Star Trek: Discovery is the first series in the Star Trek franchise to focus on a woman of color. Sonequa Martin-Green leads the series as Cmdr. Michael Burnham. In addition, the series also features Michelle Yeoh in the prominent role of Philippa Georgiou, and a writers’ room has assembled to work on the pilot for Yeoh’s spinoff series. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, CBS All Access’ executive vice president of original content Julie McNamara discussed why the streaming service emphasized women of color in the first new Star Trek television series to debut in more than a decade.
“We certainly feel that it’s important to reflect the culture on our service,” she said. “And that’s not just altruistic, although it is a good and important thing. It’s also good business. You really want to reach people in a way that feels specific in terms of characters and story telling.”
Star Trek: Discovery’s co-creator Alex Kurtzman says that having a woman of color in the lead role was one of his first thoughts about the new show. “About three years ago when, when CBS asked me to consider doing another Star Trek, my first instinct was: it’s got to be a woman and it’s got to be a woman of color,” he says. “I’m not interested in having another male captain. We made that very clear and a condition of our involvement and Julie was immediately supportive of it. And one thing I remember very clearly was that we were still casting the morning Trump was elected and somehow in the casting conversation this question came up like, okay, do we have to reconsider this? And we doubled down and said, this is exactly why we have to do this right now. And for me personally, I have a harder time writing men—that’s the truth. I don’t know why. It’s always been the case.”
Martin-Green has spoken in the past about what her role in Star Trek means. “Yes, always about universality,” Martin-Green said. “I think when you have that at your core, and one of the tenets of your story is universality, then you now have a responsibility to innovate, and you have a responsibility to press forward because every Star Trek reflects the society it’s in at that time. If universality is going to be one of the tenets, then, of course, we have to keep moving. We have to keep making this picture of the future that people can look to. It’s always to make people look ahead so that they can bring that future into their lives in the present.”
Star Trek: Discovery‘s first two seasons are available to stream on CBS All Access. The show’s third season will premiere in 2020.
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