Interview: Shazad Latif And Mary Chieffo Talk Klingon Love And Politics In Season 2 Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Shazad Latif and Mary Chieffo at NYCC Star Trek: Discovery press roundtable

After the Star Trek: Discovery panel at New York Comic Con, TrekMovie had a chance to talk with the panelists at roundtable interviews in the press room. We have been rolling them out all week and today we have returning cast members Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler) and Mary Chieffo (L’Rell) talking about where we’ll find their characters in season two. Watch the full video below the interview.

Did previous Star Trek Klingons help inform your performances as Klingons?

Shazad Latif:  Not really. I always loved Worf, but reading about the history and stuff, the legends, that kind of stuff fed my imagination more, and our take on it was quite different. Also, my character’s non-traditional, he’s got his own – he’s also an outside there, so we took what we created, we were allowed to sort of run with it, which was great for us.

Mary Chieffo: The real fact of the matter, too, is that they didn’t have the prosthetic capability and so it’s finding that balance too, accepting that is part of … we know that all will be justified in canon in one way or another. But let’s celebrate the fact that we’ve advanced and we get to create these fully embodied characters. And I said, too, with the hair that [makeup designer] Glenn [Hetrick] took this one reference, and expanded upon it, because why not? Why not take the seed of something exciting and use it to justify this esthetic change, which I find very exciting. And we’ve always been this honorable culture that’s based on ceremony, and so why not make that part of canon.

Shazad Latif: I don’t think you saw that side enough in the old ones, you just saw … angry, evil Klingons. I like the calm peaceful side as well.

Michael Ansara as Kang in Star Trek's "Day of the Dove"

An angry Kang from the original Star Trek episode “Day of the Dove”

Shazad, is Tyler spending all of his time with the Klingons?

Shazad Latif: Yeah, when we first see him, he’s trying to find his place between the Klingons, between Starfleet, trying to keep that balance, he’s in limbo. He’s trying to find his place in the universe. I don’t think he will, but… it’s tough for someone like him, who’s been through what he’s been through.

He’s still trying to understand what happened to him, he’s confused, he’s got this other person’s memories, trying to do a day-to-day job with her, you know, there’s lots of things going on.

You start off, it’s good because you see the sort of grandiose Klingon world and then you hone in on these intimate scenes between them. It’s them trying to deal with those details… it’s like a kitchen scene where you see them, or a Klingon bedroom. Gardens. There’s lots of places.

Mary Chieffo: L’Rell has a garden. Fans got really excited when they saw the map of my garden.

L’Rell gets a garden

So, you are on Qo’noS?

Mary Chieffo: We’re on Qo’noS, yeah.

Tyler (Shazad Latif) and L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) in the Star Trek: Discovery season 2 trailer premiered at NYCC

Tyler and L’Rell in the season 2 trailer

Is L’Rell still carrying that bomb?

Mary Chieffo: She’s got it, in her back pocket! (laughs)

Is the bomb the source of her power?

Mary Chieffo: Yeah – that was the symbol, certainly, the actual weapon, for sure. That’s what she used to command their attention, that is always there as a potential threat, that’s what she had to do. But in the second season, it’s not about, “Haha you guys, do whatever I say.” She’s actually trying to be a leader. And trying to uphold this idea of unification, which is a legitimate and good idea. And she’s finding other ways to bring them all together, which I think the fans will get a kick out of.

Tyler and L'Rell in the Star Trek: Discovery season one finale

L’Rell’s leadership comes from more than just a bomb.

Is the story of Tyler and L’Rell a love story?

Shazad Latif: I think it is. I think it’s something we haven’t seen before… just different species. Polyamorous.

Mary Chieffo: I appreciate that we get a little of reverse Beauty and the Beast. Often times, the beast is the male character, and it’s the duty of the beautiful woman to see the beautiful man inside of him. And for me as L’Rell, I actually had to look at the beautiful man and see the beast inside of him, which I found really interesting and definitely fun to play.

Mary Chieffo as L'Rell and Shazad Latif as Tyler in Star Trek: Discovery

Beauty and the beast, in reverse

Are you interacting with the characters on the Discovery?

Mary Chieffo: We can’t tell you, yeah. I mean … we’re allies. That’s all we can say.

Are you speaking more in Klingon or English this season?

Mary Chieffo: There’s a good mixture, all with justification (laughs). That’s what I’ll say. But we are still being respectful of what we developed in the first season, but there are also really different ways to make things more accessible to the audience. It’s really fun to play with.

Watch the full interview

More from NYCC

There are still more interviews coming from all of our coverage of New York Comic Con. So stay tuned.

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. The second season will debut on All Access and Space on Thursday, January 17th, 2019, and on Netflix January 18th.

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 13th.

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

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I Love me some Klingon gals… and L’rell is one magnificent specimen

I agree. Her death roar for Voq was…intense. Much more like a Middle Eastern stylized keen or grief wail. It was more a lament than a warning to Sto-vo-kor. This is consistent with the female tradition of warrior cultures. The wail is terrifying, but it draws you in. You must grieve with her. Beautiful stuff.

Say whatever you will about the plotting and writing in S1 (I thought it was just fine, personally), but I continue to be impressed by how well this series has been cast. These are thoughtful, well-spoken, talented professionals who positively exude enthusiasm for the series and the franchise. I can’t wait for January 19th!!

Thought it was January 17th?

OOPS! Yes, 1/17/19! I had the digits reversed :)

Bonus, the season is now two days sooner :)

I didn’t like the first season much at all from a writing/concept standpoint, but I agree that the cast is terrific. Latif and Chieffo were both awesome, even when the things they were being given to do fell flat for me.

Shame they couldn’t keep Jason Isaccs on board, don’t you agree?

Absolutely agree.

I really hope they can bring him back as Prime Lorca, and for more than 10 episodes. I think it would be interesting to watch Discovery’s crew discover a different man who looks like one who betrayed them; who has secrets of his own; and who is trying to get back on track with his Starfleet career in a captaincy.

if they don’t bring him back to play Prime Lorca it’s just a waste!

Lorca was already a waste when it was decided he was really a one dimensional mustache twirling bad guy.

I’ve seen several people use the “mustache twirling” line, but I disagree. I still liked the character, and I liked that he was trying to survive in the prime universe knowing he could be caught at any moment. It was like the glimpse we had of Mirror Kirk in the first Mirror Universe episode; what if he had managed to fool everyone and survived for a long time pretending to be Prime Kirk? He would eventually have been revealed as a “mustache twirler.”

Personally, I think the worst part about social media in the era of Pak Tv is that everyone’s a critic. In the end this is still just a space opera about some people doing stuff that could never actually happen, based on what we know about physics. I don’t have a problem with the bad guy just being, ya know, a bad guy. If you really want to nitpick, there are MUCH bigger issues. The biggest problem with any Trek shows made in the 21st century is the utter absurdity of having something as complex as a starship relying on “helmsmen” and “navigators” and “captains” who do things like push a lever to go to warp or who say things like “hard to port!” and “evasive maneuvers.” I mean, let’s get real. In another decade or two we won’t even be driving our own cars anymore; the idea that humans would be responsible for moving a spaceship around in space (as opposed to it being based on autonomous computing/AI) is completely ridiculous. That may have seemed to make sense when the show was first created, but things have changed quite a bit in the five decades since then. But it wouldn’t make for a very interesting narrative structure to just have people sitting around while the computers did all the piloting, so we suspend our disbelief for the sake of storytelling.

Make that shame they had to ruin a great character.

I think they missed the mark with their comment of “you just saw angry and evil” Klingons in TOS while defending their new ceremonial nature.

Klingons in TOS were cunning, smart, and a worthy opponent on par with the federation. They weren’t particularly “evil” or always just “angry”

I would be far more scared of what Kang was plotting for the week than what TyVoQ or L’rell would be plotting for the week.
TOS Klingons weren’t dumbed down nor did they sound like whimpering targs.

Yes that’s true, they are (almost) a match for Kirk and crew and they are the best crew in Starfleet at the time. That makes them exceptionally dangerous opponents. Not just in the ship to ship confrontations either, which were impressively played out like cat and mouse, move and countermove. For instance, how they were interfering with planetary developments by arming the primitive societies with more advanced weaponry than they had developed on their own, therefore gaining new allies and controlling them. This was a particularly clever strategic thing to do as it could have lead to multiple threats springing up against the Federation all over the place.

I think the addition of Kang from “Day of the Dove” is muddying the waters a bit. Besides which, that episode is a great example of a peek into Klingon domestic life. Kang’s wife Mara is a central part of the story and the first Klingon woman we ever saw. She has considerable influence over Kang. This particular image is not “angry.” He’s deeply conflicted here, but he mustn’t show weakness. Kang is one of the most honourable Klingons you’re going to meet.

Koloth trades witty barbs with Kirk (a difficult task even for Spock).

Kor is the wildcard. He’s ruthless and icily intelligent. His short occupation of Organia is Stalinesque. It’s no surprise we find him kind of unhinged in DS9.

Ehhhh…. Kang (who I wish was used more throughout Trek as his DS9 episode was a reminder of how amazing he is with a voice to rival the best) was cunning and smart but other than that, TOS Klingons were generally angry and/or evil.

There were three main Klingon characters. Only Kor seemed to be an “angry” Klingon. Koloth, by virtue of being in a lighter episode was more of a happy Klingon. And then Kang was cool calm and collected rather than angry. So it would seem that generally TOS Klingons were not angry.

TOS Klingons were interesting, but since then it went downhill with them. DIS Klingons are the worst of the worst. They even managed to make them more stupid than the Klingons of the TNG/DS9 era. Before I saw season 1 of DIS I wouldn’t have thought this was possible! TNG/DS9 Klingons were already unbelievable ridiculous and horrible. But somehow DIS went to new lows with them. They are super boring and annoying.

L’Rell also doesn’t make any sense. She was all for uniting the Klingons and destroying the Federation. So why the hell did she stop the attack on the Federation? With her bomb she could force them to unite and give the Federation together the rest. It would have made her position stronger and it is much easier to rule a happy race than an unhappy one. Conquering the Federation completely under her leadership would have been a big win for her and the Federation was as good as completely conquered already. So why withdraw?

The only reason I can see is off screen. The DIS makers wanted their happy end in the final episode. So the Klingons, who were about to destroy/conquer Earth when L’Rell gave her speech, needed to stop with their attack. So they came up with the bomb and make L’Rell act totally stupid. Because the alternative, the Federation activating the bomb, would have also not be a “happy end”, because it would have been far away from Federation ideals and would have broken canon in a big way, likely even for the DIS makers a too big way.

Nope, I have to say DIS Klingons at least are less of a pirate parody. Klingons on DS9 and TNG were essentially like comical pirate cavemen unless it was a key character. I mean you literally had to ask yourself sometimes, how the hell did these people ever even make it into space? Enterprise going into explanation that the TOS Klingons were lesser Klingons because of augmentation/affliction hurt the lore in my opinion.

I will look forward to this: “ And for me as L’Rell, I actually had to look at the beautiful man and see the beast inside of him, which I found really interesting and definitely fun to play.”

“An angry Kang” – heh, that was a bit of a jab, I suppose – I’d even go as far as to say that Michael Ansara’s portrayal of Kang really set the template for the way Klingons would be portrayed in the future (i.e. far from one-dimensional). But yes, as I’ve repeatedly said myself: Constant TOS-bashing makes neither the crew, nor the cast look particularly good. And I wonder how they seem just not to realise it – those people obviously aren’t dunces after all.
With that said, I’m always ready to cut Latif and Chieffo – yes, those two in particular – some slack, for as far as DISCO-Klingons go, they portrayed the only characters that had some depth to them and they portrayed them phenomenally (even though in Latif’s case it was a bit difficult at first – as Voq, I had a bit of a problem taking him seriously, but as soon as it became clear why Voq’s diction whenever he was speaking was so awfully strange, I couldn’t help but applaud his ability to portray two characters that felt and sounded so very different).

I REALLY did not want Klingons in Discovery. After a re-watch of DS9, with season after season of Klingons in every form, I was pretty sick to death of them. Even though Dorn’s Worf got deeper through the years, I was just tired of the whole “warriors” ooh-rah culture.

And these new Klingons come along with what, IMO, were overdone prosthetics [doubling an actor’s lips, for god’s sake], and voices deep in their throats, and … over time, they came to be much more interesting than the 24th c. Klingons I was used to. Despite the doubled lips, Chieffo and Latif and Mitchell enunciated their characters beautifully.

Devious, threatening, torturing, yet somehow honorable Klingon L’Rell, who is tender with someone she would physically cripple to keep; Voq, Torchbearer and devotee of T’Kuvma, who chooses a life he will have great difficulty understanding and accepting; and Kol, arrogant, manipulative, and cruel, who [SPOILER] gets his comeuppance. Chieffo and Latif brought actual tenderness to their interactions during their mission to the Shenzhou. These Klingons were ALIEN. They had an alien culture, not just the spouting about honor and being warriors. They had deep souls, substance and motives.

Well, it’s a matter of taste really. I for one just deemed TNG/DS9-Klingons FUN more than anything. And fun is something I didn’t really get out of DISCO-Klingons.
But I see where you’re coming from (and I’m also cautiously optimistic that there will in fact be a bit more fun to be had in DISCO S2). But if one was to pit DISCO-Klingons against Berman-era Klingons, the only real difference I see is that Berman-era Klingons, excluding Worf (mostly), could be somewhat goofy and just pretty darn stupid at times, whereas DISCO-Klingons are mainly “super-evil” and quite disgusting – although that excludes the Voq/L’Rell-storyline.
So in short: If you exclude “hero-Klingons” in both versions, what you’re left with isn’t really too deep or interesting in either version. But I for one would still root for the “classics” because to me there was just too much darkness and bloody violence in DISCO S1 as a whole.

I feel like for a lot of people, DS9 did to the Klingons what Voyager did to the Borg. I still love them but I can understand how some people needed a rest and probably wanted more Romulans. You can see the excitement build for what Enterprise was slowly leading to.

I think it is more because Romulans have been underused and people were looking forward to actually perhaps seeing the Earth Romulan war as opposed to yet another Klingon skirmish. Pizza is great but you can get tired of it if you have it every other day for a year.

I’d like to see what Discovery could do with the Romulans. We know that until Balance of Terror there was no face to face contact but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Romulans were trying to stir things up with the Klingons. You could easily imagine them striking some sort of deal with the traditionalists who don’t want someone like L’Rell in charge.

Now that’s a story I’d love to see

“…we know that all will be justified in canon in one way or another. But let’s celebrate the fact that we’ve advanced and we get to create these fully embodied characters.”



I always disliked the ‘love stories’ where a character must love another character only because in another life they loved them, in spite of loving someonelse in their current life. All that crap. So annoying and clichè.
I think Tyler’s feelings for Michael are more real and him going with L’Rell was forced as a resolution of the unexplored triangle. It feels like they made him the bad guy for a moment just to have a pretext to put him away from Michael and end their relationship. I guess it’s like in ‘good old trek’ where Kirk&Co could fall in love only if they never had a chance to have a long lasting relationship and their love interests were disposable.