Interview: Babs Olusanmokun & Jess Bush On Getting Emotional In ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Season 2

TrekMovie joined a virtual group press interview with the cast of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds in advance of the impending debut of season 2. Babs Olusanmokun (Dr. M’Benga) and Jess Bush (Christine Chapel) talked about the growing bond between their two characters, favorite moments from the season, and Chapel’s “complicated” relationship with Spock.

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

Season 2 looks to be giving us more about the backstory and bond between Chapel and M’Benga. What was that like to perform and did you do any special prep to work on that chemistry?

Jess Bush: Speaking for myself, I think it’s just about staying really open and curious when we’re together on set and in discovery mode. There is definitely a lot of deepening of the relationship with Chapel and M’Benga in this season and we get to go through a lot together. And it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed. I think it’s been a really beautiful deepening of both of their stories, separately and entwined.

Babs Olusanmokun: Yeah, I would agree with that. We’re going to see some of their past history and how they came together as compadres. It was written beautifully. And, of course, we then try to mold it as much as possible with our performances. It’s been something that was really lovely to do. It was really lovely to experience. We perhaps maybe go over a scene together while waiting. I know what I do, but I also see that Jess comes quite prepared. And so when we land in front of each other with the camera rolling, there’s a lot to work with. That’s all you can ever ask if your scene partner. There’s a lot of give and take and being open.

You both have very emotional scenes this season, can you talk about what you found most challenging?

Jess Bush: I think as a performer myself, the ones that are the most challenging emotionally are the ones that are most enjoyable actually. It’s where there’s the most to be found, artistically. And there’s a lot of that in episode 8. I loved doing episode 8 with Babs. It was one of my favorites from the entire two seasons. And working with Jeff Byrd, he’s incredible. He’s an actor’s director. He’s really, really, really wonderful. And I think he made us both feel really safe to find the truth of that episode. And I think that stretched me and stretched Chapel a lot. That experience.

Babs Olusanmokun: Likewise. Discovering or revealing the vulnerability of a character, there’s always something. It’s always a challenge. But revealing it truthfully is also a bigger challenge. If one can get through it, if one can make something out of it, it is very rewarding. And so yeah, it is a part of the work that I embraced, very much also.

What was the most rewarding part of your character’s trajectory in season 2?

Jess Bush: Surprisingly, it was the times when there were some particular moments which I can’t really be specific about, where Chapel got to lean into pure joy. And that was really illuminating for me about her. And it was also extremely vulnerable in a way that I didn’t expect. I found that very, very rewarding.

Babs Olusanmokun: Perhaps somewhere in episode 8. I can’t reveal much of it. But somewhere in there, there was a moment where I was like, “Okay, this is this is going much deeper.” It felt epic. I hope that was captured. I hope that is what you see on screen, but it felt epic as we made a good chunk of episode 8.

Jess Bush as Chapel and Babs Olusanmokun as M’Benga (Paramount+)

Both of you do fight scenes this season. What was that like for you as actors and exploring that side of your characters?

Jess Bush: It was awesome. I was so excited about it. Me, Jess is like really physical. I’m happiest when I’m expending all of my energy outwards and like climbing things and jumping off things and rolling around. So for me, it was great. I loved getting that first script and then seeing that ahead. And for Chapel, it was really interesting to tap into what would drive her to that point emotionally. Because she’s naturally quite a loving and caring person. So yeah, it was cool to investigate that for her.

Babs Olusanmokun: Yeah, it was fantastic. It was fantastic. It was really exciting to prepare for those things. And to make sure we got it right and that it looked fresh and different. And so it took quite a bit of work, but we were very excited to do it.

Things between Chapel and Spock heat up in season two. Jess, can you talk a little bit about that and Babs, what’s it like for Joseph watching these two clearly having the hots for each other?

Jess Bush: [laughs] Yeah, it’s just going to get really complicated, let’s just say that. I have to keep it vague, but I can tell you that much. Complications intensify. Let’s just say that.

Babs Olusanmokun: I just try and look away really, but then try to be supportive as much as possible. You are workmates so we’ve got to be respectful. So, Spock, hats off to you, Mr. Spock. [laughs]

Jess Bush as Chapel (Paramount+)

Babs, after what M’Benga went through with his daughter in season one, how has his purpose changed in season 2?

Babs Olusanmokun  I believe he’s still finding his way, initially. He’s decided he’s going to soldier on and try to find the beauty of his daughter and the rest of humanity. But it’s a struggle, of course. It is not an event that can simply be washed away with time. But he goes forward to see what the future will bring.

So was there more pressure making season 2 or was it more freeing?

Jess Bush: The vibe on set was that we had worked out that we were making something good so we could really lean into that. It was more of a freedom it felt to push boundaries. I didn’t experience it as pressure. I think that that’s because the writers did such a good job of leveling it up in every way. So they created this framework for us to just push it. And there was a lot of confidence. So it was a hoot! It was great. It was like when you try a cartwheel for the first time and it’s rusty and then you’re like, “I can do this,” and so you really do the cartwheel.

Babs Olusanmokun: My cartwheels are terrible, but I agree with everything else she said beautifully. No, there was no pressure. The pressure comes from within. But within that pressure, there is a freedom, because we love doing this work.

Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. M’Benga (Paramount+)

Ready for Thursday

This is our last cast interview ahead of season 2. Check out our previous interviews with: Anson Mount & Rebecca RomijnEthan Peck & Paul Wesley, and Celia Rose Gooding & Melissa Navia.

Check back later this week for our post season premiere interview with showrunners Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers.

You may also want to check out:

And in case you missed it, here is the season 2 sneak peek with cast and creatives (from Special The Ready Room sneak peek)

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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Both of these actors are just stunningly good! Whoever did the casting for SNW has hired truly excellent actors. Can’t wait to see what you all have for us!

Agreed. This might be the best cast for a Star Trek show period and that includes TOS and DS9 which was stellar.
Both of these are break out characters which is crazy when you think they’ve been in Trek since the get go!
Why the Kelvinverse wouldn’t have given a Chapel a part is nuts! Though I hope SNW gives us a young Carol Marcus

Well, this Chapel is very different from TOS Chapel. Ideas of what women are like have changed in the past 50 years, and SNW Chapel is so much more active and spunky than TOS Chapel was allowed to be. So I’m not surprised that SNW Chapel is popular in a way that TOS Chapel couldn’t be.

Carol Marcus will be in SNW this season!

And the shrinking of the Trek universe continues…

Ditto. And nobody spoke of “big swings”! :-). Looking forward…

Next year they should have them all say, “this season we’re going to go for it on fourth down multiple times.”