With the new show Star Trek: Strange New Worlds entering the famed sci-fi universe, it opens the door for new characters and actors, like Christina Chong who plays La'an Noonien-Singh, to enter this space alongside veterans like Rebecca Romijn, Ethan Peck and Anson Mount.
“Because I'm a new Trekkie, I didn't realize just how daunting the whole thing actually is,” Chong told Yahoo Canada. “It was only once I was actually in it, on set filming, realizing step-by-step, ‘oh wow, this is huge.’”
“I'm kind of glad in that way because I didn't have that anxiety about stepping into it because I wasn't aware, but now I'm super happy tha t I’m here.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is focused on the time when Captain Christopher Pike (Mount) was at the helm of the U.S.S. Enterprise, before Captain Kirk came on board. Chong’s character, security officer La'an, is related to famed Star Trek villain Khan Noonien-Singh.
The actor revealed that she really wanted to ensure that people can connect to La'an through the show.
“The base of her character is a very primal emotion, whatever scenes I get I just bring it down to ‘OK, what's this primal emotion that she's experiencing that we all experience in life,’” she said. “She's very closed off, she's got this protective wall, just like we all have, to various degrees, been through trauma in our lives, it's all relative.”
“When you've been through something traumatic, especially during childhood, you put up these walls as a protection and hoping that it won't happen again, trying to prevent it from happening again. So she…is trying to open up and break through those walls.”
As Chong teases, La'an’s fears are evident and they come “back and forth” as the series progresses.
“I think she's confronted by her fear and she's obviously very brave because she's forced to kind of confront it and work through it,” Chong said.
“I kind of look back in my life at my past traumas… I hope that will mean that the audience can connect more to her, but we'll see. I just wanted to make her very real and human.”
Entering Star Trek: Strange New Worlds as a self-described “new Trekkie,” Chong took it upon herself to ask questions on set, even just small things, as she walked into this new world.
“I remember the first thing on the bridge, you've got so many buttons and I didn’t want to ask it, but I felt like everybody else wanted to ask it, and it was Akiva [Goldsman] directing the first episode and I was like, ‘so I'm just going say this, what do these buttons do? Is there a specific button that does something or do we just make it up,” Chong revealed. “And Akiva was like, ‘no you just make it up.’”
“But everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, thank God you asked that question because that's exactly what we've all been thinking.’”
A platform for imagination and diversity
While this is Christina’s Chong introduction into Star Trek, it’s not the first beloved sci-fi series she’s been a part of, previously playing Lorna Bucket on Dr. Who in 2011, when Matt Smith was playing the Doctor.
“I guess the roles that I have attracted,…they're very similar in the way that they're both fighters, kind of soldiers with a vulnerability,” Chong said.
When it comes to getting an enhanced understanding of why the sci-fi genre is so captivating for people, Chong highlights that it’s “a massive platform for imagination” and “manifestation.”
“Somebody has to come up with these future ideas, right, it has to be a thing in your head,” she said. “I was just talking to somebody about the iPad, Star Trek invented the iPad, automatic doors, things like that, they have to be imagined before they can be real, so it's almost like they are predictors of the future.”
“That's something that has kind of made me really fall in love with this genre.”
Another aspect of the genre she connected to, but specifically looking at Star Trek, is its commitment to diversity and inclusion in the storytelling.
“It's all about diversity and inclusion, everyone's treated equally, it doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, what you look like, Pike and the Enterprise, they treat the people that they meet, the species they’re meeting, as equals,” Chong explained. “There's negotiation, there's talk, they're seeing each other’s sides, it's just so forward thinking.”
“It is so in alignment with my ideals as a person and so being a part of it is just a dream come true.”
'You're exactly where you're supposed to be'
As an actor, Christina Chong revealed that one of the hardest things to navigate in her career has been wanting to be in spaces with her friends and colleagues, from red carpets to particular TV shows, and not actually being there yet.
“It was very hard for me for a long while to not compare myself to other people.” she revealed. “I've worked with my life coach and I think what changed for me was actually realizing that…we're all made up of the same energy.”
“We're all just quarks floating around in the air at different vibrations… There's a part of you in that person getting that role, doing that role. So if you can be happy and supportive, and celebrate other people getting roles, that was a huge shift for me… At the end of the day, it's being OK with where you are right now. No matter where you are, that you're exactly where you're supposed to be.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds premieres on Crave in Canada on Thursday, May 5, followed by a weekly release schedule with new episodes streaming Thursdays, as well as airing on CTV Sci-Fi Channel, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET. It premieres on May 5 on Paramount+ in the U.S.