Star Trek: Discovery will kick off its second season on January 17, and as we build to the big day, StarTrek.com, for the next week, will share interviews with the show’s cast and creatives. We start today with Mary Wiseman and Doug Jones, who, in October, sat down with a group of journalists to preview season two, chat about their respective characters, Tilly and Saru, and drop a few secrets about things to come...
Getting ready for season two, how are both of you feeling about the show, the experience?
WISEMAN: I’m feeling really good. This time last year, I was much more in a panic. It was my first show of this magnitude, my first part of this size in any TV show, and I was just white-knuckling it. I pushed through, trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about. And, to be back this year with my friends is a completely different experience, just to see how much we're settled. I am so excited about the second season. I'm so excited for people to see what Tilly's doing this season. It's a really good feeling.
You ended up playing two of the show’s most-popular characters. What do you think it was that people related to most?
WISEMAN: Alex (Kurtzman) said this thing yesterday at the panel that really resonated with me, which is that Tilly does everything with love, and that that's a character who's easy to relate to, that the other stuff doesn't actually matter. It's that intention right there, and then the actions you choose from there that count, that really make a person. I loved that. I've gotten letters from people who feel maybe a little isolated or feel like people don't understand them because they have a mode of behavior that doesn't jive with everyone, or the way that their mind works or processes information is different than others, and that can feel lonely at times, or it can feel like you don't get to see yourself reflected in media. And I think some people resonate with Tilly because they feel like they are Tilly. And then they get to see someone like that in a uniform on a spaceship and that's exciting for them. I feel that way. I would have liked to see Tilly growing up. I think it would make me feel pretty good about myself. That's my guess.
JONES: As for Saru, I guess the letters I've gotten have been from people who deal with severe anxiety in their life, and he's got a literal thing that shows up, his threat ganglia, when he's having a moment of terror and is like, "What do I do?" So, I've learned a lesson from playing Saru myself, with my own personal fears. We push our threat ganglia back in and we carry forward. We carry on. So, that, and I also have so many moments where I'm taking in another character. I listen. Saru listens a lot on camera, and reacts to things, and there's a certain audience connection with (him). I'm a reactor to the thing that's going on in the room a lot of the time. (Pointing to Wiseman) With this one, a lot. When I think (Tilly) is going off the rails, and I want to to give her a bit of a reprimand, there's great moments of me sighing when she goes off on a tangent. I think the people at home can get a chuckle and can get a likable thing out of that. Parents, especially.
WISEMAN: I guess, also, that there's a love in that.
WISEMAN: It's not a judgment.
JONES: No, no, no.
WISEMAN: It's not like, “Stop talking.” It's more like guidance; a gentle guiding hand.
JONES: Saru finds you very charming.
WISEMAN: Tilly finds Saru very charming, also. The feeling is mutual. I just think it's important to make that distinction, because that’s also what's nice, is that we all, in the show and otherwise, embrace each other. It's a compassionate guidance.
Saru goes shirtless this season. Was that something you were expecting in your career? And, does that involve a lot more makeup than normal?
JONES: Well, because I've been doing head and hands with the Starfleet uniform, but when the top comes off, “Oh, crap. Now what?” Right? That came with another prosthetic piece that covered my entire torso. So, I had to slip into that, and they had to sculpt something. The thing is, when you're a skinny guy, and they want to sculpt an alien thing on you, that adds bulk. So, I do look a bit more buff with my shirt off, I found out. I go from skinny, lithe Kelpien to, “Yeah! I'm gonna have my shirt off now! Let's take a picture!”
Did you get to keep the torso?
JONES: Oh, do I want to keep it is the better question. No. Silicone, I've learned, is like wearing a truck tire. You don't want to wear it all day.
Have they perfected that whole process from season one to season two? Is it quicker now?
JONES: Yeah, my makeup, when I have my shirt on, is down to an hour and a half now. Now, months of sculpting, painting, pre-planning these pieces; a lot of design work goes into that. So, the process is long, but the application of it on the day has gotten down to a very quick science, because of my ace makeup artist team, headed up by James MacKinnon. Emmy-nominated James MacKinnon, I might add.
You mentioned that you’re a little bit more comfortable. The show has been renewed. You know what you're doing. How does that reflect in the show; in your characters?
WISEMAN: Right. Right. We're a little bit less in an era of crisis, because we're not physically at war. It doesn't mean we're not engaged vigorously in all of the more exploratory elements of being a Starfleet vessel. The characters are old friends now. They're war buddies, quite literally. So, there's that bond there, and there is that deepening of that relationship that comes with those experiences.
JONES: Absolutely. "I got your back," is something that we all don't have to say because we know that's happening every day. And, this season, those seven red flares that were mentioned yesterday that show up…
JONES: Signals. I got flares. Where'd I get that from? That's never been written. The seven signals, they were following them around with kind of like bread crumbs throughout the universe, where some kind of conflict or imminent danger will be happening at those. So, we have conflict to resolve, still, even though we're not at war with the Klingons anymore.
Doug, whenever the last episode of the show airs, do you want his threat ganglia to still come up? Should they never come up again, or do you think that's an important tool for him? Will we see less of it over time? Will he be less scared, in your view?
JONES: I think you've already seen them less and less, so I would love to see him... and, within my own personal life, I'd love to see my fears be gone forever. I really would. Can they be? That's a question yet to be answered, and I think season two might have an answer that I can't give you today, but do keep watching, because that will be addressed. The threat ganglia come into play. It's a great warning system, and he does have a sense of decorum. That's why every time they pop out at an inopportune time, he's like, quietly trying to, "Oh dear, did anyone see?"
You each got to star in a Short Treks installment. How did you enjoy that experience?
WISEMAN: Getting to have a scene with Tilly's mother is super-important to me. She's mentioned so much. It's the character I want to know better. I want someone to write words, so that I can put that in my brain and understand this character a little more thoroughly. For me, it was a very enriching experience, just for my acting work. I loved to know exactly what they say to each other that keeps them stepping on the same landmine every time they talk. That was really satisfying.
JONES: I loved her hologram. Actually, we had something to look at. You could see that subtle passive aggressiveness of her. I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. Anyway, my short is a different flavor. It does tie in with a particular episode of season two. You don't have to see either one to get the idea of the other, but it will fill in some informational gaps that can explain more why I do what I do, where I come from and what my family dynamic was. And, it’s much different from Tilly's by the way. And the predator thing. We just talked about my fear-based species. because we are prey. But it's fleshed out way more. In my short film, you'll see just the absolute terror that we do live under every day. On our home planet, we try to survive through it and act like everything's fine, but when the day comes, oh gosh, it's actually terrifying.
What's the most ambitious or difficult, perhaps, special effect or stunt you've been involved with this season?
JONES: (Turning to Wiseman) Go! She's got a good one. You got a good one.
WISEMAN: I think I'm allowed to talk about it, because Tig (Notaro) already mentioned it right? I have to be in a cocoon. I got in a cocoon this season. I can't really tell you much more than just that I'm in a cocoon. But there were some things surrounding the cocoon and being covered in a substance that was really… it took weeks and it was very uncomfortable. But, I think, worth it. And also, something that I would deeply never get to do on any other show. I'm never going to get trapped in a cocoon again, I don't think. I think you get one in your life, and I did it.
It took weeks to shoot, or took weeks to get the gunk off?
WISEMAN: Weeks to get both. Definitely. There was a bunch of shampoos involved.
JONES: As far as special effects go, I haven't had to go through anything much physical. It's more about watching ships land that aren't there. Imagining things that are going to be green screened in later and that kind of thing. We deal with that every day, all day, interacting with a hologram that isn't there. Just more of that. I haven't had anything specific that's been a wow moment. "Oh, wait 'til you see this."
Doctor Who uses tennis balls on sticks for eye lines. What does Trek use?
JONES: We often have a tape X on a flat somewhere.
WISEMAN: It's a proud Star Trek tradition, looking at an X and seeing a planet explode. Sometimes, they'll have laser pointers. That's a good one. I enjoy a laser pointer.
JONES: The front view screen of the bridge, nothing good ever happens out that front window. We’re always going, “OOOOoooo!”
Before we let you go, how do Saru and Tilly react to the arrival of Captain Pike?
WISEMAN: Well, we're going to be a little suspicious, just because we had such a bad experience last time. But we know Pike's a good man, because we saw him in a different television series. So, we know he's not secretly like a vampire or something. He is who he says he is, and that's a nice change I think for everyone.
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.