Helming a revival of a landmark franchise is a really hefty responsibility. When that franchise is Star Trek, the responsibility also comes with decades of fandom passion to keep up with, as expectations run impossibly high. Thankfully, Star Trek: Discovery is in good hands with Sonequa Martin-Green as protagonist Commander Michael Burnham. A veteran of The Walking Dead, Martin-Green is very familiar with both cult scifi and a legion of fans — although even she admitted to Entertainment Tonight that #StarTrek's fandom eclipses even that of #TheWalkingDead.
In a new interview with ET, Martin-Green explains how the zombie apocalypse show prepared her to take the lead in Discovery, thanks to its immense popularity.
"I've been calling my time on 'Walking Dead' my sort of post-graduate degree. I learned so much about being on a show that has such a massive reach."
The Walking Dead is renowned for its dedicated fanbase, the loyalty of which has really shot the show to the pop culture icon it is today. Continuing, Martin-Green revealed that she has still been somewhat overwhelmed by the fandom she has now been plunged into.
"But this is on another level. This has expanded even beyond what I witnessed on 'The Walking Dead'. I've been skimming the surface of how deep and profound ['Star Trek'] is to me, and how grateful and honored I truly am."
But The Walking Dead didn't just prepare Martin-Green in terms of fan reaction, it also acted as the perfect demonstration of her abilities that caused ex-showrunner Bryan Fuller to cast her. Fuller, who unfortunately left Discovery due to scheduling difficulties with American Gods — not to mention some serious creative differences with CBS — really pushed for Martin-Green's casting, though her contract on The Walking Dead meant that Discovery couldn't start shooting until much later than planned. Although Fuller left the show, CBS delayed production in order to hire Martin-Green, as Fuller had managed to persuade them of her talent.
If her time on The Walking Dead has proved nothing else, it's that Martin-Green has the gravitas to helm such a prestigious franchise as Star Trek. There's a sense of power and confidence in Martin-Green's performances of both Sasha and Burnham, tempered with an emotional depth and quiet vulnerability that makes her very engaging.
Fans that are following Martin-Green from The Walking Dead to Star Trek: Discovery should be pleased with the new show's style — cited as the grittiest Trek yet, Discovery seems to have enough action and complex themes to satisfy modern audiences, though the cast and writers have also assured classic Trek fans that Discovery will stay true to the franchise's traditions of optimistic storytelling.
Unfortunately for Martin-Green, Star Trek's fans aren't all the paragons of diplomacy and integrity that Picard would want them to be. The actress has already faced a backlash thanks to her position as the first black female lead of the franchise. Meanwhile, Rent alumni Anthony Rapp has faced criticisms for playing the first openly gay character, and plenty of fans have written off Discovery before it has even aired because of changes that, critics say, stray too far from the original shows. Granted, when Discovery airs some concerns may prove to be justified, but these complaints seem to stem from a resentment to any new show that dares to take Trek into a bold future.
However, as loud as these naysayers of the fandom are, there is still an overwhelming sense of positivity and excitement for Discovery's debut. While we don't yet know exactly how the show will pan out, everything we've heard so far sounds very promising. And if nothing else, we can rest assured that Martin-Green will give an excellent performance as Michael Burnham — just as she did as Sasha on The Walking Dead.
Tell us in the comments: What are you excited to see in Star Trek: Discovery?