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Exclusive: Star Trek: Discovery stars on being Klingon and trekking in the age of social media

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Jun 29, 2018

Since first making their presence known in The Original Series, Klingons have trekked a long way across the Star Trek universe, from foe to friend and sometimes back again. So much can be read about them, their lore could very well be non-fiction instead of science fiction at this point. But while there’s much to glean from troves of Klingon analysis, there’s nothing like speaking to one to really get inside a Klingon’s well-endowed cranium. 

That’s what SYFY WIRE discovered on the red carpet at the 44th Saturn Awards on Wednesday night, honoring the very best in genre entertainment. While Best Actress in a Television Series winner Sonequa Martin-Green had to accept her award from a far, Klingons Mary Chieffo (L’Rell) and Kenneth Mitchell (Kol) were on hand to accept the show’s award for Best New Media Television Series. 

So it seemed like a good time to ask them a few questions about what it takes to play a proper Klingon. “Well, I think it takes a lot of stamina,” said Chieffo. “They’re intense days with the prosthetics, the armor, the language. It’s just a lot that you have to stay focused and breathe.”  

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Mary Chieffo as L'Rell on Star Trek: Discovery (Credit: CBS All Access) 

“Patience comes to mind too, and tenacity, learning the language and patience doing the prosthetics for long hours” said Mitchell. “And in terms of embodying a Klingon, honor comes to mind, a real sense of honor.”

“Honor, loyalty, and duty, that’s the tIq ghob, which is that Klingon symbol that we all can see. Those are the three tiers, so that pretty much covers it,” added Chieffo.

While some fans may question if L’Rell always exhibits those three qualities, most fans aren’t Klingons. “We can’t judge her by human standards. Part of the journey of the Federation and the humans that interact with her is you can’t expect her to know how human cultures work and all the rules,” said Chieffo. “And I think that that’s a valuable lesson that Trek constantly instills in us with any alien species: It allows us to examine certain aspects of other cultures in the world that we maybe retaliate from initially because we don’t understand it, but ultimately if you take a step back and realize what their culture is that’s shaping them, then you’re going to learn a lot more about why they do what they do.”

Those are certainly words to live by, on this planet or Qo'noS.

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Kenneth Mitchell as Kol on Star Trek: Discovery (Credit: CBS All Access)

Of course, if you came here looking for Season 2 secrets, Klingons are a notoriously tight-lipped group. “Two Klingons here, we don’t reveal secrets,” said Mitchell. And then for good measure, Chieffo gutturally uttered something in Klingon, which she kindly translated as “We do not reveal military secrets.”

But at the end of the day, Chieffo and Mitchell are humans after all, and living in the social media age. While they know they have to protect the show’s secrets, they also care deeply about the fans. 

“This is the first Star Trek that has had social media, so it’s just kind of trying to figure out that balance too. Because the fans are out there, all around the world, and it’s like the first time they’ve gotten to interact with this television show, and this family, in a way they haven’t been able to do before,” said Mitchell. “And your instincts are to reach out to them and embrace it as much as possible. But some things you have to be careful about, you don’t want to give away the secrets.” 

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 will start dropping secrets on CBS All Access sometime in 2019.