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Wilson Cruz on his return to Star Trek: Discovery, Hugh Culber, and second chances
Last week on Star Trek: Discovery, Dr. Hugh Culber returned to the show during the episode "Saints of Imperfection." On this week's episode, we started to get a glimpse of the specifics of his return, and where his story (both with partner Paul Stamets and on his own) might be going.
Wilson Cruz, who plays Hugh Culber, is delighted to be back aboard the Discovery, confirming with SYFY WIRE that not only is Culber back, but Cruz himself is now a series regular.
"Before we even ended shooting the first season, I knew that I would be back in the second season," Cruz, revealed. "And that I would continue to be a major part of the series. What I didn't know until later in the spring, leading up to the second season, was that they were gonna make me a series regular, and that I would be a regular part of the cast, and that their commitment to this character and the relationship was not just for a season or two, but for the duration of the series."
It's been quite a journey for Culber since then, and now he's back with the power of love and a little help from the power of the mycelial network.
Wilson also talked with SYFY WIRE about the space Culber occupied last season.
"Hugh Culber was the person who figured out Captain Lorca very early on," Wilson said. "He was the person who figured out that Ash Tyler was brainwashed. And he was the person who, when he died, was in the mycelial network, figured out that it was being destroyed, and figured out a way to get Paul Stamets to wake up from his coma."
Discovery's first season was one where Hugh was a source of strength, for himself, for Paul, and for the rest of the ship. But, as we've seen already, Hugh's time in the mycelial network was one that brought incredible trauma. That means an opportunity to explore not only Culber's strengths, but also his vulnerability.
"To be honest with you, that is the thing that I am the most excited about, for people to see in the following weeks," revealed Wilson. "I think anyone who goes through a traumatic experience, a near-death experience, faces a life-threatening disease and is given a second chance — I think they're forced to take a look at their lives and say, 'What worked? What didn't work before? And what am I willing to change now? Or what needs to change now?' And I think we really explore those questions, and Hugh really goes on this journey this season."
And it's a journey that Cruz feels emotionally close with. After some time working with GLAAD and not acting, he's recently had a series of roles, including ones on Red Band Society, 13 Reasons Why, and now Star Trek: Discovery as a series regular. It made accessing this new direction Culber is taking a challenging but emotionally resonant one.
"I know a thing about second chances," Cruz reflected. "And it was easy for me to tap into that feeling of 'What am I gonna do with this opportunity now? And what sacrifices am I willing to make? And how hard am I willing to work?' And so I think about Hugh in that same way, too, right? What sacrifices was he willing to make, create the life that would fulfill him the most, now that he's been given this chance? For nine months [he was] stuck in this nebulous otherworld, not knowing if he would be stuck there for infinity or not, or whatever that was. Just the unknown. Which I know very well."
Star Trek: Discovery's second season has focused on the mysterious Red Angel, as well as on relationship pairings, be they friendships like the ones between Michael and Saru, or romantic, like Stamets and Culber. And at the emotional core of that, Cruz cites the work of Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Michael Burnham.
"I think Sonequa Martin-Green sets this high bar of a work ethic and of performance that we all feel like we have to meet her there," Cruz explained. "And we're inspired by her, and then by each other. It has been the most creatively satisfying experience I've ever had. And it has forced me to use parts of my imagination and talent that have, up until this point, been untapped. I think.
"I could not be more satisfied with how the second season played out. And I am even more excited about what is planned for Season 3, and I mean that, because it's gonna blow people's minds."
Star Trek: Discovery is available on CBS ALL ACCESS, with new episodes dropping Thursday nights.