.

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I was at star trek panel in San Diego last July and I saw you talking about how star trek and be a captain star trek means for you. How do you bring your own voice to something as iconic and important as star trek and build your own niche there?

I was a star trek fan and star trek– inspired human being since the show first aired. I love that the story he tells is how we can all be different – we can come from different planets, species, cultures, races, generations, and we can always have some respect and esteem for each other. We are here today, in 2022, and sadly, there are still so many realities in humanity that do not support people’s differences and how they can benefit each other, and how we might and should embrace and work together; we all have a very small planet. To be able to represent, for any other brown child, male or female, that you may rise to achieve greatness, leadership, and be seen and appreciated for who you are and your excellence – I’m thrilled to be a part of that because I know that’s what stimulated me when I was a little girl.

See on the bridge of the Enterprise a Russian man, a Japanese man, a man from another planet, an African-American woman, a blonde woman and a man working together and striving for excellence in each other to improve the galaxy, it was amazing. It makes me wonder if we were able to put that in movies and TV, why can’t we do that in life? We must do this in life! We have a small planet and none of us are going anywhere, so we have to figure that out. To be a part of that is amazing to me. It’s humbling, and I’m excited and honored to be a part of it.

Created by Mike McMahan, Star Trek: Lower Decks releases new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.