Interview: Anthony Rapp And Wilson Cruz On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2 Fitting With Trek Traditions

Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz 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 Anthony Rapp (Lt. Commander Paul Stamets) and Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber). What is up for their two characters is one of the bigger mysteries about the second season and the gathered press did their best to push them for details. Watch the full video below the interview.

Without the spore drive, what is Stamets’ role now on the USS Discovery?

Anthony Rapp: He’s also a really brilliant scientist, and the research is set around mycelia, the mycelial network. There are still applications of that science. And there’s also, though, a real question of ‘now what?’ And that’s something that really is being explored from the beginning of the season and I think in a very meaningful and human way.

Stamets uses a device on Tilly from the Season 2 trailer

Is there anything specific you can say about Culber’s return?

Wilson Cruz: What I can tell you is that we will get to know this person in a really deep way. I think we hit upon the surface last season, and I think we really get to know who he is, this season.

Can you say if you’re wearing a doctor’s uniform or some mycelial wardrobe?

Wilson Cruz: That’s why I’m not in the trailer, I can’t tell you any of that. Because literally, if I answered any of those questions, it would be a clue as to what is going on.

Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Culber (Wilson Cruz) in the Star Trek: Discovery episode "Vaulting Ambition"

Culber still exists in the mycelial network

What does the Stamets/Culber love story say to the world?

Anthon Rapp: What it says to the world, to me it has always been a very adult relationship. Two human beings who are different in many ways, and balance each other out, accept each other for who they are, like that was the little story Stamets tells Burnham in episode 7 last season – he essentially told him to shut up, and he was like, okay, that’s who you are and this is who I am and they immediately just respected each other being honest and open. So that’s something I think that is meaningful unto itself. I know very specifically for the Star Trek fan community – one of my best friends has been a part of the Star Trek fan community for forty-something years, and there is a pretty large segment of the Star Trek fan community that is LGBT. And it’s been hungry and yearning for some direct representation. You know, they got the moment in Deep Space Nine of two women kissing, but there was gender identity that was a part of that that was not, you know … these are two cisgendered men in a relationship. And that is something that has been meaningful and resonant within the community itself.

Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Culber (Wilson Cruz) in the mid-season finale of season 1 of Star Trek: Diiscovery, "Into The Forest I Go"

Stamets and Culber share a moment before Stamets starts his 133 jumps in the season 1 mid-season finale.

What is the Stamets/Tilly relationship like in season 2?

Anthony Rapp: She’s the person that Stamets can be vulnerable with, and talk openly about stuff that I don’t think he would talk about with anybody else. In season one, there was the really nice scene in the cafeteria, in the mess hall? That kind of stuff? And then she helped him out so much. I mean, all of those seeds were planted and I think they’re just bearing fruit in wonderful ways in season two, from the first episode on.

She’s safe haven … but she’s also a brilliant scientist unto herself, so that they also help each other with the “science-ing” of things.

Stamets confides in Tilly in season one’s “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”

Tilly and Stamets share a fun math appreciation moment in  the season two first look trailer released in July

Anthony, as a fan, how do you see season two fitting with traditional Star Trek?

Anthony Rapp: Anson touched on this at the panel, but it’s just the sense of exploration that I think is just brought home a little more again in our show, which was always the intention … there was always this long game of we start out with this war and this chaos and then we get back to sort of what leads to what it became? But you kind of have to go through the darkness to come out the other side. And I think that this season will connect those dots in ways that will – it’s certainly satisfying to me, as someone who knows it pretty well. So I feel very strongly that it will be satisfying to the people who have been following for all these years.

The USS Discovery goes exploring

How has working on Star Trek changed your lives?

Wilson Cruz: I think I appreciate this character, this cast, the stories more and more as this current administration exists. Every day, I am happy to escape to … 2255? .. and escape the realities of what’s really happening here. On a personal level, I’ve been doing this for 30 years and it’s some of the most challenging and satisfying work that I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. So it’s changed my life in big ways, in terms of how I deal with the world and in my personal life, it’s been very satisfying.

Anthony Rapp: And I got to do some stuff twenty-something years ago that changed my life, and I thought that would be my peak experience, and I was willing for that to be my peak experience, so to have another peak experience is just … I feel like I’m living in the bonus round of all bonus rounds.

Wilson Cruz: What he said.

Anthony Rapp: And so it’s just like a gift, an overflowing gift.

Anthony Rapp in Rent on Broadway

Anthony Rapp starring in Rent on Broadway in 1996

Cast of My So-Called Life in 1994

Wilson Cruz and cast of My So-Called Life in 1994

Does Discovery carry on Star Trek’s tradition of getting political?

Anthony Rapp: Yeah. It’s just not as directly about Republicans, Democrats, anything, but yes, it’s always about social issues. One of the main ways that we have been doing it is by presenting this diversity of the population of our show without ever … those facts of their lives, they don’t matter beyond the fact that they just are what they are. So that’s one of the ways that we do it.

Wilson Cruz: Which in an ideal world would be the case, right? So we present it that way. But I think throughout its history, Star Trek has used the medium of sci-fi in order to get into the human experience. And our show is definitely no different.

Watch the full video

More from NYCC

There are is just one more interview coming from NYCC. Check out all the rest of our New York Comic Con coverage.

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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If there was just one thing that I could’ve changed about last season, it would’ve been the ill-considered decision to kill off Wilson Cruz’s Doctor Culber. And now I am worried that the one thing I will have wanted to change about season two is the way that they bring him back.

I loved these two as a couple, but as much as I want to see them together again, unless there is a sufficiently organic, Star Trekkian solution that brings Culber back, it’s going to feel like a copout. I hate that.

Pretty sure that little spec that floated into Tilly is Culber and that device in the trailer sucks him out of her. So, yeah, not sure if that’s a copout or clever or an escape hatch for the writers.

Eh, likely it’s going to be a clever copout, just like the biggest cliffhanger of them all, The Best of Both Worlds was a copout at the end with FIRE! doing absolutely nothing. (Of course that was because the writer didn’t know they were actually going to come back the next season).

Isn’t that not more like a carbon copy of “Search for Spock”?

Well, they are kinda’ searching for Spock (he seems to go missing quite a bit in Star Trek).

@Denny C: That’s what I was thinking.

It almost seems too obvious?

Oh, that’s right, they can’t ditch that subspace fungi nonsense because that’s Stamets’ speciality. Can’t they transfer him to another project? Maybe director of angel research? Please no more enchanted fungi vision quests.

I would prefer Fungi over Angels like all the time!

In der Kindheit frühen Tagen
Hört ich oft von Engeln sagen,
Die des Himmels hehre Wonne
Tauschen mit der Erdensonne,

Daß, wo bang ein Herz in Sorgen
Schmachtet vor der Welt verborgen,
Daß, wo still es will verbluten,
Und vergehn in Tränenfluten,

Daß, wo brünstig sein Gebet
Einzig um Erlösung fleht,
Da der Engel niederschwebt,
Und es sanft gen Himmel hebt.

Ja, es stieg auch mir ein Engel nieder,
Und auf leuchtendem Gefieder
Führt er, ferne jedem Schmerz,
Meinen Geist nun himmelwärts!

Mach mein Tag! (pig German version of ‘make my day’)

Du mich auch! (pig German for “same to you”) ;)

Purely to be nitpicking, but the first one would have to be “made my day” (“Du hast mir den Tag gerettet”), and the second one translates (“Du mich auch”) to something rather not so nice, not to “same to you”…

But that’s why it’s funny :-)!

I didn’t say it wasn’t funny ;-)

In the 70s in highschool german, everything was butchered German. We’d say ‘spater, mann!’ when leaving. Seemed funny to me and Bob Mosko, at least.

As with Shakespeare, Wagner is always better in the original Klingon, ya’ know.

They’re so cute together!

Still say the way they handled Culber’s (ahem) “death” was pisspoor. Telling us he would be back one second after the show aired was a HUGE mistake. It really took a way from the ONE “holy crap!” moment the show had in it’s entire first season. The producers handled it very very badly. Like they handled most things in season 1.

>> Still say the way they handled Culber’s (ahem) “death” was pisspoor. Telling us he would be back one second after the show aired was a HUGE mistake. <<

I pointed that out to Discovery cheerleaders (that its not "bold" to "kill off major characters" if you're just going to bring them back immediately and tell the audience that) and they actually compared Discovery to the death of Spock in Wrath of Khan, and claimed it was a "fact" that Spock's return in Star Trek III was planned while they were filming Star Trek II. That was total BS. Spock's death was a genuine gut-wrenching shocker at the time and was MEANT to be permanent until the HUGE success of Star Trek II turned things around. I noted that Culber's "death" was more akin to Kirk's "death" in the Wrath of Khan ripoff scene from Into Darkness. Not surprising, Alex Kurtzman was in charge of both.