Warning: SPOILERS for the first 2 episodes of Star Trek: Picard season 3Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut joins the action of Star Trek: Picard season 3 as Ensign Sidney La Forge, aka ‘Crash La Forge,’ the daughter of Star Trek: The Next Generation legend Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton). Sidney also has a sister, Ensign Alandra La Forge (Mica Burton), making them literally the next generation of the La Forges in Starfleet.
As the helmsman of the USS Titan-A, Sidney is already caught up in the suspense of Star Trek: Picard season 3’s first two episodes. Her Captain, Liam Shaw (Todd Stashwick), is at odds with Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Captain Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), as well as Shaw’s own First Officer, Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). However, Sidney turns out to have her own special friendship with “Commander Seven.” Meanwhile, the Titan comes under attack by the mysterious Captain Vadic (Amanda Plummer), who is hunting Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers), the son of Picard and Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden).
A few days after chatting on the red carpet at Star Trek: Picard season 3’s world premiere, Screen Rant had the pleasure of interviewing Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut about playing Sidney La Forge, her real-life connection with LeVar Burton’s family mirroring her character’s, and Ashlei takes us behind the scenes and shares her experiences on the set of Star Trek: Picard season 3.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut on Playing Sidney La Forge in Star Trek: Picard Season 3
Screen Rant: There have been two episodes of Picard so far, and I think it’s safe to say that Sidney will be a big fan-favorite character as season 3 progresses. We’ve only seen a few scenes with Sidney so far, so can you tell us a little bit about ol’ Crash La Forge?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Oh god! [laughs] The history of what Frakes talks about is… she would crash these ships, essentially. But I think [in] the beginning, the way you’re introduced to Sidney, she’s kind of like this innocent, very studious, very about her business type of character.
And I think as the season progresses, you will really get to see her stand on her own. In that first scene where you see her talking to Riker and Picard, and she’s just like,”Hi, you don’t remember me, but hi, I’m Sidney!” and that type of energy that she has, I really am excited for fans to see her progression throughout this.
Your career before Picard has been great. We were in Gotham, Homeland, Cruel Summer, NCIS. What was it like when you got cast, not just for Star Trek, but for this character, the next generation of La Forge?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Oh, man. When I initially auditioned for this, they didn’t tell me what it was for. And so, funny enough, my mom, who’s a huge Star Trek fan, was my reader for the audition. And I did something in my audition where I was like, panicking or something. My mom goes, “This actually sounds like Star Trek. I don’t think that character panics in this way. Do it a different way.”
Long story short, I did it a different way. And then I ended up booking this role, but I had no idea that it was Geordi’s daughter until I actually got the official call from my agent. And they were like, “Ah yeah, you booked Star Trek, by the way. And not only did you book Star Trek, but you’re playing Geordi La Forge’s daughter, Sidney La Forge”. And so, funny enough, my mom again was in the room when I got the call. We’re both losing our minds. I mean, this is an iconic character. It’s insane to be the daughter of this character.
We have to thank your mom now. That’s amazing. I love that both you and your sister, Mica Burton as Alandra, honor Geordi’s roles on the Enterprise. Because it’s really easy to forget that Geordi was the helmsman in season one of TNG before he became Chief Engineer.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: We talked about this briefly. LeVar and I were saying [how] you’ll see the differences in our family dynamic. And how Sydney is the helmsman — woman — of this ship, but Geordi also started that way initially, too. And then you see them kind of have their moment. We talked about that.
You, Mica, and LeVar all told me at the premiere that the Burton family kind of adopted you in real life and made you an honorary Burton. LeVar told me you’re his kid now.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Yeah! [laughs] I love it. I love it.
Was there ever an idea where all three of you just wear VISORs in a scene? Like the VISORs are a family thing, like wearing matching pajamas at Christmas?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: [laughs] I didn’t experience that at all. But I totally would be down to do that.
If you ever get a chance to play this role again, and all three of you together, that really should happen.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Yes, we’ll put the VISORs on.
One of the coolest little subplots in Picard episode 2 is that Sidney has a friendship with Seven of Nine. So tell me a little bit about that relationship and also having this amazing scene with Jeri Ryan.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: First of all, Jeri is just phenomenal, and I mean outside of Star Trek [too]. But jumping in and finding this relationship because Seven of Nine knows, or Commander Seven as Sidney calls her, knows of Sidney’s history and who her father is, and how she’s trying to create a name for her own, she kind of takes her under her wing, and kind of helps Sidney realize that she can be outside of her dad’s shadow, if that makes any sense, you know?
It’s such a really cool dynamic. A little unexpected, but it’s so great to have that legacy character [be Sidney’s] mentor. You’re brand new, but also a legacy character. It’s such a great touch. And then of course, in episode 2, we finally see Captain Vadic on screen. I’m curious whether you saw her footage during your scenes. What were you all reacting to when you were shooting it?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Just the lines in the green screen. It’s us acting. (laughs) I didn’t really see… No, I don’t think… Well, that’s not true, I think at one point, Amanda actually did come to set just to say her lines for, like, a viewpoint. But for the most part, it was just the green screen.
Wow. But still, it’s so convincing. And she’s such a great villain.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: I know. I can’t wait for you guys to see more of her.
There’s also this incredible scene, this revelation at the end of episode 2 when Beverly Crusher comes on the bridge. And she and Picard see each other for the first time. And he knows now who Jack is. Yeah. What was it like being part of that scene? Just being in that atmosphere?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: As Ashlei, I was like, “Ooh!” Because it’s like, again, history! You’re seeing everybody back on the bridge and all this stuff. But I mean, having the tea of knowing that Picard is Jack’s dad, I mean, ya know, it’s a little juicy. So I think it’s kind of like looking on like, sideways. And getting a little bit of side eye. Like, “What’s going on?”, you know?
You have so many cool moments of being on the bridge with Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Jeri Ryan, and Todd Stashwick. But it’s also kinda funny too, watching you in your scenes. Because you’re at the helm, so you actually have your back turned to them most of the time. You should’ve installed a little rearview mirror so you can watch them.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: I should’ve, right? Because you see my eyes, my eyes are like going to the side doing a little bit [of this]. But I can’t slowly turn around and see what’s going on, you know?
What’s a special memory you have from working on Star Trek: Picard with those actors? Did they give you any advice? Did they take you under their wing? What was it like being with them? Because that cast is legendary. And they’re also really mischievous.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Oh ho! Jonathan Frakes for sure. The moment that I remember the most, I’ll say, what was monumental, was stepping on a bridge for the first time. That was amazing. I think meeting everybody for the first time, meeting LeVar for the first time. I don’t know if I told you the story yet, but I saw him coming out of his trailer, and I yelled across the lot, “Hi! I’m Ashlei! I’m going to be playing your daughter,” and then running to give him a hug. And then, later on in the season, too, you’ll see there’s some action sequences. I mean, it’s my first time with stunt training, so I was really excited for that.
Did you go through any type of helmsman training? Is there such a thing in Star Trek? How to push the buttons or how to navigate the helm?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Not necessarily, I don’t know. I’m not gonna remember if they actually zoom in on my console, [on] like the actual things. But there are a couple of buttons on there that kind of say,” Lift Off,” or certain things, which kind of helps. Otherwise, I’m on my own. And I’m figuring out how to go into warp and doing different things on my own. And also, [there’s] history of doing research and seeing how previous people have done it too.
Sidney is the latest female helmsman in Star Trek. There’s also Melissa Navia in Strange New Worlds and Emily Coutts in Discovery. And actually, Sidney is part of another legacy because Jacqueline Kim played Sulu’s daughter, the helmsman of the Enterprise-B. You should all form a helmsman club and start racing. Who’d win?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Uh, me. Sidney La Forge. Are you kidding?
I think you would, too. You also have the coolest and newest ship. But it’s also not just the ship. It’s also the pilot, right?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: Exactly.
Just thinking about what an incredible role Sidney is. She’s a cross-section of so many legacies like we just talked about. TNG. Geordi’s daughter. Helmsmen of Star Trek. And you know Sidney and Star Trek are going to be part of you for the rest of your career now. What’s that like? You’re gonna go to cons and see people cosplay as Sidney.
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: I already know that I’m gonna cry when I go to cons and see… especially little girls dressing up as Sidney. I already know I’m gonna cry. But I’m really excited to meet the fans. So far, they’ve been so nice and welcoming. And just knowing that I’ll be a part of, like you said, I’ll be a part of this forever and ever. I’m really stoked. I just I’m really grateful just to be a part of this universe.
Let’s talk a little bit about what’s coming up on Star Trek: Picard. Can you give us a little teaser of what’s coming, what Sidney’s up to…
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: I will say you’ll see some family dynamics. You’ll see Alandra and Sidney have that sisterly bond with a little bit of mischief. You’ll see some action sequences. And outside of Sidney, I think you’ll see each character… You’ll see a beautiful arc for each character, I’ll say.
One last question: You’re the helmsman. You have an Admiral, you have your Captain, and then you also have another captain. All three of them give an order. Three conflicting orders. Who do you follow?
Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut: That’s a really good question. Well, that actually comes up later in the season. So I guess you’ll have to wait and see what she answers.
About Star Trek: Picard Season 3
The third and final season of Star Trek: Picard features Admiral Jean-Luc Picard during the 25th century as he reunites with the former command crew of the USS Enterprise, who are being hunted by a mysterious new enemy, Captain Vadic.
Check out our other Star Trek: Picard season 3 interviews here:
Next: Picard Has The Jean-Luc & Riker Team Up TNG Never Did
Star Trek: Picard Season 3 streams Thursdays on Paramount+.