The war may be over, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that ‘Star Trek: Discovery‘ is done with the Klingons! In point of fact, the second season seems poised to deal with the aftermath of the Federation-Klingon War, and in true ‘Star Trek’ fashion, it will be dealing with both sides. When we last saw our principle Klingons – L’Rell and Ash Tyler (formerly Voq) – L’Rell had assumed the chancellorship of the Klingon Empire and Tyler decided to leave Discovery to help her, reasoning that it represented his best chance at helping to establish a lasting peace between the Empire and the Federation. While at New York Comic Con, we had the chance to sit down with the actors behind those two warriors – Mary Chieffo and Shazad Latif respectively – for a conversation that touched on their ongoing relationship, last season’s disinformation campaign, and more.
Last season was very much about war, with this year being more about peace. Presumably, we’ll be seeing a new side of the Klingons – not just with the hair, in terms of character. What can you tell us about the path they’ll be on?
MC: Well for L’Rell, she really is trying to be a good leader, and she is trying to find her way of upholding T’Kuvma’s vision of unification. It was very clear last season that a war against the Federation was not gonna unify the Klingons, and she’s trying to figure out how she can bring people together in a way that is both innately Klingon, but also… She just came from this experience where she was exposed to humans at a level she never had been before, and she’s seen that there’s something innately interesting and good about them. And that’s something that I hope all diplomatic figures can be, that even if they don’t agree entirely with other people, they can see eye to eye, they want to keep things in mind. So that’s part of her struggle, that they really are leaning into her being a lady Klingon in a patriarchal species. And that is tricky, and there are a lot they’ll try and use against me because of who I am. Then I got this guy [laughs, indicates Shazad]
SL: As well as that, all of that, last season was fighting and that sort of thing. Now we see a lot of the intimate, sort of, you know, “bedroom scenes.” How she deals with Tyler in those kinds of places, and it’s nice to see that because I don’t think you really see that with the Klingons.
The whole sort of conspiracy theory thing with Tyler last year was fantastic. You had forums picking episodes apart, and it even went to the point of there being disinformation on IMDB. Where did that come from?
SL: There were so many people working behind the scenes, I don’t even…
MC: Yeah, I don’t know who’s idea it was.
SL: We don’t even know much, but when we had to sort of backtrack because it was getting out of hand and all this kind of stuff, they said, “We’ve got to come up with a pseudonym.” And I said, “Well, I’ve wanted to use my dad’s name, this could be just the thing.” But in terms of who was there, there might’ve been a whole room of people.
MC: And then there was a real Javid Iqbal on Twitter. Which I don’t believe was CBS-affiliated! [laughs] But it was very entertaining, and I couldn’t like any of the things, because I was like, “I can’t give anything away.”
Because of those CBS snipers.
MC: Exactly. Like the second I pressed it, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
Based on what you said in the panel, it sounds like Season Two will see L’Rell show a bit more of a feminine side. How does playing that compare with what you’ve already done, since in Season One she’s not the most traditionally feminine figure, at least the way we would think of it.
MC: It’s one of my favorite elements of the character and what they allowed her to do. I mean, I felt that within her alien-ness she was still allowed a great amount of sensuality and certainly the scenes between Voq and L’Rell and then ultimately with Tyler, there was a softness that I really pushed for. But yeah, I think what we’re shifting toward is… I was talking earlier about the fact that because she is an alien woman, we still do view her as not gendered in the typical way, that there is still this balance that we don’t quite see. I don’t feel like it’s riffing off of these archetypal female characters, but taking a new twist on them and giving them more voice. And I will say the embracing of the femininity is also giving more voice to that side of her, giving more airspace to what was there in the first season. But she still gets a lot of fearsome moments too! [laughs]
Is there anybody who inspired you in terms of the strength of your character?
MC: Well, within ‘Star Trek’ I really loved Grilka, who has two episodes in ‘Deep Space Nine’. Just the way she carried herself, she was a full Klingon woman, which I loved. But in real life, Gwendoline Christie is a huge role model for me. She’s 6’3″, she owns her height, she wears heels. I just… You know, so often people will – I’m six feet, and people will be all, “Well so-and-so’s tall, but they hide it really well.” And I was like, “Why don’t we just celebrate whatever size I am?” And so Gwendoline Christie has been the first person I’ve seen on carpets that’s just completely owning a size that’s similar to mine. If I were to say someone who just, every time I think of her empowers me to stay true to myself, it would be her.
Given how complicated their history is, how would you sum up the relationship between your two characters in the second season?
MC: [laughs] Complicated!
SL: I’d say we get – just by the nature of the fact we’re working together every day – we get closer. But there’s a lot of confusion and normal everyday relationship things in those moments. And it’s definitely an exploration.
MC: Yeah, a deeper exploration.
SL: Before it was just, while the war was going on…
MC: There’s time to listen. The empathy, I think, is big on both sides.
SL: We sort of come to it together, where we were at odds last time.
On a fun note, since you’re both at least somewhat familiar with the con experience by now, is there anyone – doesn’t have to be from ‘Star Trek’ – that you would cosplay? Like Mary, would you go as Captain Phasma?
MC: Oh, I would for sure go as Captain Phasma! Also, can we get that spinoff going?
Well, ‘Game of Thrones’ is over now. She should just be on ‘Discovery’.
MC: That would be great.
SL: I need an Asian superhero. I don’t know any Asian superheroes. Are there any?
Not nearly enough. It’s getting better, but…
MC: Oh! Bellatrix Lestrange! That’d be great!
The second season of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ is set to premiere January 17, 2019, on CBS All Access.