Los Angeles — Isa Briones couldn’t contain her excitement.
She just came from a world tour promoting her latest TV show, “Star Trek: Picard” where she is portraying Dahj and acting with Sir Patrick Stewart as the retired admiral and former captain of the USS Stargazer Jean-Luc Picard, and tonight, there will be a big dinner with some 30 family and friends.
“We will be watching the first three episodes with them,” she exclaimed when we talked to her in her pad. “I am sure there will be a lot of pancit and lumpia. And just like any typical Filipino party, it will be loud, lots of singing, karaoke, a lot of food and food to go as well.”
The 21-year-old daughter of Jon Jon Briones (“Miss Saigon,” “Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”) and Megan Johnson Briones (“Miss Saigon,” “General Hospital: Night Shift”) talked of how everybody seemed to become your Tita or Tito (aunt or uncle).
“So some of my friends would say, ‘So all of these people are your aunts and uncles?’ And I had to explain to them, ‘No, not really but we treat them like family,’” she narrated.
She added, “I love that on my mom’s side, we just had twins and they are not Filipino. But since we are, we get to bring our culture to that side of the family and they call us Ate and Kuya.”
Her youngest brother, Teo, 13, is also an actor and was featured in the Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen-starrer “Wind River.”
Isa, who was featured in the movie “Takers” as Matt Dillon’s daughter and in the hit musical “Hamilton” where she was the youngest member of the cast, touring production at 19.
She has played the roles of Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds and has also been the understudy for the Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton role. At the moment, Isa feels very lucky to be in the TV series, “Star Trek: Picard.”
“You don’t realize how big the show is,” she admitted. “You always know that ‘Star Trek’ has a huge fan base but you don’t know it until you are in it. It has touched a lot of lives and we get to continue it because of its various and diverse cast.”
In “Star Trek: Picard” where Sir Patrick Stewart is also an executive producer, Isa portrays Dahj, a young woman who comes to Picard for help. Patrick described Isa as “an actress who I had not quite anticipated. She is going to be up there.”
In fact, Patrick requested that she audition with him.
Isa recalled, “That actually came in the end because I was still in ‘Hamilton.’ I was preparing to leave. I knew it was for ‘Star Trek: Picard’ but I didn’t know about the character. Then the director called me and gave me notes. I few to Los Angeles and then got a call back.”
As for working with Patrick, she disclosed, “You think you already assume this incredible man Picard is the greatest captain. He leads our show in the most graceful, beautiful and welcoming way. It was so intense and nerve wracking for all of us newcomers to act with him but he welcomed us warmly.”
The 5’5” tall charmer described her character and how she prepared for her role. “Dahj is a beautiful and sympathetic woman who cares for other people,” she revealed.
“And then this horrible thing happened and she doesn’t know why. She wants to help others. The first episode she does a lot of stunts and action. I trained for a month with my incredible stunt team. I had a stunt double as well. They all make me look pretty good.”
Does she feel the weight or pressure of being the lead actress in this show, we asked. “As long as you have a number one, and we’ve got Patrick, we rise to the occasion because he has set the bar high,” she pointed out.
Isa confessed she was not exactly a “Star Trek” fan when she was a kid. “No, I did not watch it. I did not become a big fan until I got the job and I went to Netflix and hopped through different episodes and read the descriptions pertaining to my character. I looked at what episodes showed my character. Then I got hooked. It is an incredible show.”
Being in the show has already changed her lifestyle. She now has her own pad and is enjoying her independence.
“What makes this show and character special is I am basically playing myself and I used to not be able to talk about it,” she confessed.
“But I can relate to my character because she is a 21-year-old girl who is embarking on her own journey and figuring out her own independence and finding her own identity according to herself and not according to what other people say she should be. I relate to being mixed. I am half Asian and half American. Some people say ‘You are Asian.’ Some say ‘You are white.’ Or they say, ‘You are not enough that’ or ‘You are not enough this.’ So it is the same journey that I go through and I portray that part of myself onscreen.”
Talking about being half-Filipino and half-American, we asked Isa to describe the support she has been getting from her parents.
“They are my support,” she stressed. “They were my first teachers, first acting and singing coaches. They have been very supportive. My dad just finished ‘Ratched’ and will be coming out soon. And we are both now serious regulars on TV shows and although we are on different phases of our lives, we were going through something similar and what it meant to our lives. That was so cool that these experiences happened to both of us and to be able to just share that with your parent was very cool.”
Being part of the show, Isa also gets to travel all over the world to promote it. She even celebrated her birthday last January 17 in Berlin while she was there promoting the show.
“That was very exciting,” she shared. “I was a very emotional wreck because I was really tired but when we got to the last screening of the first three episodes and the moderator told the audience it was my birthday, the audience sang Happy Birthday and I started crying because it has been an incredible year for me. To see all the hard work that we all did and the reward of all the fans’ support, I got so emotional. It really affected me on my 21st birthday.”
As for the travelling, Isa said that the touring started in Comic-Con in San Diego first. “We started with Comic-Con and it was the first time that you get to see the fans of a big franchise. Once you see the fans, it becomes a different ball game. Then we also went to Paris, Italy, Berlin, London and Toronto. It has just been a whirlwind experience that you get to travel to promote the show that you are extremely passionate about.”
So how was her red carpet experiences?
Isa confessed that “It was the first time that I did something like that in that scale. For the Los Angeles premiere, my mom came to me and calmed me down because she knows I can get nervous. She was there for me and we had a girls’ pampering day before we walked the red carpet. The fans were there too and I saw people dressed up in Dahj costumes. They came up to me and said that they were excited to see an Asian-American in that role. It was so inspiring.”
So how does she see herself five years from now?
“I really don’t know,” she said. “But I know what would be constant are the fans who will always be with me because I am part of the family now.”
And if she had a chance to visit the Philippines, what would she do first, we asked the charming and lovely actress-singer.
“I would visit my family and I will just explore. I want to feel every part of the Philippines,” she disclosed. — LA, GMA News