The Inverse Interview

Star Trek: Discovery showrunner explains that shocking Season 4 finale cameo [Exclusive]

Discovery just honored a real-life Trek fan who’s making a huge difference in the real world.

The President of Earth has arrived.

In a moment both surprising and tender, the last scene of the Season 4 finale of Star Trek: Discovery reveals a surprise guest star in a brief but pivotal cameo. Ahead of the release of the episode, “Coming Home,” Inverse chatted with Discovery showrunner and writer of the finale, Michelle Paradise. Here’s what she had to say about Season 5, the casting of the President of Earth, and why the Discovery universe is always expanding. Spoilers ahead!

Earth re-enters the Federation

At the very end of the Discovery finale, after a huge crisis with Species Ten-C is averted and Earth and Ni’Var avoid destruction by the massive Dark Matter Anomaly, the United Federation of Planets welcomes Earth back into the fold. Previously, in Season 3 of Discovery, we learned that 32nd century Earth had left the Federation and become more isolationist. This was a shocking twist, and Michelle Paradise tells Inverse that this specific story, which began in the 2020 episode “People of Earth,” was always designed to be concluded this year.

“Earth was always going to be the cornerstone of Season 4,” Paradise says. “When we came into Season 3, we came into a world where the Federation was kind of torn apart. And the Earth was part of that. We always knew from that point it would be a two-season arc and that bringing Earth back in would be the completion of that arc. So, it felt really important to us to get to that in the last few episodes.”

Book (David Ajala) and Reno (Tig Notaro) have become integral to Discovery, and representative of the ever-expanding pool of characters. Paramount

Will Earth’s return to the Federation mean that Discovery Season 5 could feature more terrestrial action? Will many of our characters — like Tilly, Gray, or Book — return to the show not just on the starship Discovery itself, but perhaps on Earth?

“I don’t want to spoil anything about Season 5,” Paradise says. “What I will say is what I find wonderful about doing this show is that whenever you bring someone in, they're in this universe now. They’re always a part of this world. You know, for example in Episode 4 this season we send Tilly to Starfleet Academy. But she comes back in the finale and has a crucial role to play. And that’s true of any character that’s been part of our world.”

And that includes, apparently, one new character played by a very important person.

Stacey Abrams leads Earth in Star Trek

Stacey Abrams, Earth President.Paramount

After all the nail-biting at the Galactic Barrier, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Federation President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) greet the President of Earth. And the President is played by none other than Stacey Abrams, former Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and current 2022 Gubernatorial candidate in the state.

Abrams is a lifelong Star Trek fan, and in 2020 appeared on the official Star Trek Podcast, the Pod Directive, in conversation with Tawny Newsome and Paul F. Tompkins. Abrams has been credited with spurring a huge increase in voter registration in Georgia, and her progressive activism and humanist viewpoints feel right at home in Star Trek, making her appearance as the President of United Earth aspirational and touching.

“There was never anyone else in consideration for the role,” Paradise says. “And, again, we also knew that Earth was the linchpin in our finale. We all live here on Earth, so we knew we needed a person for the face of that. Once Alex [Kurtzman] and I talked about it, we were just both so excited by the idea that we couldn’t think of anyone better.”

Stacey Abrams in the Star Trek Discovery Season 4 finale.Paramount

Paradise and the Discovery team reached out to Abrams because “we knew that she was a fan of Discovery and of Star Trek in general.” Abrams agreed to do the cameo, but she also insisted that Paradise and Kurtzman not tell her “too much” about the plot of the season “because she’s a fan and wanted to watch it.”

In the final scene, Abrams tells Captain Burnham that there’s still “a lot of work” that needs to happen to unify the Federation. This kind of thinking echoes Stacey Abrams’ own career but also, as Burnham says, gives “hope for tomorrow.”

For Paradise, the goal of bringing Abrams in wasn’t to “break new ground” for the franchise, but instead to do something that felt right in the context of the world today.

“We weren’t looking to make history,” Paradise says. “We approached it from a very organic place of, ‘What do we need from this character?’ Stacey Abrams, what she’s done, what she continues to do, the values that she embodies, all of that feels like who we wanted representing this moment.”

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is streaming on Paramount+.

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