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Why the cast of Star Trek: Discovery looks so familiar

With nearly 10 million viewers tuning in for the debut of Star Trek: Discovery—the first Star Trek series in more than a decade—the well-received show has certainly gotten off to a hot start. And rightfully so, with an action-packed storyline, gorgeous visuals, and a well-assembled cast of both relative newbies and acting veterans ensuring disappointment is not in the cards.

With such a great cast of recognizable faces, however, you probably can't help but wonder where else you've seen these humans, Vulcans, Kelpiens, and Klingons. Well, strap in. We're boldly going where all these actors have been before. (Minimal spoiling ahead.)

Chris Obi - T'Kuvma

Those who tuned in for Star Trek: Discovery's debut episodes were surely impressed by how cool the series' Klingons look—particularly T'Kuvma, the instigator for the majority of this season's action.

Before donning an extensive amount of makeup to become one badass-looking religious zealot, Chris Obi played Kintango in the 2016 miniseries Roots, with cameos on Death in Paradise, Atlantis, Doctor Who, Free Agents, The Peter Serafinowicz Show, Look Around You, Doctors, State of Play, and Trial & Retribution. Most notably, however, the British and Nigerian actor played Anubis in Starz' hit series American Gods, Mirror Man in Snow White and the Huntsman, and appeared in Ghost in the Shell.

You can join the Klingon's modest Twitter following @obidon1.

Jason Isaacs - Captain Gabriel Lorca

Lending more star power to CBS' new Star Trek is Jason Isaacs, known by most for his portrayal of Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series. Isaacs also notably played Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot, in addition to the primary antagonist in Netflix's The OA. Other works in which you may have spotted Isaacs' face include Dig, Case Histories, Awake, Brotherhood, The State Within, Windtalkers, Black Hawk Down, Armageddon, DragonHeart, and Capital City—though you may also have heard his voice in Avatar: The Last Airbender, and select video games.

While we've all fantasized about captaining our own Federation ship, Isaacs says acting in the chair isn't actually that great. "The truth is, no, it's not fun," Isaacs admitted to Entertainment Weekly. "Scenes that are really fun are scenes between human beings where you're talking to someone else. There are lots of those in the show. It's a very different show from other Star Treks…. What you saw was a weird thing because I'm looking at a screen and it's going to cut to a bunch of ships and things blowing up. I like scenes that are about people. What you look for as an actor is stuff that's engaging on a human level. Weirdly, I don't look at the lines ever before I go to set. You can always absorb it during rehearsal. But when it's 25 non-sequiturs about ships blowing up, it's actually hard to do."

Anthony Rapp - Lt. Stamets

Anthony Rapp might be recognizable to some as Tony from Dazed and Confused, Ben on Six Degrees of Separation, Tony in Twister, Jacob in Road Trip, and as Bender in A Beautiful Mind. However, Rapp is most undoubtedly famous for his role as Mark Cohen in Rent—a role he played both in the original Broadway and film production.

As one of Broadway's first openly-gay actors, Rapp is happy to see Star Trek: Discovery casting a diverse cast of characters, each with plenty of depth to their individual stories. "I'm really excited and happy when a gay character is a part of a story—especially when a gay character is created in a complex and human and non-stereotypical, interesting way, and that has certainly been the case with Stamets," Rapp told Entertainment Weekly. "And you get to see his relationship. There was a little glimpse [of a relationship with] Sulu in Beyond, and it was a nice nod. But in this case, we actually get to see me with my partner in conversation, in our living quarters, you get to see our relationship over time, treated as any other relationship would be treated."

You can keep up with one half of Star Trek's first same-sex couple on Twitter @albinokid—where he generally tweets multiple times on a near-daily basis.

Mary Wiseman - Sylvia Tilly

A relative newcomer to the acting business, Mary Wiseman looks to have her big breakthrough as Sylvia Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery. With only a handful of small-screen appearances on Baskets, Longmire, Difficult People, The Characters, and Craft & Burn, the redhead may not be quite as recognizable as some of the other cast members. Nevertheless, you'll almost certainly start seeing her take up more roles in the very near future.

As a Federation Cadet, filming hasn't been a simple walk in the park. "I have had a couple days where I lost my body," Tilly told ET's Lauren Zima at the Star Trek: Discovery world premiere. "I did things where I ran for six hours. Or, like, things that Sonequa [Martin-Green] wasn't working up a sweat [doing] that I was like, 'Oh my god, no! When is it over?!' But that's also really exciting, because I'm doing stuff that I never imagined for myself."

Tilly also really digs how the show isn't afraid to go to a darker place. "It's still pretty Star Trek-y," she explained. "The focus is not sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, it's really still the same sort of thrust. That being said, we can go a little darker with the characters. It's more of an investigation of who these people are and the challenges that they're faced with and how they're going to persevere."

Rekha Sharma - Commander Landry

Rekha Sharma is no stranger to deep space. In fact, the Canadian actress will be recognized by most for one massive role in particular: Tory Foster in Battlestar Galactica—a role which has defined her career thus far. When filming on the sci-fi epic started wrapping up, Sharma didn't want it to end. "I'd say there's mixed feelings going on," she told BuddyTV. "I don't want to say goodbye to anybody, not at all. I don't want it to come to an end." Nevertheless, all good things come to an end—but her role on Star Trek: Discovery looks to be a big one, indeed.

Sharma also played Dr. Lorelei Tsing in The 100, Sarita Malik in V, Dr. Harden in Smallville, Constable Cindy Winters in Da Vinci's City Hall, Stella in John Doe, and Dr. Beverly Shankar in Dark Angel. She's also made cameo appearances in The Twilight Zone, The L Word, House M.D., CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Supernatural, The Cult, Shattered, and even the fan-created non-canon web series Star Trek Continues.

You can keep up with the commander, Cylon, lizard, goddess, and doctor on Twitter @TheRekhaSharma.

Sam Vartholomeos - Ensign Connor

Unlike many of his costars, you probably won't recognize Sam Vartholomeos. At least, not yet. The young man is virtually a complete newcomer on the small-screen, with Star Trek: Discovery and fellow 2017 TV-series Bull his only credits to date.

For a first starring gig, Vartholomeos could do a lot worse than Star Trek: Discovery, which is packed with a talented cast—particularly acting veterans Michelle Yeoh and Jason Isaacs. "Jason has been around and so has Michelle," he explained to StarTrek.com, "and that, I think, made it really easy for me as Connor to sort of look up to Captain Georgiou as a role model, because I do as Sam. Michelle is someone who's been in the industry for how long and has done all these amazing roles. When Captain Georgiou gives Connor an order, he looks up to her, and it's like Michelle Yeoh's giving Sam Vartholomeos an order, you know? It's really easy to play off of them."

Even when not in a scene with the show's biggest stars, Vartholomeos learns a lot from simply observing and being around his costars. "Just watching the subtle movements they have on set really kind of helps the awe of it," he explained, "watching Jason Isaacs work, watching Michelle Yeoh work, watching Sonequa Martin-Green work, and of course, Doug Jones. I mean, Doug Jones is … That's a bit of a bromance, I will say. I love that man dearly. You can't help but laugh when you're with him. It's great."

Kenneth Mitchell - Kol

It would be almost impossible for fans of network television not to have seen Kenneth Mitchell's face at least once. In addition to his major roles as Deacon Joe Hurley in Frequency, Deke Slayton in The Astronaut Wives Club, Wes Gable in Switched at Birth, Sam Lucas in Ghost Whisperer, Eric Green in Jericho, Marc Taggart in Odyssey 5, and Spencer Matthew in Leap Years, Mitchell has also made cameo appearances in whole slew of other shows, including Notorious, Major Crimes, Bones, NCIS: Los Angeles, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Grimm, and The Mentalist just to name a few.

That being said, it's hard to recognize Mitchell under all that Klingon makeup. "The costume is heavy and it's hot," he told StarTrek.com, "and the prosthetics are heavy and hot, but I've always been an actor that works from the inside out and the outside in. These costumes and prosthetics, when you put them on, they're like layers of your character, and the more you put on the more you start feeling like your character. Then you add in the language, this very visceral and guttural language, and it just lends itself so much to my character, being a kind of aggressive Klingon. I find the language itself is a little bit aggressive and I've found when I am speaking it, I kind of start moving my body a bit and using my arms and moving my neck a bit. All these layers added on to helping me create my character."

James Frain - Sarek

Though he only appears in the show's two-episode pilot, James Frain lends some serious star power to Star Trek: Discovery. The English stage and screen actor has landed major lead and supporting roles in Orphan Black, Gotham, True Detective, Intruders, Grimm, The Cape, True Blood, The Tudors, Invasion, Empire, and 24. And don't even get us started on his cameos, which include the likes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Californication, and Grey's Anatomy, among others.

Despite playing a minor role in Discovery, Sarek is one the show's most important characters—at least, as far as canon is concerned, having appeared in two different timelines already. "I feel a great sense of responsibility to Mark Lenard's performance because he was the first to establish the character, and did such a fantastic job," Frain explained to TrekCore. "So, I had him very much in mind but I also felt like, we change so much in our lives. [Mark Lenard's performance is] where he ends up, but he's lived for 200 years. So who was he 50 years, or 100 years before that? Like, who is this guy who marries a human being, when humans have an emotional culture, and Vulcans believe that emotion causes war? It simply has to be repressed, because it's dangerous, yet here he is, playing with danger—that seems to me to be kind of exciting… and kinda sexy, dare I say it!"

Terry Serpico - Admiral Anderson

Though he only shows up for a couple of episodes, Terry Serpico's presence as Admiral Anderson commands respect. Literally.

If you're scratching your head wondering where you've seen Serpico before, there's a good chance you recognize him as Mitch Ohlmeyer from The Inspectors, Patrick Lloyd from Designated Survivor, Frank Sherwood from Army Wives—his longest running role—or Cousin Eddie in Rescue Me. However, the big guy has also made cameo appearances on Limitless, Elementary, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Person of Interest, CSI: Miami, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Oz, among others.

If you want to keep up with the Emmy-nominated actor, stuntman, and acting coach, you can follow Serpico on Twitter @terryserpico.

Doug Jones - Lt. Saru

You've probably seen American actor Doug Jones before, but you there's a good chance you've never recognized him, thanks to his penchant for playing non-human characters. Aside from starring as Star Trek's first Kelpien alien, Jones has notably been a favorite of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, having appeared in Mimic and Crimson Peak, in addition to starring as Abe Sapien in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water, and both The Faun and The Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth—the last of which still gives us nightmares.

One of the aspects of Star Trek: Discovery that makes it so good is the depth the series' creators have instilled into each and every character. "Every character on the show has their own unique voice and their own intention, fears, hopes and backstory," Jones explained to ET, "so they've done a great job layering all of us together. Michael Burnham and Saru come from similar backgrounds…. They both have that 'I'm the prodigy here' kind of thing."

However, when putting aside their rivalry, Jones claims "there is a deep-running love"—something clearly on display in the show's pilot. "Michelle Yeoh, Sonequa Martin-Green and I bonded very quickly," he says. "We all share a love of hugging each other upon first meeting and giggling at silly things, so to be given material that goes from light to heavy to dangerous, we all went on that ride together as a family would do."

Michelle Yeoh - Captain Georgiou

Before Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng became an instantly recognizable face in the United States, the Malaysian actress was already famous for performing her own stunts in various Hong Kong action films. Her athletic ability helped Yeoh burst onto the Western scene as Bond girl Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies, which preceded her most iconic role as Yu Shu Lien in martial-arts classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Since then, she's appeared in Memoirs of a Geisha, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Marco Polo, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, among others.

These days, Yeoh is happy to be the female captain of a diverse crew. "It is very empowering," she told ET's Lauren Zima at Hollywood's Star Trek: Discovery world premiere. "Honestly, it's about time and we're very, very proud to be a part of that — and it will look good because Sonequa, the cast, everyone worked so hard, worked so beautifully [on] it."

Yeoh is also pleased that Star Trek: Discovery remains largely true to the famous series' canon. "I think everybody pays homage to the original because they are the original, so the essence and spirit of how we started out … is very much there," she explained. "It's about inclusion, raising the diversity, reflecting on what's happening with us as a human race and going forward with strength and compassion. It is all there. I think this is the real spirit of what it is to be Star Trek."

Sonequa Martin-Green - Michael Burnham

Actress Sonequa Martin-GreenStar Trek's first ever African-American lead—might be Discovery's most instantly recognizable face, especially for fans of AMC's hit zombie series The Walking Dead, in which she plays Tyreese's sharpshooting little sister: Sasha (spoilers). However, some viewers might recognize her from her earlier television appearances as Tamara in Once Upon a Time, Michelle Terry in NYC 22, Courtney Wells in The Good Wife, and Kanessa Jones in Army Wives.

When auditioning for Star Trek: Discovery, Martin-Green impressed with her innate ability to handle the series' complicated vocabulary. "It's a tough thing to learn with actors," executive producer Alex Kurtzman explained to TV Line. "You either have the ability to roll that off your tongue, or you don't. And if you don't, everything kind of trips over itself… And when [Sonequa] read, we all breathed a massive sigh of relief, because she brought an instant authenticity to it. It was very clear that the language was not going to be difficult for her."

Aside from handling the series' tricky Trekkie lingo with ease, Kurtzman was also impressed with her remarkable acting ability. "I'm looking between the lines for what the actors are doing when they're reading," he explained. "Am I engaging with their face? Am I engaging with their eyes? Do I see a whole emotional life in their eyes? It was extremely clear that that's what was going on with her. So we were very, very lucky."