As other sci-fi franchises continue to receive criticism for their half-hearted stabs at inclusivity, “Star Trek” keeps pushing forward into new frontiers. CBS All Access announced Wednesday that the franchises’s first non-binary and transgender actors, Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander respectively, will join Season 3 of “Star Trek: Discovery.” The actors will also be playing non-binary and transgender characters.
Del Barrio was in their final year of acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art when they auditioned for the role of Adira, a non-binary resident of the 32nd Century who quickly finds the U.S.S. Discovery to be their new home. “Highly intelligent with a confidence and self-assurance well beyond their years,” Adira becomes friends with Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), who were the first gay couple to be part of a “Trek” show’s major cast.
Ian Alexander, who uses both he/him and they/them pronouns, plays Gray, the first major Trill character in “Star Trek” since “Deep Space Nine.” That beloved ’90s show introduced the Trill as a hybrid species, in which a humanoid “host” once joined with an intestine-like symbiont receives the memories and personality of the symbiont, plus the symbiont’s memories and experiences of its previous hosts. Symbionts are joined with hosts regardless of gender, so a female host in the present may have memories of having been male in the past. And vice versa. It was an early attempt at “Trek” blurring gender boundaries and inquiring into what exactly makes one’s identity. CBS All Access said, “Gray is empathetic, warm and eager to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a Trill host, but he will have to adapt when his life takes an unexpected turn.”
Alexander is the first out transgender Asian-American actor on television. They previously played Buck Vu on Netflix’s “The OA” and Lev in the highly acclaimed video game “The Last of Us Part II.”
“‘Star Trek’ has always made a mission of giving visibility to underrepresented communities because it believes in showing people that a future without division on the basis of race, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation is entirely within our reach,” said Michelle Paradise, co-showrunner and executive producer. “We take pride in working closely with Blu del Barrio, Ian Alexander and Nick Adams at GLAAD to create the extraordinary characters of Adira and Gray, and bring their stories to life with empathy, understanding, empowerment and joy.”
The casting announcement was accompanied by a profile of del Barrio by GLAAD.
In the Season 2 finale, “Star Trek: Discovery” ended its status as a prequel. The series, previously set about 10 years before “The Original Series,” in the mid 23rd Century, jumped forward 900 years, to a time when it appears the Federation is a diminished version of its former self. “Now living in a time filled with uncertainty, the U.S.S. Discovery crew, along with the help of some new friends, must work together to restore hope to the Federation,” CBS All Access said.
“Star Trek: Discovery” Season 3 debuts on CBS All Access October 15.