Today in Los Angeles CBS held another Emmy For Your Consideration promotional event, this time focused entirely on Star Trek: Discovery. On hand were four of the executive producers along with stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Mary Chieffo, Wilson Cruz, James Frain, and Anthony Rapp, who arrived later.
The event featured a screening of episode seven from season one [“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”]. A panel discussion, which was streamed live on Instagram, followed the screening and as it was about Emmy consideration, the discussion focused on the first season. We have some highlights from what was said at the panel.
Heather Kadin talks balancing needs of fans and new viewers
Picking up on how episode seven featured the TOS character Harry Mudd, the moderator asked executive producer Heather Kadin how much they looked to servicing fans versus trying to create something new, to which Kadin replied:
A big part of the show – and everyone in front of the camera and behind the camera, is such a combination of people who are obsessed Trek fans to people who sort of liked it to people who barely knew it at all – so we talked, and still do, about the importance of it has to be true to fans, but it has to open the door to people who didn’t know it before. Especially since prior to now it has been a show and movies that appealed to an audience that has grown in age, and how do we bring in younger people who have not seen it before? And that has been what is so great about this show as a lot of us have kids who are of the age who can be watching it and exposed and brought into that tent. It has always come from a place of respecting and loving the canon of Trek, but how do we open it up to new people.
Alex Kurtzman on walking the canon line
This talk about balancing the past with the new show prompted a question for co-creator Alex Kurtzman, who talked about the approach they have taken for the look of the show:
There is a whole police squad of people who are really on top of making sure that the colors are consistent with canon and the design is consistent with canon. We are always asking ourselves “We know what a phaser looks like, but we want to make it new, but we can’t make it too new because it is actually pre-TOS, so what can we do to give you something fresh, but also stay consistent with what you know.” And that is a daily conversation on every front. That doesn’t just apply to the props and to the look of the show.
I think the films taught me a lot about how to attempt to walk that line. But as Heather said, trying to please fans but also bringing in new audiences, because that is how Star Trek has remained what it is for over 50 years. For me personally, the line between television and film is completely blurred now. We endeavor every week to make it a movie. Certainly that has been our goal this year. Hopefully we can continue to do that.
Aaron Harberts on how little things carry through, into season two
Co-showurnner Aaron Harberts admitted part of the motivation for the time loop episode with Harry Mudd [“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”] was financial, saying:
In terms of the time loop, we were desperate to save money, I am not going to lie.
However, later he noted how even with standalone episodes like episode seven, the showrunners try to work in important moments for characters and longer arcs, even into the next season:
But, when Gretchen [J. Berg] sit down and decide to do a time loop episode [“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”] we ask what do we get out of it and what are the bigger pieces that are going to contribute to this giant tapestry that Gretchen and I feel very responsible for weaving a universe. For Hugh and Stamets, that is learning more about their relationship, like the Kasseellian opera, which is something that starts there and gets threaded through all the way through season two. Little tiny things that make our characters feel alive, that continue to build on who they are and who they will become.
Martin-Green sees Burnham/L’Rell relationship as embodying Star Trek, reveals cut line
Show star Sonequa Martin-Green spoke at length about the parallels between her character of Michael Burnham and Mary Chieffo’s L’Rell:
What was beautiful about Burnham and L’Rell, is that were so many similarities between these two women, in these worlds sort of overcompensating and trying to find their voices. Also, going off of strict nurture and really being affected by the environments where they were raised in and seeking to question that and seeking to maybe even step outside of that.
What I love is having these two women who seem like enemies and realizing there is no difference between us, which is very Star Trek…There is nothing different between us. And it is something that T’Kuvma says in episode one, he says “I look at you and I see myself reflected in you,” and that is very much Star Trek. All existing things are one. These really, really powerful truths that have kept Star Trek the endowment that it is.
There is a line that unfortunately had to be cut where I look to L’Rell and Burnham says “Today, she is not my enemy.”
Mary on playing L’Rell sees herself in L’Rell, talks season arc
For her part, Chieffo spoke about how playing L’Rell has freed her as an actress:
L’Rell is almost a character that is the closest to me, because I don’t have to hold back. I am six feet tall, I have a big voice and have been told my entire life I am too intense. So, this is an opportunity for me to be all that. It has been so liberating.
Chieffo also discussed L’Rell’s arc, as the character changed by the season finale:
What’s really fun about [L’Rell’s] arc in the first season is it is misconstrued by the Federation, a little bit. She is so alien and a lot of her actions can be seen in a certain way, if you are judging her by human standards. What is so fun is to not be afraid of that, and allowing her to be as full and big as she can be and then finding ways by the end of the season, she is starting to see how the humans aren’t so bad. She has the potential to learn and grow.
Doug Jones on playing the first Kelpien
Jones delighted the crowd with a somewhat off-color joke as he talked about how he approached playing Saru:
In my career of some 30-something years, I have worn more latex than a cheap hooker. The challenge with a character is: how do I make this one different than the ones I played before. The makeup informs a lot of that. The story I am plunked into and the characters I play off of informs a lot. Saru, as a Kelpien, this is a new species in the world of Star Trek. The fact that it takes place before The Original Series, it’s like “What happened to the Kelpiens?” We’ll find out, I am assuming. So, it’s a daunting task to take on a new species and not just a new character.
Frain says being Brit helps playing Vulcan
Actor James Frain talked about how he prepared to play the Vulcan Sarek:
The whole Vulcan thing revolves around this idea that they don’t have emotion. But as true Star Trek fans know, they contain emotion. Going back to watch the earlier Sarek performances, there was one that really struck me, it was right at the end in The Next Generation, Sarek has a kind of freak out with Picard. It was mind blowing to watch. Oh, he has all that going on and he just doesn’t let it out. And that is kind of the code. It isn’t that you don’t feel anything. You feel it and then you go like that [straight-faced]. So, being British is an enormous advantage. So, all I had to do is layer in some condescension and some patronizing and basically, I was going full Brit!
Wilson Cruz on how playing Dr. Culber is life-altering
In a change of tone, Wilson Cruz got choked up as he told a story about how playing Dr. Culber, and specifically about Culber’s relationship with Anthony Rapp’s Lt. Stamets, has had an impact:
For Anthony [Rapp] and I to be playing two openly gay men and to be two openly gay men playing these roles and bringing to life an epic love story in which the gender of the love is less important than anything has been life-altering. When we talk about representation mattering, it has become clearer and clearer to me in the last year.
Just the other day I got a note on Instagram from a young man in Europe who is a big fan of the show and said Anthony and I inspired him to come out to his mother and his mother accepted and loves him completely and he thanked us for that inspiration. And for me, that is what it is about. That we get to help this generation imagine a future worth their while. We get to express to them a future where they are celebrated for their differences, not just tolerated. That our loves are equal in scope and in beauty. To be part of that is life-altering.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.