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Patrick Kwok-Choon Reflects on Gen Rhys and Discovery's Groundbreaking Path to the Future

From the series' streaming era launch to its leap into the 32nd Century, the Discovery actor gained a unique perspective across its five-season run.

Graphic illustration featuring behind-the-scenes and episodic stills of Gen Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon)

Since Star Trek: Discovery's very first season, Patrick Kwok-Choon has portrayed Gen Rhys, the U.S.S. Discovery's devoted and enthusiastic tactical officer. Much like Rhys, the actor has been with Discovery since the beginning and participated in every step of its journey. From launching Star Trek's streaming era to leaping into the 32nd Century, Kwok-Choon gained a unique perspective on Discovery's evolution across its five-season run.

With the show's much-anticipated series finale fast approaching, Kwok-Choon sat down with to discuss his on-set memories, collaborating with Discovery's cast and crew, the importance of representation, and much more.

Close-up of Gen Rhys at his tactical station as he smiles and looks ahead in 'Kobayashi Maru'

"Kobayashi Maru" As someone who loved the franchise well before you landed your role on Discovery, in what ways did the realities of filming a Star Trek series surprise you?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Well, first off, my first day on the Discovery Bridge was a real surprise. Even though our Bridge is different from others in the canon, it still feels quintessentially Star Trek, and you're just magically in the world. It felt like I was now part of the show's history. It was like walking into old episodes in my mind. It was an out-of-body experience; I was in complete awe of how real everything was. I was touching all the buttons, swiveling, and spinning in my tactical chair. I was in a state of bliss.

I was also surprised with the immense care and detail that goes into every aspect of production when filming. Set builders, art designers, costumes, props, prosthetics, hair & makeup, lighting, camera, sound, VFX [visual effects] — every department's collaborative effort throughout five seasons was truly eye-opening and made me appreciate how much hard work goes into building this world.

Behind-the-scenes crew photo of Joann Owosekun; Airiam; Paul Stamets; Sylvia Tilly; Michael Burnham; Bryce; Gen Rhys; Saru; Keyla Detmer in 'Will You Take My Hand?'

"Will You Take My Hand?" Did your familiarity with Star Trek provide you with any "in-universe" insights that you either used yourself or shared with your castmates while you were filming?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Absolutely. Early on, I found myself sharing various insights about the Star Trek universe with some of my castmates who were less familiar with it. For instance, I'd explain how someone could get trapped in the transporter buffer, delve into the intricacies of the Borg, or clarify references to characters like Zefram Cochrane or Janeway. This season, the Progenitors storyline was particularly exciting to discuss because "The Chase" is one of my all-time favorite Next Gen episodes. Its exploration of the interconnectedness of all species in the galaxy is one of the reasons I love Star Trek. It's just really fun when you can share your passion and bring others along for the ride. Speaking of the cast, the Bridge crew’s on-screen camaraderie continues to be beloved by fans. How was that bond developed, and was it challenging to maintain as the lineup changed over time? 

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Firstly, I have to say, Sonequa Martin-Green was truly the heartbeat of our cast, radiating an energy that united everyone, both cast and crew. She embodies the spirit of a number one [on a call sheet], both on- and off-screen. Now, when it comes to the original Bridge crew — Ronnie Rowe Jr., Emily Coutts, Oyin Oladejo, Sara Mitich, and myself — we all knew each other before joining the show. Spending so much time together on set only solidified our bond. We're a quirky bunch, always up for a bit of fun and mischief. I remember [director] Jonathan Frakes even likening our dynamic to that of his TNG cast, which was high praise indeed.

Behind-the-scenes photo of Discovery's bridge crew with director Jonathan Frakes

As new faces joined the lineup over time, maintaining that camaraderie was surprisingly easy. The positive energy that Sonequa brings to the set has a ripple effect, making everyone feel welcomed and valued. It creates an atmosphere where collaboration thrives, and where friendships continue to grow stronger with each passing day. Sonequa Martin-Green has always been Discovery's lead, but Michael Burnham endured a long road to the captaincy. What did you enjoy most about witnessing that journey?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: As a fan of the franchise, I hold a deep — even a bit crazy — level of respect for that chair. The captain's chair, it's like a symbol of everything Star Trek represents. So, during the entire first season, I didn't even dare to sit in it. I felt like I needed to earn the privilege, to wait until I was actually called to it. You know, it's that whole idea of heavy is the head that wears the crown.

I love that Burnham had to earn her way to be captain. She has an incredible redemption arc, and it's refreshing to see that story unfold. It's different and pushes Star Trek into new territory, with new stories. Unlike previous series, Discovery showcases a lead character's journey from a flawed start to a well-earned captaincy, which is both unique and inspiring for the franchise.

Gen Rhys sits in the center seat on the bridge of U.S.S. Discovery in 'Labyrinths'

"Labyrinths" In "Labyrinths," your character had a chance to take command and sit in the captain's chair himself. You recently shared your extraordinary tale of filming that episode with, but we have one more pivotal question. What do you think Gen Rhys would want his signature captain's phrase to be?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Given Gen Rhys's years of tactical experience, I think his signature phrase would be "Light it up." In addition to its iconic captain's chairs, Star Trek is also well-known for its wealth of incredible sets and groundbreaking technology. What was your favorite gadget or screen to interact with?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Man, there are way too many to count! Anytime you get to hold a phaser, it's a great day! But if I had to single out the most impressive, it'd have to be the AR wall. The possibilities it opens up are just mind-blowing. On the flip side, even the simplest things like the tactile buttons on my console had their charm, especially in those early days of the first season. [In "The Sound of Thunder"], I had an "arming all weapons" sequence that made the cut. Someone turned it into a GIF, and I tweeted it awhile back. As you mentioned, the advent of the AR wall supplied yet another boost to the show's ability to explore strange new worlds. What was it like to work with that innovative technology?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Well, working with the AR wall near the end of [Season 4] was an adventure I won't soon forget. Picture this: the scene is set in the final episode ["Coming Home"], and the entire crew is facing off with Species Ten-C. In reality, we're all gathered in the AR wall studio, staring at this massive screen filled with floating jellyfish-looking blobs gently bobbing up and down.

On the surface of the Species-10C homeworld, the crew of the Discovery looks up at one of the species members in 'Coming Home'

"Coming Home"

Now, with age, I seem to have developed motion sickness, and let me tell you, those blobs weren't doing me any favors that day. The scene we had to shoot felt like it went on for at least eight minutes, and after the first take, I was feeling queasy. So, I made a beeline to the medic, and they gave me some ginger GRAVOL [motion sickness tablets]. We were back on set 15 minutes later, and while the motion sickness had subsided, mid-scene, my stomach started doing somersaults — waves of discomfort, hot flashes — and out of both embarrassment and stubborn professionalism, I was not willing to call cut.

I remember just having a moment of acceptance; I said to myself, "If nature calls, it calls." Thankfully, I managed to hold it together and made a beeline to the bathroom. But here's the kicker, before we resumed filming, I decided to share my little ordeal with one of my castmates. Turns out, they had taken GRAVOL too but weren't experiencing the same symptoms. Just as we were about to get back into the scene, this actor grabs me by the arm, looks me dead in the eye, and I could tell in that moment it had hit them too.

That's definitely my most memorable AR wall experience!

Lt. Gen Rhys and Lt. R.A. Bryce bump fists at their tactical station while looking at the monitor in front of them in 'Forget Me Not'

"Forget Me Not" The last few seasons have supplied an excellent look into Gen Rhys' interests. Do you love Constitution-class starships as much as he does?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Here's where Gen Rhys and I part ways — he's all about the Constitution-class, but I've got a thing for the D’deridex-class and Borg spheres! In all seriousness, how has your character's journey impressed you? What do you hope comes to mind when Star Trek fans think of Gen Rhys?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Every actor brings a part of themselves to their role, and my journey parallels Gen Rhys' in many ways. We both began with youthful eagerness and a need to prove ourselves, but first we had to gain experience through challenges, overcoming struggles, and failing repeatedly. It's only through these experiences that we learned to grow, change, and be of service to others effectively. The wisdom both Gen Rhys and I have gained over the course of the five seasons has been enormous.

Gen Rhys holds a phaser ahead of him in 'There Is A Tide...'

"There Is A Tide..."

While my character has often played a more tertiary role on Discovery, I believe he has made significant impacts in crucial moments. Over the seasons, Rhys is someone you can count on — he can handle himself in a fight, has your back with a phaser, and is capable in the chair.  At the end of the day, I hope fans see Gen Rhys as a valued part of the team; someone who grew, adapted, and demonstrated his worth as a leader. Though the show has come to an end, I'm grateful for the journey and proud of the character's evolution. May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. What has Discovery’s effort to pioneer representation both in front of and behind the camera meant to you? 

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Wow, that question covers a lot of ground. Let me try to be concise. Simply being a visible presence on the screen, allowing the AAPI community to feel seen and represented, fills me with profound meaning. While the industry has made strides in recent years, there's still much work to be done to ensure diverse and inclusive representation.

I stand on the shoulders of great pioneers who faced far greater challenges and struggles, including George Takei, Michelle Yeoh, John Cho, Rosalind Chao, Linda Park, and Garrett Wang, to name a few. Their resilience and determination paved the way for actors like myself to have the opportunities we do today. It's important to honor their legacy and continue pushing for progress.

Patrick Kwok-Choon as Gen Rhys stands on the surface of a planet behind-the-scenes on set of 'The Examples'

"The Examples"

On the topic of mental health awareness, I've personally been open about my neurodivergency, having been diagnosed with ADHD [attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder] several years ago. Coping with challenges such as executive function, dysregulation, and all-or-nothing thinking has been an ongoing journey. However, being open about my experiences has not only helped me navigate my own struggles, but I've found it's helped others discover their own neurodivergency, as well. By sharing my story, I've been able to make others feel seen and less alone, which is a gift I'm grateful to be able to offer.

Now, Star Trek, as a franchise, has always been at the forefront of advocating for social change and exploring important societal issues. I believe it excels at this because at its helm are so many powerful voices. The list is long but worth mentioning — Sonequa Martin-Green, Mary Wiseman, Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, Blu del Barrio, and Ian Alexander all contribute their own power to the show and influence for the greater good. Additionally, behind-the-scenes changemakers like Michelle Paradise and Olatunde Osunsanmi play a pivotal role, often unnoticed. The time shared with these extraordinary individuals has been enlightening, and I hope to have absorbed enough of their wisdom to effect change in my own way, particularly for the communities that need me most.

Discovery's crew Sylvia Tilly, Gen Rhys, Keyla Detmer, Joann Owosekun, and Bryce head down a corridor with their phasers drawn in 'The Hope That is You, Part 2'

"The Hope That is You, Part 2" With Star Trek productions like Discovery, Strange New Worlds, and the upcoming Section 31 film being filmed in Toronto and involving a considerable Canadian presence, how do you feel about Canada's contributions to the Star Trek universe?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: As a proud Canadian, the flourishing of Star Trek productions in Toronto fills me with immense pride. With a significant presence of Canadian actors across these shows and the countless skilled professionals working behind the scenes in every department, it underscores the strength of Canada's entertainment industry and our remarkable contribution to the global Star Trek community. It's a testament to the depth of skill and creativity we possess, showcasing that Canadian talent stands shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world. Before we go, what has been the most special aspect of your Star Trek journey so far?

Patrick Kwok-Choon: Encountering fans at conventions has truly been one of the most memorable parts of this journey. As actors, we don't often get to experience direct feedback from the audience. I vividly remember my first convention; I didn't quite know what to expect. What blew me away was the overwhelming sense of warmth and acceptance from the fans. Time and time again, people would come up to my table and say things like, "Welcome to the family" or "You're with us for life now." It was incredibly moving to feel that sense of belonging and camaraderie within the Star Trek community.

I'd often have people share their personal stories with me — how Star Trek got them through rough times during military service overseas, what it meant for someone to be seen, or how they have fond memories of watching the show with their grandparents or parents, and now they're thrilled to share the new Trek with their own kids. Those moments reminded me of the profound impact Star Trek has had on people's lives and the power of storytelling to connect us all.