Interview: Wilson Cruz, Mary Wiseman And Blu Del Barrio On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 5

TrekMovie joined a virtual group press interview with members of the cast of Star Trek: Discovery to talk about the fifth and final season of the series. This included a group discussion with Wilson Cruz, Mary Wiseman, and Blu del Barrio talking to assembled members of the press about what’s new for Dr. Hugh Culber, Sylvia Tilly, and Adira in season 5.

Note: The interview contains some spoilers.

Where are your characters when season 5 starts?

Wilson Cruz: I think a few months have passed when we re-meet our heroes at the at the opening of season 5. I feel as you look around, that everyone is in a much more stable place in terms of how they feel about themselves and their place on the ship and in this new future. We’ve definitely gotten the kinks out of being 900 years away from everything and everyone we love. So when this mystery finds us, we are well-suited and well-prepared to take on this task. In terms of Hugh, I think that means that he continues to ask these existential questions, these big life questions. And as a man of science, it’s always more comfortable when there’s a Yes or No to these questions. Really his journey this season is about finding grace in the unknown, in the questions that are incapable of being answered, and what that means for him in the way that he views his life.

Blu de Barrio: Adira is in a much more confident state, I think, with their position on the ship, than we have ever seen them. And they’re taking on more responsibilities. They’re being given more things to do and kind of being pushed a bit more in a way that I think they want it to be pushed. And on the side of dealing with some personal issues and just some emotional stuff, I think that they do a lot of self-reflection at the start of the season.

Mary Wiseman: Tilly comes back to Star Trek: Discovery and is trying to figure out how to get through to her students who have become isolated from growing up during The Burn, and she’s trying to figure that out – how to help them with that.

Mary, can you talk about Tilly’s evolution in the series and what you found most rewarding?

Mary Wiseman: What is interesting to me was when I first encountered this character, this was a very achievement-driven girl who didn’t have social graces but knew that she needed to achieve. There was kind of this big reversal for her as time went on where she began to realize she really is somebody who cares most about relationships, and the community that she builds. Wanting to be a captain, wanting to achieve all these things, was a relic of a person that didn’t really have anything to do with her anymore. That had to do with not such a great relationship with her parent. But after losing so much and after leaving one version of a timeline, leaving all those people behind, she had a chance to change her mind and reevaluate who she was in terms of what was going to make her happy. And that has led her to becoming a teacher at Starfleet Academy. And I think she gets enormous value from being there, being somebody who’s present and available for young people who are still developing. So that for me is like the chart of her arc. And I found that very satisfying to play and kind of a cool message.

Mary Wiseman as Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery, season 5, streaming on Paramount+. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

Wilson, last we saw Hugh struggling with the emotional burden of counseling, could you tell us a little more about what it was like to play that emotional struggle?

Wilson Cruz: As an actor, it was harder to play than I had anticipated it to be, mainly because we were shooting that season during the COVID year and we were in Toronto and everything was literally shut down. There was a lot of questions out there. It was a moment of high anxiety. And I personally was feeling a lot of it myself. So then to be asked to come play a scene in which my character is dealing with that anxiety was a challenge because I was anxious about playing anxious. [laughs] So but luckily that episode was actually directed by Lee Rose, who I have a close relationship with. She’s a friend of mine and I have complete and utter trust in her. I also know from working with her through the years that if I’m not getting it, she’s the first person to be come up to me and be like “That’s not it, let’s try something else.” And she was so happy with what was coming across that I was okay.

I think that that scene really resonated with a lot of people when it when it first streamed because there were a lot of people in that moment in time who were trying to take care of not only themselves but trying to take care of everyone around them, their children, their co-workers, their community, their neighbors. And when you are overwhelmed with that much responsibility, when you’re someone as empathetic as Dr. Colbert can be and is, you forget that you need an outlet. You need to be taken care of as well. There needs to be a moment of silence, of meditation, where you center yourself so that you’re capable of showing up for people in a way that you can be helpful, as opposed to bringing your own anxiety and your own issues to bear when people are needing your help. So it was a great moment to teach self-care and self-compassion when you’re a caregiver. Something that we need to always remember.

L-R Wilson Cruz as Culber and Mary Wiseman as Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery, season 5, streaming on Paramount+. Photo Credit: John Medland/Paramount+

Blu, you talked about Adira getting more competence and confidence, but they were just joining the ship as a kid. Can you talk about these dual roles, reminding us that Adira is still a young person?

Blu de Barrio: That’s a really interesting question. I don’t know what it is about me, but I have never felt my age. I feel like I got stuck at like 16 or 17 and I have never felt older than that. I am now 26 [laughs]. I started on Discovery when I was 21 or 22 and I still feel very connected to my inner kid, and my dad is the same way. So there was something really nice about being able to go back to that age and think about it so often and try to reference it so often. Because I still feel very connected to it. And I love that. But yeah they are still very much a kid even in season 5. They were very young when they got on the ship and they’re still very young – still taking on more responsibilities than they should and putting way too much pressure on themselves. But I think a lot of us do that when we’re that age as well.

Any fun interactions with fans?

Blu de Barrio: Oh, gosh, yes, First of all, the best possible interactions because the fans of our show and Trek fans in general are just the best people in the world and are so kind and caring and compassionate. The best experiences that I’ve had are something that I did not expect to happen. Because I would get messages from other trans people – which is amazing. What I was not really anticipating was getting messages from parents of trans kids who would watch the show and say that it was helping them to better understand their kid or have more transparent interactions with their kid or with their family member. And that, to me, means more than anything else. It’s not something I ever expected, especially struggling with my own parents as a kid and like still now a little bit. That’s crazy to me that I had some small part in that and that it could have that kind of effect. But yeah, that’s definitely the most meaningful to me.

Blu del Barrio as Adira in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 2, season 5, streaming on Paramount+. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

So this season introduces Callum Keith Rennie to the cast as Rayner. Can you talk about what he brought to the set and his scenes? 

Mary Wiseman: I think Rayner brings some much-needed grumpiness and curmudgeonly-ness. A lot of us are very starry-eyed optimists. And it’s nice to have just an old battle ax. [laughs] That creates really fun dynamics between that character and the rest of the crew who are used to working together, who run like a clock. And now there’s this person who’s highly competent, that has a very different conversation style, problem-solving approach. And Callum is a great actor and really fun to work with and an absolute maniac. And so that was really fun. It’s a great new guy to bring into the fold. I think people will really enjoy his character and the dynamics it brings out of everyone.

Wilson Cruz: Yeah, he was so much fun to work with, aside from his funky ears that he brought to set every day. What was fun to watch is how this character has to fit themselves into a new power structure. The way that Burnham runs that ship is unlike the way that most ships are run. It’s a soft power. I hate that word, but it’s the best way to describe it. How does someone who has a bit of an aggressive, combative style of leadership fit themselves into power structure in which there’s less power coming from above and more of a center-out power structure. So, it was fun to watch that character navigate this new power structure they find themselves in.

Callum Keith Rennie as Raynor in Star Trek: Discovery season 5. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

Wilson, now that the show is over, what did you learn most about yourself or your acting craft during your time on Discovery?

Wilson Cruz: I think what I was reminded of by playing Hugh is that at any given moment, on any given day, we can all decide that we want to do something differently. That we deserve more from our lives. And that we are capable of making those changes and choices at any given moment. And if things aren’t working in the way you think that they’re supposed to, that you can decide in that moment that you want something different, and change it. That second chances are real. That you can give them to yourself. And as an actor, I feel this was the first time ever that I’ve been given the privilege of seeing a character throughout five seasons. I was all one-hit wonders before this. It was really gratifying to see him grow and to see his change from season to season. And I knew where I wanted him to end up when it was all over, and despite the fact that we didn’t know this was going to be our last season, I’m so gratified by the fact that who I envisioned him to be by the end of the series really shows up here at the end of season 5.

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More Discovery season 5 interviews…

Check out previous junket interviews:

Also, check out our SXSW Discovery premiere red carpet interviews:

We also have more coming up including a post-episode discussion with co-showrunner Michelle Paradise about the season premiere.

The fifth and final season of Discovery debuts with two episodes on Thursday, April 4 exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the UK, Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and Austria. Discovery will also premiere on April 4 on Paramount+ in Canada and will be broadcast on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada. The rest of the 10-episode final season will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays. Season 5 debuts on SkyShowtime in select European countries on April 5.

Note: The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.  

Find more stories on the Star Trek Universe.

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“I feel like I got stuck at like 16 or 17 and I have never felt older than that. I am now 26 [laughs].“

Explains a lot

I don’t get it.

Culber is a great character. The others, not so much.

I’d say of the three, yeah, I like Culber. Tilly is, I guess, ok. Adira, don’t care for her.

Glad to hear Raynor is a curmudgeonly git; DSC needs an element of that which was sorely lacking when Michelle Yeoh’s character left. Love Culber and Tilly and so glad it seems the latter is back in a full time capacity, her absence was really felt in s4. Adira is just kind of …there. Hopefully they find something to do with the character this season.

Yeah, Georgiou was my favorite character on Discovery. She left a huge void. :(

Hopefully, Captain Rayner is more in the line of Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway. More professional with emotions in check.

I realize a lot of time has passed since the actors finished their work, but I haven’t seen any interviews lately with Anthony Rapp, or any pictures where he’s included with the cast promoting the final season. I assume he’s working.

He’s doing his one-man show in Boston right now! I saw it in NY and loved it.

Awesome! Thanks for the update Laurie! I knew there had to be something keeping him away.

Every time I see that poster with alien runes, I think it’s a Stargate.

Happy the DSC is back, but man I want Stargate to come back too.

Been a fan since 1975. I can’t believe how I couldn’t care less about this series.

Apparently saying that I can’t get into Discovery means you are trolling and your comment gets shut down. I’ve seen plenty of comments over the years a lot worse than that saying they don’t like DS9 or Enterprise, but they are allowed. So warning to all: Saying anything bad about Discovery is not allowed.

I got no problem with you saying you dislike Discovery. My former boss, who owned his own company was a huge TOS fan (I think he may have liked TNG to some extent too). He checked out the first episode of Discovery and decided then and there that he just didn’t care for it. I like the stories/plots, production, and action in Discovery, but, as a whole, I’m just not as enamored with the cast of characters for the show. The best one was Empress Georgiou and she’s gone. : ( This cast, as a whole, just isn’t as fun as TOS, TNG, and DS9 in my opinion.