EXCLUSIVE: Mary Chieffo Talks L’Rell And Klingon Episodes Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

At the Hollywood blue carpet premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, TrekMovie had a chance to speak with actress Mary Chieffo, who plays Klingon commander L’Rell. The actress talked about the different Klingon houses featured on Discovery and what it means for L’Rell to be from two of them. She also talks about (and in) the Klingon language and gives some insight in the Klingon-heavy episodes for the season. The full video interview and highlights are below.

Getting to know the Klingon houses with Klingon-heavy episodes

So much of what we have seen of the Klingons in promos for Star Trek: Discovery is actually almost entirely from just one of the many Klingon houses (House T’Kuvma), but according to Chieffo we will learn more about the different houses and their different styles:

You are definitely going to get to learn a lot more about the various [Klingon] houses…I can promise you that you are going to get a flavor of a few different houses. And I think you are going to like those flavors.

The actress couldn’t reveal how many episodes she was in during the first season of Discovery, but she did reveal that there are a number of “Klingon-heavy” episodes:

[There are] Klingon-heavy episodes – certain episodes where you get to see what we have been talking about, which is where you get to see our side of the conversation. Obviously [Michael] Burnham and the Federation are our core of the story and so a lot of the story focuses on them, always. And then there are certain moments when you get an amazing window into what the Klingon world is like and what conflicts they are going through internally in addition to how their conflicts are arising in the Federation.

 Mary Chieffo as L’Rell

L’Rell: split between Klingon houses, with her mind as greatest weapon

Mary Chieffo also offered up some more detail on how her character deals with split loyalties between two houses:

L’Rell’s father was of House T’Kuvma and her mother was House Mo’Kai so growing up her parents were from two different houses and she was given a choice of who she was going to pledge her allegiance to. But in some ways, L’Rell is someone who knows how to compromise and work with both.

And when asked what was L’Rells signature Klingon weapon the answer was surprisingly not about a D’k tahg, Bat’leth or even a disruptor. The actress said it was her brain:

She knows how to use her literal weapons, but I think her strongest weapon is absolutely her brain, and her heart.

Mary Chieffo as L’Rell with Chris Obi as T’Kuvma

More to come from Hollywood premiere


Akiva Goldsman On Influence Of JJ Abrams Films On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Doug Jones On Saru And Burnham Fighting Over The Captain’s Chair In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

TrekMovie has more interviews with Discovery cast and crew. These will be posted over the next few days so stay tuned.


Star Trek: Discovery premieres on September 24th on CBS with all subsequent episodes on CBS All Access in the US.  In Canada Star Trek: Discovery will premiere  on Bell Media’s CTV and the Space Channel on the same night. Netflix will launch Star Trek: Discovery on Monday, September 25 to countries outside of the U.S. and Canada.

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




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Looks like we are finally getting a Klingon history lesson after 50 years of Star Trek!

Given her comments about her greatest weapon being her mind and her mother’s house being about espionage I wonder if we are going to see more of the intelligence-gathering aspect of war? That would be something new and different. Previous Trek shows have mentioned these kinds of things briefly but not really gone in depth. I also like the idea of seeing the diverse Klignon house.

It makes me wonder how Klingon-heavy the show is going to be, and if delving into their culture so much will come at the expense of moving the storyline forward. We shall soon see!

Mary has a unique look, that is for sure. She should be a lot of fun as a Klingon.

Hopefully we do get more variety of Klingon. Outside of a few key characters, it seemed they were always portrayed as a united warrior species and not particularly intelligent, which simply cannot be the case for a species as advanced as they are.

Took the words right out of my mouth. They were supposed to be Spartan-like but Spartans didn’t look down on their intellectuals the way that Klingons were always made out to be. I always thought that yes the goal for any Klingon would be to be a warrior but that there would be many Klingons who you could call spies for the Empire or scientists, etc and they would be celebrated. Where would the Klingons be without their technology? That was an aspect I was always frustrated with. It’s the bit of JJ Klingons that I did like. I wished their ridges were more pronounced but they seemed like Klingons that prime universe Klingons would fear and respect.

Trek cultures are often portrayed as very monolithic. The “Planet of Hats” trope. But there have to be Klingon scientists, workers, doctors, etc.. Otherwise the civilization couldn’t function. I hope they do expand on different cultures within Klingon society.

That’s why I liked the Klingon Augment virus in ENT, where they talked a bit about Klingon healers and their stigma

That episode was trite. Why the hell would healers have a stigma? It makes no sense at all. It only makes sense in the Klingon = warrior = glorious death monoculture. No civilization survives as a monolithic entity. The Klingon civilization would span thousands of planets, tens of billions of Klingons. Only a small percentage of those would actually be warriors / soldiers, even if that percentage is much higher than ‘non-Klingon’ societies. Thus a more logical cultural appropriation would be that a warrior / soldier class or caste exists that indoctrinates the hell out of the 95% of non-soldiers to give their class high standing. Probably they are the rulers. But to stigmatize all non-warriors is insane .

The idea that an entire alien species with a thousands of years old civilization spanning thousands of planets is a monolithic unchanging entity is ludicrous to say the least. All Klingons are ‘warriors at heart’ and aspire to be warriors, that reads like a children’s sci-fi book. Their society would be filled to the brim with non-warriors: the farmers, the scientists, the engineers, the miners, the cooks and the nurses. Yet they all want to be warriors? It might be that there is a warrior class, divided into houses, that rules over the masses that has, through enormous indoctrination, a high / legendary status. But to ascribe monolithic values onto literally billions upon billions of living, thinking beings is idiotic.

On a certain level, Star Trek IS a sci-fi children’s book.

We know they had spies like Arne Darvin. “Jim, this man is a Klingon!”

I love Klingin politics. I can’t wait until Sunday.

If the Klingon-centered episodes are handled as well as the Cylon-centered episodes of BSG, this will be a real treat.

Amen, would love to see a “Downloaded”-type episode

Sounds great that we will get to see more of the Klingon side of things, but I have to say that listening to their dialogue too me out a few times of the moment, as it sounded like a practice lesson from someone using Rosetta Stone for Klingon.