Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Rebecca Romijn On the Secrets that Drive Una's Excellence

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Rebecca Romijn has stamped her passport in mega-fandoms before. Whether as Mystique in 2000's cinematic X-Men and its subsequent sequels or Ugly Betty's Alexis or Eve Baird on The Librarians, Romijn commands the screen whenever she steps into her roles.

Her newest kick-ass character is that of Number One, the First Officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of Anson Mount's Captain Christopher Pike.

Romijn reprises this highly-skilled, eminently capable commander after she appeared with Mount and Ethan Peck as a young Spock on Star Trek: Discovery Season 2.

Una Promo Poster - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Speaking with TV Fanatic and other news outlets virtually on a recent press day, Romijn spoke candidly about Number One, a character only ever seen before she landed the role on the original, unaired pilot of Star Trek: The Original Series.

"She was never developed, so our writers are incredible. We’ve all been having such a fun time fleshing her out. It’s just been this great opportunity, and Star Trek is such a great platform for storytelling.

"Because we’re stand-alone episodes, each episode is a different opportunity to tell a new story with important messaging.

"Una was kind of a real mystery until now. It’s been a blast. Also, I feel very protective of her. I mean, the Star Trek fans are very protective of this canon and of these characters, and so I think we’re caretakers, we’re custodians, taking care of these beloved characters."

Una in Sick Bay - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Recognizing the fandom's affection for canon and Trek's long and detailed history, what excites Romijn about embarking on a journey with this role?

"Well, she was a blank slate of a character who was introduced in the original rejected pilot of Star Trek, and we didn’t even know she had a name.

"She does have a name now, Una Chin-Reilly, so that was exciting, getting to have a name.

"She’s very, very good at her job. What we see in the development – we learn a secret about her in Episode 3 – we find out that’s why she’s so good at her job.

Una Promo Art - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

"She sort of hides behind meticulous work, and she is slightly intimidating to the rest of the crew to keep her distance so that nobody finds out the secret that she’s hiding.

"It’s a fun layer to play. The writers floated this idea to me pretty early on, and I just thought it was such an incredible layer to the character. And we’re going to keep exploring that in a pretty major way throughout the season."

Romijn is clear that the foundation for Una was laid in her first appearance back in 1966. While her character will become more fully realized and rounded on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Romijn knows that some aspects of the character will remain constant.

"Her fastidious, meticulous nature. She is very, very, very good, and no one loves Starfleet more than Una. That. That is the North Star for Una.

Una Chin-Riley Close-Up - Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

"No one loves the stars more than Una. No one loves Starfleet more than Una. And she is extremely good at what she does.

"In what we learn about her in Episode 3, we find that she is hiding something and she keeps her distance to protect what she’s hiding."

Una's secret affects many of her relationships aboard the Enterprise, not the least being her mentor-like one with Christina Chong's Chief Security Officer La'an Noonien-Singh.

"La’an is like a protegee. Una saved her life early on. You’re going to see more about La’an’s backstory, and I think Una is very protective of La’an. She knows that La’an has had this really horrible childhood and wants to help her find levity, wants to help her find some light in the universe.

"She’s sort of taken her on as a lifelong personal project. I think she adores her."

Ask Not: Number One - Star Trek: Discovery

Paramount+ ordered Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to series nearly two years ago, in May 2020, just over a year after we'd last seen Una on Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Episode 14, the second season finale.

It's been a long, but fruitful, labor of love for Romijn and the cast and crew. At the same time, anticipation for the series has built into a fever pitch, and Romijn couldn't be more delighted to be a part of this franchise family and fandom, one that has been a part of her life since her own childhood.

"We’re now past the middle of our second season. We’ve made sixteen episodes, and we love them all. We’re so excited to finally introduce this show. I mean, it’s like the longest pregnancy in history.

"I was introduced to Star Trek by my mom at the age of eight. The original series. And I think a lot of us were. I know Anson was also introduced to Star Trek: The Original Series at the age of eight by his mom.

Pike and Number One - Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Episode 14

"That’s not by accident. I think moms want to introduce their kids to Star Trek because when you look into your child’s eyes – and I can say this as the only mom on our cast, I have kids – you see curiosity, you see a need for exploration, you want your kids to think universally, and think totally outside the box and that’s what the original series did.

"It sparked a lot of conversation between my mom and me about whether or not we’re the only ones in this universe, about acceptance, about people from all different backgrounds coming together and working in harmony, about exploration and curiosity.

"These are all things that mothers foster in their children. When I said that at the convention in Chicago, all day long, everybody I passed said, “My mom introduced me to Star Trek.” I just kept hearing that over and over and over again, and I just love that. I hope we do that for a new generation of Star Trek fans."

Having played iconic roles in comic adaptations and a range of sci-fi and fantasy series, does Romijn feel the roles find her or are they roles she consciously pursues?

"I would say I definitely have an inner nerd that I embrace. I don’t necessarily seek them out except for I will say that the more fulfilling female characters are usually within that genre, within that universe. As the mother of daughters, those are the roles that are more interesting to me to play.

Q&A: Close Quarters - Star Trek: Discovery

Between Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Romijn, Anson, and Peck were all involved in the second season of Star Trek: Short Treks, a series of mini-episodes that aired between the second season of Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard Season 1, reprising their roles of Una, Pike, and Spock, respectively.

On Star Trek: Short Treks Season 2 Episode 1, titled "Q&A," Una and Spock meet on his first day aboard the Enterprise and find themselves learning a lot about each other when their turbo lift becomes stuck.

Given free license to ask her anything, Spock inundates her with a variety of querys, ranging from food preferences to the ship's technical operations.

In one of her more surprising answers, Una shares a secret love of Gilbert & Sullivan music and bursts into "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General."

Q&A: Ask Me Anything - Star Trek: Discovery

Is this another of Una's secrets that may become known by the crew of the Enterprise?

Romijn is pretty sure this one is safe.

"I made him swear to secrecy that he would never let anyone know that Una loves Gilbert and Sullivan. Una’s got lots of secrets. You just reminded me that Una’s got all these crazy secrets.

"The truth is I actually – me, Rebecca – I was in a Gilbert and Sullivan troupe as a kid. I was in like six different Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, so I actually knew that song before we even shot that Short Trek. It’s a funny connection with Spock and Una that they have that little shared memory together."

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds premieres on Paramount+ on May 5th.

Hit it, people! These are the voyages you have been waiting for!

We'll be running more in the series of cast roundtable interviews all week in anticipation of the launch, and be sure to check back each week for our episode reviews!

In the meantime, enjoy the epic trailer once again!

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Quotes

Pike: Send someone else. You don't want me in command of that ship.
April: You're getting us confused. You don't want you in command.

No matter how many stars there are in the sky. No matter how many galaxies swirl beyond our own. No matter the mathematical probabilities or the number of times we say, 'We are not alone in the universe,' our first visit from the stars is always the province of children's stories and science fiction. First contact with aliens always lives squarely in the impossible. First contact is just a dream until one day, it isn't.

Una