Interview: Melissa Navia & Celia Rose Gooding On Making Star Trek History In ‘Strange New Worlds’ Season 2

TrekMovie joined a virtual group press interview with two of the stars from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds in advance of the impending debut of season 2. Celia Rose Gooding (Nyota Uhura) and Melissa Navia (Erica Ortegas) talked about what’s new for their characters in season 2, their favorite moments, and how they both feel they are making Star Trek history.

Note: The interview contains some minor spoilers and has been edited for brevity and clarity.  

Celia, can you comment on the scene you have together with Kirk, Spock, and Uhura? What was the vibe like shooting that iconic moment?

Celia Rose Gooding: In episode 206 there is so much that Uhura goes through and processes and it’s very intense. And so to have a moment at the end where we get to establish some pretty essential canon. It was such a light at the end of that tunnel. It was something to get excited about. And shooting that was so fun because I love working with Ethan [Peck]. I love working with Paul [Wesley]. They have such a classic bromance-y dynamic between the two of them. It’s just fun watching them interact. And then when the cameras come on and we realize that we are now Kirk, Spock, and Uhura at our fancy little Enterprise space bar having a talk about what we’ve all just experienced, it’s incredible. It’s Trek history. It’s essential Trek history. And to have even a part of that, it feels like a secret that I can’t share but everyone knows it’s coming. It’s like one of those things you get so excited about because you know how much it means to people. It was incredible to shoot and working on a Trek show is always amazing. But being a part of a Trek show that has such a heavy foot in canon and what is establishing the future of this franchise, it goes without question that you feel every day how important your impact is on this franchise not only for this specific series but for the entire timeline.

Melissa, do you think fans who have been asking to learn more about Ortegas will be pleased with season 2? 

Melissa Navia: I’ll start by saying thank you to the fans, because we hear them. Our co-showrunner Henry came up to me and was like, “The fans have been asking for more Ortegas and so that’s what we’re going to give them.” And you can see some of that in the sneak peek clip from episode 4 from Star Trek Day. In season 1, even though for me I really do feel like Ortegas was an integral part of every episode, but I get what fans were saying about how we got so much more backstory and kind of interplay between legacy characters, and we learned a lot about La’an. And for Ortegas they wanted so much more. But that in and of itself is such a huge compliment, because that says that what we did with so little, we made so much out of it. That speaks to the writers. That speaks to a little bit of what I did. And it speaks to the nature of our ensemble cast. The camaraderie that we have made, people feel like not only do we want to be a part of that crew but we want to learn more about the person that we know the least about. And so we definitely took that into account. You are going to see a lot more of Ortegas in season 2. We get to learn more about her as a pilot, as a soldier, and as a crew member and a friend that her crewmates trust and are loyal to.

Melissa Navia as Ortegas in season 2 (Paramount+)

You both get to do personal logs in season 2. What was it like being your characters in that classic Trek format?

Melissa Navia: I was just so excited to get a personal log. That’s one of those Star Trek aspects that reaches beyond a particular show, like so much of Star Trek does. And suddenly as I was doing it, I suddenly could not remember one log that I have heard. I was like, “How do they say the numbers?” Do they say “dot?” Do they say “point?” And so it was one of those moments where–and we are like this–“We are doing Star Trek, this is crazy.” So that was very exciting and the fact that what we were doing in that episode was Ortegas wanting to go to a planet, wanting to get off the ship. And that whole episode we get to really play with when you love what you do and it kind of becomes monotonous and you have to remember why it is that you love what you do and why you do it and why you’re the only person who can do it the way you do it. And so we get all of that in one episode. And we get to really play with Ortegas wanting to get off the ship, but also really, her home is the ship and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Celia Rose Gooding: The personal logs were such a Trek staple that there’s that anticipation of like, “I get to have my own amazing…” But it’s exactly as Melissa said. I remember going to the writers. Do we say “point” or can we say “dash” or do we say “slash?” Give me the word perfect so I don’t have fans in my Twitter DMs telling me I messed up. [laughs] But yeah, I think that those like little franchise opportunities that we have as characters, those are the things we get so excited about because we really get to put our own stamp and specialness in something that we can say is particularly in specifically ours in a franchise that is so global and really shared with fans and audiences around the world.

Regarding the different genres in season 2, is there a favorite? And a bonus question: will there be a musical?

Celia Rose Gooding: I can’t answer your bonus question. But some of my favorite genre stuff we got to do was a lot more like classic comedy. I find that specifically for my character we haven’t had an opportunity to do just like funny stuff for the sake of having a giggle. And I think that a lot of season 2 we get to see Uhura still in her place of inquisitiveness and curiosity and sort of racking her brain on the experiences that she went through and season 1. But we also get to see her just be a bit more comfortable and let her very, very short hair down a little bit.

Melissa Navia: I’ll say the genre play makes it so that each episode really is like a movie. For us, it’s like we were shooting more than one show. It speaks to why fans are saying that they can watch episodes over and over again, which has always been Star Trek. But specifically with what we’re doing, we like to play with the humor and with the fear and with the adventure and with the things that are more cerebral. And then also marrying the two like. We had a question earlier about if season 2 is more about mental obstacles or physical ones. What Star Trek does so well is that it marries the two, as we do in life. Like you can’t be having an emotional issue and then suddenly the world around you can stop. You have to still go to work and you have to figure stuff out. I think in season 2 we do a really good job of being able to see characters going through their own difficulties internally, and then at the same time having to complete the mission that is laid out before them for this particular episode.

Celia, can you talk about entering season 2 after the passing of Nichelle Nichols?

Celia Rose Gooding: Everything that I do is directly because of her, especially on this show. But I didn’t get to meet Nichelle unfortunately, before she passed. That is something that sits with me in a different place every day. And her impact on not only this franchise but on entertainment, period, it does not go unnoticed and it does not go unfelt. Just background about me, I’m such a spiritualist. I’m such a person who feels energetically connected to this plane and others. And so her presence sits with me every day on set. Not to get too audacious, but I very much feel her with me in how we tell the story of this character. Although we did not get to meet in this physical plane, I know our meeting is coming whenever the universe decides. And I’m really looking forward to that. But until then, her presence is known, and I feel her in myself but I also feel her in the stories that people share about her with me and getting to meet some of her lovely family. Because Nichelle was so impactful and so lovely and generous with herself and her spirit I have a wealth of information about her through firsthand accounts and also just what’s available on our lovely internet. And so while I did not get to meet her, I feel as though I know her as well as I could if I did.

Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura in season 2 (Paramount+)

More to come

We have one more interview from the press junket coming up so stay tuned. Check out the earlier interviews with Anson Mount & Rebecca Romijn. and with Ethan Peck & Paul Wesley.

Season 2 will premiere Thursday, June 15 on Paramount+ in the U.S, the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The second season will also be available to stream on Paramount+ in South Korea, with premiere dates to be announced at a later date. Following the premiere, new episodes of the 10-episode season will drop weekly on Thursdays.

Find more stories on the Star Trek Universe.

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And a bonus question: will there be a musical?

Celia Rose Gooding: I can’t answer your bonus question.

Musical confirmed! ;D

Hey Trekmovie,

Collider has reviewed the first half of Season 2 already (and it’s a stellar review!)…are you guys watching and reviewing those eps right now as well?

THANKS !!!!!

Just tell me if Ortegas stops being so irritating.

Not so much looking forward to time travel, Lower Decks cross over and the musical (all three sound lame) but really looking forward to more Pike, Una, Spock, Chapel, Ortega, Uhura learning, seeing Lt Kirk grow up, Noonien – just an amazing crew. But if they do Chief Engineer Pelia right… oh I can’t wait to find out!!!
I did like the incorporation of music into the second episode though so who knows? Maybe they’ll pull it off being good?
The highlight is space exploration feeling fun and fresh again with the Enterprise out there, no back up, representing the whole Starfleet.
Also… let’s finally see the 1701 square off with a D-7 in a winner takes all best of both worlds master and commander only ship in the quadrant wrath of Kahn duel for the ages!!!!!!! Let’s see what Ortega can do! It’s been 60 plus years, the time has come! Or is this for the series finale???

S1 was a good start but it seemed too much like an original series knockoff without any personality of its own. The upside was: likable characters! After the horrible characters of Disco and Picard, it was nice to see likable characters were even possible anymore for Star Trek.

In S2, I’d like to see the show develop more of its own character, and not be so namby-pamby. The episode where the kid was left in the matrix or when the Gorn arrived is more like it. People die, endings are not always happy.

And forget the comedy till you have writers who can write comedy. The attempts in S1 were pretty dire.