Sometimes the stars align. Just ask Wilson Cruz. He signed on for Star Trek: Discovery unsure quite how his character, Dr. Hugh Culber, would factor into the equation, and with no clue as to how long he’d stick around. Cruz debuted in “The Butcher's Knife Cares Not For The Lamb's Cry,” episode four of season one, and ultimately appeared in nine episodes as the partner of Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp). Most fans fell hard and fast for the pair, and they mourned along with Stamets when Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) snapped Culber’s neck in “Despite Yourself.” However, dead famously doesn’t mean forever in the Star Trek universe, and it’s been confirmed that Cruz will return as Culber in season two. How that’ll happen and for how long, of course, are tightly guarded secrets, secrets that Cruz teased about during a conversation with StarTrek.com a few weeks back at Star Trek Las Vegas. Here’s what the actor 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 God. I had no idea what to expect, to be honest with you, when I took this job. At the time, I was a recurring, so they weren't exactly sitting me down and pitching me the storyline. I was going along for the ride, and hoping for the best. And they gave me so much, especially towards the end there, to really chew on. So, I was really grateful. I also need to say that I was working on another show simultaneously, so my head was exploding. And I was working in two different cities at the same time. When I think of 2017, all I think about is airports. But I was very satisfied, yes.
What was your sense of where Hugh was when we met him and how he evolved over the season?
Well, if I'm honest with you, that's a better question to ask at the end of season two, because I think we got an introduction to Hugh in season one. I'm not going to sit here and act as if we got to know exactly who this man was, and what makes him tick. What we did find out was that he has an enormous love for his partner, that he’s very good at his job, that he’s trustworthy, and formidable, and that his instincts are unparalleled. What I wanted to do with season one was introduce who this person is and give him somewhere to go.
And in season two…
What I can say is… we find out a lot.
What worked best for you about the relationship between Hugh and Paul?
I was moved. I didn't know how it was going to be handled. I trusted our writers and producers, and so I knew whatever it was going to be, it was going to be good. But I was blown away, especially with the scene in our cabin, in the bathroom, brushing our teeth. I thought that was so perfectly written and executed on every level, and I'll add myself to that. I feel like Anthony and I gave people a real sense of a loving, supportive relationship between two geniuses who happen to be two men. But it was never about that. It was always about the love, and about the community that we were a part of on the show. And I'm really satisfied with the way that turned out.
What did you make of the reaction to the relationship from the fan base? Was the world ready for a gay couple on a Star Trek show?
We believed they were. I think Anthony and I did a very good job of responding in a strong, compassionate, appropriate way, but we also let people know we're not here for the hate, and we're not just going to roll over and let hateful things be said about us or our community. By the way, there was very little of that, which is what was really surprising to me. What was overwhelming was, we expected people to be intrigued by these characters, but I don't think we expected them to fall in love with them as quickly as they did. I think that's a testament to the writing and there's something to be said for two people who actually love each other.
Plus, you and Anthony shared some nice chemistry…
Thank you. As friends for 20 years, I think we brought all of that intimacy to the story. We bared our souls a bit, and I think people responded to that.
Last time we spoke, you discussed shooting your death scene. But, given the suddenness and brutality of the moment, how hard was it to actually watch Culber’s demise?
The first time I saw it, I turned away. You could imagine that watching my own death was really hard. Also, they kept flashing back to it in the following episodes. But you know what was really painful? Watching it with my mom. That was rough. She screamed.
Let’s address something specific. Did you know when you filmed that scene that you’d be coming back?
Did that cushion the blow?
Yes. When we shot it, I knew that I’d be coming back, and that was great, but I didn't know how, and I didn't know to what extent exactly. But I knew where the story was going. So, again, I trusted our creators. I, as Wilson Cruz, the activist and actor, had many questions about the storyline, and they answered them. I trusted them, which is why I was so willing to go out and talk about the scene, and about the storyline, after the fact, because I do trust these storytellers and I know where their hearts are.
We know you have to choose your words carefully, but give us some sense, now that you’re deep into season two, of how Culber will factor into the action…
What I can tell you is that Anthony's character, Paul Stamets, is based on a real and genius scientist, a mycologist, actually. We extrapolate his science towards the future. So, there are hints and clues as to how my character comes back, based on that very real science.
Do you understand the science of the mycelial network?
I did not at first. I came on in episode four, so they’d done a few episodes, and this whole mycelial network was foreign to me, whereas everybody else had been in it for a while. So, I had to have a tutorial. Then, I did go get Paul Stamets’ book, and it helped me understand what we were getting at. But it took me a while because I'm not a scientist, believe it or not. It’s still complicated, but I understand it better now.
What did you do during your off-season?
I finished 13 Reasons Why, because we overlapped for a few months, and I had episodes left to do. I'm also executive producing a documentary series about the history of LGBT images on television called Out of The Box. So, we're finishing that.
Star Trek: Discovery on Blu-ray
Star Trek: Discovery: Season One will arrive on Blu-ray and DVD on November 13 from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution. The four-disc Blu-ray and DVD collections, available to U.S. and Canadian fans, will feature all 15 first-season episodes of the CBS All Access series, as well as featurettes and other special features that will include cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and deleted and extended scenes.
Fans in the U.S. and Canada can pre-order on Amazon.com now.
Star Trek: Discovery's second season will premiere on Thursday, January 17, 2019, in the U.S. and Canada, and in the rest of the world on Friday, January 18, 2019.