EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Discovery's Sam Vartholomeos

Sam Vartholomeos is a very young man. The actor, who plays Ensign Danby Connor on Star Trek: Discovery, is just 22 years old. We don’t know his exact birthday, not yet anyway, but let this sink in: Star Trek: Voyager debuted 22 years ago. If Voyager isn’t older than Vartholomeos, then he’s just a few months older than it. We’ll find out for sure the next time we speak with him. In the meantime, StarTrek.com chatted with the amiable New Yorker, whose previous credits include only an episode each of Bull and The Following, as well as a few commercials, about meeting Trek fans at Star Trek Las Vegas, his time so far with Discovery, what piece of merchandise he’s most eager to see his visage on, and more. Here’s what he had to say:

Star Trek: Discovery, Sam Vartholomeos

What’s this whole Star Trek Las Vegas experience been like for you, checking out the convention, appearing on stage, meeting the fans.

It is cool. It is overwhelming and it is absolutely humbling. I don't think it hit me until just now. I can't even call myself a Star Trek fan after coming here. I thought I was, but these fans, it is part of who they are, and that is really humbling.

How much did you know about Star Trek before hooking up with Discovery?

I knew the old movies, one through four, and that was thanks to my dad, who really wanted me to get into Star Trek. I just didn't have access to the episodes, but now with everything being online, The Original Series, The Next Generation, I'm trying to catch up, and really know where it all came from.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk and Spock

What does it mean to you to be a part of the Star Trek universe? You know, once you're in one episode ...

You're in it for life.

Exactly.

I already have fans telling me now, "Come back next year, and come back the year after…” I think it will be a part of my life from now on, and being a 22-year-old guy, I have the rest of my life to be part of Star Trek, and that means a lot to me. I have a great responsibility now, we all do, to continue this legacy, so that one day my kids can be Star Trek fans and their kids can be Star Trek fans.

Star Trek: Discovery, Sam Vartholomeos

Give us a sense of your character, Ensign Connor. What makes him tick and what's the meat on the bone for you as the actor playing him?

Right. Well, Ensign Danby Connor is the U.S.S. Shenzhou's ops officer right up front, and he is Star Trek and Starfleet through and through. That is one thing I can say and one thing I really like about him. Nothing really conflicts with him. He is all about the Prime Directive, and there's a Captain and there's a Lieutenant Commander -- and everyone follows a code. When that code, and when the Prime Directive, all get crossed, his wires get crossed. He kind of uses Captain Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh, as his North Star, and he really wants to learn from her. That is one thing I really wanted to make clear about Connor, is that he wants to learn and move up.

Without giving too much away, tell us about a scene that's indicative of who and what this character is.

There is a great scene I have with Sonequa (Martin-Green), with Michael Burnham, which really kind of puts Connor to the test. I think that's about all I can say, but you’ll know what I’m talking about it the minute you see it.

Star Trek: Discovery

You mentioned that you're 22 years old. What have you picked up from being in close proximity to such acting veterans as Michelle Yeoh and Jason Isaacs?

Jason has been around and so has Michelle, and that, I think, made it really easy for me as Connor to sort of look up to Captain Georgiou as a role model, because I do as Sam. Michelle is someone who's been in the industry for how long and has done all these amazing roles. When Captain Georgiou gives Connor an order, he looks up to her, and it’s like Michelle Yeoh's giving Sam Vartholomeos an order, you know? It's really easy to play off of them. And, just watching the subtle movements they have on set really kind of helps the awe of it, watching Jason Isaacs work, watching Michelle Yeoh work, watching Sonequa Martin-Green work, and of course, Doug Jones. I mean, Doug Jones is ... That's a bit of a bromance, I will say. I love that man dearly. You can't help but laugh when you're with him. It's great.

You'll be a new face for a lot of folks watching Discovery. What’s your background?

Discovery is kind of the big breakout for Sam Vartholomeos, a kid whose last name no one can pronounce yet. I was born and raised in Queens, New York. I come from a blue-collar family, and no one in my family was an artist. I'm the youngest of three. My sister's a math teacher and my brother is a cop and a lawyer. Go figure, the youngest wants to be an actor.

Star Trek: Discovery, Sam Vartholomeos

Your one other credit that we could find is an episode of Bull. Does that sound right?

Yes, that’s another CBS show and I’m proud to say that I was in the first episode of their second season. It's sort of my first lead guest star role, and I think that is a great episode. Before that it was some commercials, it was some theater. I also did an episode of The Following, actually, but that was kind of a quick, two-line thing.

All shows shot in New York…

Yeah, all New York things, but I think it's a testament to the idea of Star Trek, where they took this kid from New York and gave him this chance to prove himself. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.

Star Trek: Discovery, Sam Vartholomeos

There's going to be a ton of merch associated with the show. What are you most excited to possibly see your face plastered on?

I would love to see an Ensign Connor action figure, a little action figure to put on a desk. Some kid from New York can put it on his desk, you know? Or some dog can run off and eat it.

Star Trek: Discovery will debut September 24 on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Space Channel in Canada. The series will premiere on Netflix in the rest of the world on September 25.

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