In one of the final scenes of the Star Trek: Picard episode "Nepenthe", one of the most beloved The Next Generation characters in Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) met his end. During Elnor's (Evan Evagoria) fight with Narissa (Peyton List), she flung a dagger striking the former Borg drone in the neck.
Del Arco recently discussed that fateful day of filming when the actor had to shoot his own death scene:
"I didn't know until I was almost getting ready to shoot it. It's probably a good thing I didn't know way early because, the moment I did find out — which, of course, I was upset. It actually ended up liberating my work quite a bit. I mean, I was able to prepare — there were phone calls with [executive producer] Michael [Chabon] and everyone early on — but basically, I realized I had X amount of scenes and moments in which to work and do all the things I wanted to do with the character. And take some risks as an actor. In a way, it was helpful, because, like when you know your character is going to die — the way humans know they are going to die in real life — you kind of live for the moment. And that's what I was able to do building up to the scene."
Channeling Dark Places
To add insult to (literal) injury, Del Arco got a cornea scratch from his contact lens from part of the costume. Prior to Hugh's death, Narissa forced him to watch his fellow "ex-Bs" executed for his defiance. When it came to researching his return to the role, the actor went to some dark places:
"The bulk of my research for the show, actually, was on Holocaust survivors. I listened to hours of interviews with survivors, and researched the psychology of survivors. Having lived through the AIDS crisis, and watching friends die — I used my experience there as well. It was a devastating day to shoot. I definitely had a couple of martinis on the way home," Del Arco said, jokingly. "I have very few lines in that scene — Narissa has all the dialogue — so I'm mostly reactive. It wasn't scripted for me to sob at all at that point, but I did it — and every single time we had to shoot that scene, I lost my shit."
Lasting Legacy in "Star Trek"
Waving goodbye to a character he played for 30 years, Del Arco is happy the positive impact he had playing Hugh to generations of Star Trek fans.
"Another that really stands out for me — and I know is sort of one of the iconic scenes in Star Trek history, a favorite of fans — is the one with me and Sir Patrick [Stewart] in [Picard's Ready Room] from 'I, Borg,' where Hugh recognizes him as Locutus. And another would be reuniting with Patrick [on Picard] for our first scene together in years. I'll always cherish those and my friendship with Patrick."