EW has learned of two major developments on the CBS All-Access series: The first is that the series will include Spock’s father Sarek as a key character. This is the first character who has appeared previously in the Trek franchise to get on board the new series. Not only that, but our Federation sources have revealed who will be playing Sarek: Actor James Frain, who most recently played mayor Theo Galavan (a.k.a. Azrael) on Fox’s Gotham. Frain has also had arcs on BBC America’s Orphan Black, HBO’s True Detective and NBC’s Grimm.
Discovery will start filming in Toronto next week. However — and this is the other significant development — the series is no longer going to premiere in May as previously announced. This is the second time the show’s debut date has changed. But while certain creative and production issues were a factor when Discovery was originally pushed from February to May, we’re hearing lately the drama is on track under new showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts.
This switch has a few reasons behind it, a key one is that recently cast star Sonequa Martin-Green is on AMC’s mega-hit The Walking Dead, which is airing its current season through April. There’s a concern about marketplace confusion if CBS were to ramp up promoting her as the star of a new sci-fi show while her horror hit is currently on the air. The other reason is there’s still a lot of careful deliberation continuing to go into making Discovery special, from the choice of directors, to set design, to the special effects. While May would have been a strong premiere month for the project since Discovery will premiere on the CBS broadcast network before moving to the streaming service (May is a ratings surge month), given that Discovery will live on All-Access there’s no pressure to fill a specific time slot.
Reached for comment, CBS Television Studios issued this statement: “Production on Star Trek: Discovery begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created. This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it’s best for the show. We’ve said from the beginning it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn’t beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows.”
So when will Discovery leave spacedock? That’s unclear at this time. Next fall might be reasonable assumption given that’s when CBS’ promotional power will next peak, but there are a lot of factors at play that could potentially result in some other date instead.
Now let’s get back to Frain’s casting. The Shakespearian-trained British actor comes with some popular credits from screens small and large (Elizabeth, Tron: Legacy and Lone Ranger are among his film titles). As you can see from his photo above, he looks born to play a Vulcan.
Refresher: Sarek is an astrophysicist, the Vulcan ambassador to the United Federation of Planets and the father of Spock, who he had with his Earth-born human wife Amanda. The character appeared in the original Star Trek series, The Next Generation and in several of the films. He was most memorably portrayed by the late actor Mark Leonard (who as hardcore fans know, initially played the first-ever Romulan ever seen in the franchise, in the excellent original series episode “Balance of Terror”).
Discovery takes place roughly a decade before the events in The Original Series, so its events predate Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk joining forces on the Enterprise. Last month, EW was first to report that Martin-Green will star as a lieutenant commander on the Discovery.
Also cast: Michelle Yeoh will play Captain Georgiou, the Starfleet Captain aboard the Starship Shenzhou; Doug Jones (Hellboy, Falling Skies) will play Lt. Saru, a Starfleet Science Officer and a new alien species in the Star Trek universe; and Rapp (Rent, Road Trip) was cast as Lt. Stamets, an “astromycologist,” fungus expert, and Starfleet Science Officer aboard the Starship Discovery. The show also cast three actors as Klingons: Chris Obi (Roots) as T’Kuvma, a leader seeking to unite the Klingon houses; Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful), who will play Kol, a Klingon Commanding Officer, and protege of T’Kuvma; and the newcomer Mary Chieffo as L’Rell, the Battle Deck Commander of a Klingon ship.