NEW YORK — Star Trek: Discovery’s second season is still a few months away, but the cast and crew are nearly done filming the whole thing. In Season 1, the cast was still finding their footing and establishing their characters’ basic personalities. With that exposition under their belts, though, it’s time for the senior staff of the U.S.S. Discovery to boldly go — well, you know the rest.
At New York Comic Con 2018, I attended a series of press roundtables with the Star Trek: Discovery cast and producers. Each participant explained what’s new for his or her character in Discovery Season 2, exercising extreme caution not to brush up against too many spoilers. Here’s what I learned from each one:
Shazad Latif (Lieutenant Ash Tyler)
Ash Tyler’s arc in Season 2 may be a complex one — especially since, as we learned in Season 1, Latif does not really play Tyler at all, but a houseless Klingon warrior named Voq engineered to mimic Tyler’s appearance and carry Tyler’s memories. Along with Chancellor L’Rell, Tyler will attempt to navigate the tenuous peace between the Klingons and the Federation, as he has a foot in both worlds. “It’s confusing for the both of them,” he said.
MORE: How to Watch Star Trek: Discovery
Mary Chieffo (Chancellor L’Rell)
In Season 1, L’Rell was a Klingon warrior with a devious plan; in Season 2, she’s the chancellor of the whole Klingon Empire. Playing the character as a villain first helped Chieffo develop L’Rell into a more ambiguous ally later. “It’s great to have a baseline, where we learn together,” she said. The potential for cooperation between L’Rell and Commander Michael Burnham in particular could be a focus in Season 2. “Burnham was L’Rell’s first contact with human culture and diplomacy … L’Rell has some respect for Burnham, but it’s a tough relationship.”
Sonequa Martin-Green (Commander Michael Burnham)
“My most standout moment was coming aboard,” Martin-Green answered when asked what her favorite part of working on Discovery was so far. While the Season 2 sizzle reel the producers showed off at NYCC was full of quick cuts and flashy effects, Martin-Green believes that drama is still at the core of the show. “It looks action-packed, but it is so emotional,” she said. “It’s the kind of emotion that just wrenches you.” As for Burnham’s arc this season, having reclaimed her Starfleet rank, the once-disgraced officer will now focus on mending her own psyche. “The next stage of Burnham’s redemption is self-redemption,” Martin-Green said. “That’s the hardest fall you can take. How can I move forward?”
Alex Kurtzman (Executive Producer)
Star Trek: Discovery isn’t the first heavily serialized TV show in the franchise (Deep Space Nine and Season 3 of Enterprise came first), but one episode tends to flow right into the next, especially if you marathon the season. “We wanted to do something different structure-wise [for Season 2,” said Kurtzman, and explained that episodes in the second season will be a bit more self-contained. “People love standalone episodes,” he said. He also explained that while the Discovery writers do the best they can to integrate the Discovery show, books and comics into a cohesive whole, fitting 50+ years of supplementary materials into a cohesive whole would be “an impossibility.”
Heather Kadin (Executive Producer)
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 isn’t the only Trek project on the horizon; there’s also the upcoming Captain Picard spinoff, which will return Patrick Stewart to one of his most beloved roles. Fans shouldn’t expect that show to just mimic Discovery, though. “Every show has its own voice,” Kadin said. “The Picard show won’t look like Discovery.” Just as Discovery has introduced new types of aesthetics, storytelling and cinematography to the franchise, she believes the Picard show will be equally inventive — but couldn’t elaborate more on the subject just yet.
Ethan Peck (Lieutenant Spock)
Peck is well aware of the responsibility of playing Mr. Spock. After all, the Vulcan science officer isn’t just a favorite Star Trek character; he’s also one of the most recognizable figures in Western pop culture. As such, Peck is reading Leonard Nimoy’s biography, and studying blueprints of the original U.S.S. Enterprise — which he once pulled out a table read. “My benchmark is Leonard Nimoy,” Peck said. However, Peck also enjoys Zachary Quinto’s performance as Mr. Spock in the rebooted Kelvin timeline films, and hopes that the two can compare notes sometime soon.
Anson Mount (Captain Christopher Pike)
Mount is a surprisingly big Star Trek fan, having seen each episode of the original series at least three times, and each episode of The Next Generation almost as many. He considers Captain Pike’s character arc to be “the biggest missing second act in TV history.” We know how Pike’s story begins and ends, but Mount is eager to fill in the middle. More so than other captains in Trek history, Mount believes that Pike operates on the wisdom of his officers. “Any military outfit, leadership is top down,” he said. “It’s ridiculous to think that a leader can operate in a vacuum.”
Anthony Rapp (Lieutenant Paul Stamets)
Now that Discovery is entering its second season, Rapp feels more comfortable in his role, but he doesn’t take the series legacy for granted. “Walking down the corridors of our starship feels totally normal — and also amazing,” he said. Last season, Stamets went slightly mad as he was plugged into the spore drive for long stretches of time. As such, this season, Rapp is looking forward to fleshing out Stamets as a regular officer. “Stamets will continue to discover who he is, and not [just] what his work is,” Rapp said. “He’ll be able to express himself though that [relationship].”
Wilson Cruz (Doctor Hugh Culber)
Although Culber met an unfortunate end in Season 1, his character arc is not over just yet — particularly the mark he left on his husband, Paul Stamets. “There’s a palpable sense that Culber really allowed Pal to be who he was,” Cruz said. “That sense of respect and love through mutual admiration.” Some fans were concerned that Culber’s death fell into an unfortunate “bury your gays” trope, in which queer characters get killed off rather than given a chance at lasting happiness. But Cruz insists that “Culber really had to die to tell the story we wanted.”
Doug Jones (Commander Saru)
Hopefully, Discovery has a few more seasons left in it, but Jones has wondered what a happy ending might look like for Saru. “I’d like to see Saru back with his own people,” Jones said. “Either they join him [in Starfleet] or he goes home.” In the meantime, though, Jones wants to play Saru “like a butler from Downton Abbey.” Saru’s movement is fluid and graceful, mirroring the character’s precision and poise, and Jones explains that the character’s platformed boots, which move his center of gravity a little bit forward, help him maintain the demanding posture.
Mary Wiseman (Ensign Sylvia Tilly)
In Season 1, Tilly leaned on her friends and mentors; in Season 2, as part of the character’s command training program, she’ll have to face many difficult situations on her own. Wiseman believes that Tilly’s ultimate goal is to be “surrounded by people who love and respect her.” She’s uncertain whether she’ll ever get to play the fan-favorite Mirror Universe “Captain Killy” in the show, but advised fans that they can find Killy, voiced by Wiseman herself, in the Star Trek Online video game. The first Star Trek: Discovery short film, which is out now, gives Tilly one of her first tough command decisions.