Yesterday the cast of Star Trek: Discovery, along with executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin, attended PaleyFest LA in Hollywood. TrekMovie was there to bring you highlights from the event.
Kurtzman says Roddenberry’s vision is needed now more than ever
The panel started out with showrunner Alex Kurtzman responding to a question about what it is about Star Trek that endures, where he pointed to the show’s creator:
Gene Roddenberry created a vision of the future that was defined by hope, and that was marked that the idea of that the best of us will endure in the future in which diversity was an assumption. It really was an amazing thing and the more I have got to know about Gene’s history, the more I understand he really was a visionary beyond all the ways in which he has already been defined. He saw something that nobody could see. I think that need for optimism, that need for hope, that belief that the bridge crew comes together as a family and ensures our survival, is a message that endures because we need it to, now more than ever.
Michael Burnham is on a journey to the captain’s chair
When discussing the development of Discovery, Heather Kadin pointed out how the show has a different approach for the lead character Michael Burnham:
What was important and unique about this character was to have a character that wasn’t yet captain. All of Star Trek for years you have been following an established captain and the journeys they are taken, but you haven’t really got to experience the journey itself of getting there. And that is such a relatable quest for people.
For her part, Sonequa Martin-Green spoke about what it meant to her to be cast as the lead in the series:
I always want to be able to communicate what it means [to be cast as lead in Star Trek: Discovery], but I don’t think I can. I can continue to try. It is overwhelming as an artist, and as a human being. As a woman of faith, it is overwhelming, for so many reasons. Because of the franchise and how long-standing it is. Because of the impact it has already had. Because of how vast the universe is. Because of these kind of people I get to work with. Because of the complications in the story and character. Being a black woman in the midst of all this diversity we are championing, I can’t really describe it. I think it lives beyond.
Why Ethan Peck was cast as Spock, and why he has a beard
One of the biggest additions to the second season was the introduction of the character Spock. The casting process was long, but Alex Kurtzman revealed that why Ethan Peck was chosen:
I could tell he was thinking and feeling so deeply about what to do with this character in a way that honored everything, both with what Leonard [Nimoy] brought to it what Zach [Quinto] brought to it, but also, I could tell he was just going to immerse himself in the part and live it constantly and fully. He was asking very deep and thoughtful questions about it…He had been doing lots of work just on the tactical of the material without necessarily bringing all the attachments to Spock to it. And that is what I was looking for the most. Who is the human being in there? And how is this not just going to be a performance you have seen two other really excellent actors do. How do you honor what is there, but also bring something new to it. I saw his thoughtfulness. I could tell he wanted to bring a volatility to it, which I thought was totally fresh and interesting. And it inspired us in how to write Spock, which is a version of Spock you haven’t fully seen yet. You have seen shades of it, but not fully. And in all our conversations he kept saying: “I’m terrified.” And we would say “it’s okay, you should be.”
After the moderator joked about all the beards on the show, Alex Kurtzman took it as an opportunity to talk about why Spock has a beard on Discovery:
Spock’s beard was a real choice because we hadn’t really seen him like that – he had long hair in The Motion Picture – but it says a lot about the state he is in when we first meet him. He is clearly not the neat, ordered, manicured Vulcan from TOS, or any iteration of Trek. It sort of announced, this is not going to be what you expect. It doesn’t mean it wont get there, but it is not going to start there.
Tig is ready for more Reno
So far comedian Tig Notaro has only been seen in a couple of episodes, playing the acerbic engineer Jett Reno. The role was created for her by Alex Kurtzman who has known her for years. At the event Tig leaned into her dry wit describing what it was like:
I honestly thought I would just do an episode or two and then be on my way, especially because I did a terrible job…My first day, and actually the first two episodes I was like “oh my gosh, I cannot remember these words.” At a point a director came out and actually sat on set and just fed me my lines. I wrote Alex an email apologizing and said I know you said you wanted me as much as I am available, but I think after you see the footage you may change your mind. Please don’t feel you need to keep me, no hard feelings. He told me after that e-mail he decided to make my dialog even harder…I was on my own show, that took place in Mississippi which is where I thought I belonged, and now I am in space. And I having a blast, I have to say. The cast and crew – after I did my first two terrible episodes – I was: “I would love to come back and work with these people. It’s really so much fun, except for Anthony [Rapp].”
Culber needs time to get used to his (pristine) new body
When asked about Hugh Culber’s post-resurrection breakup with his partner Paul Stamets, actor Wilson Cruz provided some context, with a bit of levity:
I see it as this man who has come back from the dead is trying to figure out how to live. I just think he is trying to save [Paul Stamets] a little trauma by saying: “You know what, I need a minute to figure out what this thing does.” [points to his body] Because it’s pristine, I don’t know if you noticed.
Stamets actor Anthony Rapp picked up on this topic as well, saying:
We are still in the midst of this and things continue to evolve. We are grateful that we were given something authentic and complicated and rich. If you were to come back are you just going to wash your hands of that and be done? That is sort of the old way of doing TV. Things would happen and characters weren’t changed by them.
The topic wrapped up with Cruz noting that Culber is taking a Marie Kondo approach to his new life:
I love the fact that we – the writers and Alex – took an opportunity to say who is this person? Let’s figure it out and flesh him out. I love that Hugh is kind of looking at his life and seeing what sparks joy. I have this second chance at life. What worked before and what could have been better. Maybe there is some stuff that doesn’t work anymore because this is a new life and a new opportunity.
Saru’s Kelpien revolution was a Trek story waiting to be told
Doug Jones talked about the big change for Saru in the second season, going through Vahar’ai:
I did not see that coming. The character of Saru was developed with the understanding that he is based on fear. He has a predator species on his home planet that keeps them in line and brings us to our demise when it is our time, and that is all we ever known. So with episode 4 this year, when I saw the script I was “Oh!” So, the threat ganglia fall out and I have a new sense of self and no fear. For me personally, that has been a ride to go on because I live my life in fear. I understood Saru before and now I am inspired by Saru.
Alex Kurtzman picked up on the discussion to explain why the writers took Saru in a new direction in season two:
Doug’s range is extraordinary that we felt like we have told the story of what it means to live in fear, so what happens when you go the other way. It was just a tremendously different dramatic opportunity. And then the question becomes: how much fear is a good thing? What happens when you jettison it entirely? I think what touched us most as writers was the story about somebody who felt this planet was where they were the lemmings walking off the cliff, and there was one person who said: “I don’t think I want that.” And he wasn’t allowed to think that way, so he had to make the biggest sacrifice, which was to say I am going to give up my family and follow my heart, believing there is something better for me. That is the kind of story that demands consequences and he comes back to the world sees what is happening is a very complicated fractional relationship with his sister. But ultimately it is his courage that ends up freeing the Kelpiens from their bonds too. So, had he not been the one to have the courage in the beginning, his planet would still be enslaved. It was just a message that felt very Trek. What is exciting for us is that it is not a closed chapter, there is a lot to learn from that choice.
How the hair helps L’Rell
Season two also brought hair back to the Klingons. L’Rell actress Mary Chieffo explained how she saw this as important for her character’s arc:
She literally and metaphorically let her hair down this season. I do think it has been really fun to play both with the hair and the Chancellor aesthetic…This combination of femininity and power which I believe exists, very strongly and something that we need to see more of. With the hair and the beautiful head pieces and the design, it’s all about this feminine archetype, which I think is very, very important to explore and very, very proactive and interesting. So, for me, as in that final speech I had [in “Point of Light”] the woman with that crazy metal thing on my head and the long, draping motherly ensemble, it just feels deep, and Greek, and Shakespearean. And I think the hair really does help with that.
More from PaleyFest LA
In case you missed it, we also covered Alex Kurtzman’s comments about the upcoming Picard show from PaleyFest. TrekMovie has more coverage from PaleyFest, including red carpet interviews. So stay tuned.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.