StarTrek.com continues our week of interviews paving the way to the January 17 debut of Star Trek: Discovery’s second season by chatting with Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz. The two actors, who play Stamets and Dr. Culber, sat down with a group of journalists for a roundtable conversation this past October in Manhattan. Rapp and Cruz, who interact like, well, an old married couple, previewed Discovery’s sophomore year, teased how the brutally murdered Culber will return to action, and talked about working with Ethan Peck, who will step into some very big shoes – and ears – to play Spock.
Anthony, you hinted at the NYCC panel that there are questions of who’s in charge, are certain characters who they say they are, during season two. Can you talk more about that…
RAPP: It's not a secret that Section 31 is part of our story, so I think that the ways Section 31 interacts with some of what's going on, I think that that touches on… It's not a direct corollary in every way, but I think it touches on the limits of power and how power can corrupt. It explores those themes, and sometimes are people thrown under the bus for the greater good? But maybe it's not the greater good. Those kinds of things are touched on. I think that's something we can acknowledge.
CRUZ: I'm sitting here and thinking just on a meta view of the show, the season is... so many of our characters are in the moment deciding who they are, making decisions that define them. Everyone at some point in the season has a moment where they have to make a choice about their integrity and choose who they are and what kind of person they want to be. I think we're all doing that right now. I think we're all looking at our choices and realizing that they have consequences. So, I see that in each script that we get, there's a moment for everyone where they have to make a bold choice.
How pleased have you been by the fan response to the Stamets-Culber relationship?
CRUZ: It's been really wonderful. Overall the response to this relationship has been really overwhelming. I'll let Anthony talk about the season, but I can say that what I love about the season and this storyline is that after what happened last season, it could have been very easy for us to put a Band-Aid on it and “Now he's alive and everything,” and just have them go back to normal. But what I love about what the writers have chosen to do is that there's real consequences to what happened, and they're played out in the storyline. And because of that we really get to know these two people, who they are to each other, but also who they are individually. That’s really exciting, and it’s been fun to play.
RAPP: There's scientific basis on the fantastical elements of how (Culber) is able to come back. In the physical universe, energy doesn't die. It transforms. And the nature of mycelia is that they recycle matter and energy. They are nature's recyclers. He's in a mycelia network. How did he wind up there? These questions get addressed and answered in a way-
CRUZ: (Dramatically) Which is why we find him where we left him.
RAPP: It's taken seriously. Yes, it is fantastical in a way, but it’s also rooted in things that do connect up with some scientific…
Anthony, is there an obsession element to you either trying to find Culber or bring him back?
RAPP: Well, one of the questions – and I don't think is a spoiler -- is when I go in the mycelium network, I may or may not see him, and do I even want to sometimes because don't I also need to let him go? To me, it's profoundly dealt with in a really meaningful way.
CRUZ: We promised you guys an epic love story last season, and we're doing our best to deliver that, for sure.
What I appreciate is that this isn’t just, “Oh, look, a gay couple. Isn't that nice?” The writers really do try to build up your characters and what your love story means and…
CRUZ: And I promise you, just based on what we've already done that we've taken that to a whole other level this season. We haven't seen a relationship like this. I've never had the opportunity to play one. So, it's been really satisfying as an actor. I'm excited to get to a point where I can talk about it, because it's been so incredibly satisfying (to play), and nerve-wracking, because you want to get it right. I think we all come to this work and this series in every episode just wanting to live up to the incredible work that our co-stars are doing. We come to it going "God, I want to get this right", and none of us want to be weakest link. Least of all me.
Anthony, how did you enjoy the Star Trek: Discovery Annual, the IDW comic book that filled in some of the details about how Stamets and Culber met, and set up Stamets’ involvement with the mycelial network?
CRUZ: This is probably the most excited I had seen Anthony from the beginning, because he's such a big comic book fan. So…
RAPP: I have collected comics since I was, I don’t know, seven? Or eight? I don't always collect them now as an adult as much, but there are still some that I read. Now I've got them on my iPad. But I have boxes of comics. So, when I was sent an image of the cover I really spun out.
CRUZ: They made us look good.
RAPP: It absolutely felt to me authentic to what I understood (about) how we met or the nature of how our relationship built and also how I came to Starfleet. I didn't know all the facts of it, but it felt very true to what it seemed like it was.
CRUZ: I use it, and (addressing Rapp) I know you use it, to help us flesh out who these people. I loved it, I really did, and I thought they did a spectacular job.
RAPP: It was really cool.
What's it like playing opposite Spock?
RAPP: I saw in the script I had a scene with Spock and I was like, "This is my life?" We have a really nice, meaty scene together in one of the episodes that we just filmed recently. It was great. Ethan (Peck) is tremendously passionate about the opportunity he's been given, and it's really cool to see someone be… He's fully aware of the honor and of the moment in his life as a person and as an actor that he's been invited to participate in this iconic way.
CRUZ: And he's meeting that moment, he really is.
RAPP: So, it's really special to be around him and to be with him on that journey. The first day I met him, we were both getting picked up to go to work and as he was getting in the van he was like, "I'm sorry, excuse me, they're about to announce me.” So, I got to live that moment with him, too. It was the first time I'd met him.
CRUZ: Oh, wow.
RAPP: Yeah, it was really cool. And the seeds are being planted for how he evolves into the Spock we know in The Original Series. Ten years is a long time.
Wilson, what’s it like to play a dead character?
CRUZ: What can I say? I will say this. It was really an opportunity for me to use my imagination and imagine what it would be like for me to deal with the consequences of being brutally murdered, and what that loss means. It was devastating to play, to answer your question succinctly. It was hard.
RAPP: I think it’s done in a really interesting way. It’s done with a really unusual and interesting approach.
Anthony, what’s it like to play opposite a guy who’s playing dead guy?
RAPP: Because of that, the mysteries of it and the science of it and the personal nature of it, it feels like it's been put into a really wonderful mixture that feels original and human and complicated and rich.
CRUZ: Like I said, there are consequences to what happened.
RAPP: It's not a magic wand thing. It's not a snap your fingers thing. It's not easy. It's hard work, which is what everything that's meaningful and matters should be.
Star Trek: Discovery's second season will premiere on Thursday, January 17, 2019 on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on Space Channel in Canada. The series premieres in 188 countries on Netflix on Friday, January 18, 2019.