Tell us about the relationship between your character and Sonequa Martin-Green‘s Michael Burnham, your second-in-command.
Captain Phillipa Georgiou and [Michael Burnham] are both human, even though Michael Burnham thinks that she is Vulcan sometimes because she was orphaned as a child and brought up the Vulcan way. Captain Georgiou is a combat veteran who has seen the horrors of war but still has great hope for humanity, and she’s devoted to the principles of Starfleet. She’s optimistic, because she really and truly has hope for the future. And Michael Burnham is brought to Georgiou through her good friend Sarek, who’s the father of Spock, because he knew that even though she’s seen the horrors of war, she’s not cynic and still has that wit and compassion about her. He believes that Captain Georgiou will be able to help Michael Burnham discover and accept who she is and what she really is, which is a human being who has emotions. It’s OK to feel love; it’s OK to have love and compassion and all that within you and not just to be coldly logical.
So that was how these two women came to be with each other, and from the start of the story you will know that they’ve been together for seven years. And in that seven years they’ve not only learned to respect each other but love each other and admire the opposite for who they really are, and not what they want them to be. It’s a beautiful relationship between the Captain and her No. 1, where it’s like a mentor, but at the same time its almost like a mother and daughter. She’s the daughter I never had, and I become the mother that she didn’t have either.
It sounds like a hopeful story.
That’s always been the essence of Star Trek — that [no matter] how bad the situation, if we work together, we believe in each other, we will overcome, and we will have a better future.
Do you see any parallels between the show and the world today?
[Star Trek has] always reflected what’s happening in the present day and showed you options: if you did it this way, if you did it another way. Maybe it will just snap you out of the fact that “Yes, this is the wrong thing to do, and if we continue down this path this will be to our own destruction.” It is important for our series to reflect and to be able to demonstrate the possibilities, and to ensure that we do have a better future ahead of us.
That’s a good message to spread.
I think that’s why Star Trek has spanned 50 years, because the show is special to many. Its vision has always been one that is very nurturing. When it is done right, and the right story is told, it will inspire us and this generation to do the right thing.
How cool is it to play the Captain of a starship?
Oh my gosh! I can’t even begin to express the joy, the pride that beams out from the chest. I think it’s also so empowering for so many Asians, to see an Asian captain in Star Trek — I mean an Asian woman, because George Takei was also a Captain in one of the episodes, I remember. But for the little Asian girls out there, you don’t know what this means to them. It is very, very powerful, and it is so important for them to realize that, it’s a possibility. Look, if I can do it they can do it.
What is it like to put on the uniform and walk on the bridge of the ship?
Your whole posture changes, I tell you, when you zip up that uniform and you have your Starfleet badge. My whole demeanor just changes when I stride into the bridge, my bridge — that sense of “I am in control, and don’t anybody forget that.” It’s pretty cool, I must say. It can be very daunting at first when you sit in that Captain’s chair, because that’s where you are most of the time: in that chair and being commanding. I’m glad for all the experience that I’ve had in action movies, I think it helped. It’s like, “Stay calm, whatever you do. Just look cool and stay calm.” Because you are the one who’s giving the orders, if you panic everybody else will.
Fans have been waiting for the show for a very long time. Do you feel relief now that it’s about to premiere?
You know, I’m so excited. I’m so excited for them as well, because I think they’ve waited for a long time for this, and I know we’re not going to disappoint them. Know that we, every single one of us in front of and behind the camera, are giving our best. We’re not just trying to be good, we’re trying to be the best. I really believe it will show.