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Star Trek: Discovery red carpet: Cast and crew talk Spock, Pike and S2 mysteries
The cast of every Star Trek show ends up becoming some kind of found family, in a sense. The main cast (usually the bridge crew) may butt heads in the beginning, but as each show in the canon goes on, they become closer and closer. Every Enterprise crew becomes a family, and even a rundown old space station (named Deep Space Nine) can became a home. This is true of the characters of Trek's newest series, Star Trek: Discovery, and it is true whether they are on the bridge or walking a red carpet.
SYFY WIRE caught up with some of the cast and crew on the red carpet before the premiere of their second season. Though composer Jeff Russo told us that they are "living in the shadow of giants," they are not living there alone.
WARNING: From this point on, there will be slight spoilers for Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery. If you don't want to know anything, anything at all, then go to red alert and warp out of here at best possible speed.
Ethan Peck possibly has the hardest job of the new season — taking on the mantle of Spock, arguably the most popular and memorable character in the entire Trek canon — a role originally played by the late Leonard Nimoy.
Peck told us he's always been a huge fan of science fiction, so naturally he came across Star Trek and the good Mr. Spock. What was the moment like when he was finally on set and wearing the famous pointed Vulcan ears?
“I remember very specifically," he said. "When I was cast I was like, oh my god, am I ready for this, am I worthy of this, is this a good idea, have they made the right choice? There was a lot of doubt, and when I showed up and did the first makeup test I felt like, wow, I have so much growth to do, into this character and the acceptance of this whole situation."
The moment proved to be, as he said, "Very surreal, very surreal." Thankfully the cast welcomed him immediately, especially Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham), who plays the adoptive half-sister that we never knew that Spock had. "It’s very scary and vulnerable work, and they couldn’t have been better," Peck said. "The crew is incredible, and Sonequa especially, the very first time I interacted with her she shouted at me across the parking lot and came and gave me a big hug, and said 'Congratulations, I’m so happy you’re here,' and we really just hit it off very naturally. I think we have a great chemistry, and that’s a gift as an actor."
One of the warmest and probably the most friendly member of Discovery's crew is Sylvia Tilly, who attained the rank of ensign at the end of the last season. Is she still on track to becoming a captain one day? Mary Wiseman, the woman behind Tilly, let us know — "She’s on the command training program, she’s never not sticking to it. That’s all she wants, and that’s her goal, so she’s gonna get it.”
Wiseman said that all of the relationships in the show will evolve, especially her main friendships with Burnham and Stamets (Anthony Rapp). "Tilly and Stamets have created quite a bond through science, but also through mentorship, and Stamets has gone through an enormous loss. I think Tilly feels compassion for that, and I think there’s a lot of love there," Wiseman said. "For Tilly and Burnham, they still live together, they’re still best friends, I think they both see something they can learn from in each other, but especially Tilly. Burnham’s a genius, she’s so capable, she’s so studied, so disciplined, I think Tilly just wants to absorb everything she can from Burnham, to take her in to her future.”
Bringing in Capt. Pike
Burnham isn't the only one that Tilly will be learning from — according to Wiseman, Tilly definitely knows who the "famous" Captain Pike (Anson Mount) is, and that "he’s the kind of captain she wants to be, and I think she’s super excited to get to work near him.” Kindness is something all good captains should have, and that won't be a problem for Tilly— she is one of the most forgiving members of the crew, and one of the first to get over Burnham being a mutineer.
"She really want to do things out of love, and I’m not saying that always works out for her, but it’s what she returns to, and I think she can’t help herself," Wiseman said. "Even with Stamets, somebody who’s grumpy, who can be a little sharp or edgy, she just has so much love to give, and she sees through all that stuff on the exterior and she tries to see who the person really is, and extend love.”
As we saw in the Short Treks episode Runaway, this isn't a trait that Tilly's entire family shares. She has a fraught relationship with her mother, and as Wiseman says, "I think sometimes it’s hard, parent’s expectations, wanting to be seen by the people in your family and feeling that you can’t do that, you can’t get them to see you the way that you want to be seen, and come to an understanding or find a way to talk that doesn’t revert to bad habits. That stuff is tough, but Tilly is finding a way to surround herself with people who believe in her, and give her the kind of support that she needs at this point in her life.”
So is the notion of "found family" just as important as the family you're born into? “Absolutely, and that’s what this ship is," Wiseman said. "We’re really dedicated to each other. They found their families and they will do everything to protect that.”
Family matters take a different, more real-life route with Rebecca Romijn, who is stepping into the boots of Number One, a character that was originally played by Majel Barrett Roddenberry in the original Star Trek pilot. “I was a major Trekkie as a kid, I watched the original series and reruns with my Mom, who’s no longer with us. Being a part of this is pretty emotional for me.”
“It’s emotional, it’s emotional thinking about my Mom, and being on this set and wearing the original gold uniform…it’s not something I ever imagined," Romijn added. "It’s got such a vast, decades deep fandom that you don’t ever want to let anybody down when you’re stepping into an iconic role that is pre-existing. As an actor you want some freedom, but for the Trekkies you don’t want to disappoint.”
Someone else that Romijn, in the form of Number One, doesn't want to disappoint? Captain Pike, who will be leaving her in charge while he deals with Discovery.
“I think Captain Pike feels pretty comfortable leaving Number One in charge of the Enterprise when he’s not there. Number One has a skill set that we need to explore, because it’s vast. The only thing I can reveal in this Season is that I don’t think we’ve explored her skill set yet. She knows a lot, which is a really fun character to play. He relies on her."
Romijn is intent on "filling in the gaps" of Number One, something that didn't happen the first time around. According to Romijn, Number One is a bit of a "fast talking dame," and that she is "slightly period." Romijn has a huge respect for the source material and does not want to upset any fans, which is something she shares with composer Jeff Russo (the Fargo TV series).
“I was scared when I did it with Fargo, and was even more scared when I’m doing it with Trek, and I think one of the reasons why that is, is because Trek fans are so rabid, and that I think is a gentle way of saying that," Russo said. "They’re very invested in the universe, and you definitely do your best to live up to the standard. It’s living in the shadow of giants, and it’s frightening, but you find the tone, you digest the tone, and then you sort of try to figure out what your melodies are, what your themes are, and how you would like to present emotional context to the characters."
Russo also made it clear that we'll have many new themes to savor, saying, “There’s definitely some new themes. We’ve sort of come full circle, it’s not a show about war anymore, the war is still in the lexicon because it just happened, and we talk about the war, but we’re now moving forward into this age of exploration and this discovery, for lack of a better way to put it, and I think that what we wanted to do with the music was make it a little brighter, and to reflect that." He adds, "Yes, there are new themes, there’s a Spock theme, there are characters that I’m not at liberty to talk about just yet, they have their own themes. There are things that are happening that required a theme. Wait until you find out, just wait."
Russo isn't shy about using the classic Trek motif, but if he has a question about using it he rings up showrunner Alex Kurtzman, who almost always tells him just to do what he wants. We spoke with Kurtzman as well, and addressed one member of Spock's family that hasn't even gotten a reference on the show yet. Kurtzman was too quick for us...before the name even came out of our mouth, he said, “Where’s Sybok, is that what you’re gonna ask me?”
We definitely were about to ask him about the possibility of seeing Spock's half brother (and Star Trek V antagonist) in the series, or possibly even getting a reference to him. Surprisingly, Kurtzman gave us an answer — “Let me just put that to bed. We’re not gonna see Sybok, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t see Sybok at some point." When we pushed a but further about seeing Sybok in a future season, Kurtzman replied, “It’s very possible.”
Wait, were we talking about strange love triangles? We should have been. Nobody knows more about being stuck between two people better than Ash Tyler, played by Shazad Latif. Thankfully, it seems like Tyler has now settled into being his human self, as well as the surgically implanted Klingon, Voq.
As Latif said, “It’s sort of fused together now, he sort of understands it now, so he placates both sides of him, and if he needs to speak Klingon, that’s when Voq will come out, but it’s more about that he understands who he is more, and he can appease both sides," He adds, "Rather than be conflicted about it and be confused, he can be like, ‘ah, I can understand these memories’ and give each person what they need. There’s more of Tyler now, and he tries to figure out with Michael and L’Rell what to do.”
When asked if there would be drama if Burnham, Tyler, and L'Rell ever got together in the same room, Latif didn't hesitate — “Yeah, yeah, I mean even just two of us is enough.” After all of the drama from Season 1, and the horrible things Tyler/Voq did, is there forgiveness for him? We’re all soldiers, we’re all officers, so there’s a lot of duty to it, you have to just get on with the job sometimes," he said, "There’s bigger things going on. We’ve got space to explore.” If he had to pick a side, does Latif think that Tyler would choose Starfleet, or the Klingons? “I think Starfleet, just because Voq’s journey came to an end he didn’t expect, and he’s gone to the other body," he said. "He’ll never be accepted by Klingons fully, whereas Starfleet he can find a home."
Can we expect more from Tyler and Burnham? Latif answers in the affirmative — “There’ll be some stuff…there’ll be some stuff.”
Then there's L'Rell, the Klingon who made Tyler/Voq what he/they are in the first place. L'Rell, played by Mary Chieffo, ended Season 1 in a position of power. Chieffo recently said in an interview with SYFY WIRE that science fiction and fantasy are our modern mythology — how did she even begin to prepare to become a part of that mythology, especially one as detailed as that of the Klingons?
“When I get nervous, I do my research," she said. "I got every book that talked about their history, I got the dictionary, I watched every Klingon-centric episode, I realized how Greek, how Shakespearean their stories were," she said, before adding, "I realized how patriarchal they were, so I leaned on all these thoughts and opinions that I had in regards to what I knew and loved. It’s great because I come from a Shakespeare background, I did a lot of Shakespeare, a lot of male Shakespeare roles, just a lot of heightened storytelling. This is a dream role in a lot of regards, because I get to actually push myself further than that with the Klingons.”
Side note: We asked her what her favorite Klingon-centric episode of Trek was, and she said she was a big fan of "Blood Oath" from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. We love that one too.
Is L'Rell still pushing the doctrine of T'Kuvma, or is she adapting it into a more L'Rell way of thinking? Cheiffo thinks she's going more L'Rell and less T'Kuvma.
“I would say it’s precisely that," she said. "The idea of unification is still the goal, but it’s become very evident that war with the Federation is not going to solve that. So you’re gonna see her come up with ways to try and unify in her own way, and that’s very scary and vulnerable for her, certainly. She’s never been given this type of power, she’s always worked from the sidelines, she’s taken the safe way in a lot of ways…gotten s**t done, mind you, but not in this capacity. She stepped out of the shadows and when you’re in the limelight, people are gonna criticize. We see that very clearly when a woman takes power, there are many different ways in which they can be attacked. We get to explore that a bit in this season."
When it comes to being attacked, no crewmember fears it more than Commander Saru, played by the legendary Doug Jones. Though we're used to seeing Jones work wonders under prosthetics in movies, we haven't really seen him do it on television before— is this the most intimate he's ever gotten with his prosthetics?
“I would say yes, this might be the most days in one makeup in my 33 years," he said. "After two seasons now. I’ve gotten to know Saru very well, and that’s what a TV series will buy you, is the chance to discover all colors and layers of a character. It’s not just one story that fits in two hours, this is multiple hours over the course of months and months of shooting and writing. I learned a lot about Saru, I learned a lot about myself playing him, too. He and I share a fear of the world out there. I’m also terrified every day. Whenever I get a new script for the next episode I always see it as a chance to fail again. So, much like Saru, I have to push my threat ganglia back in, and forge ahead."
Saru and Burnham certainly had their differences in Season 1 — are they finally past it?
“We’re good, we’re really good now," he said. "In Season 2, you’ll see more of that brother/sister relationship…not the competitive part, not the mistrusting part, but the devotion, the love, the trust of each other gets un-layered. We go through a lot together this year." He ended by saying, "Midseason you’re gonna see a wonderful connection that will bond us forever."
If the idea of Saru and Burnham being bonded forever doesn't get you excited, then perhaps nothing will.
The Season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream on CBS All Access right now.