ENTERTAINMENT

'Star Trek: Discovery' Will Feature Franchise's First Transgender, Nonbinary Characters

Actors Ian Alexander and Blu del Barrio are set to join the cast of the CBS sci-fi series' third season in groundbreaking roles.

The “Star Trek” universe is about to get more diverse once again. 

CBS announced this week that Season 3 of “Star Trek: Discovery” will feature new characters who are transgender and gender nonbinary. 

Actor Ian Alexander has signed on to play Gray, a transgender man who is eager to become a Trill host for a symbiotic alien species that lives in different hosts over the course of its lifetime. Blu del Barrio will make their screen acting debut as nonbinary character Adira, who has a close bond with a same-sex couple, Lt. Cmdr. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz). 

Executive producer and co-showrunner Michelle Paradise praised the new characters as “extraordinary,” adding that she and the rest of the series’ creative team were eager to “bring their stories to life with empathy, understanding, empowerment and joy.”

“‘Star Trek’ has always made a mission of giving visibility to underrepresented communities because it believes in showing people that a future without division on the basis of race, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation is entirely within our reach,” she told Deadline in a statement.  

As Paradise suggested, “Star Trek” has previously featured characters that many fans interpreted as coded representation of the nonbinary experience. A 1992 episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and a 2003 episode of “Star Trek: Enterprise,” for example, included narratives with references to alien individuals who did not adhere to gender specificity. 

When the new season of “Star Trek: Discovery” debuts Oct. 15, however, it will be the first in the franchise to feature characters who specifically identify as transgender and nonbinary, played by trans and nonbinary actors.  

Alexander, best known for his role as Buck Vu on Netflix’s “The OA,” wrote on Twitter that he was “so excited” to join the “Star Trek: Discovery” cast. 

Co-star Rapp, meanwhile, echoed those sentiments with an enthusiastic response of his own. 

Del Barrio, who is of Argentinian descent and uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” offered a few hints as to what Trekkies can expect in an interview with GLAAD published Wednesday,

“Adira is a wonderfully complex character,” del Barrio said. “Mainly because of this duality they have within them: they’re astonishingly intelligent and yet they’re still a kid. They experience their emotions at a heightened level, like most teenagers.”

Landing the role, del Barrio added, marked the start of a new personal chapter, too. 

“When I got the call that I’d been cast as Adira, I hadn’t yet told the majority of my friends and family that I was nonbinary,” they said. “I knew I wanted to tell my friends and family, so when this happened, it felt like the universe saying, ‘Go ahead.’ So in a way, Adira’s story ends up mirroring mine.”

The news comes nearly three years after “Star Trek: Discovery” last made franchise history by adding Culber and Stamets to its cast of characters. Though “Star Trek” had previously shown same-sex kisses and other subtle references to LGBTQ identity, the men are the franchise’s first committed same-sex couple

CLARIFICATION: Additional language has been added to note previous “Star Trek” narratives that have been interpreted as representations of the nonbinary experience.