We had the pleasure this week of speaking with Kipleigh Brown, the voice of Captain Kuumaarke in Star Trek Online. She chatted with us about her Star Trek filled career, the development of kuumaarke, and what she loves about working on STO. You can listen to the interview below, or read a transcript on this very page. Enjoy!
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Well hello and welcome to the Star Trek Online audio show, Ms. Kipleigh Brown! Hi!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Hello! It’s such a pleasure to be here! I’m so excited!
AMBASSADOR KAEL: It’s such a pleasure to have you on! Thanks for joining us. So Kipleigh, for those of you who don’t know, is the voice of Dr. Kuumaarke in our most recent episodes, including Escalation and Reckoning –
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I have a question, actually. I didn’t realize that I was a doctor! So far, I’ve been administrator, and Captain Kuumaarke, I’ve never been addressed as Doctor before. That’s nice, I like to know. I assumed there was a big science degree in there somewhere.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: You’ve gotta be! You helped design a starship, and now you’re captaining a starship, it’s gotta be in there somewhere. So this is something I didn’t know until I started looking around the internet, but this is not your first role in a Star Trek production.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: No! No, I actually played crewman Jane Taylor on an episode of Enterprise.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: What was that experience like?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: It was amazing! The episode was season three, it was called “The Forgotten.” It was incredible, because I was already a huge Star Trek fan. And when I got the audition, I’d heard that like, if you were a mega fan, don’t tell the casting directors that, because, well, because some mega fans are after like maybe, take a souvenir or sell it on eBay. Not that all fans are thieves, but it’s happened.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: I mean, I can’t say I wouldn’t.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I really just wanted to kind of walk off the lot in the uniform, but, I knew I couldn’t do that. So I had to pretend like, “Oooh, Star Trek, oh yeah, what’s that? Sounds great.” But what they didn’t tell me – as a got closer in the audition process, because you audition a bunch of times, but the final time, they said, “Ok, the director’s in the room, just so you know.” I was like, “Great!” And I walked in, and the director was Levar Burton! From the Next Generation, and – I should’ve been warned. But to not react, and to still be very cool, and calm, “Star Trek, what’s that? I don’t know what that is.” That’s the best acting I’ve ever done, not freaking out.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: I was gonna say, that’s the real audition right there, to just not react at all when you walk in.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Yeah.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: So when did you first get into Star Trek?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I did watch the Original Series in reruns growing up, so I was very very young, but I did have – like, I’ve seen every episode since, and I know it well now, but I really fell in love with The Next Generation. That’s what I grew up on. So especially having Geordi LaForge in that room, was just like “whooooa!” But I’ve since watched the Original Series, which I love, and I’ve also done a web series called Star Trek Continues.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Oh cool!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Which, for anyone who loves any of the Star Treks, I encourage you to check it out. It’s a fan series, but – well, first of all, we’ve got Vic Mignogna, who’s our Kirk and he’s the executive producer. For anyone who’s into Full Metal Alchemist and other anime voices, that’s Vic. But also we have Chris Doohan, who – James Doohan, who played Scotty, that’s his son – who plays Scotty!
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Oh! He plays Scotty in our game, too!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Oh, I think he told me that! That’s right. And then we have Grant Imahara, from Mythbusters, and now from the White Rabbit Project, playing Sulu. They’ve recreated the original series down to the finest detail. Even the buttons on the helm are made from the exact same mold. Not a reproduction, the same mold!
AMBASSADOR KAEL: That is super cool! I love stuff like that, with fans bringing the things they love to life. Who do you play on the show?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I play Lieutenant Barbara Smith, who was in the original series, she was in an episode called “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” and she was a small part. She was supposed to be a bigger part, but the actress left to do movies, but I look like her. So they were like, “We’ll shoehorn her into that roll, and we’ll bring her back.” And we’ve had some really cool guest stars, like Colin Baker from Doctor Who, and just a bunch of people from Battlestar.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: That’s cool!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Yeah, it’s really cool. Star Trek Continues, I’m shamelessly plugging it, but that’s because I really – I really believe in it. It’s such a labor of love, everyone’s there because they love Star Trek.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: As long as you shameless plug Star Trek Online when you’re on Star Trek Continues podcasts, it’s totally fine!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Oh I do! I do.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: So how did you first hear about STO?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I feel like I’ve always known about it, since it’s been around, since all of the cool people are playing it. But my friend James Kerwin, who directs on Star Trek Continues, and a few other projects I’ve worked with him on, but he’s always talking about it. And he knows some of you guys over at Cryptic. And I was doing some Vegas conventions, and got to know you guys there, and I was amazed when you asked me to do a role. Al Rivera, I had gotten to know him peripherally through the convention and just talking and things, and I was there at the convention with the G&T show, which is a Star Trek podcast, and he knew them. So it was sort of in that zone that we were getting to know each other, and he likes Star Trek Continues, so he asked me to do it.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: That’s really cool. So tell us a little bit about Ambassador Doctor Captain Kuumaarke. How did you first hear about her, and what sort of preparation did you bring to creating her?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Well it’s funny, probably the first thing that people will notice is that I’m not British. And Kuumaarke is, and there’s a reason why we did that. Originally, the script had an exotic accent, because the Lukari are brand new, we hadn’t encountered them yet. So it’d be interesting to have an exotic, new accent. And they kind of phonetically spelled it out for me, but when I prepared the accent it sounded very Transylvanian. And we tried it – we tried it!
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Now I kind of want to hear this. Do you think you could pull the Transulvanian accent out of mothballs?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Let me see. I know it was a lot of extended vowels and rolling “r”s, and I don’t think that’s what they intended, but that’s how it came out of me. So it’d be like, you know, “I am a Lukaaaarrrri. Cuptain Kumaaaarrrrrke.” And it just sort of started to sound like Dracula.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: “Ve are goink to explore the galaxy, and then suck your blood”
KIPLEIGH BROWN: “That’s rrrriiiight. We’re going to suck your prrrrotomatter.” So they said, “Do you do any other accents?” And I was like, “Well, it’s not that exotic, but like, my mother’s British, so I could do that.” And they were like, “Let’s – yeah – let’s go with that.” They thought it was a better choice. So hence the accent. But I do love doing the accent, because I sound like my mother, and I like that.
But my first episode was “Echoes of Light,” and you were asking me the preparation apart from the accent. You know, I prepared for Kuumaarke the same way I would for any role, on camera, or on stage, or otherwise. Mostly just putting myself in her shoes. And in that episode it was a scary situation for her, and for her people. First of all, they hadn’t had much contact with the outside community, in the galaxies. And their sun was dying. And they were seeking help. And so, I was thinking, this is a person facing the death of her people. And it’s very easy to find that emotion. Fear, but also hopefulness, and you know, depending on this new person to help you. And the frustration of not being able to do it yourself, either.
I think my favorite part of of this character is that she and her people are new to exploration of the galaxy.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Yeah, that’s one of the things I really like about them, too.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Yeah, so to be able to play someone who’s discovering what it’s like out there.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: That’s so much of what Star Trek is about, exploring the galaxy and finding new things, and it’s really fascinating to watch the Lukari, but Kuumaarke in particular, seeing the galaxy for the first time, as opposed to our jaded Federation and Klingon Captains.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Yes, they’ve been around the solar system a time or two.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: So in the most recent episode, Mirrors and Smoke, was it interesting taking the sort of wide eyed, innocent Kuumaarke, and having that more determination, and kind of anger to her, when she encounters the Kentari?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: You know, it really is. Everyone – like an actor, always wants to have their character go somewhere, to have an arc. And I loved the discovery. Because at first, she enters space and she’s passionate, and obviously very intelligent, and insatiably curious, but there’s also a kind of – naiveté? I guess? At the very beginning, just because the Lukari have been insular, and they’re a very peaceful people. And then here’s Kuumaarke, who’s sort of a pioneer for her people, the first Lukari to become a Captain, and the childlike wonder of seeing all these new life forms, and then when she does find this trail of these detonations, the flipside of her childlike wonder was this disbelief. Like, “Why would anyone use Protomatter in this way?” In a destructive way. It just doesn’t compute for her at first. Because her people, it’s like grade school science to them. They’re masters of Protomatter, and it would never occur to a Lukari to use it as a weapon. And it’s that naiveté sort of being –
You know, it could’ve – her naiveté, and wonder look at everything – could’ve become bitter and cynical, as she discovers this dark underside of the Kentari, and the Tzenkethi, and all these things. And she becomes bolder, absolutely, but she doesn’t become bitter or cynical. She’s disturbed and afraid, but she never loses her exuberance, or her hopefulness.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: I know a lot of fans were reacting to the way that she almost becomes Action Kuumaarke in the latest episode. The first time you have to protect Kuumaarke on a mission, she’s kind of cowering and in need of protection, and this time when you’re protecting her, she’s like, “Seriously, I’m shooting these guys, I need to get my work done, can you help me out here?”
KIPLEIGH BROWN: “I am far from defenseless!”
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Yes, exactly!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Yes, I love that about her, that she can become the warrior that she’s never been before, out of necessity, and she’s brave enough to do it. Being new to space doesn’t make her run away, like some other people might just be like, “I’m going home, bye!” But no, I love that she’s incredibly bold. And the counter side of that being the wonderment of the universe. And then when she needs to pick up a weapon or fire some phasers at some folks, she’ll do it! She doesn’t like it, but she’ll do it. Especially in the name of justice.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: So you’ve acted on three different kinds of Star Trek now.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Yes!
AMBASSADOR KAEL: What are the different challenges between Star Trek Online, which is a video game, and voice acting, versus Star Trek Continues, versus Enterprise?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Well, the voice acting versus on camera acting – because it’s not my main bread and butter, voice over work, mostly I do the other kind, I think there was a lot of adapting from you guys for me, because I just get in there and I’m like, “I’m gonna do it like I would do it on camera!” Except like, I don’t have to wear makeup and look awesome or anything, so that’s, you know, less preparation there.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: You don’t have to shave your head for Kuumaarke.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I would though! If there were going to be a live action, you bet you I would shave my head and put in those contacts and get some electrical clothing, you know I would.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: I’m just saying, there’s a cosplay contest at STLV this year. I’m just putting that out there.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: That sounds like a challenge!
But, yeah, there’s lots of mentions of pop filters and the like. Which is because I don’t have the technical skill of a voice over actor, who knows how far away to stand from the microphone, and which consonants you shouldn’t emphasize. I figured it out eventually, but at first they were like, “Ok, we just need to tone that down a little bit.” There was an adjustment period! But the passion there, it doesn’t change. Because you can’t, as far as I’m concerned, phone in a voice over. Otherwise it feels phoned in. It’s gotta be as real as it would be in real life.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Normally you get to act with your whole body. How difficult is it to do it with just your voice?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: At first it was odd, there was a disconnect, but when I prepare, I kind of do do all the full on, as I’m reading the lines at home, and my cats are looking at me like I’m insane. So I get the feeling of it there, and I just carry it with me to the voice over session. Although I can’t move around, and there’s not really a mirror, but I bet you my face is doing all the crazy stuff while I’m doing it. Because, you know, you don’t have to not do it. So I’m sure I’ve got the anger face when I’m doing the lines, even though it may not be intentional.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: We should really film some of these voice over sessions.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: The first once I did, we filmed in little bits and pieces, because I filmed it at Cryptic Studios. So if you go to Kipleigh.com, there is a little link from all of the Seasons I’ve done.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: So what’s been your favorite part of bringing Kuumaarke to life?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I love what I said to you earlier, about the journey that she’s made from brand new, and also this fear for this dying sun and the end of her people, and then they survive, and now her people have this whole new future out in the universe, and then her journey from being kind of wonder and naïve to being a, pardon me, badass. But also maintaining her ideals, and her passion for science and for being compassionate and good to others. And there’s also a lovely sense of collaboration, because the first time I did it in the studio, and it was great sort of as a group, you know, first of all deciding to nix the Transylvanian accent, and when I do the voiceover I’m online with another of your Mikes over there. And Lani who’s the director, and the writers as well, because sometimes I have to ask, “What’s the context here?” Because it comes out of order, and we kind of put the story together. You know, the order of the story, and that helps me. I just like that it’s like a group effort, too.
Yeah, all of you guys, down to a man or woman, and just the coolest people.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Well thank you!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: It’s something I kind of noticed – and I may be a little biased – but it’s something I’ve kind of noticed about all Trek fans. There’s something about Trek fans – because Trek fans in general are intelligent, and curious, and playful, so when I’ve done the Star Trek Vegas and things, and everyone you meet is so fascinating and interesting to talk to. I like Trek fans a lot.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Yeah, there’s something about Trekkies, or Trekkers, or whatever you want to go by, I think it’s because we all grew up on this very hopeful show, it inspires people to be a lot nicer to each other.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Yeah, and Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek, you know I really stopped to think about it, and I know books have been written about this, so I’m not coming up with a new revelation no one has before, but – you know, it was right after this sort of nuclear showdown with Russia, and the Bay of Pigs, and the idea that the human race was going to blow itself up. Which it may still. But it was very immediate in the sixties, And you had all this apocalyptic sci-fi, you know, about the world ending in various different ways, and Aldous Huxley, Brave New World and all these great novels, but none of them seemed to end well for the human race.
And then Gene Roddenberry comes along and he puts, not only have we not blown ourselves up, but we’re in space, and we’re in space not as conquerors but explorers. Just these bold moves, and that’s why it’s still around today. There’s something magical there that just captured the hopefulness of the human spirit, and it keeps on doing it. It’s amazing.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: It’s kind of amazing that it even happened at all, and it’s amazing that it’s still continuing today, and still breaking down barriers.
Obviously, you can’t mention anything about upcoming content, you can’t give anything away, but where would you like to see Kuumaarke go in the future? What would be – you personally as an actress, your hopes and dreams for where you’d see her end up?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I would like to see her – I’m just thinking about, in this recent episode, there’s a lot of parallels to things happening on Earth.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Yup.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I would like – it would make sense for me to see her go for more than being a scientific explorer to a crusader of sorts. Trying to change the way that people look at Protomatter and its use. And trying to take the lessons of her people, and sort of this peace and togetherness, and oneness, and wanting to try and spread that idea around. Especially back to the Kentari, who, they were once the same race. To maybe try and pull them back into the fold and to teach them the peaceful ways, the loving ways, the compassionate ways of the Lukari. You know, becoming a sort of cosmic teacher of sorts. Which would be also be a somewhat difficult position, because sometimes people don’t want to learn those lessons, or they don’t care to, you know? But I can see her indignation over the corruption of this technology, and the harm that it has caused, and in many ways this sort of residual feeling of guilt. You know, that back in time they had sprouted from the same seed, and they went so wrong. To bring it back to a peaceful, loving place.
But I’m sure that would be an enormous challenge, just like it would be on Earth. And a job bigger than just one Lukari, but I can see her wanting to at least try.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: That feels like the path the character would logically take – not that we can talk about anything she might be doing in the future.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Oh, she just joins a beauty contest, and she gets a yacht, and –
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Oh god. And we get her a blond wig, and -
KIPLEIGH BROWN: That’s right, yes.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Oh no.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: She joins the “Keeping up with the Kardashians” of the future.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Only it’s “Keeping up with the Cardassians.”
KIPLEIGH BROWN: There you go! I’ve often thought “Kim Cardassian” would be an awesome Halloween costume.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: I think we’ve just hit on a joke that the internet has been making for about ten years. We’re very original.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: We are. We rediscovered it, and we’re making it cool again. That’s’ what I like to think.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Exactly. Well, Kipleigh, thank you so much for joining us! It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: And you, thank you for having me!
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Of course!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: And thanks to the fans for playing STO, and making it awesome, and for liking Kuumaarke, I’m so honored.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: I do like her a lot. And I think they do, too.
KIPLEIGH BROWN: I love playing her, so thank you.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Of course! If people want to find out more about you, where do they go?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Oh! To Kipleigh.com. I have a very normal last name, so my parents gave me a very strange first name. There’s a lot of Browns, but as far as I know only one Kipleigh. Except I believe there’s also an award winning Westie Terrier of the same name.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Oh no! Well, at least they’re award winning?
KIPLEIGH BROWN: That’s right!
But no, Kipleigh.com. That’s where you can see things I’ve done, and things I’ve got coming up, and a link to Star Trek Continues. And links to STO trailers for Seasons, which I doubt your fans need to see any of those.
AMBASSADOR KAEL: Probably not, but it helps anyway. Kipleigh, thank you so much, and we will talk to you soon!
KIPLEIGH BROWN: Lovely, thank you! Live Long and Prosper.