After four years mostly spent pressing buttons and delivering lines like, “Aye, Captain,” Oyin Oladejo has gone where no Black female actor on Star Trek has gone before: on an away mission with her Black female captain, just the two of them, and no one else.
“It's beautiful,” Oladejo said in a Zoom interview following last week’s release of the season four episode, “All In.” “I don't see enough of that on-screen, and I'm so happy and blessed that we both embodied that and played that together.”
Oladejo said it delighted her and series star Sonequa Martin-Green that writer Sean Cochran and executive producer Michelle Paradise enabled their characters to show support for one another. “Tackling a big mission like this, working together and being sensitive,” she told StarTrek.com. “I even said to Sonequa, to be able to see two Black women on screen, and of a different tone, different shade — because that has its own placement in society,” said Oladejo.
“As a dark-skinned Black woman — and I don't want to categorize, but I have to live in reality. The reality we're living in right now, it's categorized us. And so, I can't ignore that. I need to take that into account, living my life,” she continued. “When I see my fellow women or queer people or different races, oppression is oppression and it irks me. I'm all about justice and so I'm ready to fight. That was what I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be a lawyer and somehow ended up becoming an actor.”
For more than two decades, Oladejo has called Toronto home after emigrating there as a teenager from Nigeria.
“I've been here longer than I have been in Nigeria now, so I'm half and half. I guess I'm more Canadian than I am Nigerian. I am both. I'm a child of the world,” said Oladejo, who recalled experiencing culture shock.
“The first time I arrived in Canada was November 25th, it was snowing,” she said. “I'd never seen snow in my life, so that was to be a huge contrast.” Another difference was being raised Muslim. Canada is predominantly Christian, but in the years since Oladejo immigrated from Nigeria, its Muslim population has more than doubled to well over 1 million.
“Everything was so free and so open,” she recalled. “It was a bit jarring because I didn't know how to belong in that. There was so much more freedom, allowing me to explore myself, which I am grateful for. But at the same time, there were things like racism that I had never experienced ever in my life.” Fat-shaming and being treated as “other” were new experiences, too.
“All these things that I had never thought of, or thought existed, I was exposed to,” said Oladejo, who found herself missing the structure of Nigerian culture, the emphasis on family and community, compared to Western individualism.
“I'm trying to find a balance in that, because I do love the freedom that I got by coming to Canada. However, there are certain structural things that I feel keeps us grounded and helps us solidify our values and integrity that sometimes are not as prominent in this culture,” she said. “So, I'm trying to find that balance.”
Oladejo has yet to return to the land of her birth, but does plan a trip back to Nigeria someday, once she finishes what she calls her “mission.”
“I have a mission to complete in this life. Part of that is being here and getting myself known, so that I can be of service to a greater group of people,” she said. When that is done? “I do want to go back to Nigeria, because the film industry in Nigeria is huge.”
In addition to Star Trek: Discovery, Oladejo also filmed two seasons of a children’s science fiction show, Endlings, which is streaming on Hulu, and plays a bounty killer in a forthcoming film, Six Guns for Hire, now in post-production.
Prior to joining the U.S.S. Discovery crew, she had only done theater, including such classics as The Cherry Orchard and Hamlet, playing Ophelia. She played a man in Chekhov’s drama about social change, and is ready to take on the lead in Shakespeare’s most famous play. “I want to play Hamlet,” Oladejo declared. And her dream role? “Storm,” she said without hesitation. “I said it! I said it out loud.”
One of the questions Trek fans wanted answered: Given how so many of the franchise’s beloved characters get shipped, could Owosekun and Detmer be lovers?
“This has been going on for years!” Oladejo said with a big smile. “Of course, I do want on-screen romance. Come on! Yes! Which actor doesn't want that?”
She explained how just like revealing Joann “Oh Wow” Owosekun has a hidden talent for fighting, she’d relish an opportunity to showcase another side of her character with a love interest. “So, yes, bring romance, because I want to see what else she has in her,” Oladejo said.
“All In” provided Oladejo an opportunity to show off that other side of Owosekun. “It was fun. It was so much fun.” And fulfilling, thanks to Discovery's showrunner.
Paradise revealed in a video on StarTrek.com, “Owosekun Enters the Ring,” that the idea of putting Oladejo’s character, Commander Joann Owosekun, into a high-stakes bout started with a question posed by a fan at Star Trek Las Vegas in 2020.
“I do some kickboxing and some Muay Thai, but I'm not a professional in any sense,” Oladejo said. “If I lived a different life, I would choose to be an athlete, to be honest with you. I love physical movement. And so I even said to them, ‘Just let me use my body a little bit more,’ and they gave me that. So, I'm being fulfilled creatively, but also spiritually. That episode was the full fulfillment for me as an actor and also as a person, and so far, I have to say, I am being served. I am really happy with what I am being given. They gave me beyond what I even asked for.”
For someone who had never seen any science fiction growing up in Nigeria, Oladejo wants it known: “I love Star Trek and sci-fi in general,” she said. “It's able to tackle several different subject matters, big subject matters and find a way to do it in a gentle way, but also a pointed way, where people can receive it. And there's so many things that we're dealing with in society that Star Trek is able to embody in the show, especially this season.”
Dawn Ennis (she/her/hers) is an award-winning columnist and regular contributor to Forbes.com, CT Voice Magazine, The Daily Beast and StarTrek.com. She is also the sports editor for the Los Angeles Blade, an on-air correspondent for “Connecticut Voice Out Loud” on WTNH-TV and hosts the “RiseUP With Dawn Ennis” talk show. In 2013, Ennis was the first transgender journalist to come out in network TV news. She teaches journalism at the University of Hartford while simultaneously pursuing her Master’s degree in Communications. Ennis is a single mom residing in West Hartford, Conn., with her three children, their dog Dahlia and their cat Faith.
Star Trek: Discovery currently streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. Internationally, the series is available on Paramount+ in Australia, Latin America and the Nordics, and on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Discovery is distributed by ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group.