She’s… back. L’Rell, after being conspicuously absent from “Brother” and “New Eden,” will stand front and center in “Point of Light,” Star Trek: Discovery’s third episode, which will stream tomorrow. Look for the Klingon High Chancellor to, among other developments, fight to preserve her power, share several dramatic moments with Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), let her hair down, and engage in an epic sword battle. And no one is happier about L’Rell’s return than the actress who plays her, Mary Chieffo. StarTrek.com caught up with the effusive Chieffo, who filled us in on “Point of Light,” teased things to come for L’Rell in the future, discussed her off-season plans and chatted about her experience on Star Trek: The Cruise III. Here’s what she had to say:
How strongly are you itching for this episode to premiere?
CHIEFFO: I've been itching pretty hard. When I read the script, I remember being like, "Oh my God, this is going to be crazy amazing." It's very epic. Not only was I excited just to get all the fun, theatrical epic stuff, but to really hear the fans' response and what these archetypes and this sort of storytelling evokes. It's very different from a lot of the Starfleet side of things. So, I'm just very interested to see everyone's response.
Without giving too much away, how would you preview the L’Rell arc in “Point of Light”?
CHIEFFO: I call it L'Rell's personal Greek tragedy. Shazad and I talk about it being a Greek/Shakespearean kitchen-sink drama where L'Rell and Tyler are able to decompress from the events of the first season, get to talk a little bit more about everything that went on between them, and what their relationship can and should be now. Then, of course, L'Rell is also dealing with, on the macro level, grappling with being a leader and particularly being a female leader who is over-scrutinized by a lot of these male Klingons, championed by Mr. Patriarchal Jerk-face, Kol-Sha.
We’ve all seen photos of your new costume and the very cool facial appliances and, of course, your longer hair. What do you like about Chancellor L'Rell's new look?
CHIEFFO: The costumes. I cannot speak highly enough about what Gersha Phillips and her team created this season for me. Obviously, it's great to be glammed up in any capacity, but to have these couture dresses designed for my body -- obviously with a little bit of Klingon chest – is awesome. They’re the most empowering and also very feminine outfits that are an homage to what came before, but still unique to our story and who L'Rell is. Metaphorically and literally letting my hair down as the character, you get to see her embody a lot of her truth and be more open about her own experiences, communicating with Tyler, getting to be on Q'onoS, seeing L'Rell's garden and her quarters. There's an intimacy, even though it's more heightened in a certain way in dealing so much with her being the ruler, where you really also get to see her inner life in a new way, which is very exciting for me.
Based on the photos and the glimpses of “Point of Light” fans saw at the end of “New Eden,” it looks like we’re in for a massive sword fight. What were the challenges of shooting that?
CHIEFFO: Definitely when I read it, I was like, "Oh, my gosh. This is going to be epic." We had our rehearsal. My fun anecdote was that I had a sinus infection that week. So, I was very congested and dealing with that, doing everything I could to be as not-sick as possible. I pulled through. It was the final day of filming that we did that whole sequence. It took, I think, eight hours. It was the whole morning up until our lunch that we filmed. Shazad and I pretty much did all of our own stunts. It's very important to me to get to embody who L'Rell is as the character and a creature, that her movements are very specific to my interpretation of her. So, I was really grateful that the team entrusted me to do that.
Then, I was super-excited by the fact we were doing two-handed fighting, two swords. Midway through, I realized I was doing almost all of my stabs with my left hand -- and I'm right-handed. I was like, "Oh my gosh!" You power through and don't think about it until you're having to stab with your left and that's not what you're used to doing. Ginger Rogers said that she had to do everything backwards and in heels, and I'm doing everything backwards, in heels, with swords and prosthetics and dresses. It was really, really empowering. I appreciate how meticulous the choreography is in that way, that it's sensitive to the storytelling as much as it is to just fun, cool moves and stuff.
Going forward this season, how much more of L'Rell will we see in her new position?
CHIEFFO (speaking Klingon for a moment): That’s my favorite phrase: I will not reveal military secrets. Obviously, we know that Demi Lovato video I posted, I'm wearing a different outfit. So, I’ll be back at some point. And that's all I'll tease.
What don’t you or the audience know about L’Rell yet that you hope you’ll have a chance to explore?
CHIEFFO: Oh gosh, what do I not know? What her childhood was like.
You’ve wrapped shooting year two of Discovery. What are your plans for the off-season?
CHIEFFO: I have a project that I can't speak much about, but it's an adaptation of a Shakespeare play in modern day that's very color- and gender-conscious. More to be revealed soon, but it's a pretty crazy project with a lot of different aspects that I'm producing with JuVee Productions. That’s Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, their production company. I can't say any more than that, but I'm excited to see what comes of it.
Last question. How good a time did you have on the Star Trek: The Cruise III?
CHIEFFO: I had a blast. I had a huge blast. Nothing could've prepared me for singing “Dammit Janet” (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) with Jason Isaacs on the final night. That was an experience in my life I never thought I would have. And it was utterly exciting and delightful.
Star Trek: Discovery streams exclusively on CBS All Access in the United States and is distributed concurrently by CBS Studios International on Netflix in 188 countries and in Canada on Bell Media’s Space Channel and OTT service Crave.