Remote Controlled: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Cast, Creators on Reinventing Sci-Fi Franchise

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode Variety senior TV reporter Daniel Holloway speaks with the cast and executive producers of CBS All Access drama “Star Trek: Discovery” at a Television Academy post-screening Q&A in Los Angeles.

The series, which premiered last year, takes place, like its franchise predecessors, in a future where humanity has joined forces with its galactic neighbors to explore the cosmos. But “Discovery” strikes a more urgent note than previous iterations of “Star Trek.” The new series stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, a rising Starfleet officer who precipitates a war with the alien Klingon Empire and is stripped of her rank — before being given a second chance aboard a mysterious starship on a secret mission.

Martin-Green, an alum of “The Walking Dead” who is the first African-American woman to play the lead in a “Star Trek” series, said that her husband took video of her reaction when she found out a year and a half ago that she had landed the part of Burnham.

“Obviously there were tears,” Martin-Green said. “It was such an incredible moment. It felt almost revolutionary, and a deep honor, and a blessing.”

“Did you guys ever watch ‘Sesame Street’?” executive producer and series co-creator Alex Kurtzman asked the screening crowd, comparing Martin-Green’s reaction video to shots in the children’s television show when the camera would hold steady while Muppets pinballed around the frame.

In the Season 1 finale, Martin-Green’s Burnham and Mary Chieffo’s Klingon warrior L’Rell set aside their differences and work together to stop the war between their factions.

“Here you have these two women who seem like enemies, like you were saying, and realizing that there is no difference between us, which is very ‘Star Trek’,” Martin-Green said. “There is nothing different between us.”

Martin-Green noted that in a piece of a scene cut from the season-one finale, Burnham turned to L’Rell and said, “Today she’s not my enemy.”

Chieffo added that the mutual culmination of Burnham and L’Rell’s respective storylines was “so profound.”

As Dr. Hugh Culber, Wilson Cruz played half of the first openly couple in “Star Trek” history opposite Anthony Rapp as Lt. Paul Stamets. Cruz recalled receiving an email from a young fan in Germany who wrote that watching watching “Discovery” has helped inspire him to come out as gay to his mother.

“For me, that’s what it’s about,” Cruz said. “In this moment that we get to help this generation imagine a future worth their while. That we get to express to them a future where they are celebrated for their differences, not just tolerated. That our loves ar eequal in scope and beauty and to be part of that is life altering.”

You can listen to this week’s podcast here:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.

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