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WARP FIVE: Sonequa Martin-Green on the Gift of Michael Burnham

The Star Trek: Discovery actress walks us through 'Face the Strange,' her love of the franchise, fandom, and more!

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for the fifth season of Star Trek: Discovery.

Graphic illustration featuring a collage of actress Sonequa Martin-Green and episodic stills of Michael Burnham from 'Face the Strange'

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For the fifth and final season of Star Trek: Discovery, Michael Burnham finally gets to settle in and soak in the thrill of an epic chase with the galaxy’s biggest threat (the Dark Matter Anomaly) behind her.

Ahead of season’s premiere, sat down for an intimate conversation with series star and executive producer Sonequa Martin-Green where we discussed what the franchise means to her, being surrounded by the fandom, the first half of the final season, and more!

Facing Michael Burnham’s Legacy

Captain Burnham and Mutineer past Burnham stand defensively about to attack each other in the corridor of the Discovery in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

In the latest episode, "Face the Strange," Michael Burnham, Rayner, and Paul Stamets are stuck in a time loop after fugitives Moll and L'ak plant a time bug on the U.S.S. Discovery. The episode allows fans to revisit pivotal moments across the series' first four seasons and Captain Burnham to face herself, literally, as she stands before the mutineer who was offered a second chance to serve the Federation.

Burnham reflects on that moment in the episode telling her first officer, "The first time I walked onto this bridge, it took every ounce of strength I had not to turn around and run right back off. I respected Starfleet too much to believe I deserved to be here after what I had done." As Rayner notes, Burnham has to be "the only person in Starfleet to ever captain a ship that [they] first boarded as a prisoner."

"That’s one of my favorite episodes of the entire show," Martin-Green shares. "We get to see old Burnham, and that interaction, I feel that it was a gift. It was a gift that the writers gave me, and it was a gift that they gave Burnham. It really means a lot to me because you see this woman falling forward, you see this woman going through the necessary trouble to grow. And you can almost forget where Burnham started, when you look at where Burnham ended, when you look at where I ended up as Michael."

"That right there, that episode gives context," states Martin-Green. "For me, doing it, and then being able to see it in Post, you see it. You see the progression right there in front of your face. That was just one of the best gifts that we could have given to Michael Burnham. It champions the permanent change that is a tenet to our story because every character can do that. Every character could look back and see who they were in Season 1 and see the growth, see the distance that they’ve traveled. It was representative of one of our cornerstones."

The Changing of the XO Guard

'Under the Twin Moons'

"Under the Twin Moons"

Following Discovery's first run-in with Moll and L'ak on Q’Mau in "Red Directive," Saru steps down as Burnham’s first officer in "Under the Twin Moons," allowing the captain to extend a second chance to the gruff Antares captain, Rayner.

Reflecting on Burnham’s relationship with Saru, who served alongside her on the Shenzhou, before their history aboard Discovery, and his decision to take a new position with the Federation, Martin-Green says, "That was such a heartbreaking moment for Burnham."

"The relationship between Burnham and Saru is just one of my favorite things about Star Trek: Discovery," she continues. "That brother and sister, they will always be unified. Their relationship was refined with fire and carved in stone, if you will. Him going off to fulfill his own destiny is necessary, honestly, for Burnham's development and maturation. Having him as a guide, a shepherd, and a big brother in a lot of ways gave me as Burnham a sense of security and a sense of peace. And so those things are going to have to be found from within. It's that process of growth. Saru has also, he's matured to that place. He has transformed. He has morphed into this confident, fearless leader and legend with his people. It’s really beautiful because you see these people actualizing. You see these people literally stepping into who they were meant to be and doing it together. They couldn't have done it without each other."

Ushering in a New Era

Michael Burnham stares off while in her captain's quarters in 'Under the Twin Moons'

"Under the Twin Moons"

With the conclusion of Star Trek: Discovery, the series star has had ample time to reflect on the journey these past seven years. As Michael Burnham took us to the 32nd Century, Sonequa Martin-Green took Star Trek to uncharted territory ushering a new modern era for the franchise when Star Trek: Discovery debuted in 2017, 12 years after Star Trek: Enterprise went off air.

Looking holistically, Martin-Green imparts, "We all knew that this franchise has made an impact on our society. We knew that we needed to do it justice, and we were all passionate about that and there was no ego. We knew that we had a great responsibility and a great duty ahead us. And so it is thrilling."

"It's thrilling to be able to be a part of something that has already made an impact, that's already solidified in the consciousness of society," she adds. "It's also great to play these characters, to bring these characters to life that are brand new and fresh. It was great and fulfilling to be able to tell a serialized story, to be able to be the most diverse Trek ever, and to be able to go beyond where any Trek had gone before, even from a timeline perspective. It's really thrilling and fulfilling as an artist, as an actor, as a human being, for me as a Black woman. Also, to be brutally honest, as a Christian, as a wife and mother. It's been a blessing."

What Star Trek Means to Sonequa Martin-Green



Executive producer and showrunner Alex Kurtzman, speaking exclusively to, shared that in the run up to the production of the series, they were lucky to come across Martin-Green, "It's that beautiful thing. We had been looking for so long for the right Michael Burnham. And it's that miracle moment that you always wait for when you're in a casting process where just the right person shows up and starts saying the lines, and you go, 'That's my Michael Burnham.' That's what we got with her just out of the gate."

On taking on the role, Martin-Green recalls, “I remember saying really early on that, to me, Star Trek was a call to rise. And I still feel that way.”

“Now here we are almost seven years later after I first said that,” Martin-Green concludes. “And I can attest that it has been true. It has allowed me to grow in my own understanding of who I am. It's emboldened me to express myself more authentically. It's encouraged me to understand my worth and my value and that it is intrinsic. It's inherent. It's not something I need to fight for. All of those things have really deepened in me from being a part of this. And I've heard countless stories. I've had the blessing of hearing countless stories of people saying a version of that as well because of this franchise and because of Discovery specifically. So to me, it's still that call to rise, even if that rise is rising to who you really are and what you're really here to do.”

The Beauty of Her Fandom Experience

Sonequa Martin-Green greets the crowd at the sail away party at Star Trek: The Cruise VII

Star Trek: The Cruise

As Discovery readies itself for its final journey, Martin-Green sees the Discovery family extending beyond the cast and crew, to the fandom.

"It's really transcendent, honestly, being a part of the franchise," she shares. "And I had an interesting experience because when I came into the franchise, I knew of it peripherally, but I didn't know it intimately. And we were a family on Discovery."

"And then over the years, I've come to understand all the different families that make up the franchise, the audience being part of it, being the extended family," notes Martin-Green. “And now here on [Star Trek: The Cruise VII], my first time doing the full cruise. And now that we're done with Discovery, I feel like now I can see it more clearly. Hindsight is 20/20, and I feel that I have a more objective point of view now and I'm getting to understand these families that make up the franchise in a brand-new way. It's almost like being separated from it is allowing me to be a part of it like never before. In a weird way. It's kind of beautiful though."