STLV17: Actors Discuss Different Klingon Houses In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ + First Image of Kol Revealed

The actors panel at Star Trek Las Vegas featured members of the cast who were not at San Diego Comic-Con. On stage were Mary Chieffo (Klingon commander L’Rell), Kenneth Mitchell (Klingon commander Kol), Sam Vartholomeos (U.S.S. Shenzhou Junior Officer Connor), and Wilson Cruz (U.S.S. Chief Medical Officer Hugh Culber).

Kol revealed – a different Discovery Klingon

Much of the panel was dedicated to talking about the Klingons, and included the first reveal of Kenneth Mitchell’s Kol. The actor explained how his character may be more like Klingons we are used to:

He is very complicated. He leans more towards some of the Klingons we are familiar with. He is very powerful. He does have a line I can paraphrase which does explain some of these things. He says “All I see is another attempt by humanity to rob us of our identity.”

And Mitchell later revealed that Kol is from the house of Kor and Mary joked “you might have heard of that.”

Kenneth Mitchell as Kol

Different houses – different Klingons

Mitchell got more specific about differences between the Klingon houses during the Q&A. A fan said he felt the Klingons on Discovery look too different from previous iterations and asked for reassurance that “we are not losing the Klingons we know and love.” Mitchell explained we have only seen some of the Klingons from Discovery:

The images that you have seen so far are one house led by T’Kumva. Today you just saw the first image of [Kol]. So even in the wardrobe it is starting to venture to the more traditional Klingons. More leather and a different set of armor. And the series itself is going to explore 24 different houses and the leaders among them. And you will find different complexities and different ideologies amongst those houses. And so what you have seen already in these images is mostly just from one house. You are going to start to explore further into the Klingons, and each of those houses has a different set of physical looks and variations as well as ideologies.

Mary Chieffo also provided some more detail on her character and her house  … or houses:

L’Rell is from two houses. She is House T’Kumva and House Mo’Kai [Editor’s note: The one canon reference to House Mo’Kai was in Voyager‘s “The Killing Game Part 1”]. You get a great kind of interesting exploration of what it is to be of two different ideologies.

She also weighed in on the design of the Klingons. She used L’Rell as an example:

Obviously the hair was the biggest thing people noticed, or the lack thereof. And I will attest to the fact there is a reason my ridge goes back the way it does. There are sensors and pheromones…There is a whole reasoning behind it that is adhering to what has always been true in Klingon canon…So I deeply believe we are in line with what has come before but is also adding a new kind of nuance.

Mary Chieffo’s L’Rell is a member of two Klingon houses, T’Kumva and Mo’Kai.

Compassion for the Klingons

The war with the Klingons is the backdrop for the show, but Mary Chieffo noted how the Klingons are not portrayed simply as bad guys:

The compassion we are giving the Klingons – who you could say in this story are bad guys – but the way the writers so beautifully crafted this story we really get a window into who we are, our humanity or Klingonanity…It is not black and white. The world is not that simple. People on both sides do things that they regret and they do things that they are proud of. Both sides have a deep, deep capacity to love and to feel.

Speaking Klingon makes a difference

One big piece of news that came out of San Diego Comic-Con is that the Klingons will speak in Klingon with subtitles on Star Trek: Discovery. After demonstrating some Klingon speech, Mary announced that the person handling the translations is Robyn Stewart, whom she described as the leading Klingon grammarian in North America. There is also a dialect coach who works with Robyn and is on set every day to work with the Klingon actors.

Kenneth gave some more detail on the process:

It’s an incredibly complex language. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with [Klingon language inventor] Marc [Okrand]. But it is complicated for a reason so it feels alien. Because it is incredibly difficult and I don’t speak the language it takes a lot of muscle memory to memorized each separate syllable over and over and over. My kids think I am crazy walking around my house reading out these lines. But at the end of the day it is worth it. It adds such an amazing texture to the show and a real essence to help the audience learn about the culture.

Mary noted how using the Klingon language was a way to adhere and expand Trek history.

There been much so much discussion about adhering to canon and speaking the language. Sticking to the roots of this series is giving the Klingons a 3-dimensional quality. It makes sense that when we are speaking to each other we are speaking in our native tongue and really adding a fluidity and nuance. Robyn does these great back-translations so you get the meaning of each word. Marc Okrand wanted it to be as alien as possible, as opposite of English as you can make…we don’t take it lightly in taking the amount of time it takes to make sure each word is pronounced correctly.

Mary Chieffo and Kenneth Mitchell talk about speaking Klingon

The importance of Hugh and Paul’s relationship

Wilson Cruz was asked about the relationship between his character and Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp), and he noted why portraying Star Trek’s first gay couple on TV is important:

For anyone who doesn’t understand why this is such a big deal, it is because there is a kid out there who is going to turn on his TV sometime in September or October and he is going to be a young little boy or girl who is questioning their sexuality or orientation, and they are going to see two men love each other and be there for each other and support each other and be in awe of each other’s genius. And it isn’t going to an issue. It’s not something we are going to explain to you. It is just going to be what it is.

Wilson Cruz says portraying one half of Star Trek’s first gay couple on TV is a “big deal”

Their Star Trek histories

The actors started off talking about their experience with Star Trek. Mary said she started getting into Star Trek with the 2009 movie which lead her to review all the other movies and much of the other TV shows, noting:

I have really fallen in love with the franchise as a whole.

Sam said that when he was a kid, his dad got him into Star Trek, and he remembers really loving the whales in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. He said he really got into the movies and now said it was an honor to be part of it.

Kenneth said he was familiar with Trek but didn’t really get into it until getting the job on Discovery. As he is playing a Klingon, he has been reviewing the Klingon-centric episodes, noting “Errand of Mercy” as a standout.

Kenneth Mitchell has been studying up on the Klingons from TOS

Probably the one with the oldest connection to Trek is Wilson Cruz who said his real introduction was with Star Trek: The Next Generation, calling himself “obsessed.” He also relayed this story from after he got hired on the show:

I wrote a little note to [showrunners] Aaron [Harberts] and Gretchen [Berg] and to the head of CBS casting saying “Thank you, because as a young Latino kid in Brooklyn and in the Inland Empire [near Los Angeles] in California, all I ever wanted to do is be on Broadway and be on Star Trek.”

Sam Vartholomeos got into Star Trek watching it with his dad

Stay tuned for more from Star Trek Las Vegas including more coverage of Wednesday Discovery panels and interviews with the actors.

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WHilst I like the detail of the different Houses of Klingons, with different idealogies – I wonder if we’ll ACTUALLY see previous physical incarnations of the Klingons milling around in the backdrop of some episodes ( or will they like be just implied )? I feel we probably won’t see them, but I would be pleasantly surprised if we did.

I’m of the opinion if you add hair to these Klingons, the redesign would look less drastic.

Yep, they kind of look like the TMP Klingons but without the hair.

Agreed – it would be enough to tie them to our familiar Klingons

I too hope we get see some different ones that help explain how they all fit into the Star Trek Universe. That even includes, for me anyways, Klignons with no ridges.

Any news coming out of STLV17 about Nick Meyer’s so-called “secret Trek project”? Too many youtube channels who SHOULD know better ( ‘What Culture’/Midnight’s Edge’ ) are running – and continue running – with the idea that it is a TV show ( separate to DSC ). I do not believe this for a second.

In my mind it’s either a comicbook or perhaps some sort of computer game.

This is going to be very interesting, while at the same time, rather intimidating. 24 Klingon houses… C’Mon…It was hard to keep track of 6-8 houses and hundreds of names on GOT… but 24?I really hope the traditional Klingons will be part of this, and in the end win that “Civil War” within the Klingon Empire to make way for the late 23rd / 24th century Klingon looks…

I don’t really expect them to delve into detail on all 24 houses. That would indeed get heard to follow. My guess is there will be a small number of “hero houses”, i.e. houses that get fleshed out. The rest will be “background houses”, i.e. you may say members but you won’t get too much detail.

@DIGINON — I disagree. I’m not into Klingons like some fans, but I can only imagine that this will open up a whole new immersion into the franchise for them. Even if the series doesn’t provide intricate details of each house over the course of what could be a long run with multiple spinoffs like during the Berman era, it will give the fans a rich world in which to expand on in official and fan fiction. It can only make the Klingons more fascinating. Regular fans don’t need to follow all of that as you suggest. But the point is — it’s there.

I wonder if the show will focus on a few while the rest of the 24 houses will be fleshed out in the books and comics that are supposed to accompany the series? The IDW Star Trek comics do something similar. They had a story for example, in the comics, about how they got the ship they used to go from the Enterprise to Kronos in the movie Star Trek Into Darkness. If u wanted to know how they got that ship u read the comics. If you didn’t want to know it didn’t hurt the story. It just wasn’t as in-depth as it could be.

“he is going to be a young little boy or girl who is questioning their sexuality or orientation, and they are going to see two men love each other”

Always good to have it laid out so honestly.

There’more to that quote you know. As he explains, the show will have these things and it won’t be treated as a big deal. It is very similar and similarly important to how people like Whoopie Goldberg and Mae Jemison were able to grow up watching Uhura on screen, living life in the future.

I dunno, American TV shows have been pretty much dripping with homosexuality since at least the late 90s. It’s not like a young sexually disoriented kid nowadays needs Star Trek in order to help them orient themselves (even if they somehow managed to avoid all the diversity edutrination in the school).

Kind of like how American TV shows have been pretty much “dripping” with heterosexuality since at least the last 1940s.

“turn on his TV sometime in September or October”

I thought this was streaming show.

I watch CBS All Access on my TV, and a lot of people watch Netflix on their TV

These streaming services are TV now. That’s why CBS is trying to launch this service. Not long in the future, streaming will be the primary way TV is watched.

For a lot of people that future is already here. I can count the broadcast TV shows I watch on two hands with fingers left over. Pretty soon I think I’ll be down to one hand. Streaming shows, OTOH, are a list longer than my arm. There’s just so much more diversity and adult-oriented stories that interest me without condescending to me that are available on premium networks like HBO and streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, et al.

I think broadcast TV will be around for another couple of decades, if for nothing else than live events and sports. Its days are definitely numbered, though.

I love the idea of seeing different houses and ethnicities of Klingons, reflective of the range of folk here on our own increasingly messed up homeworld . Just curious about the recently releases photos of Mary Chieffo and Ken Mitchell’s characters who both appear purple. I know some people will point out that Klingons have magenta-purplish blood and I’ve no issue with a range of skin tones on the Klingons – in fact I think that helps flesh out their species – but it feels like possibly the biggest departure in the new look. Or maybe the tone just a effect of the lighting setup?

It could definitely be the lighting. Then again, they may feature Klingons with different skin tones, just like there are different skin tones on Earth.

Could be a combination of things. Rewatched the first teaser and the howling Klingons all appear to have slightly different skin tones to one another.

Also, for TV and movies make up appears one way to the naked eye or on a still photo, but is that way because it appears differently under set lighting and the cinematographer’s set up and directions.

Well, we’ll find out soon enough. 😊

@Karl — remember the original TOS Command uniforms were lime green, not gold. And in many episodes after the remaster this is readily apparent. So there’s that. But this appears to be a candid shot, or a PR photo using different lighting from the series. They need to stop that, because the most recent pictures of Klingons I’m seeing from this series of photos looks horrible. I mean cheap-bad, not as good as TNG makeup.

I never realised that about the old uniform colour @curiouscadet – I must go check out those episodes again on netflix. I’d disagree with the make up job looking cheap, but it certainly looks far more encapsulating of the actors’ faces than TNG era. Hopefully in motion with the right lighting and cinematography it’ll look good.

Is that a starfleet badge on Kol´s left chest? I can even see 4 small rank pins…

I’m starting to think T’Kumva will not live very long past the premiere.

So now the klingons are Blue too? jeebus. Why do they screw around with the looks so often? like I get the transition from TOS to TMP/TNG/DS9/VOY because of budgetary reasons and then Season 4 explained in-show why they looked like they did in TOS … But for close to 40 years they’ve looked one way and the mythology we’ve seen and heard on the shows NEVER gave this look.

Yet, the Vulcans dont get any changes – ever

Were there black Vulcans before Tuvok? I had no idea.

There was an Asian Vulcan in Star Trek III (and though it was after Tuvok, Betty Matsushita played T’Pau in VOY). But even the Vulcans have changed looks, somewhat. In TOS and the TOS movies, it was much more typical to see a variety of hairstyles on women Vulcans. In the Berman-era, women Vulcans were far more likely to have the bowl cut. And in the Berman-era, there was a subtle difference to the makeup skin tone, when compared to the TOS/TOS movies look. Vulcans played by white actors tended to be made up with an olive complexion, rather than the very slightly green, or no, tint in TOS/TOS movies, and in the JJ movies, where more non-whites played Vulcans and Romulans.

@Eric — the bowl cut has to go. It’s one thing to see a popular hairstyle, but on every single bloody Vulcan, AND their distant cousins the Romulans!? Ridiculous.

Agreed! It looks totally unnatural. I remember seeing an audition or test tape of Quinto on the Star Trek 09 BluRay with his hair brushed forward but not quite in that static bowl haircut and it looked far more natural. (God knows what the production teams budget for hairspray is!)

Let’s not forget that the Romulans got a pretty decent makeover between TOS and TNG. On TOS, they where almost indistinguishable from Vulcans, but by TOS they had the prominent forehead ridges themselves.

The makeup on the Tellarites evolved as well, from 60’s primitive to 2000’s modern.

So we have had some species evolve… none as drastically as the Klingons, but evolution just the same.

Just imagine 24 Klingon houses fighting for the Tritanium Throne (which was forged from ten thousand bat’leths, no less). This is gonna be huge.

actually gotta lol at this

All of this deep exploration into the Klingons doesn’t interest me in the least.

” And the series itself is going to explore 24 different houses and the leaders among them.”

Sheesh. I’d much rather see 24 different alien worlds and the new life and new civilizations on each of them. They better be some SERIOUSLY interesting Klingons.

If they do their job well and each Klingon house is distinctive, introducing a new house will be like seeing a new alien world with a new civilization.

If we’re getting the House of Kor, I want at least an appearance by Curzon Dax!

So for canon sake has it always been explained that’s how many main houses were in the Klingon empire? I can only remember few of them. I’m just curious. Would love to see Worf’s house show up!

BTW, love the look of Kol. That looks like one guy you don’t want to mess with. ;)

“…Mary announced that the person handling the translations is Robyn Stewart, whom she described as the leading Klingon grammarian in North America.”

That lost a word from the actual announcement. She was described as the number-one *female* Klingon grammarian in North America. Which I think is weirdly specific.

High council members shown in episode 1-2 look exactly like these klingons , “quote : The Empire is very big. They don’t all grow up on Qo’noS. They don’t all live on the same planets and certainly those different planets would have different environments. So how would the cultures have evolved differently?” We tried to come up with cultural axioms for each house so each looks different and they bear a cultural patina like our cultures do here on Earth.” which is BS since episode 1-2 showed the high council being exactly like the rest