'Star Trek: Discovery' showrunner says she got 'goosebumps' watching Stacey Abrams's top-secret cameo

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·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·4 min read
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Stacey Abrams appeared as the United Earth President on the Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Discovery (Photo: Marni Grossman/Paramount+/CBS Interactive.)
Stacey Abrams appeared as the United Earth President on the Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Discovery. (Photo: Marni Grossman/Paramount+/CBS Interactive.)

In the present day, Stacey Abrams is seeking to become Georgia's first Black female governor. But fast-forward to the 32nd century, and she's already holding higher office as president of a United Earth. That's the career path laid out in the Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Discovery, which featured a surprise cameo from Abrams in its closing moments. And according to Discovery showrunner, Michelle Paradise — who also wrote the episode — it was a match made in the stars.

"We knew she was a Star Trek fan," Paradise tells Yahoo Entertainment. "She's done events and interviews in the past where she's mentioned her love of Star Trek in general, and her appreciation of Discovery, so we knew in advance that she was a fan of the show and a fan of the franchise."

Stacey Abrams made a cameo appearance as Earth's president in the Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Discovery (Photo: CBS Interactive)
Abrams in her surprise cameo on the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery. (Photo: CBS Interactive)

Abrams's appearance caps a long-running storyline that found Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the Discovery crew try to bring their native planet back into the Federation decades after United Earth seceded from the intergalactic organization. In the finale, the Earth narrowly avoids total annihilation by a destructive alien force and that close call convinces the president that it's time to become part of the larger galaxy once again.

"United Earth is ready right now to rejoin the Federation," the president tells the assembled Federation officers. "Nothing could make me happier than to say those words."

Nothing made Paradise happier than when Abrams agreed to a Zoom call where she and Discovery co-creator and executive producer, Alex Kurtzman, pitched the role to her. "It was pretty overwhelming, I'll be honest. Alex and I were both really taken aback. She was so kind and thoughtful, and just great. We were both absolutely thrilled to get to talk to her and pitch her the idea. Once she said she wanted to do it, we pinched ourselves a bit."

Sonequa Martin-Green and Abrams in the Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Discovery (Photo: CBS Interactive)
Sonequa Martin-Green and Abrams in the Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Discovery. (Photo: CBS Interactive)

Abrams shot her role in top secrecy on Discovery's Toronto set last summer. "We did take precautions on the day," Paradise remembers. "Not listing her name specifically on the call sheet — normally a performer's name will be listed on the call sheet next to their character name. We didn't do that in case any paperwork happened to get out. We weren't doing CIA level things, but it was very important to all of us that we keep that lock down so the audience could experience that reveal in the moment."

A novelist herself, Abrams took a strong interest in being part of the creative discussions around the role, asking questions and offering her input into costume choices. "We wanted it to be a very collaborative process, because it's a huge thing to represent the president of Earth. Then she came onto set on the day and absolutely nailed it — it was great."

Paradise was particularly pleased by the way Abrams played two specific moments. "When she says that Earth is ready to rejoin the Federation, there's this undercurrent of joy as she says it that really struck me in her takes and what you see onscreen. You can feel that palpable joy of the president rejoining the Federation. And then at the end, when she tells Burnham: 'There's a lot of work to do; are you ready for that?' We've just gone through this crucible, and there's an underlying sense of hope and optimism that she brought to the character that also defines how she approaches her real-world work. I got goosebumps just watching that."

Abrams filmed her top secret Discovery cameo in one day on the show's Toronto set. (Photo: CBS Interactive)
Abrams filmed her top secret Discovery cameo in one day on the show's Toronto set. (Photo: Marni Grossman/Paramount+/CBS Interactive)

While the concept of "United Earth" was introduced earlier in Discovery's season, Paradise acknowledges how it fits into Star Trek's utopian vision at a time when the United States seems particularly divided. "It's that underlying idea that you can have conflict and then get over that conflict and come together for a greater good is certainly there in the notion of United Earth," she explains.

As for whether the President of United Earth will appear again, Paradise says that Abrama's real-life political career comes first. "I'm confident she'll have other things that she needs to be working on," she says, laughing. "But it was such a privilege and a joy to get to work with her and it would be an absolute thrill to be able to do that again on any level."

Star Trek: Discovery is currently streaming on Paramount+.