Montréal-based voice and dialect coach Rea Nolan has been helping out the Star Trek: Discovery cast all season – from helping British actors Jason Isaacs and Shazad Latif dial in their American accents, to working with Ken Mitchell and Mary Chieffo to master the art of the Klingon language – and recently she had a nice conversation with CBC Radio host Mike Finnerty about her role on the show.
NOLAN: Klingon is one aspect of the job; teaching the actors who are playing the roles to intone the language. We have a translator who is actually a fabulous Klingon speaker – she’s from Canada, she’s from Vancouver – Robyn Stewart, she is considered to be one of the best Klingon speakers walking and talking today.
The language was developed by linguist Marc Okrand, and people who were interested in it just sort of took it and ran with it. Eventually established what’s called the Klingon Language Institute, and Robin is an active member of that Institute. She does the translations. She gave me an in-depth intensive in the linguistic structure; I read the works of Marc Okrand, and it’s now my job to sort of be the interpreter between the written word and what the actors intone.
Your voice is basically muscles moving breath, so the way you move your muscles informs how you sound. It’s unconscious. We spend a lot of energy in early life trying to figure it out. But it very quickly becomes what we call second nature, you don’t think about it.
[Regarding Klingon], some people are natural born talents and other people really have to work at it. “What do you mean, ‘How is my tongue moving?'” So you do specific exercises to get them aware. I might choose a consonant that’s articulated at the back of the tongue, like ‘ga-ga-ga,’ or at the front of the mouth like ‘da-da-da,’ and you know, just even doing those simple things… if you can really feel into how you’re moving your tongue that helps.
Nolan’s entire interview (above) runs about ten minutes, and is a very interesting listen, also touching on working with Isaacs and Latif on their character’s American accents for the show.
A further exploration of Nolan and Stewart’s contribution to the Klingon language aspects of Star Trek: Discovery can also be found in this recent MarketWatch report.
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