In Season Two of Star Trek Discovery, which streams on CBS Access, Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) of the U.S.S. Discovery answers a distress signal from the U.S.S. Enterprise and joins forces with its Captain, Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) on a new mission to investigate seven mysterious red signals and the appearance of a being called the Red Angel. At the same time, Michael must face her past when she is reunited with her estranged half-brother, Spock (Ethan Peck).
Sonequa, Anson and Ethan came to the TV Critics tour in Pasadena, California, to talk with journalists about the exciting new chapter in their saga.Sonequa, Anson and Ethan came to the TV Critics tour in Pasadena, California, to talk with journalists about the exciting new chapter in their saga.

Sonequa, the idea that Lieutenant Uhura was monumental in the sixties. Is this another way that furthers Roddenberry’s conversation?

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 – Sonequa Martin-Green at the Winter TCA Panel, held at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 30th, 2019 © 2019 CBS Interactive, photo by Francis Specker

Sonequa Martin-Green: Absolutely. Nichelle gave me her blessing, and it meant a lot to me.  That woman is a queen. I always say that. I talked recently about her connection to Dr King and how he encouraged her to take the role. Because the black community needed to see themselves in a position of authority with intelligence and competence. So she took it.

And here I stand, the first black woman to lead a Star Trek iteration, and I’m standing on her shoulders. I feel that what Gene originally envisioned is being carried out today because we are taking it further. I think that’s what we have to do.

Tell me how it takes it further.

Sonequa: Because we are going further with the representation. We are continuing to be a mirror to society. This franchise has always been built on innovation. 

We are continuing to show people that are different from us be in these positions that people can relate to. We are not just seeing them represented, we are seeing them as these best versions of themselves. Then we can see the best versions of ourselves while we look at them.

So it’s not just about seeing people of color. It’s not just about seeing a black woman as the lead or about seeing an Asian female captain. It’s about seeing these people be well rounded, strong, sacrificial and integral to the group. That’s the representation that changes people’s beliefs and can, therefore, change the world.

In terms of Michael, you are also there as a balance of logic and emotion. Could you talk about that a little bit? 

Sonequa: Absolutely. The conflict between logic and emotion is a very, very interesting one. I think it’s interesting as it relates to Season 2 as well because we explore faith and science and how they relate to each other in Season 2. And I can see an interesting parallel there. One of the things that’s powerful to me about Michael Burnham is her tenacity.

As Michael, I had an upbringing that was a real trauma, but I’ve overcompensated, and I’ve succeeded in spite of. But there’s the constant yearning to find the true balance between logic and emotion. It’s a different fight than Spock because he is, in his very DNA, half Vulcan and I am not. It’s interesting to live in a life where your natural tendency has to be denied.

Anson and Ethan, you are playing characters that fans have been obsessing over for 50 years. Particularly in Ethan’s case, you are playing a character that a couple of actors have already played pretty well.  

Tell us about the challenge of developing these new visions of these characters. There are so many fans out there who feel like they already know them. They feel like already know how they should be played…

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 – Anson Mount during the Winter TCA Panel, held at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 30th, 2019 © 2019 CBS Interactive, photo by Francis Specker

Ethan Peck: Yeah, it’s a huge responsibility and a huge burden. I questioned whether I could handle it in the beginning.  But I had the faith of people that I really admire. That’s a real gift as an actor coming into this type of role.  

It’s been played so incredibly by (Leonard) Nimoy and then (Zachary) Quinto.  Some people thought, “You’ve had two people who have played it. So now is the pressure off for you?” And I say, “No, because they’ve both brought such incredible spirit to the role.” And so I approached it with a lot of love and a lot of care.

I spent a lot of time with Nimoy’s performance because it is a part of the prime timeline. But a lot of the work was done for me in the writing. This is this period of time ten years before the original series, three years after “The Cage,” which was the pilot episode for the original series. And there’s 13 years, essentially, of Spock unexplored. I just came in with a lot of, I hope, humility and respect for what had been done and for what had been written down for me.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 – Ethan Peck during the Winter TCA Panel, held at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 30th, 2019 © 2019 CBS Interactive, photo by Francis Specker

Anson Mount: I think Ethan had a tougher job than I did because there’s so little of Pike that’s been established. I really got to go in and play around in a big, empty second act of that character’s timeline. 

Obviously, it’s an enormous sense of responsibility given the fact that Star Trek was my make-believe game when I was a kid. So it was more of just a matter of joy in getting in there.  

Sonequin, you are now a veteran with interacting and getting feedback from the fan base. I am curious if you had any advice for Anson and Ethan as to newcomers interacting with the fan base.

Sonequa: Oh, goodness. I would say to just enjoy the moment, but I know that seems kind of cliche. But those encounters (with fans, who) are so special and are magic, live forever. Even though it might be 10 seconds or three minutes, they get compiled all together, and they start to define the entire experience.

Star Trek Discovery 205 “Saints of Imperfection” – Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Captain Pike (Anson Mount) © 2018 CBS Interactive, photo by Michael Gibson

Anson and Ethan, are you reading any of the comments?

Ethan: I’m not really, no. Are you?

Anson: It’s hard to avoid it. You’ll see little arguments about canon pop up on my timeline. I stay out of it. But I’m grateful for the attention, certainly.

Ethan, do you know if your grandfather (Gregory Peck) was aware of Star Trek and, if so, what his opinion was of the franchise?

Ethan: I don’t know.  However, in doing my research for the role, I found a lot of actors that he’s worked with in his career which has been just very surreal.  Just the fact that I’m connected to him and to see these very slim degrees of separation in the past in the industry is very special. That’s just amazing. 

Anson, who are your favorite captains in Star Trek lore?

Anson: I grew up with Kirk as my captain, so I have to go back to the original just because that’s just my childhood. I’d play act. That was my make-believe character, was Captain Kirk. My favorite Star Trek character overall would probably be Data, and I’m a big Brent Spiner fan.  

Star Trek Discovery 210 – Spock (Ethan Peck) © 2018 CBS Interactive, photo by Michael Gibson

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Soundbyte

Michael was driven by guilt in Season 1 – Sonequa was asked if her character is still feeling residual guilt in Star Trek: Discovery Season 2? Click here to listen to her response.

Sonequa Martin-Green soundbyte

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane