Entertainment December 15, 2016
Sonequa Martin-Green is the latest actress rumored to board the Enterprise. While the news is not yet verified, the “Walking Dead” star might be cast as lieutenant commander in the upcoming series, “Star Trek: Discovery.”
“Star Trek: Discovery” will premiere in May 2017 on the streaming video service “CBS All Access.” If Martin-Green’s casting is confirmed, she will become the first African-American actress to score the starring role. The series will be told from her perspective as lieutenant commander, which is unusual since previous series have been told from the captain’s point of view.
Prior to Martin-Green, Avery Brooks was the first African-American actor to hold a lead role in the Star Trek franchise with “Deep Space 9.” Nichelle Nichols, an African-American actress, also played the supporting character Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in “Star Trek: The Original Series.”
Aside from Martin-Green, a few other roles have been announced that parallel this on-screen diversity. Actor Anthony Rapp will also be making history as the first openly gay character on the series, according to BBC. Michelle Yeoh, a Malaysian actress, will also join the ranks and play Captain Geogiou.
“Star Trek” is following the trend of other franchises which are embracing inclusiveness. This trend is especially prevalent in genres previously dominated by white males, such as with the action and comic entertainment categories.
So why the sudden shift for increasing diversity on the screen?
A UCLA study found that “more viewers were drawn to shows with ethnically diverse lead cast members and writers, while shows reflecting less diversity in their credits attracted smaller audiences.” This increased viewership likely boosts revenue and raises the bottom line.
Despite this, women and ethnic minorities are still heavily underrepresented in today’s television industry as actors, writers or creators. A USC study confirms this as an “epidemic of invisibility.”
NPR reports that the study, “found just one-third of speaking characters were female (33.5 percent), despite the fact that women represent just over half the population in America. Just 28.3 percent of characters with dialogue were from non-white racial/ethnic groups, though such groups are nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population.”
“Star Trek” is going against the statistics to bring new voices into their universe. In addition to adding more female and ethnically-diverse characters, their decision to follow a lieutenant commander rather than a captain also contributes to a wider perspective.
Bryan Fuller, former executive producer, asserted the importance of changing the predictable point of view the franchise is known for. Although he has since left the series to pursue a different show, his words still apply to the upcoming series.
“We’ve seen six series from the captain’s point of view,” Fuller told reporters. “To see a character from a [new] perspective on the starship – one who has different dynamic relationships with a captain with subordinates, it gave us richer context.”
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