“Nice office,” Anthony Rapp jokes. “I thought you were kidding, but you were serious.” Yes, we were. Rapp was conducting several interviews at Star Trek Las Vegas a few weeks ago, in the Mirror Universe exhibit there, and StarTrek.com suggested he come into our office: Emperor Georgiou’s foreboding throne. And, so that’s where we chatted with Rapp about season one of Star Trek: Discovery, his thoughts on the evolution thus far of Lt. Paul Stamets and the actor’s hopes for season two. Here’s what Rapp had to say in this, the latest in our series of StarTrek.com interviews building toward the November 13 release of Star Trek: Discovery: Season One on Blu-ray and DVD...
How satisfied were you with season one?
Oh my, goodness. I was incredibly satisfied. It was my first time being a regular on a TV show, so that was a whole crazy experience unto itself. But to be so spoiled by it being this TV show, I can't even begin to imagine anything better. So, yes, it was profoundly satisfying. I'm so proud. And I'm also really happy and excited with what is to come. It feels like everything got opened up. Everything got cracked open in season one, and now things in season two are getting to settle in what I hope and believe is a very meaningful way. The way it's going to connect up with everything else that's come before, I think, is also really special.
Speaking of connections, how cool were all the threads – some massive, so really subtle – linking Discovery to its TV predecessors?
I understand the skepticism in the fan community and the reluctance to believe because they care so much and they're so protective. We've been saying from the beginning, “It’s not spin. Everybody involved in this show cares deeply about Star Trek.” Especially the writers care deeply about the legacy of it and want to make sure that everything's going to be able to match up. It's a long game, though. That's one of the other things that Star Trek fandom isn't quite so used to, is this almost, like, crumbs thing that can happen where there's the long tail to it that has a payoff, but then you've earned the payoff. I believe that that's what we're doing.
What's your sense of where Stamets was when we first met him and when season one ended?
Well, so much of what was going on in the beginning was having to do with Lorca, and that getting resolved was a huge shift unto itself. Then, of course, what happened with Hugh was a huge shift unto itself. And in the middle of that was what happened with Stamets and the mycelial network. It's the big stew of all of it, and I feel like season two is where it all settles and coalesces. There's a peering into the unknown. All that stuff happened and now “What's next?” is a big question that I think is getting explored in a really interesting way.
What worked best for you about the Stamets-Culber relationship in season one?
I feel like it was really clearly established how we balanced each other, and how we accept each other and have our own lives and have our lives separate from one another fully, and then how we come together. There was a sense, I think, of a really healthy adult meaningful relationship. I think that that really landed.
How quickly did the relationship between you and Wilson Cruz form -- or re-form? That chemistry was really there.
Thanks. Well, we've known each other for over 20 years because we worked together in Rent. He replaced the original Angel on Broadway. We didn't do it for very long together, like three or four weeks. So, it was pretty brief, but we really connected during that time and we'd stayed in touch over the years. That part was easy. It was just we have an affinity for one another and affection for one another and love for one another as friends. So, you trust all of those things. Great respect. I first became aware of Wilson from My So-Called Life. At the time, I was working on Twister. I saw My So-Called Life, and thought, “This is the kind of work I would love to be a part of.” And he was wonderful in it.
That whole show had such meaning. It felt like a lifeline. Then, to meet him and be a part of Rent, which was my whole beautiful, main, equal experience. The Rent family is so much like the Star Trek family, I swear. All the different people over the years, there's a connection that we all share because it's changed all of our lives.
How ready was the Star Trek community for a gay relationship in their franchise?
It seems to me like 99.9% of them were hugely ready for it and hungry for it. There's the noisy but small minority that had said some nasty things, but that's going to happen.
How much fun did you have playing Mirror Stamets?
It was fun to play Mirror Stamets and play scenes opposite myself. It was a very strange, surreal, challenging experience, but really satisfying.
Did you see Mirror Stamets as an extension of Paul or a different character entirely?
We talked amongst ourselves as cast members that the Mirror self is… we have the same soul and the same intellect, but different life experiences and a different world that you live in. So, those things shape you. It's just like different things come to the foreground and different things go to the background. So, I feel like Mirror Paul is more single-minded, manipulative and willing to do anything, because you have to be that way to survive and thrive in that world. Prime Paul is much less that way. I mean, he is single-minded in terms of being focused on his work, but not for nefarious purposes.
Without giving too much away, what do you get to explore in season two?
The big exploration is about how to move forward, given everything that's happened, and where will I be going with my work, with my life. How is it to be here without Hugh? Then, those questions lead to more and more questions and then some answers. As far as Hugh, he will be back. His death was meant to be devastating, and it was. And we've been telling people since then, "Be patient. Be patient. Be patient, because our story's not over."
In general, how different in tone is season two from season one?
Star Trek always has some darkness to it, but season two is less grim overall, I would think. There's more time and space for the philosophical and relationship stuff to come to the foreground. There's certainly some action. It's not like we're just sitting around talking all the time, but I feel like there's a little more time and space.
Last question: What did you do during your off season?
It seems like so long ago now. I did some concerts. That's one of the things I do. My boyfriend and I went on safari to Africa. It was amazing. I saw a lot of theater in New York, got caught up with friends, because when we're working in Toronto, it's really hard to see friends and family. I got to spend time with my dad, who was living at the time in Washington State. He just moved back to Illinois, where I'm from. It was a lot of really great catching up stuff.
Star Trek: Discovery on Blu-ray
Fans in the U.S. and Canada can pre-order on Amazon.com now.