Tilly is stepping into the spotlight.
If you’ve been anxiously awaiting the Season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, the wait is about to get a little easier. Today marks the debut of the first installment of Star Trek: Short Treks, a series of short films focused on various characters in the Discovery time period. The first of these is “Runaway,” which focuses on Mary Wiseman’s character Tilly.
IGN’s Scott Collura had a chance to chat with Wiseman this week and learn more about “Runaway” and what to expect from Tilly in Discovery’s second season. Read on to learn what she had to say.
IGN: When did this come about, from your perspective?
Wiseman: Yeah, the first I ever heard about it was through [executive producer] Alex Kurtzman. Which was pretty cool, I have a lot of respect for Alex, I think he’s a pretty cool guy. So he told me that he co-wrote it with his writing partner, and I thought that was pretty cool, and was immediately onboard. And pretty excited for Tilly to kind of get her own little kind of story.
IGN: When did you guys shoot this one? It was after you’d started shooting Season 2, right?
Wiseman: Right, so we shot on-set alongside our main unit. Which was fun. I mean, it was just right in there, right in our ship, with all our friends.
IGN: What was it like for you to kind of not work with your regular group there? It seems like you guys have become pretty tight-knit during the course of the first season. And it really felt like it was just Tilly onboard doing her own thing.
Wiseman: Right, yeah. And that’s exciting, you know, for me, for Tilly to get a little moment, to see how she handles a conflict or an issue alone, you know? She has a lot of mentors on the ship, she’s got about five of them. And it was nice to see her, you know – so it was nice to see her have to deal with something difficult on her own. You can’t grow up unless you’re tested in that way. She needed that experience, I think. With that being said, you know, our Star Trek family is the cast, it’s also the crew, and a lot of them also came over for this project, which was incredibly generous of them. They were working, you know, extra time, and they worked really hard. And it was nice, to still have your family there. There’s a consistency, a continuity, within the shorts, of our family all being there, and helping to make it together.
IGN: Could we talk a little bit about Tilly in general, and how this might inform where we find her in this short? We’ve heard that she has issues with her mom in the past. Can you just talk a little bit about where the short is bringing her after what she went through in Season 1?
Wiseman: Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting you bring up the mom thing. These characters, we’ve gotten to know them over the first season, but they are not, like, a lone star. They’re constellations, they come from family, they come from history, and I think we’ll be able to explore that more and more as the series goes on. And for Tilly, she has this relationship with her mother that she has to explore and she has to allow to grow. So I’m really grateful that we got to touch on that, because, all of her experiences are the result of all the other people in her life. And so that pushes her out of character for me, and I hope for the audience. And I think also, the command training program, which is a huge … a huge success for her at the end of Season 1, is a point of confusion. How does she be a part of this command training program, and also follow her own values? You know, how does she live up to that, get the support that she needs to continue on that path, and kind of succeed to the best of her ability? This is really important to her, so she’s gonna take it really, really seriously, and it’s gonna be a big part of her life from now on.
IGN: Tilly really got a great fan response when the first season debuted. Did you expect that?
Wiseman: No! No way! It still surprises me. There is an aspect in there that’s like, Tilly is Tilly, and she’s also quite a bit of me, and for people to kind of embrace her and really love her and see themselves in her, it really … I mean, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s really special to me, it’s really heartening and amazing and mind-blowing. No, I definitely didn’t expect it. You know, you just go in and do your work, one at a time. It’s pretty amazing.
IGN: Now, early on in the first season, she kind of mentions that she has a disability. It got a lot of people buzzing, like, what is she talking about? You know, is she on the spectrum? Were people reading too much into that? What was that a reference to?
Wiseman: Yeah, so, I think, the disability line is referring to her allergy to viscoelastic polyurethane foam. And that is maybe what makes her snore, but then she snores anyway when she has her correct pillow. I think she’s referring to allergies, to being a sensitive human in an insensitive world. But, you know, I’m glad you asked that question, I think it’s super important that we be clear about this. I don’t think it was – Tilly was written this way, with that sort of neurodiversity in mind. That being said, like, if people see themselves in Tilly, I think it’s incredibly beautiful and incredibly important that we don’t get in the way of that. And Star Trek has a long history of representing all different sorts of people in all different sorts of metaphorical ways. So I encourage people to see themselves in Tilly, feel represented, dress up as her, you know. Do all the things you need to do to engage with this character. Because the one thing we’re not gonna say is, no, you don’t get to do that. She is for the fans, she is for you.
IGN: Yeah. And like you say, that really is what Star Trek is all about in a lot of ways.
Wiseman: Yeah, absolutely.
IGN: Now, have you seen some good Tilly cosplay? I know you’ve done a bunch of conventions and stuff.
Wiseman: Oh my gosh. Yes! I’ve seen so much good Tilly cosplay. I’ve seen a lot of Captain Killy. I’ve seen a Cadet Tilly with dreads. I’ve seen stuff – it’s the most incredible experience, and I think I probably fangirl over the cosplayers more than they do over me.
IGN: I know we’re not talking spoilers, but just in terms of you as an actress, where would you like to see Tilly go in Season 2? What is the next hurdle for her?
Wiseman: Yeah. As an actor, I’m always interested in my characters getting into trouble, because conflict is, you know, the great determiner of someone’s mettle. And so I want Tilly to have to face more conflict, I want her to have to face that alone, and figure out how to navigate through that. And I think we’ll get to see a lot of that, definitely in the short and otherwise.
IGN: The DVD is also coming in November. Did you do interviews for it, or were there any special features that you contributed to for that?
Wiseman: Still to come, but I am very excited for people to have something they can hold in their hand. I don’t know. Getting to be on DVD is a huge step for me as an actor, this isn’t the world that I imagined for myself. So I’m pretty excited.
IGN: What about the game that you participated in? Can you tell me a little bit about what that was like to work on that?
Wiseman: Oh, it was really cool. I’m not much of a gamer myself, I’m more of a Mario Kart person. But it was really cool. To get to be part of a video game is … it’s pretty neat. That somebody animated me is very exciting and weird. Yeah, and I’ve, you know I’ve gone in and recorded. The scripts are so good. It’s from a point in Tilly’s life that we haven’t seen yet, from when she was at Academy, and so I think that’s gonna be really fun. You know, it’s interesting to me as an actor who she was before she got here, before she met Michael.
IGN: Yeah. How much of that backstory do you take now as Tilly’s backstory? Is that basically canon, as far as you’re concerned?
Wiseman: Yeah. It’s my actor canon. Yeah, absolutely.
IGN: Do you have actor canon in your head that helps you inform where Tilly’s at? Maybe it’s not officially sanctioned by Kurtzman, but just your own ideas?
Wiseman: As an actor, I have to. I have to build a story that I’m working with. You know, people have buttons based on their history. So it’s important to me that I have those, and when they are contradicted by a script, I am open-minded and just go with the flow, and surf on those changes. That’s a huge, you know – that’s a big part of, you know – a lot of our process is filling in the gaps, and then as new information comes to us, realizing all these different things for the character. And that’s the best part! Learning about your character, and getting to really become more sensitive about things, is really the best. And the writers are very good at that.
The first episode of Star Trek: Short Treks is available to stream on CBS All-Access. Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 will premiere on All-Access in January 2019.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.