Alan Van Sprang Teases His Section 31 Role In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2

(Photo: Nathan Adams/CBS)

Actor Alan Van Sprang was a surprise guest as part of the WonderCon Star Trek: Discovery panel, joining after the bonus scene from the season 1 finale revealed his new character Leland recruiting Michelle Yeoh’s (Mirror) Phillipa Georgiou into Section 31.

Van Sprang is no stranger to genre TV; he was recently in the Freeform channel fantasy series Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, and had a recurring role as Howlyn, a leader of the Atavus alien race in the fifth season of Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict.

Following the panel, Van Sprang joined the press room to participate in roundtable discussions. We have highlights below from the roundtable that TrekMovie took part in as well another courtesy of FlickeringMyth.

Alan Van Sprang at WonderCon 2018 (Photo: Christine Rideout)

Teasing more Section 31 for Season 2

Can you tell us about how you found out you were going to be on the show? What did you think?

I’m a huge fan of Star Trek. I used to do a show called Reign, and Aaron and Gretchen took over [showrunning] Reign. They approached me and asked if I wanted to be part of Star Trek and I said sure. They didn’t know what I was going to do so we waited about three or four months and they offered me one character, but we didn’t go that way. Later, they offered me this and here we are.

It was the cliffhanger from Season 1, and they and pulled it and made it the Season 2 teaser trailer.

Does that mean we will see more of you in Season 2?


Are you a regular or recurring?

I can’t even say anything. I’m definitely part of Season 2.

What was it like working with Michelle Yeoh?

Great. Yeah, fantastic. Really sweet, really nice. I was a big fan of James Bond and Crouching Tiger. Yeah, really sweet.

Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou with Alan Van Sprang as Leland

Leland is a ‘massive’ mystery

What are you most excited for in the coming season?

It’s not only that I can’t say anything about it, which I can’t, but honestly, I know nothing about it. I really don’t. I did the last show, episode 15, that’s what you saw, and they pulled it to be the teaser trailer for Season 2. So I know that I’m a part of Season 2, but I haven’t read anything, I don’t know what I’m doing, you’d have to ask Aaron and Gretchen.

I know it’s going to be a massive part of it, but I honestly – and it’s not like I’m holding any secrets, like Jason Isaacs sitting here saying “oh I knew who I was, and what I was doing,” no, I really have no idea. But I’m definitely a big part of Season 2.

It’s a mystery which I really enjoy and I really appreciate, they’re great writers, and the show I think is kickass. I watched the entire first season [of Discovery]. I’m a big Star Trek fan, I was a big Next Generation fan.

You don’t get the scripts ahead of time? you haven’t seen anything yet?

No, we don’t get anything. We don’t start shooting until May, I don’t have a clue what I’m doing [until closer in]. But I look forward to it.

Black badge confirmed to be part of Section 31

Researching Section 31

Did you do any research on Section 31? Have you watched any Deep Space Nine?

Yeah that’s what I did, I watched all of [the Section 31 episodes of] Deep Space Nine, and I found out through him [Sloan] and the doctor [Bashir] from that show, and their relationship, and what they were doing… so I watched all of those episodes, and I think this is even more mysterious than that.

Are you doing any research into modern day spy stuff, like the CIA, or spycraft?

Yeah, when we did [the Georgiou] scene, we didn’t know if the series was going to be picked up or not. So I just found out a few days ago, so I’m just starting now. So now the research begins. There’s novels – there’s actually novels, books based on Section 31, so I’m just starting to read those. My last show I did, Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, there’s so many books on that, so I was reading those, and that was amazing, but Section 31, I’m really interested in.

Whatever I’ve researched will be helpful, because I think it’s a really interesting part of “Star Trek,” having this intelligence agency, and honestly, when I came in here last minute, they said, “You cannot say anything!” It’s like Fight Club. Like I can’t say anything about this Section 31, but I don’t even know anything! Like, I’m going into Season 2, and I know it’s a massive part of Season 2, but I really don’t know anything. But I look forward to it.

Control is the most recent entry in the Section 31 series of novels

Leland is head of Section 31

One final tidbit of information appeared in an Instagram post after the announcement at WonderCon, in which Van Sprang says Leland “heads up” Section 31:

The bonus scene

Here again is the bonus scene featuring Van Sprang, which was shown at last weekend’s WonderCon.

More TrekMovie WonderCon 2018 coverage

This our our final article covering Star Trek at WonderCon 2018. Please check out all of our coverage to get all the latest.

Interview: Mario Moreira and Gersha Phillips On Keeping It Real For ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Props and Costumes

Interview: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Composer Jeff Russo Talks New Soundtrack Release, Season 2 And More

Interview: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Production Designer Tamara Deverell On Season 2 Changes And TOS Fit

Interview: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Makeup Team On Klingon And Tellarite Updates And Borg Hopes

Interview: Jason Zimmerman Talks USS Enterprise And 5,000 VFX Shots For ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Interview: Mary Chieffo Talks Klingon Sex And L’Rell’s Future

Full Star Trek: Discovery Visionaries panel video

Interview: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Showrunners Reveal Season 2 Theme, Plans For Burnham, Airiam And More

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Showrunners Confirm Number Of Episodes In Season 2, Give Production Update

7 Things We Learned About ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2 At WonderCon Visionaries Panel

WATCH: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Bonus Scene Reveals A Familiar Storyline For Season Two

WonderCon18: IDW Announces ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation: Terra Incognita’ + Talk ‘Discovery’ Comics

Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on the Space Channel and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.

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

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“Georgiou, there’s a bald guy in a black coat here to see you. Says he wants you to join a super secret organization that isn’t so secret.”

“Tell Nick Fury I’m busy.”

What’s crazy is Michelle Yeoh is now part of the MCU as well appearing as one of the original GOTG in Vol. 2.

There was also a scene cutout where the Klingon bouncer initially didn’t let him into the bar because he looked human. Leland, the Section 31 guy then says, “No, I’m a Trill. See the tattoos?!” Klingon bouncer then says, “Sorry buddy. Go right ahead in.”

But why would the kligon let in a Trill quicker than a human?

Since the trill at this point are either members of the federation or at the very least closely aligned with the federation.
Or are the Kligons in discovery only at war with the humans of the federation and not the federation itself?

I really can’t wait to see what he does in season 2. I’m super excited about Section 31 being back and if his character is anything like Sloan we are in for a ride!

I totally agree!

Alan Van Sprang is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

Do you know the actor personally?

Manchurian Candidate reference.

Oh gotcha! Never saw that film.

What exactly is the point of section 31 in discovery???

It’s not as if the crew of the discovery were exactly white hats. Bar Saru and the doctor they were all to various degrees morally and ethically comprised or even bankrupt.

What exactly will section 31 add to the show beyond introducing more morally and ethically comprised people?

Well you could’ve made that exact same argument with DS9 itself. That crew did some pretty questionable things as well but Section 31 still tested their resolve.

And remember Burnham was the one to convince Starfleet NOT to use the bomb, so my guess is we may find out that idea came from Section 31 using Cromwell. And it would prove that there are still things they just can’t sanction.

The idea that section 31 came up with the idea and used Cromwell makes the final episode of the season even stupider.
If section 31 was involved why did they not take command of discovery and carry out the mission?
Why for that matter was discovery not already under the control of 31 throughout the show anyway?

DS9 crew actions was not remotely like discovery’s actions when section 31 was introduced.

What exactly can 31 add to discovery?

Consider in the first season of discovery there was already-

Murder in cold bold.
Illegal genetic experimentation.
Abandoning federation citizens in a kligon prison.
Under cover work in the form of Burham and Lorca.
Getting intoxicated while behind enemy lines while on a mission to save the federation.
Orders to destroy a whole planet.
Setting free a mass murder.

And that’s just a few examples of ethical questionable things they did in season 1.

Unless discovery is set a bizzaro universe where section 31 are white hats who act completely differently from they do in the other shows they are not going to add anything new to the show that has not already been done.

“If section 31 was involved why did they not take command of discovery and carry out the mission?”

Welcome to me trying to figure out STID lol. “Wait, why does Marcus need Kirk to go kill Khan or get rid of the torpedoes?? They have far more vast resources and can do it with involving a third party.” Again, as for Cromwell its all just my theory but we still don’t know about them (well don’t know anything about them here) as to how involved are they in the command structure.

In DS9 for instance they recruited people like Admiral Ross for a mission to do their dirty work but there didn’t seem to be any direct control of Starfleet itself. But yes as mentioned in STID Marcus was a direct member of S31 and was head of Starfleet so he had a lot more control and could do things like build ships and weapons. So who knows? My guess is this will all get explained though.

But my theory is that was the original idea when Fuller was in charge, that Discovery was really a Section 31 ship or least lead with a Section 31 crew. Maybe that’s what Captain Lorca originally was before they changed him.

As for your points on all the bad things they did some I agree with you, but others have been done in other Trek shows as well. And others are kind of bizarre examples. I mean going undercover is a pretty common thing in Trek. And I don’t get how getting drunk is a bad thing lol. That’s not ‘immoral’ they just had a party. Plenty of soldiers throughout history get drunk behind enemy lines. That feels more prudish than anything. And Mudd was left behind because he was an A-hole who was giving Klingons intel of what people were saying in the cell not to mention he had no love for the Federation. And the guy who left him there, Lorca, wasn’t from the Federation either. Now that I think about both Lorca and Tyler weren’t even actually Starfleet officers lol. Just pretending to be.

But I get your point overall, but none of it negates Section 31 involvement because end of the day Discovery is still a Starfleet ship with more strict rules. And yeah some were broken but remember as I said the ship was secretly being run by someone from the MU.

My point about getting intoxicated while on a mission to save the earth was not saying that it was a bad or immoral thing, it instead was something which was a radical departure from how other starfleet personal were shown to operate while on a missions. The same thing with leaving behind a federation prisoner.

The idea of section 31 in the previous shows was to be a contrast to the “good guys” who comprise starfleet. But since starfleet in discovery are already doing “bad things” how will they be a contrast to the discovery crew?

Since they already did undercover agents and lots of other stuff. It’s hard to imagine section will add anything to the show.
Grey and black works in contrast to white, but if everyone is grey there is no contrast between anyone.

Well I don’t see the intoxicated thing as a big deal, especially since they were having a party and clearly off duty. So there is no issue there, they are just being human.

As for the other stuff we just have to agree to disagree I guess. Yes they did some bad things but as said they were lead by a guy from the MU and in a war. Burnham, Tilly, Staments, Saru and Culber all came off as decent people who tried to do the right thing most of the time. Burnham did the wrong thing trying to take over the Shenzhou but she did it with the intent of trying to save lives. So I just don’t buy your argument they are people with questionable morals. To me, they just come off like people in a war who had to do some questionable things for survival like DS9 showed us.

Most of that was Mirror Lorca though, and he’s gone now.

I agree with you completely Isabella. I already find Discovery uninspiring. With the addition of the evil universe’s empress working with section 31, on top of Discovey’s ethically challenged crew, Discovery is the one that should have been called “Star Trek: Into Darkness.”
Does the world need more darkness at this time? The showrunners apparently say yes. I do not share this opinion.

Uninspiring, incomprehensible. Burnham’s character belongs in a penal colony. Nominate it, award it, it makes no difference.Gene would sue and Majel would stroke. It is an ugly anachronism. While stuffing PC at us as fast as possible, black animalistic, cannibalistic Klingons give us a picture that speaks louder than the words of the elite here to school us all. I found it too nauseous to watch and am not paying for another ‘premium’ service that leads off with this low IQ defamation of a proud concept with an amazing history. Everyone stop complaining and cancel. Dollars are the omly audible sound.

It’s a great scene and I’m typically not a nit picker, but I don’t get how a secret organization has a badge that they wear in public.

It’s easy to hide in plain sight. I’m sure they will tell us what starfleet unit that badge belongs to.

Lol. Black badges is hardly hiding in plain sight. Especially when the deliberate close ups for the audience and for Burnham call our attention to them. I’m sure the TPTB will explain the discrepancy in the first few minutes and then move on . . .

They looked like elite Starfleet soldiers. Why would S31 agents be on Discovery guarding a door? But it would make a good cover for them. So yeah, they would be hiding in plain sight.

The CIA and NSA have often pretended to be FBI agents in the past.

Maybe he’s the new Captain.

He already made it clear he has nothing to do with Starfleet.

And then he pulled out a Starfleet badge.

Which is why it doesn’t make much sense lol. And why would he tell her he wasn’t part of Starfleet if he was?

Don’t know. You’ll just have to stay tune.

Nothing to stay tuned for. He’s clearly not going to be the Captain.

You don’t know that :)

He told us his role. He’s playing a member of Section. He’s not the Captain, nor has anyone ever suggested he would be. Seriously. It sometimes feels like you are just trolling.

Section 31 lies all the time.

At least they haven’t completely change the look of the Trill’s.

“Leland” may be his cover name. I wonder if his real name is Dax? Did Dax ever have a host named Leland?

I think it would be cool if the USS Discovery fell under the jurisdiction of Section 31, and became this spy ship that has the ability to ‘Jump’ to any crisis in a flash.

Honestly, my guess is that’s probably what the ship was originally was under Fuller. Everything about the ship and crew shouted Section 31, including its hull number: 1031. It would make sense it would be them experimenting with something like the spore drive.

I’m guessing they just changed some of that once Fuller left.

No Emony would be the Dax host at this point

Tap an invisible button on your head and alien markings disappear. Star Trek Discovery keeps wowing me.

another thing DSC did to say its not Trek, that’s not how surgical alteration worked on Trek

At this point just pretend the show is set in the 25th century, then most of the technology fits right in. ;)

I’m joking, but yeah.

How would you know that?

Well maybe Section 31 isn’t *that* of a secret, and more like the CIA or black ops or something similar. We’re also in a different time period, so S31 of DSC era doesn’t have to be like the S31 from the 24th century..

Sisko and Bashir and his crew had never heard of Section 31, but there was also Starfleet Intelligence which was known. So Section 31 is a more top secret, more clandestine orginisation that does the dirty work while the Federation deny their existence and look the other way.

I think the producers of DSC forget this and mix it with Starfleet Intelligence.

I don’t think they did. In the scene, Leland implies he’s part of an organization with more resources than Starfleet. So it can’t be Starfleet. Section 31 agents probably receive Starfleet Intelligence postings (hence the black bagdes) for keeping an eye on intel, but they really are apart from Starfleet. That’s my theory so far for the black badges.

No they definitely didn’t forget, they know what Section 31 is. The guy playing the role said he watched all the episodes of S31 DS9 episodes, they clearly know how its done.

I know this is what we do on the internet, but we are waaaaay over analyzing a two minute scene with a few lines of dialogue. My guess is they will explain it in a way that will show them as clandestine but have influence within Starfleet itself. And we still have to remember this was doing a war so they have had more influence than they normally do.

I’m interested to see where they go with this S31 storyline. The idea that he “heads up” the group gives me pause though. Based on DS9 “extreme measures”:

SLOAN: It’s not that simple, Chief. There is no building, no room like this in the real world. Section Thirty One has no headquarters. These files, they exist only in the minds of a very select group of people, and I happen to be one of them.

I always thought of S31 as a decentralised organisation without a distinct leader. That being said it might be a tad chaotic if nobody was at the helm. I guess I’d be more interested in the Coulson-level agent’s view rather than the Fury-level.