Star Trek: Strange New Worlds feels like coming home. The series is a prequel to Star Trek set on the U.S.S. Enterprise when Nyota Uhura was a cadet just learning the ropes. Celia Rose Gooding (Broadway Whodunit: All Hallows’ Eve) plays young Cadet Uhura, and BGN had the privilege of speaking with them early in February about taking on this iconic role.
What disciplines required to work in musical theater carry over into your work in television?
Uhura was originated by Nichelle Nichols, who was a beautiful musical theater performer and an incredible dancer. Her posture and body language were so much of a dancer. A lot of who Uhura is and how she became who she is we’re building every day with Strange New Worlds. I found myself being like, “Oh thank God I had those years of dance training!”
As a musical theater artist, you are trained to be forever conscious of the world around you. Because of how TV is shot, we don’t shoot the entire episode all at once. It’s spread out over 12 days. So having to remind myself what I know and what I don’t know on any given day is heavily influenced by practicing those same skills in a musical theater setting. I am forever grateful for my musical theater training just because Uhura is a very theatric and dramatic character just in how she exists physically, mentally, and emotionally. She is just processing a lot all the time.
In what ways has playing such an iconic and beloved character been pleasurable, effortless, and fun?
I love being able to play a character that contains multitudes. I find that it requires a lot of conscious attention to deviate from stereotype, especially as a Black woman.
It’s refreshing to play a character that can be brilliant but also very vulnerable. Who can be confident and also very unsure. Who can experience great joy in the midst of incredible loss. It is just so refreshing to play a full-fledged top-to-bottom containing-multitudes human because, unfortunately, we don’t get to see a lot of that.
It’s an honor to play a character who is the backbone of the Enterprise but who also doesn’t know it. We’re watching this character fall in love with herself the same way the world around her does.
It’s never lost on me the opportunity that I have. To play that in a room of people who are also at the top of their game and to also feel incredibly supported by a group of people who may not share her same lived experience is incredibly refreshing and so pleasurable. It’s great to do, and it’s exciting, really exciting, to be a part of the kind of representation I’m craving to see in the world.
How do you think your portrayal of Cadet Uhura will inspire folks today?
I think it will inspire folks to just pay attention more. I think it will inspire folks to question their instincts in how they receive Black women and Black femmes. I think it will continue to inform people that we, Black women, Black femmes, are not exclusively the people we show up as. It will continue to shine a light on the humanity that we exist within and the space and kindness and patience that we deserve, not because of what we can do for other people but because we are human and therefore deserve it.
Especially in Season 1, I am very wary of how we show grief when it comes to Black women and femmes and how we show trauma when it comes to Black women and femmes. Because while our history is traumatic, it’s not traumatic for trauma’s sake. It is informed in a place of love and joy. It comes from understanding that we can only experience great grief if we experience great love. I think it is important to show the love is just as beautiful and as layered as the grief. I find that this character is toeing that line quite beautifully.
I think it will inspire people to be more honest, open, and caring for one another and patient. “Patient” is the word I keep using with Black women and femmes because the world around us has been very unkind. I think in witnessing Uhura brave her experience, we fans of Star Trek often refer to Enterprise as the world we want to live in, and I think it is exciting to know that it’s not all sunshine and lollipops and rainbows all the time, but it’s also not always grief and hardship and trauma and overcoming.
I’m just excited for people to see that we contain multitudes, and every single bit of those needs light and love and space and room to grow and shine. Because everyone else gets it, and now it’s our turn.
Switching gears: I reviewed the Star Trek Cookbook: Culinary Adventures in the Final Frontier last year. Which of these recipes would you love for the replicator to make for you? Seltin Pate (Mushroom Pate), Fettran Risotto, First Contact Day Salmon, Pizza with Bunnicorn Sausage, or Tavorkian Powder Cake?
I’m building myself a three-course meal. I’m going to start with the mushroom pate, maybe spread that over some flatbread or cracker of some sort. I’m also interested in that First Contact Salmon because while I’m not a huge seafood person, I love salmon. And then I would end with that powder cake, just because I have such a crazy sweet tooth, as does Uhura canonically. I’m establishing that today.
Because after a long day of translating and logging ancient languages and ancient alien dialects, I think Uhura deserves a big old piece of cake.
Being a part of Starfleet is lots of work, focus, and sacrifice, but I wonder what brings Cadet Uhura the most joy?
I know this because I play her, but I don’t think she knows it yet: belonging, community. At the same time, she’s very wary of building connections, because when you build connections, it only hurts to break them. I find that brings her the most joy but also a twinge of grief because nothing is just one thing. Being able to go home to or show up to a group of people who really believe in her brings her joy. I think that means a lot to her. That’s what she’s learning right now: the power of belonging and the growth and the self-love that can come with surrounding yourself with people who only want you to do your best and know that that’s the only thing you can do.
In support of the physical release, CBS and Paramount Home Entertainment will be hosting Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Trivia Night on Friday, March 24, at 7 p.m. PST. Held in person for those 21+ at Scum and Villainy Cantina in Hollywood, all fans in the U.S. and Canada who are unable to attend in person are encouraged to participate virtually. Follow @CBSHE on Twitter to stay updated and keep an eye out for the link!
Season 1 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be available on Blu-ray, DVD, and SteelBook March 21, 2023.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.