Star Trek has a long history of diversity, the original TV series had television’s first interracial kiss and the show consistently showed progressive attitudes around race and gender. It was particularly important and revolutionary, Devon Maloney writes, for people of color who were “seeing faces like their own on television, in un-caricatured roles, for the first time.” In the new series Star Trek: Discovery they are building on that tradition with Sonequa Martin-Green’s leading role. “The success of the series rests solely on [her] shoulders,” EW says, and “she’s more than capable of handling the load.”
Before becoming Star Trek’s first woman of color lead, Sonequa had recurring roles on shows like The Good Wife, Once Upon a Time, and New Girl, and a major role on The Walking Dead. The actress played Sasha on the popular zombie apocalypse drama, a role that she told The Hollywood Reporter was written for her by then showrunner Glen Mazzara. Sonequa was born and raised in Alabama. She originally wanted to be a psychologist before deciding she wanted to act when she was sixteen. She later realized how similar the two fields are. “I was fascinated with human behavior and why people do what they do,” she told The Star. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a theatre degree before moving to New York City. She and husband, Kenric, lived in NYC for five years before moving to California when her career started to take off.
On Star Trek: Discovery, Martin-Green plays First Officer Michael Burnham. She is very aware of the larger social import of her being cast in this role, especially in the current divisive climate. “My casting says the sky is the limit for all…I think it sends a message to any minority group that’s been disenfranchised. We all benefit when we can see a picture of ourselves in a position of leadership…I think that it will help people see the beauty of women in power and also the beauty of minorities in power, and to incite change.” Unfortunately, Sonequa’s character plus an Asian woman captain and two openly gay officers have brought out many detractors. Showrunner Aaron Harberts shrugs them off, “It’s our job to reflect the world we live in,” he says. Star Trek: Discovery is a hopeful look towards a better future, as Martin-Green tearfully told The Talk.