Star Trek: Discovery Interview: Sonequa Martin-Green Gives Us Her Thoughts On The Season 2 Finale
This year, we got the chance to talk to Sonequa Martin-Green right after the Star Trek: Discovery season premiere. Earlier this week we chatted with her once again, this time about Discovery‘s jaw-dropping season finale. Keep reading to find out what Martin-Green had to say about the evolution of Burnham and Spock’s (Ethan Peck) relationship, reading the Season 2 finale script for the first time, and the episode’s possible references to Star Trek: The Original Series. You can also check out our Season 2 finale conversation with Peck here.
Spoiler warning: Spoilers for the Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 finale below.
Space: This season, Burnham discovered that something she’d shouldered the blame for didn’t happen the way she thought it did—and yet she still hasn’t seemed to have forgiven herself. What are your thoughts on that?
Sonequa Martin-Green: I think it all comes down to the source, or the root, of the behaviours and the intentions. Because when you pick up as Michael at the beginning of the show, I am very comfortable in this image that I’ve created for myself. I’m very comfortable being this Vulcan-human—you know, dutiful, and focused, and tenacious and all of these things. I have all of these walls up, and I feel very comfortable inside these walls. But over the course of Season 1 and Season 2, especially over the latter half of Season 2, you see these things start breaking down one by one.
Like you said, something that is a cornerstone for Michael Burnham is the guilt of being responsible for my parents’ deaths. And now realizing that that wasn’t the case—also, couple that with being forgiven by Spock for something that was yet another cornerstone and another source of shame and guilt—what then happens is this freedom. This freedom to be who I authentically am. And what is then left is still this sense of duty and this sense of honour because, if anything, Michael Burnham is a woman of honour.
What I love about it, playing Michael Burnham, being Michael Burnham, is that it’s not guilt or shame that is leading me now, but love. That is obviously going to take you further anything else. When you come from shame and you come from guilt, it’s all going to burn out eventually, and you saw varying levels of that burnout over the course of Season 2. It was such an emotional outpouring, because I made the decision in Season 1, Episode 6 to be my own woman and stop trying to pursue the approval of my father and be this Vulcan…you see the human side coming out like this pendulum swing—Vulcan all the way over here and then I go all the way over here [laughs]. It’s in pursuit of that balance, and I have that pursuit now in such an authentic way, and I’m coming from a place of love rather than shame. Which is amazing, and we still have yet to see how that’s going to play out.
This season featured some funny, touching, and tense moments between Burnham and Georgiou. Can you tell us a bit about collaborating with Michelle Yeoh and what the two of you did to differentiate Burnham’s relationship with Terran Georgiou and Prime Georgiou?
A lot of has to do with just how brilliant Michelle Yeoh is, to be honest. So much of it is just how sensational she is as an actor. She’s this living legend, and she’s the most gracious person you’ll ever meet. But her and I connected very quickly, very easily and very seamlessly. We love each other very dearly and we love working together and that can’t help but sort of bleed into the story. It was very easy to establish the connection with each other, and it was this mother-daughter connection. Prime Georgiou is very much Michael’s mother in a lot of ways, but there was this sense of professionalism and professional respect that they had for each other that was another foundation of their relationship.
Now, with Emperor Georgiou, so much of it is what Michelle brings. She’s completely two different people, and her performance is so drastically different from Prime Georgiou to Emperor Georgiou that it’s sort of there already. What I love about the two of them…is that they can’t help but love each other. Because neither one of us is who the other is accustomed to. She’s not Prime Georgiou. I am not Mirror Burnham. But we can’t help but connect, we can’t help but see the one that we love in each other—it’s almost impossible. So with that sort of primal love that we can’t help having, we start to develop our own relationship.
Obviously it’s wrought with conflict, and we sort of touch each other where it hurts in a way, because we have such a privileged position in each others’ lives…strangely enough, it’s become this sort of neutral…but I particularly love the moment before Burnham goes to sacrifice herself in that chair to trap the Red Angel. When hey, this might not work, I might die, and then you see what’s really there. You see what’s really there underneath all the conflict and it’s just real, pure love. They have these moments with each other, and it’s an unspoken moment I really loved playing with her. It’s been so much fun, and it’s been such a joy working with her in all these different facets.
Burnham has also developed a strong connection with Spock. Do you think having Spock around changed the way Burnham behaved this season? What kind of effect did his presence have on her?
I think he blew up her spot [laughs]. I really do, I think he blew. Up. Burnham’s. Spot. First of all, I think believing that I’m never going to see him again…it’s something that I say to Sarek in the first episode of Season 2, having that shame come back and look her in the face. This person you believe you broke into a million pieces, having them come back years later and look you in the face. And then not forgive you immediately. Be angry with you and be dismissive and harsh to you for what you did. I think at the beginning of Season 2, it was excruciating, and I think that they—in a lot of similar ways to Burnham and Georgiou—touch each other in ways that other people can’t. I think that they have access to parts of each other that other people don’t.
So I think that the forgiveness moment that finally comes is so very earned and very much ushers Michael into who she can really be. I think it’s very much the same for Spock. What we see in their last moment with each other is that they needed each other to become who they were destined to be. They needed the reconciliation of their relationship. They needed the forgiveness, they needed to ignite each other and save each other in a lot of ways. Now, they can go off on their respective paths and become who they were meant to be because of each other. I don’t think they could have gotten where they got without each other.
And then Ethan and I have such a beautiful relationship, such a beautiful friendship. He is so incredible as an actor, and we had such a great time digging into this together and finding all the mysteries and turning over all the stones and digging into this story, because it’s huge, and it has historical context and also future context at the same time. It was very exciting to tell that story, and I’m really really happy with what the writers gave us there.
You mentioned Burnham and Spock’s final moments with each other. When they were saying their goodbyes, Burnham tells Spock to find the person that’s furthest from him and let that person guide him. Do you think that’s a direct reference to the Kirk-Spock dynamic we see play out in The Original Series?
I believe so. I’d like to think so, and if other people see it that way too, I would be very happy.
The finale is very emotionally intense, and essentially puts together the pieces of everything we had seen play out throughout the season. How did you feel after reading the finale script for the first time?
Oh my god, I was blown away. We had an understanding of what we were building to and little bit ahead of receiving the script for the finale, but we shot [episodes] 13 and 14 at the same time. And they really go together as one, it’s really Part 1, Part 2. So we were just so inspired and we were so astounded by how everything was brought together and how everything had significance. I love that almost more than anything, that you see everything that has happened thus far had such significance, and everything was building on itself.
I think about something that Captain Pike (Anson Mount) says, when he goes, “It appears that we all have had and still have a part to play.” I love that, because every single thing that we’ve gone through, every single person that we are going on this journey with in this story has a part to play, and all of it led to us rising and flying upwards into that wormhole.
The finale is quite dark at times but ultimately ends on a hopeful note. Is there a message or feeling you want fans to take away after watching it?
It’s hard to narrow it down to one thing, because there are many things I hope people take away from it. I hope that people see us cemented as a family. I love that you see us coming together in a way like you never have before. One of the things that made us different on Star Trek: Discovery is that you come in on people that are not done yet, right? We’re still sort of cooking, if you will. And that was something that took some adjustment, it took some getting used to. We’re used to seeing characters be who they are and not really changing in the Star Trek canon. What we’ve been doing here is we’ve been changing, drastically. These characters are changing episode by episode and certainly season to season.
I love that, because that’s the mark of serialized storytelling…we’re changing and growing and becoming who we’re going to ultimately be. You see the conflicts between us as well as the conflicts we’re having with other species outside of the Federation, but what I love is that it’s coming together, finally, in this two-part finale. We’re sacrificing everything, our lives, for each other and for the good of the future. It’s not just that we’re saving the world, saving the universe, going to the future—we’re doing it as a family. We really solidified ourselves as the crew of the Discovery. And of Star Trek: Discovery. I love that that happens as we’re forging ahead and going boldly. We literally are going boldly, where nobody has gone before [laughs].
I will say, too, that I hope people are left with the remembrance of those who will not be returning with us. There were certainly a lot of goodbyes, and we love everybody so much. There were lots of tears, saying goodbye to everybody. So I hope that they’re left with that and that they’re excited for this new path that we’re forging with what Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise and all the other writers have done with us. I hope they feel that we really found ourselves.
Watch the Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 finale below.