Star Trek: Discovery stars and producers walked the red carpet last Thursday evening in New York to celebrate the premiere of season two. We continue to bring you interviewers from the event.
We got a few minutes with the always effusive and insightful Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), who was sporting what she described as a “celestial goddess” look for the event that included a “sparkly pink nod” to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Jadzia Dax.
You’ve talked about how L’Rell is going to have this new sensuality – what are you bringing to that in season two?
Chieffo: A lot of L’Rell’s journey in the first season was actually coming to terms with that and understanding that she could use that. And you know at the time, she was using it to invoke Voq, bring back the love that they had. In this season it’s certainly more visual, she’s trying to embody a more classically feminine esthetic—we get the cleavage, we get the dresses, beautifully designed by Gersha Phillips, who has just done incredible work. I say it’s “Klingon couture” and it’s designed for my body and size. So that’s been amazing, to have people literally crafting outfits for me.
But beyond that, on a technical level, I found that with that visual, I decided that her journey … she was also trying to find out who she is as a woman and as a leader. So often we say that ‘Oh if you have a certain sensuality, a certain femininity, you can’t also embody this image of strength and power.’ And with L’Rell, there’s something that almost surpasses gender in a certain way, because she’s alien. And it’s something certainly from our human eyes, that can’t quite – we’re like ‘Well, she is a woman … she’s got boobs …’ but she’s doing – and certainly in the first season, being so androgynous in a lot of ways [like] not having hair that we so strongly associate with being feminine. Now she has that, it’s a time of peace, the larger political reason why the hair is there. But for me, visually, it was like, ‘Oh, what does it mean to embody that femininity there, and does that negate some of my power or does it give me more?’ And I think it’s not something she’s discussing with Tyler constantly in the show, but I think it’s there. And there’s a lot of fun stuff you’ve seen in the few little trailers, there’s some fighting going on in the dress, and that was one of the most empowering experiences. Ginger Rogers is like ‘backwards in heels‘? Backwards in heels with prosthetics, and a dress, and carrying two large Klingon weapons, so I’m really excited for the fans to see that.
I think I also have always appreciated that she is a strong female character, but she is flawed, and she’s made mistakes, and she admits her failures, which is a very un-Klingon thing to do. And in this season we are getting to lean into that, have those kinds of quieter conversations a little bit, and I’m interested to see what the audience takes from that.
Are L’Rell and Tyler a couple, are they together?
Chieffo: (laughs) It’s complicated! It’s very complicated. Yeah, I think I have problems! It’s complicated. There is a real respect that they came to at the end of the first season, which is that there was love between Voq and L’Rell, and there was love between Burnham and Tyler, and now Tyler embodies both of these entities. We get to talk about it.
[Enter James MacKinnon, stage left …]
Cheiffo: He’s my lifeline, my savior. My incredible artistic inspiration who tolerates all my heartbreak pop women music that I play in the trailer.
MacKinnon: I put a little 80s, heavy metal on just to freak it up a little bit.
Chieffo: We go back and forth. It’s a good symbiotic relationship I think.
Are you going to see L’Rell and Tyler really have it out and hash through their relationship?
Chieffo: Yes. I’ll be very interested to see exactly how the audience responds, but conversations are had, that was very very important to me, that you at least get to see them touch on the topic. I can’t say much more than that now, but it’s coming. Don’t worry. We’ll be having full-fledged discussions very soon, I promise you, ’cause it’s a lot to unpack. But that was very important to me. I was very grateful that we were given that opportunity.
So it’s an ongoing thing and not just a quick resolution.
Chieffo: Yes. It’s never quick and easy with the Klingons.
(Asked by another interviewer) So as L’Rell grows into her role as Chancellor, does she experience any of the same kind of pushback women do in leadership roles? Is that something that’s prevalent in the Klingon Empire too?
Chieffo: Yeah, that’s something I was actually really thrilled about, is [that] Starfleet is this ideal where we’ve kind of surpassed that in a lot of ways, and so L’Rell is actually one of our few opportunities within a Star Trek context to really explore things that we’re seeing so clearly in 2019, 2018. I say too, and again we’ll be discussing in full extent soon, but a lot of what began to manifest in the first season—you saw how Kol treated L’Rell, and that’s part of why she says, “But I am no one.” She literally does not see herself as significant because her society has told her so. And so now that she has been given this power, it’s exactly that: how does she maintain it, but also, maybe find compromise. I’m really excited to see – and I will also say, the caveat of that, it is still mythology, it is still very heightened, it is Greek and Shakespearean. So for me, embodying this storyline is about reflecting a mirror to our society, like this is the extreme of where we could go, this is what we have to understand is kind of the extent of the female power. And it’s pretty epic. You’ll know when you see it what I’m alluding to. It’s pretty intense.
(Asked by another interviewer) Did you have to do as much ADR [Automated Dialog Replacement] work this year as last year?
Chieffo: I did not, actually! Funnily enough, I went in for the session, and I had a handful of things, and I was like, ‘So what about those other scenes?’ and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, the prosthetic, it doesn’t–‘ (indicates it doesn’t interfere with her speech) and I was like, ‘What? What do you mean?’ because I was so used to being able to kind of tweak my performance, and so now I just have to trust that it all worked. But it’s better for everyone that I don’t have to re-dub every single one of my lines.
More from the season 2 premiere
There is more to come from our red carpet coverage of the season 2 premiere in NYC.
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 debuted on All Access and Space on Thursday, January 17th, 2019, and on Netflix January 18, 2019.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.