Star Trek: Discovery stars Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz acknowledge there are unintentional parallels between season 3 of their CBS All Access series, which dropped its second episode Thursday, and what's been going on in the real world amid a pandemic.
As the premiere episode established, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) meets a new ally in Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala) after, quite literally, blasting off into the future. She makes it her personal mission to reunite with her lost USS Discovery crew, whose whereabouts and hardships are revealed in the latest installment.
"There's definitely a parallel in terms of the fact that we're dealing with how separate and how disconnected we all are in season 3," Cruz tells ET's Matt Cohen on a recent Zoom interview. "I think we can all relate to that at the moment, but what's so wonderful about this cast and this crew is that even when the shutdown happened, we reached out to each other and we kept in contact throughout the entire last six months, so it's almost as if we never left each other because we were on Zooms and phone calls and we were in contact the whole time. It's really exciting to know that it's finally going to get seen."
Filming on Discovery finished in February, right before film and television sets across the world were shut down. Only in recent months have sets started resuming production. (Season 4, which was officially announced in October, will begin production in Toronto on Nov. 2.)
With the season finding Michael and company 930 years later, with a depleted Starfleet and nonexistent Federation, it's up to the crew to put the pieces back together and figure out what happened following a mysterious apocalyptic event called The Burn. Abandoning Star Trek lore and carving out its own path as a result of the time jump was freeing.
"There's a phrase that [showrunner] Michelle Paradise uses that I love so much and she refers to it as 'fresh snow for the writers to be able to explore.' It's standing on the shoulders of everything that's come forward in the many iterations of Star Trek but it's also entirely new, so even if we are encountering cultures and races and aliens that [we] have met before, it's so far in the future that maybe the way that they are related to or related to one another is a bit different," Rapp says. "That's very exciting for the writers and it's certainly exciting for myself as a Star Trek fan to be able to see that. Things have really changed for the Federation for sure and that's one of the crucial plot points that threads throughout the whole season: What's happened to the Federation? How do we help put it back together?"
Rapp praised new additions Ajala, and Star Trek's first transgender and non-binary characters who will be introduced in the third and fourth episodes.
"David Ajala, who's an incredible human being, great actor, movie star. First time I saw him I was on set while he was working and I was watching the monitor and I was like, 'That guy is a movie star.' He's just been an incredible addition to the cast and he's going to bring so much wonderful energy to it," he marvels. "And then on a more personally exciting level, Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander, non-binary and a trans actor, respectively, are joining the cast. For Blu especially, it was Blu's first professional job and I got to be there on their first day of work and it was thrilling to watch them do their thing and I cannot wait for people to meet them. Ian's had a wonderful career already and introduced to that many more people [as] a part of this. But that's really exciting that these young pioneers are a part of our cast and they are wonderful artists, as well as human beings and activists."
Cruz, meanwhile, offered a tease about where the relationship between Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber will go this season.
"I am excited about our relationship and the fact that you get to see us really at home this season and with these new people who are added to our lives, how they affect our lives," he says. "I'm trying not to get in trouble here but I am excited about the unit that Paul and Hugh are creating together."
For both actors, portraying a gay couple on Star Trek: Discovery has been groundbreaking.
"What I'm excited is that we are presenting the world and its inhabitants as they are. We're not reinventing the wheel here. We are including everyone because everyone is capable of being a hero and saving the world, and on Star Trek, we show that to be true," Cruz explains. "When you look at our cast, you look at our crew and our creative team, it looks like the world, and on Star Trek, these people come together and decide that their existence and their bond to each other is so important that they're willing to team together to save it. Every season, we seem to find them expanding our idea as a culture and as a society of who is allowed to do what."
"Over the past three or four years since the show premiered, we just continue to get incredible messages in social media about how much it means to so many people, and that's incredibly gratifying," Rapp adds. "There's a couple young trans people who I've met at conventions who I just know how much Blu and Ian are going to mean to them also. But our existence, even though our characters aren't trans, but being part of the LGBTQ community has already meant so much to them. It's unfortunate that it took as long as it took for Star Trek to finally have this kind of representation, but we are very grateful that we have been handed the opportunity to carry that mantle."
"And we're very proud to present you the queerest Star Trek in history," Cruz says.
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