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Christina Chong Talks Entering The Massive Franchise That Is Star Trek - Exclusive Interview

The "Star Trek" franchise has always been about exploration. The series sought to show a galaxy beyond what most people understood, one in which the people of Earth banded together for the sake of something greater and to appreciate the wonders of the universe. While it's been decades since the original series went on the air, its mission of unification and peace continues with the latest entry into this grand mythos — "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds."

Some familiar faces have come on board, including Pike (Anson Mount), Number One (Rebecca Romijn), and Spock (Ethan Peck). However, there are also some new characters who promise to change the very fabric of what fans understand about this series. One of the most intriguing additions to the cast is La'an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong), who's a relative of the most famous antagonist in "Star Trek" history — Khan. 

Although she didn't give much away in terms of what fans can expect out of her character, Chong did sit down for an exclusive interview with Looper to discuss hopping aboard such a cultural juggernaut.

Christina Chong's favorite movies

To start, would you mind talking about some of your favorite movies of all time?

I didn't know that was going to be a question. I love it. There's two, which are similar but different. It's hard to say which one, but it's between "Goodfellas" and "[The] Godfather [Part] II." "Goodfellas" brings in everything: the fun, the drama, the real character-driven roles. And "[The] Godfather [Part] II" is that whole familial gangster thing I'm really into. My guilty pleasure is watching all the real-crime investigation episodes on Netflix, the documentaries. When I haven't got the energy to properly focus on something, I'll find some horror stories of the whatever. Anything that's gangster-ish, crime — I love all that stuff.

Were you a fan of "Star Trek" before being cast?

No, I wasn't. Quite honestly, I wasn't. It was on TV when my brother was little. I remember seeing it, but I was never exposed, and my mom and dad aren't fans. So it wasn't in my realm as a child, but I am a fan now. Taking the role, I was like, "Oh, 'Star Trek.' Interesting. Wouldn't have thought." Then I came to Toronto and started shooting, and I'm constantly still surprised at how amazing it is and how much I'm loving the world and getting to know the different species that there are and all the sci-fi.

What is amazing about sci-fi — and what I'm learning as well — is that if it wasn't for sci-fi, a lot of things in this current world wouldn't exist, like the pads before 1966, [or] whenever it was. They invented the iPad, all these things. And doors that open automatically and all of that stuff — somebody has to think it first. Somebody has to imagine it, and then it can be. That's what I really love about the sci-fi world, as well.

On entering such a massive franchise

What's it been like to step into the legacy of "Star Trek" and bring something new to a franchise as massive as this one?

Stepping into it was huge, but I only realized that after. As I was saying, it's still growing on me how big it is. It probably will still grow me, especially after the premiere once it airs. But I love the fact that La'an is a new character because it means I can bring whatever I want, essentially, within the realms of what the writers have written, but I can make her my own. I still get to interact with the legacy characters, and I'm very lucky that I get to interact with all of them quite regularly. La'an is kind of everywhere. She can be anywhere. As a Chief Security Officer, she's got to be everywhere.

I love that. I want to bring that feeling of we are all — which "Star Trek" has taught me as well — it [has] enforced that fact that we're all the same. The whole diversity thing: we're all the same, all the aliens that we go to. It's great how Pike — he's such a great captain — how he treats every planet we go to. He's so empathetic and understanding and treats everyone as an equal, and that's how it should be. It doesn't matter where you are from, who you are, what you look like. You should be treated as equally as the person sitting next to you, or the person on the TV, or the person in the White House. Everyone is a human, and at a basic level, we're all made of the same thing energetically. I love that "Star Trek" brings that to my world.

Speaking of some of the legacy characters, what was it like to work with Rebecca Romijn and Anson Mount?

Rebecca is brilliant. Rebecca's really funny. She's great on set. I watched ["Star Trek: Discovery"] beforehand, and when I realized that I would have a lot with Rebecca, especially this first season, I was very happy to read those scripts. From La'an, she's a big-sister-role figure. For me in real life as well, there's a lot of things that I'm going through as we go through to the premiere [that Rebecca's] been through a hundred times. In a way, it's a real-life crossover in some aspects. 

Then, Anson — he's a brilliant captain. He's a brilliant leader. This is my proper big leading role in an American TV show. Anson taught me [that] as a leader, you have to reserve your energy and be balanced and emotionally together — as a leader, as a captain. And that's exactly who Anson is. 

Coming from the UK, we don't work as many hours over there, [and] I'm used to coming on set and being like "bada boom, bada boom, let's have fun off-camera as well." But then I noticed with Rebecca as well, to an extent, it would come out here and there with funny little lines or whatever. I was like, "Oh, right, okay." It's not as [though] we can't do that over here, but then I quickly realized why you can't, because you're filming so many hours per day. It's a real lesson in energy management. Anson does that perfectly. He has that line of fun and reserving energy for the performance.

Did you have to go through any special training to prepare for your role?

My training was sitting down in quarantine watching all of the original series. I come from a dance background and martial arts, parkour, that kind of thing. The security aspect, the combat aspect of it, I generally pick up quite easily. For me, it was more about learning about the world of "Star Trek" research.

The Marvel role Christina Chong almost got

You starred in 2011's "W.E." alongside Oscar Isaac. Have you had a chance to watch "Moon Knight" yet, by chance?

No. I would have, if I knew this question was coming. I would have had a chance. There's so much out there, isn't there, nowadays? It's so difficult to decide what to watch. I'm flicking through Netflix, and you can spend an hour flicking through it and not watching anything. So no, I haven't.

Would you have any interest in joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe if such an opportunity arose?

I very nearly did. I do love the Marvel. [The] thing is, I'm not a Marvel fan, but I love doing action stuff. I was like, "Where else to do it? Marvel." I screen-tested for the role of Ghost in "Ant-Man and the Wasp." I was testing with Hannah John-Kamen, and I won't say who else was there because I don't know if that's appropriate, but there were four of us all together testing in Atlanta. I got to wear the costume, taking pictures. I was working with the director, and they had a whole set there and everything, and we had to learn a stunt routine and do that on camera. It was a whole big thing. It was probably the most anxiety I'd ever had for an audition before in my life. So I would love to. "Yeah" is the answer.

What the future holds for the actress

Who's an actor or a director you'd love to work with in any capacity?

Listen, I'm going to just say it — Steven Spielberg. Especially seeing his interviews with the new "West Side Story" cast, he seems like such an actor's director. I love that. Somebody who helps you grow as an actor, not just to get what we need for the project, but [lets] you grow as an actor. I feel he has that energy. Spielberg would be the top of my list. It's a joke — a lot of actors are like, "I'm going on holiday. Don't call me unless it's Spielberg calling." So yeah, Spielberg.

What would your dream role be?

My dream role — and why I got into TV, actually — my dream role is Roxie in "Chicago." The musical, obviously. They've done the [film] remake now, so I'm too late for that. But I originally started in musical theater, and the dream was always to be a lead in a musical. When I started doing "Aida," the musical written by Elton John and Tim Rice, it was done in German. I had to learn German, [and I sang] in German, but I was ensemble, and I knew that I wanted to be a lead. I was like, "How do I get this? It's going to [take] me years to work up the ladder to get to play the lead." So I thought, "You know what, I'll go to TV, get a profile — then I'll go back into the musicals, and then I'll be able to play the lead."

It's funny now. Certain things are happening and moving in my life in a way that I see that happening now. It's coming full circle: not necessarily Roxie, but musical theater. I'm actually going this Friday to see Pamela Anderson play Roxie in "Chicago" on Broadway. We have the same acting coach. My acting coach, she's incredible. [I'd] love to see how that pans out.

Can you talk about any other projects you have coming up?

Can I? Acting-wise, nothing. I can't talk about it, but I am writing/creating my own TV show. That's all I can say about it. It's at the stage of ... Hopefully, I'll be able to talk more about it towards the end of the year, but it's a long, long process. It's been in the works for probably eight years now and coming to a point where things are happening with it.

I very much love the creation side of the industry and writing. I'd love to direct. As an actor, especially when you're not filming, it's quite a solitary job. You're in your room with your script, and it's just you and ... Well, I do have my dog with me all the time, Runa, who's also in the show. In "Star Trek," not my TV show — but she probably will be in my TV show. 

But I love that collaboration, feeling like we're all doing something, and you are when you're on set as an actor rehearsing. But I don't know. I like building something from the ground up. I love that process.

New episodes of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" air Thursdays on Paramount+.

This interview was edited for clarity.