There are several cast members of Star Trek who grew up already fans of the franchise whether it's The Original Series that made its debut in 1966 or its several spinoffs starting with The Next Generation which premiered in 1987. In the case of Strange New Worlds star Christina Chong, who plays Enterprise security chief Lt. La'an Noonien-Singh, it was a completely novel experience, which she felt worked to her advantage. The actress spoke with Bleeding Cool about her audition, her crash course in the franchise, her character's connection to Khan, and realizing when she was a part of something special.
Bleeding Cool: What were your first impressions when you read for La'an in "Strange New Worlds"?
Christina Chong: Well, I didn't know anything about [La'an]. All I had was a few pages of dialog. So I accepted the job off that and obviously knowing that it's part of the Star Trek franchise, but I hadn't watched any episodes. I was kind of in the background growing up, but it was kind of a gradual thing. I was researching during the pandemic in 2021 and we were in quarantine when I got to Toronto. I did masses of research watching 'TOS', watching 'The Wrath of Khan', and 'Discovery' season two. So it continues to feel like I'm constantly learning on this show because there's always something that's encountered, a new device, or something that I need to learn about or know about.
It's only recently that I realized why people love it so much. It was the opening credits for me, watching it for the first time. I was on the plane on the way to the premiere in New York, and I had tears in my eyes, because I suddenly realized, I'd been so zoomed in and focused on the smaller details, La'an, her journey, and my acting. When you only know about the parts that you're reading, I wasn't seeing what everyone else was doing, what the creative or the VFX people are doing. You don't… you have no idea really about what the final product is going to look like. Seeing those opening credits, I just suddenly realized, 'Oh my God!' I really… I understood it, but I really embodied it watching this with the titles. It's about this group, who are going to explore 'strange new worlds.' That's incredible. Like, how amazing is that? That this group of people who are all full of positivity and hope, and I just suddenly got it. I was like, 'That's why people love Star Trek.'
BC: Compared to the other actors, you're not playing a legacy character per se, but one that's already been rooted in some history in regards to the lineage. Was there some kind of pressure given your character has a chip on her shoulder trying to prove herself while maintaining the shroud of secrecy hoping that others don't find out?
Chong: I didn't understand the full scale of what I was entering, because I wasn't a fan then, but am now. I wasn't aware of the whole scale of fandom, but I'm glad because I didn't feel intimidated by taking a role in the show. With La'an, because she does have that connection to Khan, I still hit the ground running. So I just had to deal with what was in front of me and I wasn't really thinking bigger picture at what point. I did my research and watched everything and just did the best I could with what I had. There actually isn't that much on Khan. There's not a lot to go on. There are still holes there to fill in for me as well for the writers. I didn't feel intimidated by that. I felt excited about it because it's kind of a new thing that I can kind of create and put my own spin on.