“Star Trek: Discovery” producers announced on Wednesday that they have cast the show’s first-ever trans and non-binary roles in the franchise’s history.
Ian Alexander (“The OA”) will play Gray, a trans man who has spent his life as a Trill planning to be a host for a symbiotic alien species that lives in different hosts over its lifetime.
Newcomer Blu del Barrio will play Adira, a nonbinary character who bonds with Lt. Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), the first same-sex couple in “Trek” TV series history.
“‘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,” co-showrunner and executive producer Michelle Paradise said in a statement.
The production worked closely with GLAAD, especially director of transgender media and representation Nick Adams, in crafting Gray and Adira for Season 3.
“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,” said Paradise.
When Alexander first appeared as a trans character on the Netflix sci-fi series “The OA,” he was the first out trans Asian American actor on TV. He most recently played the trans character Lev on the acclaimed video game “The Last of Us Part II.”
Del Barrio was cast on “Discovery” while in their final year at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. They’ve been acting in theater and short film productions since they were 7; “Discovery” will be their TV debut.
In an interview with Adams posted to GLAAD’s website, Del Barrio says Adira is “an introvert” suffering from memory loss who doesn’t tell people that they’re nonbinary right away — which ended up mirroring their own experience coming out as nonbinary.
“When I got the call that I’d been cast as Adira, I hadn’t yet told the majority of my friends and family that I was nonbinary,” Del Barrio says. “I had only recently discovered the word and realized that it described how I’d felt for a long time. I knew I wanted to tell my friends and family, so when this happened, it felt like the universe saying ‘go ahead.'”
Although the original “Star Trek” TV series, which first ran on NBC from 1966 to 1969, was groundbreaking at the time for its depiction of Black and Asian characters, until the 2010s, the “Trek” franchise largely avoided LBGTQ characters of any significance.
For years, the most explicit depiction of any LBGTQ characters in “Trek” was in a 1992 episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” titled “The Outcast,” in which the crew of the Enterprise encounter the J’naii, an alien race that has no gender and views any expressions of gender or sexuality to be taboo. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) ends up falling in love with a J’naii who identifies as female, until she is forced by her society to undergo a form of therapy that eradicates her gender identity. (Frakes has said the episode was not “gutsy” enough.)