Celia Rose Gooding, Melissa Navia: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' is rare sci-fi story of hope

Celia Rose Gooding plays Uhura in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," which was released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday. Photo by Michael Gibson/Paramount+
Celia Rose Gooding plays Uhura in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," which was released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday. Photo by Michael Gibson/Paramount+
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NEW YORK, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Co-stars Celia Rose Gooding and Melissa Navia say Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is the rare science-fiction adventure that imagines a hopeful future and celebrates the best of humanity.

"Often, when we hear stories about the future, we hear apocalypse and doomsday and nothing to really look forward to or have a reason to believe in humanity," Gooding, who plays Ensign Nyota Uhura, told UPI in a recent virtual roundtable interview.

"Trek flips that on its head and says not only is humanity essential to where we are now, it is essential to how we get to a brighter and better, more equitable future," they said. "Hope and faith and community will get us where we want to go."

Navia, who plays Erica Ortegas, the USS Enterprise's spaceship helmsman, agreed.

"Star Trek speaks to what is possible," she said.

Melissa Navia stars as Ortegas in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," which was released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday. Photo by Michael Gibson/Paramount+
Melissa Navia stars as Ortegas in "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," which was released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday. Photo by Michael Gibson/Paramount+

"We have endless dystopian realities that we are constantly watching," she said. "When I go home and I want to watch something, I don't always want to watch everything falling apart. People are like, 'Is it too Utopian?' I'm like: 'It isn't, though. What we are speaking to is a humanity that is possible if we work together.'"

Streaming on Paramount+ and available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray, Season 2 of Strange New Worlds features the Star Trek franchise's first musical episode and a crossover episode with the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks.

From left to right, Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck arrive on the red carpet at the New York premiere of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" in 2022. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
From left to right, Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck arrive on the red carpet at the New York premiere of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" in 2022. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

The prequel to the original 1960s series follows the competent, hard-working crew of the Enterprise, under the command of Capt. Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), as they explore uncharted territories and encounter various civilizations, helping others whenever possible.

The show features Rebecca Romijn as Una Chin-Riley, Ethan Peck as Spock, Jess Bush as Christine Chapel, Christina Chong as La'An Noonien-Singh, Babs Olusanmokun as Joseph M'Benga, Paul Wesley as James T. Kirk and Carol Kane as Pelia.

From left to right, Jess Bush, Bruce Horak, Celia Rose Gooding, Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, Ethan Peck, Babs Olusanmokun, Christina Chong, and Melissa Navia arrive on the red carpet at the New York premiere of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" in 2022. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
From left to right, Jess Bush, Bruce Horak, Celia Rose Gooding, Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn, Ethan Peck, Babs Olusanmokun, Christina Chong, and Melissa Navia arrive on the red carpet at the New York premiere of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" in 2022. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

"The beautiful thing about Trek is that it's found a way to tell very specific stories, but have a theme that can reach globally," Gooding said.

"Everyone can take something away from an episode of Trek at any given moment, but I would say that the current theme of hope is something that everyone can look forward to."

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" actor Paul Wesley arrives for photos at New York Comic Con in 2019. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" actor Paul Wesley arrives for photos at New York Comic Con in 2019. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

The series also emphasizes that everyone on the ship has their own particular specialties and skills, but still needs to work together as a team.

"No matter how incredible you are at your job, you still need your community and your community will be behind you to support you when you don't feel as though you can do what you were tasked with doing," they said.

Navia got to explore a more vulnerable side of the stalwart Ortegas in Season 2 because of challenges at work.

"One of the things that became so established for Ortegas in Season 1 is that she is very competent and she is wonderfully cocky because she is very good at what she does and she knows it," Navia said. "That's an aspect of her that people really gravitate toward."

Navia said that in Season 2 there are moments where Ortegas is "not feeling capable and not feeling her best." The actress looked to personal troubles she has experienced in her own life for inspiration.

"You're pulling from what you know in your own life and also from your character's life. It was absolutely wild," she said. "Our crew and our cast are so supportive and wonderful and I was really able to take Ortegas to a place I hadn't before and, in doing so, I also took myself to a place that asked a lot of me on set, emotionally."

She hopes viewers see themselves in the character and performance.

"How many of us feel like when we least feel like we can do something it turns out we are the best person in that moment to do it, but it's easier said than done, right?" Navia said.

"You see Ortegas going through the motions of, 'How do I get from I can't do this to I am the only who can do this?'" she added. "I feel really good about what we created."

Both actresses have been embraced by the LGBTQIA+ community and said they are happy to make members feel represented on the show.

Navia, whose real-life husband, Brian Bannon, died of leukemia in 2022, plays Ortegas with an androgynous appearance and demeanor.

The actress has said in the past she is aware of the "wonderful queer energy" she gives off and leans into that.

"Throughout my career, the trans-LGBTQ community have been such rock stars for me in terms of people who love what they see in me," Navia said.

"They love what I bring to the screen, to characters, the fact that gender-play is almost inherently a part of me and always has been," she said. "They have been absolutely my biggest fans and that continues through this Star Trek fame that I now have."

Gooding is the first member of the LGBTQIA+ community to play Uhura, a role made famous first in the TV show by the late Nichelle Nichols and then later in the film franchise by Zoe Saldana.

"As an out queer person, as someone whose relationship with their gender is ever-evolving and ever-changing, it is so exciting to be a part of this, especially playing a role that has been originated by cis women and has historically only been played by cis women," Gooding said.

"It really is humbling to be trusted with something so precious," she said. "To the trans and non-binary queer community, know that there is an entire cast of people who want to do right by y'all and want to represent y'all in a way that is human and true and beautiful and lovely, and to have your support means the moon and beyond to all of us."