Since arriving at Starfleet Headquarters earlier in season three, the U.S.S. Discovery crew has heard rumblings about Osyraa and her reign over the Emerald Chain. Although Michael Burnham and Philippa Georgiou outwitted Osyraa’s nephew Tolor and freed enslaved laborers in “Scavengers,” the Andorian-Orion Syndicate leader’s appearance in “The Sanctuary” marks the character’s on-screen Star Trek debut.
Portrayed by Janet Kidder, Osyraa quickly lives up to her reputation. The episode wastes no time establishing the Orion’s merciless attitude, as she opts to feed her nephew to a trance worm to punish him for failing to prevent Hunhau’s workers from escaping. Osyraa then proceeds to hold Kwejian’s population hostage as a means to get the planet to hand over Ryn the Andorian and Cleveland Booker. Just another day in the life of the Emerald Chain!
However, could there be more than meets the eye to Osyraa’s personality, the sway she holds over the Emerald Chain, and her goals for the organization’s future?
StarTrek.com spoke with Kidder, whose numerous acting credits include Bride of Chucky, Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict, Continuum, and Arrow, to discuss the Star Trek franchise, the Orion species, Osyraa’s motivations, exploring the Milky Way, and much more.
StarTrek.com: Thank you so much for your time, Janet. Star Trek has had a lasting cultural impact since it premiered over 54 years ago. Prior to being cast as Osyraa, were you a fan of the franchise?
Janet Kidder: I actually only really remember the original Captain Kirk and Spock series that I grew up with, with the sort of styrofoam rocks [laughs]. I have not continued to watch the show over the past decades, so I came into this as a bit of a novice in terms of the Star Trek world.
Speaking of Star Trek’s legacy, the Orions themselves date back to the very beginning of The Original Series. What type of research did you do to prepare for the role?
JK: I looked back at the evolution of these people and got a sense of where they had come from, which enabled me to get a sense of why I’m so determined to do what I’m doing. I researched them over the years and came up with Osyraa.
Were there any particular episodes that you really dove into as part of your research?
JK: I didn’t sit down and pour through episodes, I sort of researched [the Orions] on a slightly more general basis.
At what point did you find out that you would be auditioning for an alien character rather than a human one?
JK: I had no idea I was auditioning for Star Trek, I thought it was something completely different. I thought I was just auditioning for a very powerful female who was having a debate with a very powerful man. It wasn’t until I booked the role and was told that it was Star Trek that I had any inkling of the fact [that the character was an alien].
Your character makes quite the impression in her first scene, as she executes her nephew and also implies that she had his father killed. How did reading the script for this scene influence your approach to the character?
JK: Well, you know- it’s just so fun to play a character like that. To layer on the fact that she’s not just a two-dimensional, evil person. I got to create my own backstory in terms of my brother’s shortcomings or possibly interference in what I was doing in order to justify my actions. With my nephew there, it was pretty straightforward for her. He just wasn’t doing the job, and she needs to have good, strong, reliable, smart people around in order for her to succeed. And so, I quite enjoyed just feeding him to the worms [laughs].
Despite her harsh deeds, Osyraa did take in her nephew following her brother’s death and even offered some comforting words as the trance worm prepared to eat him. In a strange way, do you believe she perceives herself to be a moral person?
JK: Oh, absolutely. I really do feel like — whatever planet she’s walking on, she feels she is trying to make it [a better place] for her people in every way. She sees herself as a bit of a hero, I think. Certainly to her race and how she’s elevated them, with their technological advances and where they sit in the hierarchy now. I think she’s doing great, she’s doing a bang up job.
When Osyraa confronts the Federation above the planet Kwejian, she does so by communicating with Captain Saru via a viewscreen. What was the process behind filming that exchange like?
JK: It was very interesting. I’ve obviously never played an alien in a hologram before. Initially, I was much more animated. They’re like, well actually it’s just going to just be sort of your face, so try and keep it still. You’re working on this beautiful set, with the idea that there’s this world behind you. It was a wonderful experience to get a sense of what it might look like. It was very difficult for me to sort of appreciate how [the finished product] was going to look. Doing those scenes- luckily it was easy for me. The whole cast is there, so I’m really talking to the people who I needed to be talking to. It was fascinating.
Oh, so you were able to film it “face-to-face,” so to speak?
JK: Yeah, you can do that face-to-face. Maybe when you have to [shoot with] the green screen behind you, you do it again. But I at least got to work the scene with Doug [Jones] and with the cast.
Osyraa went on to threaten Kwejian with famine, yet she did so in a very calm and composed fashion. Is her controlled tone a way for her to mask the extent of her intentions?
JK: I’m not sure that she’s actually masking a lot. I think that her controlled tone is something that she’s had to cultivate and maintain in order to be taken seriously, especially as a female in this world. As I said before, I feel like Osyraa’s intentions are for the benefit of her people. Even though she essentially [does not make] the best choices in the way she behaves, I feel like her intentions are pretty clear and she does not shy away from them.
After her defeat, Osyraa sends a villainous parting message to the Discovery. Without giving anything away, how seriously do you think the Federation should take her warning?
JK: I think they should take her very seriously [laughs].
It is ultimately revealed that the Emerald Chain is running low on dilithium. Considering that context, was Osyraa’s attack on Kwejian driven more by fear than by anger?
JK: Yes, and I think that that is possibly something that she would be masking, ultimately. That she actually has quite a dire need for something. So that is sort of propelling her to try and get things sorted out as quickly as possible.
Osyraa travels the stars in her spaceship Viridian. If you had the opportunity, would you want to explore the galaxy? Or would you prefer to stick to our own solar system?
JK: I’ve never really thought about flying around out there, I’ve got to be honest [laughs]. I find that there’s enough going on down here, but given the opportunity? Yeah, why not! Get up there, blast around, and see this vast, vast galaxy. Sometimes at night, when I look up and see the millions and millions of stars, it’s just impossible for me to comprehend what is out there. Given the opportunity to get into a pod and take a journey through it, I think it’d be amazing.
Before we go, is there anything you’d like to say to Star Trek fans about your time working on the show?
JK: It was a really wonderful experience, a hundred percent. I would do it again. I would gladly be a part of this Star Trek universe forever. It was absolutely incredible.
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who has contributed articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on CBS All Access in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.