Friends across the galaxy welcome to THE INTERVUE, where we get the inside scoop of our favorite people in the world of entertainment. Today, Farpoint is about to have its 27th Annual Fun-filled convention next week in Hunt Valley, MD and they have brought the trifecta of Star Trek actors including our guest who has risen through the ranks. From the halls of Julliard to the Houses of T’Kuvma and Mo’Kai as she plays Chancellor L’Rell on the hit series Star Trek Discovery on CBS All Access. Let’s give a a round of Q’aplas to Mary Chieffo!
Thank you, that was a wonderful introduction!
That’s a great question. It’s funny because I’m sitting in a coffee shop in New York and that’s exactly where I was when I got the official call stating that I have been cast. So its has come full circle. It’s very surreal. I think it’s one of those things that you can have an idea, but you really don’t know until you’re in it and experiencing it. I plan to take it one step at a time but once I was cast and getting to know more about the world and for me watching all of the Klingon episodes and getting immersed all that creatively. Then once we have our new scripts learning about who my character was and the relationships that I have with all the characters in the show. About midway filming the first season, we started doing the conventions, the promotions and getting introduced to that world, which you can’t really know until you’re there & meeting all of the lifelong fans & families who live and breathe this world. It just continues to evolve.
I mean, every year I get introduced to more and more people out there and on the internet. We are one of the first shows to come out during the social media age. So we are building that relationship as the story unfolds has been so remarkable and interesting. So, there’s no way to prepare except doing it and hoping for the best!
I can agree especially since it was over thirty years ago that I was introduced to the world of Trek and it has grew into being part of a family and a fan of this great big universe, you know?
Yes, yes, it’s a responsibility but a fun one.
When you started your research on being a Kingon, did you have favorite Trek series? A favorite Klingon that you studied?
Yes, I had so much fun going through the episodes, there are so many Klingon-centric episodes and episodes that featured Klingons in exciting ways, but I like to see them chronologically and I ended up really loving Deep Space Nine as a series overall. My favorite female Klingon is Grilka. She was in two episodes. I love that she was a full Klingon since I was going to be one myself. I loved the way she owned herself. I loved the particulars in the first episode when you meet her where she has the marry Quark in order to keep her house. It taught me a lot about Klingon culture as well. She was the immense powerful badass woman that has to deal with this Ferengi in order to gain this power. I thought that it was very interesting. Ultimately
It was so fun to see every episode and see the different interpretations and going to the conventions and meet every actor who played Klingon. We have a special bond.
Speaking of which since you mentioned that you met other actors who played Klingons, have they given you the tricks of the trade of perfecting the Klingon way, the language.
Somewhat, they have been loving and open. Its interesting because as it turns out that Discovery ended up using the most amount of Klingon language than any other series. The prosthetics we used are full face instead of half face. One of my favorite stories is that I was heading to the Birmingham convention two years ago and Michael Dorn was on my flight. We met at the waiting area before we got on the flight and he turned to me and said, “I watched your time-lapse video and that’s insane!” He was liked “How do you sit still with that?” and I was like “You literally been I more episodes than any other Trek actor.”
So, it’s fun having been through and they have a lot more respect which continues to push the envelope for Klinganity but we definitely have a good time with all these stories.
I am so glad that you have a good time and you have invented a new word “Klinganity” Now I will have to keep that for future references.
When this Klinganity I come to realize how humancentric all these stories can be even though they about the other species and such. Playing an alien in Trek helps you realize the morals often tie back to when one what’s to have a certain type of humanity. So that’s why I ended up coining it Klinganity because I wanted to like “There’s no cool aspect to be a Klingon that maybe the humans can learn a thing or two”.
I hear that. I had to step into a Klingon shoes once or twice and I enjoyed the experience. Learning a new language and all.
We have seen L’Rell evolved from the first season to the second especially the 2nd season episode “Point of Light” which we witnessed a lot of changes within the Klingons, both physically and within their society. How did you feel about these changes and did it affect how you portray L’Rell?
It was such an interesting position as an actor because I do all my research, memorize my lines and I felt very respected that I was bringing a certain selfless and vulnerability to the role and I was very supported and celebrated by our creators. I felt that when it came to be emotional kind of journey in that way that they wanted to continue to lean in that direction for the second season now that she has been through so much and ultimately makes the choice in the first season to compromise and be a true leader which sees both sides and pushes past their own grievances for the greater good. I felt that was very much where we were trying to head in the second season in Point of Light.
Then of course, you have these prosthetic changes, growing the hair back…
That was fun to learn some Particularly taking reference to “Rightful Heir” with Kahless. So many things on this show its taking little seeds that were planted in earlier iterations and saying, “how can we play on that?” Selfishly, I loved that I got such a cool prosthetic upgrade when it came to my outfits. I was getting these couture regal dresses being designed for me by Gersha Phillips and her incredible team. I mean seeing the meticulous way in they built my outfit with a cape, individual beads and feathers. They would have a week to build these incredible outfits, but it was great to have these beautifully made to my body. L’Rell is a very strong woman. I did enjoy that she got to fully embrace her feminity on a new level that didn’t take away her strength as a leader even though she came up against that thematically with Kolcha, we took what was going on between her and Kol in the first season and took it up to eleven. So that what’s fun to play with. We do get that opportunity with the Klingons since they aren’t as advanced socially as we would like to think of the Federation as this point when it comes to gender politics, but we could explore some issues that were seeing today with this particular species and this particular character which I though was really fun and cool. POL was a Greek tragedy, Shakespearean kitchen sink drama. It was a lot of cool things happening. It was a fun adventure. We up there for three weeks or so up in Toronto. I can say it felt like a Klingon sleepaway camp for me, Kenneth Mitchell and Shazad. We hang out as friends, learn our lines, get ready! Once we get one set, we would counter act all the high pitch drama by trying to make me laugh which is kinda sore because I am not supposed to move my mouth when I am not in my scenes. (laugh) And then we are a family.
I love hearing this “Point of Life” is one of my favorite episodes of Discovery. I want to know what has been your favorite L’Rell moment on Discovery so far.
I will say Point of Life but I appreciate you liking POL because it was pretty intense epic scale. I did love my final speech moment – the “Call Me Mother”. When I read that on the page, I could not believe that I was getting to opportunity to do something that Shakespearean, that epic on the show. It was so humbling, and I love my outfit and how it fits together, the incredible headpiece that they build and how they filmed it. It was Friday night, the last shot of the evening, full green screen except what I was standing on. It felt like that I was delivering the speech to them. It was an very empowering moment – this mythological archetype of “Mother”.
Meet the Chancellor herself this weekend at Farpoint at the Delta Hotels by Marriott in Hunt Valley, MD. Tickets are available! Go to http://www.farpointcon.com/ for more information! See you this weekend!