After a lengthy process with the goal of securing a non-white actress for the role, The Walking Dead’s Sasha Williams, African American actress Sonequa Martin-Green, will play Lieutenant Commander Rainsford in the Star Trek TV franchise revival, Star Trek: Discovery. She fulfils the cited inspiration of Mae Jamison, the first African-American female astronaut, and Nichelle Nichols, the only African-American and female regular cast member on, Star Trek: The Original Series by co-creator Bryan Fuller at Comic Con in August. Martin Green joins British-Nigerian actor Chris Obi (Roots (2016), The Call Up (2016), Death in Paradise (2014) ) who has been cast as T’Kuvma, a Klingon leader seeking to unite the Klingon houses.
Martin-Green (also of The Good Wife and Once Upon a Time) joins the central cast of Doug Jones as Starfleet Science Officer (and “new” species) Lt. Saru; Anthony Rapp as astromycologist (fungus expert) and Starfleet Science Officer Lt. Stamets; Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful), as Kol, a Klingon Commanding Officer, and protege of T’Kuvma; and the newcomer Mary Chieffo as L’Rell, the Battle Deck Commander of a Klingon ship. Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000, Tomorrow Never Dies) is cast as Starfleet Captain Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou. Discovery is expected to begin filming imminently.
Fuller conceived the series with Alex Kurtzman, choosing the name carefully, “This ship is called the Discovery for a few reasons. Not the least of which is Stanley Kubrick’s contribution to the Discovery on “2001: A Space Odyssey,” NASA’s vessel the Discovery, and also the sense of discovery… [to] seek new worlds and new alien races to explore and understand and collaborate with.”
He served as show-runner early on before creatively exiting the project in October, after the premiere was pushed back from February to May 2017. He retains an executive producing credit.
The show is set to take place in the Prime timeline (as opposed to the Kelvin timeline where the recent movies take place), 10 years before the events of Star Trek: TOS, and roughly 100 years after Earth made first contact with the Klingon Empire (as depicted in the Star Trek: Enterprise pilot, Broken Bow). At this point in Trek history, the Federation and the Klingon Empire could be facing an uneasy cold war. It reportedly follows an incident in the history of Starfleet that other series/movies in the franchise have touched on but never fully explored. That story will be told from Rainsford’s perspective, who is “… on a journey that is going to teach her how to get along with others in the galaxy.”
Whilst Martin-Green represents the first African-American woman to lead the cast of a Trek ensemble, Anthony Rapp’s Lt. Stamets will be the TV franchise’s first openly gay character. Benjamin Sisko of, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, played by Avery Brooks, was the first African-American Trek lead character, and the first lead not ranked a Captain. He began as a Commander initially in charge of the space station. He was promoted to Captain at the end of series 3 (ep 26, The Adversary), when the USS Defiant became a permanent cast member.
Rainsford will also not hold the rank of Captain. “We’ve seen six series from the captain’s point of view,” Fuller explained. “To see a character from a [new] perspective on the starship — one who has different dynamic relationships with a captain, with subordinates, it gave us richer context.”
Whilst we understand the DS9 rationale, we’re still a little uneasy about a black female lead deliberately cast in an inferior role and who has to ‘learn to get along’ with folks. Sounds depressingly familiar on the one hand. But, when it comes to Star Trek, we will always start in a glass-half-full kind of mood, happy to give them the benefit of the doubt! After all, they also gave us Comms specialist Lt. Uhura in TOS, Chief Engineer Lt. then Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton) in TNG, Vulcan Security Chief Lt. Cmdr Tuvok (Tim Russ) in Voyager, and Ensign Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) in Enterprise.
For The Walking Dead fans, Martin-Green will reportedly continue her regular role as Sasha… for now…
The 13-episode first season of, Star Trek: Discovery is being produced for CBS All Access, CBS’ live streaming and VOD service. Plus the series will be distributed by Netflix in 188 countries and by Bell Media in Canada.