In May, Paramount Plus ushered in a new era for the U.S.S. Enterprise, bringing to television Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and six new crew members. Among them is La’an Noonien-Singh played by Christina Chong, who you may have seen on Black Mirror or Doctor Who. As season 1 continues to air, Chong caught up with LA Confidential.
Before joining Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, you were not yet a fan of the franchise and you almost didn’t take the role. In an Instagram post, you explained you accepted the job based off of three scenes. What about those scenes swayed your decision?
It’s cheesy to say, but it’s true. It felt like the role was meant for me. The mess hall/strawberry scene with Una in episode three was given to me the morning of the meeting, but I instantly connect to La’an’s feelings of shame with regards to her being a descendant of Khan. Being bullied as a child for being Chinese meant I too felt a similar sense of shame. I don’t now, of course, but those vivid childhood memories are a part of what makes me who I am today.
What have you enjoyed about portraying La’an and what sort of creative fulfillment do you find embodying her and being part of a multifaceted science fiction universe?
The fact that La’an has been given such a great backstory and character arc means that I always have something meaty to play with. I love working with the subtleties of her multifaceted personality. Oh, and no spoilers, but episode eight was the cherry on top of the cake for me. You’ll understand why when you see it, but in a nutshell, I got to live out my 5-year-old fantasies.
Science fiction allows us to imagine a future of endless possibilities. What is the most fun about being part of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds?
Anything goes! When a new script comes in, it could be absolutely anything. If it can be imagined, we can do it. The freedom that comes with being a part of Strange New Worlds never gets boring. There’s practically a different genre every week, a different plant, a different species, and that means stepping out on to a brand new set each episode. I love seeing the magic the crew bring to make it all come to life. I also personally enjoy pitching the wackiest ideas to the writers (or anyone who’ll listen) in between takes.
You’ve said you enjoy the original series because it is “simple and easy to follow” and that Star Trek: Strange New Worlds does the same kind of thing. More specifically, how is La’an an accessible character for audiences, whether they are hardcore Trekkies or casual fans?
La’an’s journey throughout this season is the overcoming of her childhood trauma. I think we all have some form of that, and it’s all relative and unique to each individual. My hope is that by infusing my own personal trauma into La’an, and making her a survivor as opposed to a victim, it might inspire people who have walked a similar path, making them feel seen and understood.
You’ve spent the last decade and a half working with life coach Michael James. Has playing La’an affected this journey?
I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for Michael James, and it’s an ongoing thing. I think it’s important as an actor to continue the development of the self. The more you learn about you, the better you understand the characters you play. I actually see my personal development as a vital part of my job, and since being given this incredible role, the calls to Michael are actually a lot more frequent. We don’t discuss the character; it’s all about my personal evolution and expansion that Strange New Worlds has given me.
Trekkies are the most historical fandom in pop culture. What’s it like to be part of a legacy that matters to so many people?
As of writing this, I’m not sure that I have felt the full effects of that, yet. I think that’s perhaps something that I’ll be able to speak more on once I’ve met some fans. What I can say is I had tears in my eyes watching the opening credits for the first time. I suddenly understood why people love Star Trek so much and that incredible ship with its valiant crew braving their lives to discover Strange New Worlds.
We know you can’t give away too many details about your tv series you are starring in, producing and writing, so can you tell us what it is like to helm such a personal project and balance multiple roles?
This was actually one of the reasons I considered not taking the role of La’an. It’s such a personal project— born from not getting the acting roles I wanted— that when I’m actively working on it, my whole heart and soul is completely immersed. I enjoy the freedom and creativity of being behind the scenes as much as I love acting, and to be a part of building something from the ground up is just an incredible feeling. It’s early days for me, so I’m very much learning how to wear the different roles, but creating, producing and performing my own work is definitely something I see myself doing a lot more of.
This interview has been edited.
Photography by: David Reiss