Home TVInterviews Interview: Star Trek: Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green

Interview: Star Trek: Discovery’s Sonequa Martin-Green

by Leora Heilbronn

It’s hard to believe that it was just a few months ago (January, to be exact) that I sat down for the Star Trek: Discovery season three press junket day at downtown Toronto hotel. Since then, life has been upended for all of us and it’s difficult to imagine when (or even if) junkets will return. However, on that grey January day, Star Trek: Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green brightened all of our days when she breezed into the interview room, making a point to introduce herself to all press members, and answering our questions in a very informed, intelligent way. This upcoming third season of Discovery is a huge step forward into the future, 930 years to be exact, and Martin-Green talked at length about how exciting that change was for her as well as her experience working with new cast member David Ajala. The following is a condensed and edited version of our conversation with the lovely Sonequa Martin-Green.

Brief Take: Family is an important theme of this show and it’s a key aspect for you because your husband was in Star Trek: Short Treks playing the father of your character, and also at the end of last season, your character and your crew decided that you’d abandon your families and the crew was effectively your family moving forward. Can you talk a little about what you like best about your Discovery cast members and what it was like to work with new cast member David Ajala in Iceland?

Sonequa Martin-Green: Oh my goodness, I can say so much to answer your question. I could talk all day about these people that I’m blessed to work with because speaking of family, we were a family quickly, which really speaks to the type of people that are in this company. There is no ego, there’s nothing but passion, love and respect. That allowed us to be close {snaps] like that. It happened before our very eyes. So that also emboldened us moving forward and also, I think, it contributed to the story being that much more authentic because I do think those things bleed over, those things in the real world bleed over into the story. We had the pleasure of loving each other and being so close so quickly. Speaking of my husband, that was such an interesting turn of events – him being my Dad in the show. [laughs] We decided that it was just the right amount of weird and that we’d go for it. So the fact that he’s my Dad in the show and I’m his namesake even, we just love it and think it’s the best thing ever. [laughs] We joke about it all the time at home. You know, Michael Burnham the first and senior, as he says all the time. It’s really beautiful. And then that translated really interestingly in the Short Trek because it was young Burnham with my Dad slash husband, so being able to see me young, and I just think that short is outstanding. I love all the Short Treks and I think they’re pieces of art, and I think that one is incredibly special. Big up to Alex Kurtzman and Brandon Schultz who wrote that one and for bringing it to life. The little girl who played little me, she’s an incredible actress.

So now, being the family that we are, we welcome people with open arms, that’s what we do. We certainly welcomed David with open arms and he’s become a part of us so seamlessly, and I love what he brings to Book. He brings this charm, cavalier-like confidence, which I love. We haven’t really seen that before. And I also love that at the beginning of the season we see this new future through his eyes and you feel the distance, especially with Burnham and Book, because there’s so much to acclimate to in this new future. [laughs]

You’ve been a part of two big genre franchises with The Walking Dead and Star Trek: Discovery. Are you drawn in particular to genre material?

SMG: Well I didn’t plan it. I certainly didn’t think that I’d be in sci-fi for all these years that I have been. I do however have such a fierce love for sci-fi now, being that I’ve been in this genre for eight years now. I’ve said this before but I think it always bears repeating, I think there’s something very special about sci-fi because the circumstances are so fantastic and so heightened from what we know day-to-day in a lot of ways that I think it allows us to suspend our disbelief in a way that we don’t, watching things that are sort of familiar to us in a day-to-day kind of way. I think that in the fact that it’s easier for us to suspend our disbelief, the themes and truths of the story you’re telling penetrates quicker and deeper, I think. There are all these elements, in Star Trek especially, there’s a plethora of themes and truths that we all would aspire to, would love to teach our children, that are seen and have been explored and retained in Star Trek. It just gets right in. It’s like sugar with medicine, you know? I think it just gets right to the heart, right to the subconscious. I think storytelling in general has the power, well we all know this, storytelling is incredibly powerful. It is a major sphere of influence in our society, you know? We’ve all been shaped by the things we watched growing up. Storytelling does that in itself, and then I think sci-fi does it in a very deep, compelling way. I think sci-fi changes paradigms, it shifts beliefs, it does all these things in a way that…not to say that other genres don’t, but perhaps in a way that is faster. [laughs] You know what I mean? I think it’s seen a bit faster with sci-fi.

Season two ended in such a thrilling way and now you’ve moved forward in time 930 years for season three. How do you and the writers up the ante in season three? 

SMG: Well I was floored by the decision to do it and I think it was a genius move by the writers and producers to do this, to have us jump into the future. I just couldn’t have been happier with the decision to do this. I think it was really something for Alex Kurtzman and the rest of the producers and writers to really think about how to take this to the next level because that’s what you want in a show. That’s what you want your series to do – you want it to get deeper, bigger, brighter, better every season. If you’re not improving, what are you doing?! [laughs] So season two was so many steps beyond season one in a way that it should have been in the natural progression of that kind of storytelling. And I think that season three, because we are going boldly where no one has gone before, this future comes with so much discovery, so much revelation, so much challenge because we are 930 years ahead. So this future is completely unfamiliar and technology has advanced in such a major way, language has advanced in such a major way, science, all of it, and we have to acclimate in every way. We have to figure out where we fit in this new future. We might as well be an exhibit in a museum because we’re so old to everyone. [laughs] So we have to find where we fit. Can we fit, you know? This is a group of geniuses so we can, but it’s hard. It’s also difficult because we have to deal with each other. We’ve left everything behind but now we only have each other and now we have all these residual emotions. Even just being displaced in this way has a huge effect on your psyche, and so everybody has to go through that. Everyone has these unique experiences. We have this collective experience, yes, but everyone has these individual experiences and journey with just the magnanimity of what we’ve done and what it means. So I think that it has been done. It has gone to the next level just because of what we’ve done, you know what I mean? {laughs] You’ll see so much progression in every department as well. The visual effects, the special effects, everything has progressed. So I think we’ve done it. [laughs] And kudos to everyone because everybody had to go to the next level. When you’re creating something new almost a thousand years in the future, you gotta put your creativity hat on. [laughs] You’ve got to think about ‘what does that look like now?’, you know? What does a phaser look like now? Do we touch things still? So I think everyone just ran with it, and that speaks to the artistry of everyone involved. Everyone ran with it.

I will just say that a bunch of stuff is completely new. I’m going to give a very generic answer. I wish I could tell you! But a lot of things are completely new and then there are some things that have stood the test of time as well. I love the way that it’s been done.

Star Trek: Discovery returns tonight at 9pm ET on CTV Sci-Fi channel

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Brief Take