Sonequa Martin-Green Addresses Her “Star Trek: Discovery” Character, Show Format, and Canon

Photo by Gage Skidmore

While official news of Sonequa Martin-Green’s casting as First Officer Michael Burnham was just announced this morning, Martin-Green has begun discussing her new role with The Hollywood Reporter and TVLine.

UPDATE:

Martin-Green also spoke to Vulture about Trek.

On Past Star Trek Shows

I love the original series. It’s my favorite out of all of them, and I just love the dynamic between Kirk and Spock. All the characters on the show had rich relationships. I found myself just keeping it on in the background when I was doing a lot of my work when I first started.

Discovery Will Be a Different Type of Show in Star Trek Canon

When asked about the differences between her role as Burnham on Discovery and as Sasha on The Walking Dead, Martin-Green told The Hollywood Reporter that “being the first officer on the ship is going to be a wild ride because we haven’t seen that happen before in the Star Trek canon, we haven’t seen the story be told from the perspective of the first officer rather than the captain.”

Martin-Green continued,

“it’s going to open up so much potential for new storylines because not being the captain automatically gives you a different perspective. It’s going to be a wild ride and everybody on board — in front of the camera and behind — I’ve been floored by the performances on The Walking Dead from the beginning and I’m going to be astounded again by the people we’ve got assembled on Star Trek. I’m really excited.”

Speaking with TVLine, Martin-Green addressed the tone of Discovery, saying:

“this iteration of Star Trek is going to have a different take than the others in the Star Trek canon. It’s going to be bigger, rawer and grittier… and the story’s going to build on itself. It’s going to be a tremendous journey.”

Martin-Green on Her Casting, Transitioning Between Shows

In comments to TVLine about her casting, Martin-Green said that she is “swimming with the gratitude of it, and that’s carrying me through.” Martin-Green appears to still be pinching herself, noting: “I’m still blinking to see, ‘Is this real? Oh my goodness. But I hope that I can bear the weight, if you will, of this legacy and of this story, because I certainly want to do it justice.”

When asked by The Hollywood Reporter how quickly she transitioned from shooting The Walking Dead to Discovery, Martin-Green related that “there was a little time, but not too much! It was pretty back to back. There were the holidays, which were nice. There were definitely the holidays to sit and think a little bit about it.”

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.com.

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“this iteration of Star Trek is going to have a different take than the others in the Star Trek canon. It’s going to be bigger, rawer and grittier.” Oh I can just hear the endless complaints mounting from “those” fans. I am damn excited for Discovery and in saying that its bigger, rawer, and grittier only makes me that much more excited! There have been many great shows (not just sci-fi) since Enterprise ended in 2005, a lot for Discovery to draw on, that being said we all know TV has changed in 12 years. Adapt, enjoy the change and stop the relentless complaining.

No complaints there. Bigger and grittier is the way to go. The only thing I’m worried about is that they’re still somewhat trying to appeal to canonites.
Why not TOS canon out of the airlock altogether, building a new version of the 23rd century? It’s impossible to imagine a 2017 series to be set 10 years before a 1966 series tonally and design-wise. Reality has outgunned Trek technologically anyway (touchscreens, Iphones etc.), so why keeping up that “canon”?
It’s like Gotham being conceived as a direct prequel to 1966’s Batman series… just weird.

Sounds great to me.

I’ve followed Trek for 50 years , and I know a lot of people who have watched it for decades and like the on-going story , as do I . Why do you want to throw all of that out just to draw wildcards ?

“It’s like Gotham being conceived as a direct prequel to 1966’s Batman series… just weird.”
That’s a great analogy, Smike. But Batman was first conceived as a comic, and has gone through dozens of iterations, both in comics & TV & movies; there’s no definitive version. [You could argue that DC even has multiple, disconnected versions simultaneously in production now, between Gotham, the Justice League movies, and the Flash-Arrow-Supergirl TV shows, not to mention whatever they’re up to in comics.]
Trek, though, somehow has kept itself together for 5 decades without throwing out canon; even the Kelvin-verse flicks are at least nominally connected to TOS & the rest, through the gimmick of the 2009 story. It’s pretty impressive to have 700+ hours of shared filmed history, relatively consistent within itself.
I have an open mind, I’m looking forward to Discovery, but I think they can do a kick-ass show without tossing TOS out. Can’t wait!

Is anyone asking for tonal & design consistency? I’m sure there were people that complained when Klingons got ridges, but that’s certainly not the type of canon that concerns me. All I want is a story that expands on what we’ve seen and know rather than rewriting everything for convenience sake.

What has kept Star Trek going is the ongoing, evolving universe. It’s a story, where Batman is mythology. They just aren’t comparable. I certainly don’t want to keep seeing Kirk meet Spock in the same way Bruce’s parents keep getting killed.

There were people who complained in the *60’s* when some Klingons were white and some were dark.

Well, if you throw Star Trek out of the airlock, why bother calling the show Star Trek at all? That would be like making boeuf bourguignon out of pork legs and grape soda. There’s simply no point in doing that, unless you want your guests to feel cheated and sick in stomach. ;) We don’t need “a new version of 23th century”. We need one thing: imagination (which is, I believe, what writers are being paid for). There is reason in Star Trek design. For example: why are Star Trek communicators so barebones? Because they’re field equipment. They are built to last a decade in extreme conditions of a hostile planet – not to be sold to status-obsessed teenagers and discarded after a year for a new model. They’re built to be repaired in the field and impromptu modified for many tasks – not to be thrown away when they break. Show the audience how awesome communicators are, and nobody will mind they look like 1960s makeup case. Tricorders – why are they so huge? Well, obviously they have a huge data capacity and an extended array of sensors. It could record a raw data stream from the Guardian of Forever, which entails essentially all of the human history; can your iPad do that? Once again, show the audience how advanced the technology is. It doesn’t have to be tiny in order to be advanced. And finally, why is the ship so plain and simple-looking? Because it was built by… Read more »

“It’s like Gotham being conceived as a direct prequel to 1966’s Batman series… just weird.”

That’s a terrible analogy. It sounds like it’s based on the idea that all cheesy 60s TV shows are identical. 60s Batman was a campy reinterpretation of the superhero for a general audience that producers assumed weren’t really that into the original Batman. If anything, its parallel is the 2009 reboot.

60s Star Trek, on the other hand, defined the concept–its ideals and ideologies. Period. Doesn’t mean it can’t evolve or change in some respects, but 60s Star Trek articulated an ideal that has guided the others (often in new and exciting directions).

That said, I hope for nothing but the best with Discovery–regardless of how it fits the original series.

Agree 100% So looking forward to this!

I’m with you. I haven’t found anything to complain about yet. OK, there’s the streaming thing, but I’ll deal. Everything revealed about the story and characters I’m completely on board with so far.

I like it a lot. An edgy show is exactly what is needed. I’m much more excited for this show than I was a few mere months ago. If they eject canon for good storytelling and characters, go for it. Make Spock a gay pink vulcan horse for all I care.

I could not agree more. This sounds fresh, different and original. Bring it on, I can’t wait.

Agreed. And well said.

Still a prequel though, so not much exploring.

Even if it was young Kirk, or young Pike on the Enterprise, there’d still be lots to explore. Comics, books, and other media has explored infinite stories set prior to the original series. There’s something seriously wrong with you.

The anti-Prequel crowd are hilarious. They should be happy. If this series is good enough for the people that get it to enjoy, then the more simple folk who dont get it will be overjoyed.

Exactly, TUP. I sometimes think that at least a third of the people who post here hate Star Trek. (Cap’n, I’m not saying that about you, so please don’t mistake my meaning. I was speaking generally.)

And that’s the only issue that will kill this series, CBS access is a bad idea as UPN was a bad idea.This is what happens when people get greedy.Something in the brain shuts down.All they see is green and they don’t think it all the way thru.As much as I want to see this series, I will not pay for it.I pay enough for cable as it is.Time to make a stand folks.The thing to do is what we do with politicians, make phone calls, somebody has to answer the phone and let CBS know ”You want me to watch this series and up the ratings no CBS access”.Believe it or not, it works because when enough people let them know your not happy and won’t watch that means to them they might lose more than a series they might lose their jobs!.Because of what happened with our elections last year people are awake to not only Washington but everything.We all can see the BS with CBS access and the reality of they just want to fill their pockets more!They could show this series on the CBS network like any other series yet they try to BS us because it’s Star Trek, not cool at all.

I disagree. There are times in TNG & Voyager where references were made to prior events/phenomena without too much information divulged, leaving room for exploring. Specifically, there were multiple comments made on how Star Fleet had gotten first contact wrong on multiple occasions. So much to discover! Open your mind 🖖

Thats silly to say. There is still tons of exploration because while its fairly close to TOS its still in an era we haven’t seen or hear much about. We know the bigger picture with people like the Klingons or Romulans but as a whole we really know little. My issue with prequels is they can’t go big but they can still be different. Just depends on the writers end of the day.

I still wish they went farther into the future but this is honestly sounding more and more like a soft reboot like the KT films so it may not even matter all that much if canon is not as important going forward.

It’s a false notion that “prequel” means “not much exploring.”

She got better and better as “The Walking Dead” progressed, and was doing genuinely excellent work by the time she was done. If that trajectory continues, I think she’s going to be great.

I have no issue with “bigger, rawer and grittier,” but I do wonder why you would try to add Harry Mudd into that mix.

In in either way, though.

Really? I can see Harry Mudd being a really cool element in a Grit Trek setting. Just because he’s a goofy Han Solo type doesn’t mean he can’t be threatening. I would watch a show that centers completely around him.

Go back and watch “Mudd’s Women”. Mudd was incredibly gritty. If they don’t miss this opportunity, Mudd can be the character he was always intended to be — manipulative and dangerous.

Harry Mudd’s first appearance involves him basically engaged in human sex trafficking. I’d call that “gritty”.

Spockarific,

Odd, I never thought of the HERE COME THE BRIDES television series being gritty before, or Jason Bolt and Aaron Stemple being inspired by the character, Harry Muddd in yet another STAR TREK connection?

I love the attitude she brings to this. She seems genuinely grateful and humbled to be a part of Star Trek canon. I also watched her exit interview from The Walking Dead on The Talking Dead, she has a an emotional intelligence that I think will be very valuable to leading this series. Not to mention coming from one tight-knit cast and crew (of which she was clearly beloved), and being the lead, I think she’ll set set a good vibe, tone, and chemistry with the rest of the cast.z

I am so excited to see what she can do.

I’m really looking forward to that first trailer. And I’m glad they haven’t rushed it out. It is SO important to get that right.

I think she’s going to knock this out of the park. Seeing how emotional she was to leave The Walking Dead a day ago but now seem to really grasp the legacy of Trek is what gets Trekkies excited. And I love its going to be raw and grittier. We haven’t had that since DS9. Thats what a lot of us been wanting to see in Trek again. We already know the show will be different but it may be VERY different just based on these comments. Good.

Its just great she’s really embracing it. Its still strange we are getting a new Trek show and crew.

I blanch a bit when something new is described as “grittier”, it seems like such a go-to word that often doesn’t carry much weight behind it. Hopefully this is grit done the Star Trek way, not just grit for grit’s sake.

I wonder if the show will jump right into the middle of the action, or if we’ll see the crew(s) assembled. Fewer episodes would seem to point toward a quick start.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies made a ton of money and they were ‘gritty’, I know, let’s make gritty _________ (fill in the blank).

To me gritty just means realistically believable. I watch Trek from the 90s [Voyager…] and the acting and tone is just so unbelievable to me sometimes. It’s SO 90s. I like shows that take themselves seriously but are still fun.

Actually, DS9 was good (and often criticized too) for being a darker and grittier series, especially after the first few seasons. But it’s also held up a lot better than the others too. And then one of DS9’s main forces went on to do the new BSG, which was darker, grittier, and for the most part well-received. So there are lots of other reasons besides Nolan’s Batman to consider the darker and more realistic route for this series.

Are you a Granite State trekker? lol

All of these comments must be from CBS employees.10 out of 10 ppl do not all like something.
I can not make an accurate judgement on the show till I see it but I can say this. There is a lot I do not like and nothing I do like. If the stories are there I can block out the ugly ship and the continuing sjw agenda Hollywood is shoving down our throats.

Thankfully, people like you will lose to history and the inexorable progress of civilization.

History repeats it’s self.

“History repeats it is self”
That is what you wrote.
Just thought you should know….

I wouldn’t be so sure of that, and I don’t think your idea of “progress” corresponds to mine.

What is your idea of progress, to get rid of everyone who isnt a straight white male?

When you were born, none of that mattered. What made you a bigot?

That’s not very Star Trek of you.

Also, what’s a little Freudian slip between friends?

Kinda tells me you are semi-aware of your privilege, and you’re afraid of losing it.

A majority group beginning to gain equality (women), and other minority groups making social advancements (LGBTQ+, minority races, historically disadvantaged groups, First Nations, the non-neurotypical, the disabled, those of different religions, or no religion) — is NOT oppression.

I mean, how can we enjoy a show about an imaginary future if we don’t have the imagination — or the courage — to think that the future is for EVERYONE and not just people who look like ourselves?

People like that tend to see everything in life as a zero-sum game, Fred. If blacks, women and LGTBQ folks are making some long-overdue social advancement, whites must be losing theirs. Not very Trek of him, as you say.

“sjw agenda”

You mean principles like IDIC? Or thoughts like, “Alexander, where I come from, size, shape or color makes no difference.”

I think you’re in the wrong fandom…

Size, shape and color are all superficial traits. You seem to think you have moral superiority towards someone who does not blindly spoon up the dogma of political correctness.

I think you’re in the wrong period.

Yes, those are superficial traits, which should not be used to judge others. Does not being prejudiced based upon those superficial traits equate to “political correctness” in your mind?
Try again, this time with a coherent thought.

Have you even watched the show, raffie? Are you just in it for the cool laser battles? Because there’s this other, deeper layer and thesis going on you should probably be aware of….

What SJW agenda? And how is it being shoved down your throat? Because they have a character who is a woman? A character who is black? A character who is gay? *gasp*. You do realise you live in a society with women, blacks, and gays right?

So sad to see wrap themselves in such BS excuses to spout their bigotry. I hope none of you have children.

Sorry to nitpick, but I am noticing occasions when TrekMovie headlines are a bit misleading compared to what was said in the article. She didn’t really discuss the format of the show, more its tone; and the headline might give you the impression she talked about how it aligns with canon, when in fact she just said having first officer as main character was new in the canon…

(And is that even strictly true? The ensemble nature of all four sequel shows meant there were often episodes which had non-captain viewpoints)

“this iteration of Star Trek is going to have a different take than the others in the Star Trek canon. It’s going to be bigger, rawer and grittier…”

I’m not sure I like where this is going…

Please, don’t tell me there’s gonna be some BS “red matter” which is going to change everything about the Trek canon.

You could say the same thing about Battlestar Galactica. I loved the original Lorne Greene version in the 70s as a kid, but they reboot was amazing. Bigger, rawer and grittier … it was a perfect scifi show that stayed true to the original.

Amen, BSG is the perfect example of gritty sci-fi realism. Game of Thrones is gritty fantasy realism [medieval realism, technically]. TWD is gritty zombie realism. The best television is believable above all, and to me Trek has always been better when it’s gritty and realistic rather than campy and flowery. It can still be fun either way. BSG was a bit depressing at times; I don’t think Trek should tread in those waters.

Trek ultimately has a different message, so I don’t think that would be a problem going as dark as BSG. What might be interesting to see is real relationships between crew — i.e. those looking to get promoted, those making bad decisions and dealing with the aftermath, etc.

BSG was a bit depressing at times but that was because of its premise (most of humanity being wiped out). The premise in Star Trek is much more positive over all.

I’m actually watching The Expanse literally as I type this and I sort of see that as BSG’s spiritual cousin in terms of its grittiness as its also very realistic in its approach to space and the issues that could happen several centuries from now. Expanse and BSG just feels so different from Star Trek on so many levels. Some good but also some not so good, mostly the bleakness of it being the biggest negative.

I think if Discovery feels more harder edge that would be fine but still has to feel optimistic in its approach. DS9 probably wasn’t considered an optimistic show but it still had a tone that everything will be ok in the end. And it was actually a fun show a lot of the times. There was a lot of comedic and upbeat moments in it. I like Expanse, but I don’t think I have laughed once the entire time I watched it. I probably can count on both hands I laughed when I watched BSG. That was the problem, they are depressing shows. Feels more real and grounded but not ‘fun’ the way Star Trek can be.

I wish it all the best, but I’m wondering about the comment that “we’ve never seen this perspective.” I mean, sure, the main character has always been the captain, but, on the one hand, a *lot* of episodes (and movies) were about Spock, Riker, Kira, T’Pol, etc., and, on the other hand, the first officer is the person closest to the captain. Is seeing things from her perspective really that different from the captain’s, compared, to say, the perspective of Anonymous Red Shirt Number Four?

Besides it’s not correct. In DS9 we had a lot of different perspectives. Quark, Odo etc.pp. were often more important and/or interesting than Sisco’s storyline.

And I also don’t think it could become bigger,rawer or grittier than DS9. I hate it when they all forget about DS9 and its innovative ideas.

Anonymous Red Shirt Number Four would make for a long and prosperous Trek series! Or a great 45-second landing party YouTube video.

Yes, because there’s a different power dynamic and set of ethical issues; do you obey orders or not? When do you disagree?

Remember the DS9 pilot? I liked that it showed the lead character, not a captain yet, as being a strong person who had some deep-seated trauma (Wolf 359) and blamed Picard for the loss of his wife. Picard was played as cold, remote, bureaucratic, even a little authoritarian; intentionally, he was made less sympathetic than how he was played on TNG.

I’m kind of sad they never revisited that relationship towards the end of the series, it would have been a nice touchstone.

Yeah you are right. Actually DS9 even had no Captain for a long time.

Anyhow if bigger and grittier means it will be more like DS9 … Do it do it. Voy and ENT were a step backwards in respect to Storytelling, they were made like a 80s show, like TNG 2.0. DS9 was the only ST show that realized what modern storytelling will develop into.

I think perhaps what they’re getting at is that we WON’T see things from the Captain’s POV (i.e. there will be information kept from the main character AND audience).

What I don’t want to see is another Star Fleet/Federation conspiracy or a bunch of Section 31. A little of that is fine, but when it goes to the level of Star Fleet is overall run by a bunch of maniacs – that’s where it goes too far.
Overall, the UFP and Star Fleet should be upstanding and an image of where we want to be. The conflict needs to be from who we meet – not from the government, citizendry, or allies.

When talking about the change of tone – that’s what concerns me. The 23rd century is where we should want to be, not a reflection of our conspiracies and issues with our governments and differences of today.

The question is, will humans be flying around in starships like the Enterprise in the 23rd Century? Will humans make it out of the 21st Century without destroying itself?

The future is both exciting and very terrifying!

I’m one of “those” fans. Nothing wrong with dark and gritty. Loved the new Battlestar Galactica, and in the context of survival from a interplanetary genocide it totally made sense. But if you are going to turn Star Trek on its head why call it Star Trek? Why not make something else? (Beyond the obvious answer of shaking the franchise money tree that is). Federation Seal Team 6 is not Trek in my book (BSG maybe; Trek no). Plus it is boring: A new bad guy seeking revenge–again (worked in Wrath of Khan, but now a regurgitated Trek cliche); an unstoppable alien force making the Federation the underdog–again (worked in Best of Both Worlds, but now a regurgitated Trek cliche); a starship we know and love destroyed in battle in some dramatic way and replaced with a new version (worked in Search for Spock, but now a regurgitated Trek cliche); big explosions. Nothing wrong with some action and adventure, but how about a little of the exploring and less of the war Trek. Part of the reason it is good to see Trek back on TV is so it can tell smaller stories and not just the blockbuster cliches. How about a little science fiction in the mix? I hope Discovery brings us a little less of the cliche and doesn’t just xerox the current zeitgeist. Guess that makes me one of “those” fans, because I want to see more than ominous threatening music, scowling bad guys, and boom, boom,… Read more »

Under your definition, the BSG reboot would not be BSG (because it does not share the same tone as the original),and yet you’re accepting reboot BSG as a baseline. If reboot BSG can be BSG, then Nu Trek can be Trek.

Not at all, because I see Star Trek as aspiring to something a little bit higher than the original BSG. The original BSG was solely post-Star Wars, action/adventure, cheesy kiddy fare (I remember the original well and enjoyed it as a kid, but as an adult not so much). Not that TOS did not share some of those same attributes–it wasn’t high art by any means–but it aspired to be hard-er science fiction (Therefore, despite the cheese of TOS I still enjoy it as an adult–there is more there). TOS had some philosophical underpinnings that don’t jibe with darker/grittier. In short darker/grittier won’t improve upon Trek. Even the original BSG was based on a post-apocalyptic exodus–the reimagining, especially post-9/11, makes total sense. A darker/grittier BSG vastly improved upon the original and gave the show more depth than the original.

I like that, aside from the Discovery itself, we’ll get to see some new, canon, TOS-era starship classes aside from just the Constitution class.

Gritty with more shoot ’em up action?

They should have called the show “Gritty Gritty Bang Bang”!

I’m hoping they just mean that the stakes will be more realistic. Less Kirk fighting a Gorn and more Jon Snow vs a White Walker…but scifi instead of fantasy.

i dont have a problem with another prequel,just, if you are going to do a prequel, then make it a prequel, both in design and story,now,if they explain why the ship looks more advance and why and again no problem,well,i say that, was not the enterprise one of the most advance ships in the fleet,personally i would of sooner the story set after Spock vanished

I agree that its important to respect the look and feel of the era. There are things they can update given the differences in 60’s technology versus today but they must be careful to respect things. otherwise, no point in choosing that era to explore.

We shall see if they do.

I’m looking forward to this show. I’m trying to not get my hopes up, though. Lowered expectations, and all. When I hear “gritty”, I don’t get the warm, fuzzies. I like the casting and that the production team isn’t rushing it to air. LLAP.

It would be cool if they went back and explored the butthead aliens.

That one story with Captain Pike barely scratched the surface…..

A bit confused… A female character named Michael or what?

I have many thoughts on how different DSC will be due to the decision to NOT make the captain the lead. You can read them here: https://organizingprinciplesblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/star-trek-discovery-will-be-a-different-kind-of-trek-part-ii/

Phew, lots of people here ready to gobble up whatever CBS shovels at them. Everything about this series just sounds awful. I hope my fears are unwarranted but modern entertainment media is nearly all drivel. I’ll go in expecting the worst and hope I’ll be pleasantly surprised rather than going in expecting the next big thing and being disappointed.

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