Prior to joining the Star Trek family, Christina Chong made appearances in some of the biggest TV franchises to date including Doctor Who, Black Mirror, 24, and Halo. The actress, who plays Enterprise security chief Lt. La'an Noonien Singh on the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, spoke to Bleeding Cool about expectations heading into the premiere, how not being deeply entrenched in the franchise eliminated a lot of pressure, and moving ahead on the second season. In addition, Chong discusses her character's stance on the Gorn, and how childhood trauma & shame helped mold her character.
Bleeding Cool: We're a few weeks in on "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" and you've got this wave of fans talking about the new show and the performances. What has the experience been like?
Christina Chong: I had no expectations coming into the show. So for me, it was a really nice surprise. I've been in shows before, which were expected to be successful shows and they weren't, and vice versa. You go into something you don't expect to be and it is. So this is one of those and I gave up a long while ago on guessing what was going to be a hit and what wasn't. For me, it's about the work and the people. If I enjoy the work and the people, that's enough. For this to be a hit was actually overwhelming in a way that I didn't expect, because you suddenly go from having no real pressures, for myself anyway, and it's different for the legacy characters but for me, I didn't feel any pressure. Suddenly all the reviews came in and I was like, 'Oh my God!' This weird thing happened where I felt anxiety about like, 'Oh my God! Can I keep pulling it off?' You've set this precedent and now, we're still filming season two. I'm like, 'Oh my God, was it a fluke? Can I do that again?' [There are] all these kinds of second-guessing thoughts going through your head, which I did not expect. It was very interesting and it's really lovely to see the lovely feedback. I haven't actually watched past episode two, so I haven't personally seen it because I didn't want it to affect my work. It's nice hearing all that, all the comments.
BC: As far as how you got into the character, are there any attributes that you share with La'an, and have there been any personal experiences that helped shape your performance for the character?
Chong: The main things for me are to use my inner work… inner life… and put it into my characters. The main two issues [La'an's] trying to overcome are the Gorn and being a descendant of Khan and for the Khan situation, similarly to La'an, I always kind of felt ashamed of my…because I was bullied as a kid for being Chinese and my surname, even if I don't necessarily look Chinese, my surname gave it away. Although it's horrible to say that and it feels I feel horrible saying it. I was ashamed of the name 'Chong' because of what I would receive and the backlash I would get when my dad would come and pick me up from school, for example. So I used all of that childhood stuff for the Khan situation. With regards to the Gorn, we all have the monsters that keep coming to bite us and stab us in the back, issues & things that we're trying to overcome. I put my own things that I'm trying to overcome and face fears. Essentially, it's a fear because she's fearful that they could come and take away her new family, the Enterprise crew. It was really kind of cathartic to be able to use all of my stuff in my life to be able to put it into La'an.