[Editor’s Note: The piece below shares major spoilers for the “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 4 finale, including its ending.]
She’s one of the most prominent “Star Trek” fans in the public eye. She’s spoken at length about how much she reveres Kathryn Janeway and that “Voyager” is her favorite “Trek” show. She co-hosted, with Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang, the “Trek the Vote to Victory” online fundraising drive for Joe Biden in 2020. And now she’s gone where few political figures have gone before: actually acting in a “Star Trek” show. Stacey Abrams appeared in the Season 4 finale of “Star Trek: Discovery” as the president of United Earth.
How did the producers of “Star Trek: Discovery” pull this off?
In an interview with IndieWire, showrunner Michelle Paradise revealed she can hardly believe it herself: “Honestly, the number of times I’ve seen the episode, every time I see her face, I’m like, ‘Wow, that really happened. That’s awesome.'”
It’s a cameo appearance for sure, but one on which the entire season ends and resolves itself. And Abrams has lines — she is a SAG-AFTRA cardholder and previously narrated an episode of “Black-ish.” Whether we’ll see her again is another matter. “Oh my gosh, I would love that,” Paradise said. “I mean, I have no idea. She’s certainly busy doing other things.” Abrams is running for governor in Georgia in 2022, so she will have a lot on her plate indeed.
She’s certainly not the first politician to dabble in acting while still being engaged in politics: former Senator Fred Dalton Thompson was a series regular on “Law & Order” for a time and sitting Senator Pat Leahy has appeared in multiple “Batman” movies. And there have been all manner of cameos in “Star Trek” specifically: King Abdullah of Jordan even popped up as a crewmember on “Voyager,” but did not say a line (no SAG card in his case). But Abrams is a particularly inspiring figure, for her advocacy for voting rights and access, and someone whose values line up particularly well with those of “Trek”. In the finale a character talks about the ideals the Federation holds dear: the right to pursue happiness, freedom, equality, diversity, participation. Abrams channels those like few political figures today.
And that’s why, for Paradise, she made perfect sense to cap off a two-season-long meta arc about how the Federation comes back together in the far-distant future of the 32nd Century, after Earth had left the interstellar government following a cataclysm known as The Burn.
“We knew, coming into season three, that bringing the Federation back together again would be a two season arc,” Paradise said. “And in the third episode of Season 3, we go to Earth and we find out that Earth is no longer a member. So we were teeing up that Earth equals the Federation coming back together again. So we knew that, by the end of season four, we would need to focus on Earth.
“And as we got into season four and got halfway through breaking it, we realized: We need a person to represent Earth. And then the question became: who should that person be? I don’t remember where the idea came from, honestly. But I texted Alex to say, ‘What do you think of Stacey Abrams?’ Immediately, [he sent] exclamation points. And he said, ‘Let’s set up a meeting. Let’s talk to her. Let’s see.’ So we did. And she was so kind. And we got on Zoom with her, and we pitched her where we were for the season and who this character was and what this character would represent. And asked if she would be a part of this with us. Honestly, I can’t think of anyone better to represent the president of Earth in all of that.”
Abrams had a role in shaping her character too.
“When she saw the script and we started talking about costumes and stuff like that, it was just really wanting her input on those things,” Paradise said. “It’s a character that she needs to embody. She’s so collaborative and was really just wonderful about all of it. It really was just such a treat to have her there and get to have her in Toronto on set.”
While some other franchises have turned being apolitical and “playing it safe” into an art form, it’s remarkable to see “Star Trek” wear its values on its sleeve like this and take a stand. But if “boldly going” isn’t what “Star Trek” is all about, then what is?
“Star Trek: Discovery” is now streaming on Paramount+.
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