Mary Wiseman Talks Tilly’s Career Goals, Dreams, And Hairstyles In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 3

Paleyfest NY Star Trek: Discovery header pic

The Star Trek: Discovery panel at PaleyFest NY on October 6th had the cast talking about the stakes of sacrificing everything they knew to go 930 years into the future. At the panel, Mary Wiseman talked about how Tilly will be spending a lot of time processing that loss, feeling homesick, and even missing her mother, with whom she has a very complicated relationship. She also said that Tilly and Stamets might “chafe a bit” now that Tilly sees herself as less of a mentee.

On the red carpet before the panel, we asked Wiseman a few questions about season three.

Does Tilly get to do anything that’s actually fun this season?

Tilly always is havin’ fun, she likes to keep it fun. (laughs) But she’ll also get moments of, I don’t know, something more serious, something deeper. But she always loves a party, she loves a group activity. So definitely you’ll get to see her have a little fun and break out of her comfort zone a bit.

Any particular group activities that she gets people involved in?

Oh my gosh, I don’t know, but maybe like a group hug or two? Not like a Monopoly game—less than a Monopoly game, more than a three-person hug.

Now that she’s nowhere near the Command Training Program, how is she dealing with her career and her previous plans?

I think it’s a bit unmooring. She’s had this goal for a long time, and I think she still knows that she wants to serve, and she wants to be of use for Starfleet, but what that means in the future is a little bit up in the air. So she’s going to have to start finding her own way and looking for guidance wherever she can get it.

Mary Wiseman as Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery

Tilly getting promoted at the end of season 1

Is she still sharing a room with Michael Burnham?

You know it! (laughs) Roomies for life, no matter what!

But isn’t there a whole lot of empty space on that ship now?

You know, it’s a comfort thing at this level, I think neither of them has brought it up, because nobody wants to start the conversation about getting their own rooms. (laughs) I hope they live together forever, and they each get married and have kids and live in the same small room.

Burnham and Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery season 2

Roomies for life, no matter what!

What do you think about Tilly’s character arc over the past two seasons?

That’s a big one. I think we’ve seen someone who didn’t know how to hold their own space, somebody who was deeply and profoundly intimidated but had big dreams, get closer and closer to achieving those dreams, and then find a way to kind of stand up straight and hold space, hold power. And I think you’re going to see a continuation of that journey this season. Somebody’s who’s kind of stepping into, if not the Command Training Program, a command mentality and starting to allow herself to be a person who is a leader.

Does she still get to be the smartest person in the room?

You know it! (laughs) She’s so smart! I assume that anytime anybody else says something smart, Tilly was already thinking that. Yeah—that’s how I play the character, it’s really not fair.

Do you have any favorite Tilly moments or scenes from the first two seasons that you loved doing?

From the first season, obviously when she finds out that she was a captain in the mirror universe, [that] was one of the most fun things I ever shot.

Also the season finale of season one when they’re in the Orion uh… not colony, but area on Qo’noS? That entire episode, where we’re all wearing leather and she straightens her hair and she’s with Georgiou and it’s really scary. That’s maybe the most fun I’ve ever had in Star Trek. It was silly and serious and fun and I got to work with Clint Howard and I got to get high (laughs) and it was just a blast. I want to go back.

Tilly with an Orion, played by Clint Howard, in season 1

Has there been anything you’ve filmed so far for season 3 that’s been fun like that?

There have been some truly beautiful moments this season that I’m really excited to share with people. Visually stunning, emotionally true, and heartwarming. I don’t know if I can pick just one, but there’s gonna be some great stuff for the fans that I’m very excited to share.

Who have most of your scenes been with in season three so far?

Ooh, that’s a good question. Kind of a mix. I mean, she has her little social circle. So Michael, Saru, Stamets always. It’s been a mix this season.

And since I’m obsessed with your hair, are we getting a lot of different Tilly hairstyles this season?

Mainly the one you’re looking at. (laughs) I really brought Tilly with me to New York today. But who knows about the future? She likes to mix it up.

The many hairstyles of Sylvia Tilly


More from PaleyFest

We’ll have more Discovery interviews from the red carpet at PaleyFest throughout the week.

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The most irritating character to ‘grace’ the Star Trek universe by far. The Tilly character – unprofessional, emotionally unstable and a million miles from anything even remotely representing resilience embodies all that is wrong with the writing on DIS. The fact anyone so inept and demonstrably the weakest of links ever made it onto the Starfleet books suggests that SF Academy has no screening process whatsoever.

You’re calling Tilly the most annoying character in a franchise that includes Neelix and Wesley Crusher?

Yes. Tilly is by far, a worse character than either Neelix or Wesley. Quite the achievement.

Don’t forget Reg Barclay. I’d say he and Tilly have more in common as socially awkward yet brilliant crewmen.

Reg and Tilly are both great characters.


I like Tilly and Reg…

But want more of the growth we saw in the 1st half of season 2. The new writers at the end of the season didn’t seem to know what to do with her.

Reg is, Tilly is not

Reg…yes. Tilly should be placed in a torpedo tube and fired into the nearest sun.

I relate more to Reg and I think Reg is more believable. I find myself more like Reg

Neelix and Wesley never annoyed me the way Tilly does.

I actually shout at the TV screen when Tilly is on at full Tilly

Crusher was a victim of fans not wanting to see a kid on the bridge as they felt it somehow compromised the show’s integrity to have a boy who was smarter than most of the adults; he was as much a manifestation of fan insecurity as anything else. Neelix was annoying but at least earnest in his over the top desire to be helpful. And I for one found Barclay to be a far more believable, relatable and just likeable character; he was just someone who didn’t have a lot of experience being around people and I think he played that well. Tilly is just an abraisive ditz; her constant babbling is obnoxious and distracting; her need to be noticed is annoying. I cringe and reach for the MUTE button on my remote whenever she shows up.

For all their particular character traits, Crusher, Neelix and Barclay were better integrated into their particular stories and plots. Tilly appears on screen, brings the proceedings to a halt while her issue of the day is dealt with, and then is usually pushed once again to the side so the crew can return to the task at hand. Don’t know if that’s a failing of the writers not knowing what to do with the character or their trying to work around the actor’s limitations but either way she comes across as more of a distraction than an asset to the show.

The fans are in no way to blame for the Wesley Crusher character. The faults there lie solely in bad writing and bad acting. The audience has nothing to do with it.

Neelix is a lot of fun–in fact, he’s only of Voyager’s ONLY fun characters.

Wes sucks, yes.

Actually we can blame the writers for these characters. They should have offed Neelix and kept Kes. Weasly…never came across as annoying to me. The character actually improved with season 3 and then he was pretty much off the series. But yeah…Tilly takes the cake. In a real military organization….she would be discharged.

Some people like Tilly, Neelix, Barclay. There is space for everyone. (^_^) I actually feel so sorry for Will Wheaton…he actually has been traumatized by all the online bullying. Very mean when he was young. And it was not him, it was the script and the way Roddenberry, Berman and Company wanted to portray him.

That kind of thing pisses me off. Wesley was an awful character, but that wasn’t Wheaton’s fault. He didn’t deserve any of the hate that he got for the role, especially when he was a child.

Agreed. Weasley was cool. And the last time I checked…we have prodigy children in real life. When you can have a teenager graduating from college at 14 or 15 years of age….so…weasley was never a farfetched character.
I hope he makes an appearance in Picard.

Forgot about Reg Barclay, did you? Then again, there’s an argument that Data is pretty annoying, too

Barclay, and even Data, are far more believable and realistic as people than Tilly. There are people like that. Tilly, however, is written at the same time as super-humanly smart in all fields, all-knowing and socially awkward, while ALSO being extraverted, hyper-social, emotional, loving parties etc. Not to forget, she is winning marathons against visibly fitter crewmates ;)

The bottom line is, these writers simply do not understand how human psychology works. Maybe they should start by reading up on the “Dunning-Kruger effect” to understand what intellectually outstanding scientists are really like in psychological terms.

VS we’re not going to agree here.

Tilly is a super smart polymath. They do exist and can be extroverted.

Even in places like MIT, CalTech and Polytechnique, not all the really smart people are introverted monomaniacs.

Yes, monomania can be an advantage in getting a PhD finished, but the people at the top of science, that go on to make the lasting contributions, are often the ones that can reach across disciplines.

…and it’s true that even at one of those places, social extroversion coupled with being smart can be annoying.

That said, Tilly’s extroversion’s leaving her unsatisfied with a pure research career and driving her towards a leadership role, is pretty true to form.

Let me elaborate a bit on this here. I think her mix of seemingly contradictious traits (polymath is not the main problem) do not hit the right note in any of the episodes, and it got worse in season 2. The kind of personality you refer to, the charming talent who easily sells his vision and excites people even with dry science, is maybe better exemplified in the movies by Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. In real life, Elon Musk. Brilliant, but also zany. It’s not hard to see such a person would rise very high. But I will insist they are almost never THE smartest, and Tilly certainly doesn’t strike that note there. The way she is written and the actresses’ portrayal seem off (overemotional, but at the same time we are told she is analytical and all-knowing) and thus annoy a great deal of viewers, more so than Barclay or even Wesley did. For all their peculiarities, they weren’t as “in the face” and loud!

VS I suggest that you read an interview with Musk’s first wife who met him when he was a student at Queen’s University and then decide how ‘in your face and loud’ someone of that brilliance and temperament is in their 20s.

He really has mellowed to some extent.

Musk is a VERY different kind of extraverted; we are not talking “degree” here. Tilly’s portrayed as a “groupie”, but Musk is really the politically incorrect non-conformist who doesn’t mind at all p!ssing off alot of people and getting into fights over his views and his goals. He places his ideas and his focus on the bigger, long-term picture ABOVE people, sometimes ruthlessly, and in that he is much more in line with the scientist persona than Tilly.

Tilly is awesome. End of.

Tilly is all kinds of wonderful.

Yes! She is the one who exemplifies nerdy awkwardness along with nerdy brilliance. But, for some, it’s awfully hard to take this from a young woman. They seem to relate more to male characters who have the issue.

I was not fond of some of the awkward Tilly scenes in Season 2, but I hope things will improve for her in S3

No. Not everything is “subconscious sexism” (go figure) Her “special blend” of low-brow gregariousness and seeming super-intelligence (only courtesy of inept writers) would be just as egregious in a man’s body.

I read a comment last night on another site which made me laugh and I think totally accurate – “…she’s the Jar Jar Binks of Star Trek.”


Tilly is God.

Well, since God is a fictional entity whose introduction in a work of fiction has cause a lot of harm… I’d agree.

Tilly must have some incriminating photos of SF Academy’s governing body. No other explanation fits.

When are they going to announce the Pike show – Or did they think that was no longer on our minds:)

Possibly never.

You know, this whining for Pike is really getting annoying. When, or if, they do it, I’m sure YOU’LL be the first person they call.

Listen up, people! Any further discussion about the Pike show is going to require prior permission by forum master Phil! Sorry about that :)

He’s got a point. It is annoying that people are begging for news about a show that may not exist. And, this isn’t related to the article about Mary Wiseman.

It’s not annoying in the slightest. Feel free to leave.

Why is it whining or negative to be enthusiastic about a potential new show?

Most of us here were extremely skeptical that TPTB for Discovery could recast Pike, Spock or Number One and offer anything that worked at all.

But they did work, and brilliantly.

Yes, this is a Tilly thread, but Kirksean is asking about whether there was any news at all about the Pike show.

Frankly, if I’m reading Kurtzman’s response to an audience question correctly, it sounds as though the business case isn’t fully sold for Pike’s Enterprise with CBS yet. Which makes it all the more important for fans that want the show to keep the positive pressure going.

I think you are on to something that they still need to sell the now missing “episodic case”, and as far as I can see there is definitely an audience there for this. Maybe it would be better placed on CBS where even casual viewers can catch it from time to time. Nevertheless, Pike’s Enterprise is perfect for this. I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t as high budget as Discovery either. More meat, less sugar!

It’s not whining. Your comment, however, is VERY much whining. Go away if you don’t want to read fans’ comments.

I kinda don’t want to see a Pike show. If you felt DSC was boxed in by canon, imagine knowing the exact date that Pike has to leave the Enterprise behind to teach at Starfleet Academy, knowing the ship can’t be destroyed, and having a list of characters with literal plot armor on the show.
A movie set on the DSC Enterprise, perhaps leading into Kirk taking over at the end though… now we’re talking.

That’s they number one reason they will never make a Pike Show. It would be too boring.

A Pike show is currently in the planning stages. It will be announced next year.


That’s what I thought.

He found it at the same site where he found proof that God doesn’t exist.


That last bit sounds awesome.

Hope never, no more precuels.

You’re clearly not much of a Trek fan. Why are you here?

What’s a precuel?

My favourite trek character! Just love her. I have a pic from a run in with her in New York last year. She’s the best.

Loved her initally, but she disolved into caricature pretty quick. Then again, they did the same thing to T’Pol on Enterprise….
Hopefully, that gets fixed.

Let’s see Captain Killy in the 32nd century, please.

Let’s not. Let’s hope that with the freedom of no longer being a prequel enables the writers to forget about those first two awful seasons and produce something original.

You forget that Killy and the mirror Discovery were mercifully blown to bits by the Klingons off screen towards the end of season 1.

Why would she go down with her ship?

I think we will see her on the Section 31 show.

Season 3 of Discovery is starting to resemble Andromeda.

No. Unlike Andromeda, it’ll be good.

Agreed Pick Hard.

It looks better already.

Andromeda is back on Amazon Prime and CTV Sci-fi channel in Canada. I can’t get through more than the occasional episode, and our kids ignore it.

I adore DISCOVERY. I really do. But Tilly is easily the show’s worst character. It’s not the actor’s fault–it’s the writing. She’s just irritating and not at all fun, in my opinion. I’d be fine with her leaving, as she sucks all the energy out of any scene she’s in.

Tilly is God.

I like Tilly, but agree that sometime the writing of her character goes to far and it becomes a caricature. I don’t find it particularly annoying, but understand why others do. I think there is a lot of potential for the character, however, and I hope the writers dial it in a bit better going forward. And I adore the actor, by the way.

I really despise this character. Not the actress ! She is just so annoying when she opens her mouth. Needs better writing !