Interview: Wilson Cruz, Blu del Barrio, And Anthony Rapp Talk Changing Roles In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 4

The fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery debuts on Paramount+ on November 18. At New York Comic Con, TrekMovie had a chance to participate in some group interviews with members of the cast and crew to talk about the new season. Speaking to TrekMovie and a handful of other outlets, Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Blu del Barrio (Adira Tal), and Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber) offered insights into what’s new for their characters and their shared family on the USS Discovery.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Anthony, for Stamets, not being wedded to the spore drive must be a big relief, but since there’s so much of a history with serving that function on the ship, how does that affect him as a person?

Anthony Rapp: I can say that there are interesting dynamics that I get to explore. Finally, I get to have some scenes with Book, with David Ajala. It does come up a little bit in a really interesting way that Stamets isn’t the only person [who can navigate the spore drive]. I think Stamets really likes to hold himself in high esteem—and he deserves to be held in high esteem in many ways—but it is hard for him to give ground.  There’s some sense of the proprietary nature of the work that he’s done and he is a little bit threatened, maybe? So yeah, it’s not so cut-and-dry. But it’s also not like he’s totally hands-off the spore drive. He’s still very involved, but not necessarily being the only one is a little weird for him.

Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets in the season four teaser trailer

There’s a tradition in Star Trek: there’s always a communications officer, chief medical officer, all of that. So as of season four, can each of you say what is your position and role on the ship? 

Anthony Rapp: I don’t know exactly—Paul Stamets is a commander, a senior science officer. He’s in charge of the spore drive, but it’s “all hands on deck” in terms of any kind of major scientific or sometimes engineering question that he can lend his brains and talent to.

Blu del Barrio: I think Adira is kind of a mix, but definitely a science officer. They spend most of their time in engineering as well.

Anthony Rapp: But that’s only because I’m down there.

Blu del Barrio: I think they are sort of a mixed bag of science officer on top of everything else.

Does Adira have a specific specialty?

Anthony Rapp: Super math brain and algorithm and programming stuff.

Blu del Barrio: Math and programming. And I think history. I think that there’s a very specific reason they wanted to come onto Discovery in the first place, and they had a vast knowledge of what was already on the ship, to begin with.

Wilson Cruz: Adira’s our secret weapon. For every problem that doesn’t seem solvable, we’ll just ask Adira!

Blu del Barrio: I think that’s why it’s hard to pinpoint. I think they’re that person that you’re like, ‘This is a weird, weird thing to ask about, who would know this? Who would be this person who knows weird facts about a wide variety of things?’

Wilson Cruz: Dr. Culber is also a commander, so he’s also a senior medical officer, but he’s also the ship’s counselor. So this season we actually do see him combining those two occupations, and it’s a heavy lift.

Wilson Cruz as Dr. Culber in season four teaser trailer

Blu, in season four, are we going to experience more of Adira dealing with having the Trill symbiont?

Blu del Barrio: I think it exists constantly, but I do think that it is still an area that can be delved further into. I would really like to, at some point, kind of go into the history of each of these previous hosts, and where they came from. Like what this symbiont contains and means, and who these consciousnesses are. I would really like to touch on more.

Does the crew in season four wrestle with the notion that effectively, death doesn’t exist?

Wilson Cruz: First of all, yes, because—how do I put this—the way that Gray is corporeal and the ways that Dr. Culber came back to life aren’t necessarily ways that everyone is going to be able to do. Death is still finite. It’s just that we discovered a couple of ways where we can finagle it. So, yes, we do touch on it.

Blu del Barrio as Adira and Ian Alexander as Gray in season four NYCC trailer

Can you tell us how the development of this found family progresses during season four, and any conflict?

Anthony Rapp: The conflict that happens is not around anything having to do with us being a family or anything like that. It’s just that there’s an issue that takes place on the ship that we have some internal disagreement about how to solve it. So the fact that we’re family, that we love each other and trust each other, allows us to have room to have this disagreement and have it out, and talk to each other on a level that we can talk openly and honestly and intimately with each other.

Wilson Cruz:  It’s actually is one of my favorite episodes this season. Because while it’s obvious that we are on different sides at certain times during this episode, the way that we engage with each other comes from such a deep place of love and respect that we can get to a solution because of the way that we the way we handle it and each other through this disagreement. So that the family unit is stronger because of it.

Blu del Barrio: Any conflict that arises has nothing to do with the base of this relationship between these four people. And what I like is that I think the majority of that trust and just that intuitive, ‘Okay, we’re family now and we understand that and that’s not going to just break and go away.’ I think a lot of that work in process wasn’t done on screen. There was a break between the end of season three and the beginning of season four and I think that is when a lot of that really got cemented. It does feel that way coming into the new season, like ‘Okay, this is how it is now.’ And I really liked that it wasn’t necessarily on camera, it just happened.

Mary Wiseman, David Ajala, Wilson Cruz, Sonequa Martin-Green, Blu Del Barrio, and Anthony Rapp at New York Comic Con 2021

As the first family of Discovery, what would a family vacation look like to you?

Anthony Rapp: Does Adira let themselves go outside into the beautiful countryside?

Blu del Barrio: They can go outside. It’s just, I don’t know how much that they would like it.

Anthony Rapp: I think Paul would want to go traipsing around in an old-growth forest somewhere, looking at all the mycelial manifestations but would probably defer to you…

Wilson Cruz: We would defer to me, and so we would be on a beach. Some asteroid somewhere. I don’t know.

Anthony Rapp: I would be slathered in sunscreen.

Wilson Cruz: As you can see, it would take some negotiation to figure out. 

ICYMI: NYCC Season 4 Trailer

(Trailer also available for international viewers on Instagram and startrek.com)

Star Trek: Discovery streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. In Canada Discovery is broadcast on CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. It is also available on Netflix in 190 countries around the world.


Keep up with the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.

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“I think Adira is kind of a mix, but definitely a science officer. They spend most of their time in engineering as well…. I think they are sort of a mixed bag of science officer on top of everything else… Math and programming. And I think history.”

In other words, the writers don’t have a clue, meaning the director doesn’t have a clue, meaning the actor doesn’t have a clue.

That was my first impression when reading. They don’t even know what their character’s rank and positions are? That came off as making the writer’s room look pretty weak, and seems the actors were put in a little awkward position there as to how to answer. Par for the course with this show.

Or, it’s really not that important to have CV’s for every flipping crewmember. It is possible to have multiple diciplines, without having toexplain it in every episode.

Or they were just referring to the nature of the Trill and how past selves are incorporated into future selves, but go ahead and come at it with an awful attitude I guess?

Jadzia Dax described herself as a science officer, not a gymnast or diplomat. She always said “Emony was a gymnast” or “Curzon was a diplomat.”

The entire point of Adira’s character is that they’re still trying to figure out who they are because of the unusual conditions of their joining.

Right, but it wasn’t Adira talking in this interview, it was Blu del Barrio referring to what they’re doing as an actor, not Adira Tal referring to how they views their identity. But even then, there’s room for alternate takes on how their sense of self pans out vs Tal’s former personalities simply due to the fact that its still a mystery exactly what effect on the process having a human host would be. After all, that is how Gray is able to exist at all.

EDIT: I caught it immediately after posting, but my apologies to anyone who saw my accidental misgendering of Blu and Adira before I could correct it. I apparently need more coffee this morning.

So in Trek it seems like death is only finite to Shatner’s Kirk. I mean all the other characters literally died and came back somehow except for Shatner’s Kirk. He is like the Uncle Ben of Star Trek. I just don’t like the fact that they use death as a matter of convenience and nothing else just because they are afraid it is gonna offend one group or another. I think story and the truthfulness of that story should come before anything else, regardless if it offends someone or not.

Also as a viewer, if literally any character (except Kirk, as you said) can be resurrected, it makes the stakes very low, and kills any tension, imo.

Exactly. This trick worked once, for Spock. Now it’s become old hat and is making Star Trek look like utter fantasy, not serious science fiction. Really, ghost stories? In a *science fiction* show?

Oh, it’s been done much more than once–even more than once for Spock. Check out this article at Hero Collector: https://www.herocollector.com/en-us/Article/star-trek-back-from-the-dead.

Kirk died and came back in “Return to Tomorrow,” Generations, and Into Darkness. He also was presumed dead in “Amok Time,” “The Enterprise Incident,” and “The Tholian Web,” only to be revealed as alive.

It didn’t work in GENERATIONS (where he wasn’t really dead) and certainly didn’t work in INTO DARKNESS (magic blood, and all that). I thought in “Return to Tomorrow” it was Spock who “died,” but the injection was a placebo?

Actually I know Kirk died and came back in episodes of TOS, I was talking about after he died permanently in Generations. That is when no one seriously considered bringing him back in any form or shape and that is why it was finite for that character. It seemed like every character could be brought back except for Shatner’s version of Kirk after he permanently died in Generations.

Wow. Just realised it’s being almost a full year without live action Trek. It’s being too long if you ask me. I’m starting to get withdrawals.

My expectations will be pretty low for season 4, Discovery’s full of baked in flaws that will never be fixed let’s be honest. But I’m going to be watching it anyway… this just might be the season they get it right.(I’m not holding my breath though lol)

Well, the one saving grace is that, finally, the lead character (Burnham) is the captain. Frankly, this “middle decks” approach never worked very well, something that the West Wing figured out about five episodes into its first season.

I agree. I’m very very relieved she is captain now. Let’s hope it improves the show.

So Adira is Wesley Crusher? Let’s not….

I just realised we still don’t know how many episodes their we be. Unless I missed it. What’s up with that?

Culber: He’s dead, Mike.

(audience groans)

Probably these three , Reno, saru are the only interesting characters in the whole thing. Although this interview was a bit of a car crash….they dont know who they are…

I don’t know what it is, but I have no real excitement for this show going into the next season. But every time they talk about the ‘threat’ I just kind of roll my eyes. Nothing so far is really enticing me. It’s the exact opposite of seasons 2 and 3 where I couldn’t be more excited about those seasons if I tried. Again, season 4 may be a great season, maybe even the best; but the way they are selling it just isn’t working for me at all. Maybe it would help if they didn’t make everything sound so vague in the interviews and actually talk about actual specifics for a change. Sigh

Well said Tiger. I always appreciate your perspectives. I think for me, my lack of enthusiasm for the new season also has to do with their being so much other (in my opinion probably better) Trek on the horizon with the remaining season of Prodigy, season 2 of Picard snd the launch of SNW. For me Discovery has been a hot mess from the start and they don’t seem to be inspiring me to view it differently with the new galaxy ending threat of the season…

I definitely appreciate that Captain Danno!

And I like the show generally, but yeah it’s still lacking in so many ways. I think it’s improving but it’s still far below the threshold of what I would consider a great show to be. It’s my second to least favorite show currently. I do love the new time period its in but I don’t want them to squander it. Everyone seems so tired of the big galaxy threats, it would’ve been OK to think smaller this season. Most of us are more interested in seeing how they rebuild the Federation but I have to think that will still be part of the story line too. So fingers crossed but yeah like you I’m just not feeling it so far.

Everything in this series of Trek is so utopian. Life is a struggle. People get on each other’s nerves. Some people are just mean. Now and most likely 900 years from now. Take Tully for example she is young and naive which how most of us start. You don’t promote someone like that to first officer. You put people well trained through the crucible of experience to that job. Same with the Capitan she is to defiant and independent with her authority. You don’t get promoted to command the lives of others for being a individual who alway wants things their way. She would be washed out early in her career. Also think about how much the spore drive is like the spacing guild in Dune. The mycielium drive is just basically folding space and time like a guild navigator. Sorry just not realistic, original or honest. The universe is controlled chaos at best and deadly conflict at worst.