Sonequa Martin-Green stars in a future she hopes one day can be a reality
A socially distanced 2020 turned out to be sound medical advice for actress Sonequa Martin-Green.
She resumed her popular role as Michael Burnham on the third season of "Star Trek: Discovery," which recently landed on the streaming service CBS All Access. It wrapped filming in early March, and she returned to Los Angeles just before California issued stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This new season was Martin-Green's most challenging because she was pregnant with her second child. She described the pregnancy as much more complicated than her first, and after filming, she was told to take it easy, simple doctor's orders to follow during a pandemic.
"That was the silver lining for me," Martin-Green said. "I was able to stay at home and get off my tail and rest. And another prayer of mine had been to spend as much time with my family as humanly possible. I was able to just squeeze all the family time out of those months that I could."
The year 2020 and all that has come with it has been a monumental one for Martin-Green, who has become the face of the next generation of "Star Trek" storytelling while also strengthening her voice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in a moment of American social awakening. She and her husband, "Walking Dead" actor Kenric Green, welcomed their second child, Saraiyah Chaunté Green, on July 19 (via a home birth that was planned pre-pandemic). Martin-Green describes 2020 as a "doozy" but says that, despite all its difficulties, it will always be highlighted by the birth of her daughter.
This year's racial reckoning in America has weighed heavily on Martin-Green, an Alabama native, who says she is keenly aware of the "new" and in some cases "old" world that awaits her Black children.
"Being Black in America, but also being raised in the South — where racism is quite in your face, it's not so subtle down there — I feel like this is a time of exposure and a time of enlightenment," Martin-Green said.
"It's almost as if the walls of the country are being broken into, and you can see mold in the foundation of the home," she added. "I think about raising my children in this (country) ... where the system wasn't designed for them to succeed. ... My husband and I have thought a lot about how we instill in them a sense of worth and a sense of value that goes beyond this physical realm. They need to know something is much bigger than them, and that bigger something, which of course we believe is God, is within them."
Martin-Green is among the many voices of a new generation of Black entertainers and athletes who are vocal in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.
"There's always risk in speaking the truth," Martin-Green said. "I have certainly been emboldened by all the (Black) voices that have risen in recent years. There has certainly been improvement. As someone who has deep faith, I have to maintain a balance where I celebrate what has come but have a healthy dissatisfaction for what hasn't come yet. I ultimately believe that God is in control. So I have to look at what's going on around me and believe that it's happening for a reason. And I have to hope for a better future."
On "Star Trek," Martin-Green stars in a depiction of that better future. She is the first Black woman to be the lead in a "Star Trek" series. Even going back to its first television series in the '60s, "Star Trek" has been ahead of the curve in terms of diversity and inclusiveness and has always given the appearance that the human race of Earth became a post-racial society when spaceships started to boldly go where no man had gone before.
To be an actress in a sci-fi world that promotes such uncharted equality and then leave a set to come back to the current reality is quite the emotional experience for Martin-Green.
"I actually do believe that the story of 'Star Trek' is in a post-racial world. I'm so grateful to be a part of something that shows you the solution because everywhere you look, you see the problem," she said. "It's so important for people to see a world like this. A lot of people need to see to believe. A lot of people need to see an example before they can wrap their minds around bringing it forth in their own lives."
Martin-Green says she is grateful for Burnham's evolution. In her Season 1 introduction in 2017, the character, despite being human, carried such a Vulcan presence that her ears not being pointy almost seemed like an error. Her character is the stepsister of fan favorite Spock (played by Ethan Peck) and was raised by his Vulcan father and human mother. Now in Season 3, having time-traveled hundreds of years into the future and separated from her crew, Burnham is the most human she's ever been. Gone is the stone-faced, emotionless, Vulcan-like perfectionist, and in her place is someone who smiles, laughs and is accepting of her own humanity.
"One of the things I love the most about this show and the writing is the powerful presence of change," Martin-Green said. "It's a tenet of great storytelling. I have been able to change quite drastically season to season, and I so deeply appreciate that."
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