Last week, I wrote:
“Hosting Ready Room is so cool for me. I get to occupy this space as both a veteran of the Star Trek universe, part of what we’re calling Legacy Star Trek (let me tell you how old that makes me feel), while I am also a huge fan.
“It is my goal as the host of the Ready Room to bring my fellow nerds into the room where it happens, by asking questions and relating to experiences that I hope are as interesting to the audience as they are to me. This season on Ready Room, there are a couple of episodes that really landed on me in unexpected and profound ways. I chose to talk about those experiences with my guests, and the part of me that is just drowning in endless, bottomless, relentless anxiety has been screaming at me ever since that I fucked up. The rational part of me is telling that other part of me to take a deep breath and trust my instincts that it’s all okay, maybe it’s even good. But WOW am I anxious about all of it.”
Last week was one of those “couple of episodes” and this week is another. Something happened on Disco this week that landed on me in a way nothing from Star Trek (or, I think maybe anything) has before. It’s a scene that features Tilly and Burnham. It made me ugly cry in a really great way.
FULL SPOILERS FOLLOW so proceed accordingly.
As I was ugly crying, I opened a text editor, and wrote out something that I wanted to say to Mary about that scene. Here’s what I put down. This isn’t a transcript. This is my original note:
In this episode, there is a moment between Burnham and TIlly, when Tilly is telling Burnham that sh’es going back to Starfleet Academy, because that’s where she wants to be.
In that scene, Tilly says that she has been on this path to the captain’s chair for her whole life, and never really questioned that path until Disco jumped forward in time. After the jump, she realized she had been placed on that path by her mother, and that she stayed on that path not because it’s the path she wanted to walk, but because she just wanted to be seen.
That’s … basically what my mother did to me.
That moment resonated with me on a deeply meaningful, deeply personal level unlike any other in any Star Trek series. All I ever wanted in my life was to be seen by my parents, and I needed it so much, I was willing to do anything to get it, even walking a path I never wanted to walk, because that was the only time I ever felt anything close to being seen.
I guess I don’t have a good question. I just want you to know that the vulnerability you gave her in that scene was familiar to me, and it made me feel less alone. We talk a lot about representation in Star Trek, and how it matters. I am literally part of Star Trek. I did like 100 episodes of Next Generation, and this moment between Tilly and Burnham is the first time I saw myself reflected by a Star Trek character.
I know that, if I felt seen then, other people felt seen, too. And I know I’m breaking all kinds of protocol to say this, but I want you to know as an actor and as a person, how much that meant to me.
That’s a lot to lay on Mary, and in retrospect, I feel like pulling it out of my pocket was maybe not the best choice. I worried that it was too personal, that I made something about me in a way that’s not appropriate as the host of this show. I agonized over that for DAYS (anxiety spirals are great) but I told myself that, if anyone wanted it cut, we’d edit that bit out, this moment would exist between Mary and me (and the Control Room) and that would be it. I talked to my producers about it, and everyone felt that it was a lovely, honest, sincere, meaningful moment. The things I was worried about seemed to exist only in my head. I’m used to that, so I trusted their judgment and tried unsuccessfully to not worry about today and this episode dropping for the last several weeks.
Well, so far, it appears that my fears and anxieties weren’t necessary. Feedback from fans is uniformly positive, and lots of them are singling out the thing I was so worried about as being meaningful to them. That’s awesome.
I love doing Ready Room. I am doing my best, every week, to have one foot in the Legacy Veteran Star Trek Actor bucket, and the other in the Biggest Fan In The World Who Wants To Share This With My Fellow Fans bucket. And then I have a two more feet that are just trying to keep it all together so I can be a good host. It’s a lot, and without exception, I end every interview feeling relieved that I didn’t fuck everything up beyond repair by upsetting that balance. Of course, this means that I start out every interview absolutely convinced I’m going to fuck it all up, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Anyway, I’m grateful and relieved that this moment seems to have mattered to so many people, and I’m so grateful Mary gracefully and patiently listened to me, before she saw me and accepted me. That was a gift.
As always, thank you for your kind attention, and thanks for watching Ready Room.