One of the long-lasting and beloved sci-fi franchises in television history, Star Trek has long trumpeted its ability to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” In casting Alabama beauty, Sonequa Martin-Green in the lead of it’s latest series, Star Trek: Discovery, the show has made history placing one of television’s most storied franchises squarely on her back.
Primarily known for her television work on shows such as The Walking Dead, Once Upon A Time, New Girl, Martin-Green was cast in the role of Michael Burnham, whose point-of-view the show revolves around. Hailing from Russellville, Alabama, Martin-Green, made the choice in high school to pursue acting and graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in theater. Her big break was being cast in the lead in the Black Reel Award-nominated independent film, Toe to Toe, where she received acclaim for her gritty performance.
After being cast in various guest and recurring roles in TV, Martin-Green appeared on Law & Order, Amry Wives and later Gossip Girl. Her work led to her casting on The Walking Dead. After auditioning and being passed over for the role of Michonne, which went to Danai Gurira, the producers created a role for her to ensure that she could be a part of the show.
Long before diversity became a hot-button issue in film and television, Star Trek pioneered minorities and women as early as 1966 when Gene Roddenberry launched. The original crew featured African-Americans, Asians, and women, not merely as eye candy, but as principle cast members. Now the reboot takes a major step forward by placing two women in command of a Federation Starship, Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Martin-Green.
Set twelve years before the events of the original Star Trek. Martin-Green secured the role of the first African-American female first officer, First Officer Michael Burnham, also known as “Number 1” in the debut episode, The Vulcan Hello.
The significance was not lost on Martin-Green, who spoke about the ground-breaking casting that provided her this amazing opportunity.
“My casting says that the sky is the limit for all of us. I think what we’re seeing now in our media is this push to diminish and to devalue and to make people feel that the sky is not the limit for them, that they are meant for the ground,” Martin-Green told The Independent.
“So having me as the first black female lead of a Star Trek just blasts that into a million pieces. I am eternally grateful that the diverse casting of our show means that we are now a part of the conversation and hopefully a part of making the world a better place, as cliché as this sounds. Because I really believe it and think its vital for us all right now,” she says.
While Yeoh has brushed off the pressure – after all, the Malaysian martial-arts dynamo has quietly been shattering glass ceilings for the past four decades – then much of the burden falls to Sonequa Martin-Green taking centre stage as (arguably) Trek’s first black female lead (some fans point to Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura from 1966-91, as the rightful owner of that honour).
While the show has established its own identity and set of fans, it is always our hope that this latest iteration of the beloved franchise will continue to “live long and prosper!”
Let’s meet Star Trek: Discovery’s Michael Burnham, in the guise of the beautiful and talented, Sonequa Martin-Green, below: