[WARNING: SPOILERS FOR “Project Daedalus”]
This week’s episode was focused on the character of Airiam. Hannah Cheesman (the actress who played her), as well as some of the cast and crew, have been talking about this big moment in the series.
Honored for the opportunity to show Airiam’s humanity, and nerding out with Jonathan Frakes
Hannah Cheesman was the guest on this week’s after-show The Ready Room, where she talked at length about playing Airiam and especially what it was like filming the final episode. She also summarized Airiam’s nature, giving some background on what she was told by the creative team:
She is an augmented human. It was in the course of this season that one of the writers said to me, “Hannah, she is 67% human.” And I said, “Great, I have a percentage.” It was something to work with, especially in [“Project Daedalus”] where you see so much emotion from Airiam, whereas before we don’t see that much of her, and we don’t get to know her that much. So, it was a really nice way to dig into the human parts of this augmented human.
Taking on the role from original Airiam actress Sara Mitich:
[Airiam] was played by Sara Mitich in season one and I took over the role in season two. And Sara has actually become a great friend of mine since because she stepped into the role as the human Nilsson. Sara is an ex-ballerina and I am actually an ex-dancer as well. What is wonderful is that Sara is incredibly generous. She actually took a whole morning with me when I stepped into the role. On the bridge, she would say “this is where the spore drive is, and these are these are the buttons I would do for this action.” She also showed me her mannerisms, her movements, which coming from a dance background is a real gift, stepping into a role that doesn’t move naturally or very humanly. What I found is that I started with what she gave me and through the season really developed more.
Exploring the character more in her final episode:
It was beautiful. And it was beautiful to shoot it too. I am so honored that I was gifted an episode like this. As much as it sucks to not be around anymore, it was a wonderful role and a wonderful episode. And, you never know, it’s space…There’s always flashbacks. I got a human face. Something can happen.
She also said she was honored to have a role that shared elements with a famous android from Next Generation:
My family would watch TNG as I grew up, although I did watch the original Star Trek too, my sister and I would watch a lot of the original Star Trek. I know, so nerdy. I was a huge fan of Data and it was super-cool stepping into a role that was preceding Data. I loved Deanna Troi. I loved the Ferengi. Yeah, I was a big, big fan of that particular show.
Her inner TNG fan came out when she first met Jonathan Frakes on set during the second episode of the season:
The first time I met Jonathan Frakes was his earlier episode in the season and we were sitting waiting to shoot a scene and there he appears and I had only seen him as Number One before. So, there he is in the flesh, and I am there in full Airiam drag. And I just say to him “Jonathan, you were my first on-screen crush.” Which is a true story! He was my crush. Number One was the first person I had ever seen as a very young girl I was like “he’s dreamy.” He was really flattered.
Watch the full interview below:
Cast and crew say goodbye to Airiam and Hannah Cheesman
CBS released a video featuring the executive producers and stars of Discovery talking about Airiam’s exit from the show, and Hannah Cheesman herself.
Show star Sonequa Martin-Green:
That moment between Burnham and Airiam was really difficult to film…It is a twofold goodbye. When someone leaves, we feel it, and it hurts. And then it is hard to say goodbye to characters as well, because of the imprint they have made on the story. And Airiam has made such an imprint, because it is the first time we have really gotten to see someone like her, someone who has been augmented like her. We see her as a human being in flashback and then to know that she suffered this horrible accident. She chose to be augmented and now has devoted her life to military exploratory service in Starfleet. You know, I think that is really potent, really powerful.
Producer Heather Kadin discussed the irony of how building Airiam up made her a candidate to be killed off:
I think anytime there is a character you build up and build up and you grow to love, sadly, for story, the one where you go “Wouldn’t it be impactful if?” That is the one you got rid of.
— Star Trek: Discovery (@startrekcbs) March 17, 2019
Behind the scenes on “Project Daedalus”
During filming back in October 2018, Anthony Rapp shared a nice image from the set of “Project Daedalus,” and heaped praise on director Jonathan Frakes.
One of the joys of working on Season 2 of @startrekcbs has been reuniting with the wonderful @jonathansfrakes — looking forward to sharing info and connecting with fans at #nyccomiccon on Saturday! pic.twitter.com/SzaGcQ2XiS
— Anthony Rapp (@albinokid) October 3, 2018
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.