The Star Trek series will be getting its first-ever black female lead.
Entertainment Weekly reported that Sonequa Martin-Green—known for her recurring role as Tamera on AMC’s Walking Dead—will play Lt. Cmdr. Rainsford in CBS’s upcoming television show Star Trek: Discovery, which premieres in May. The show is also the first which won’t be told primarily from a captain’s point of view.
Star Trek: Discovery will also introduce the series’ first openly gay character, Lt. Stamets—a science officer who specializes in something called “astromycology” and who is played by Anthony Rapp.
Former Discovery showrunner Bryan Fuller (who has since left the project) told reporters in August that he had been trying for a while to make his cast diverse.
“Star Trek started with a wonderful expression of diversity in its cast,” he said. “You had a Russian with a black woman and an Asian man amongst a Vulcan, which is a different kind of diversity…We’re absolutely continuing that tradition.”
To be sure, Star Trek has featured prominent black women, such as Nichelle Nichols and Zoe Saldana, but they have always played supporting roles. And science fiction more broadly is a genre that all too often ignores people of color and doesn’t give black filmmakers opportunities.
The Star Trek announcement shows some progress. In addition, recent characters like Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) in Stranger Things, Finn (John Boyega) in Star Wars: Episode VIII, and Bohdi Rook (Riz Ahmed) in Star Wars: Rogue One are encouraging signs—as is the announcement that Octavia Butler’s Dawn is being turned into a television series.