When Wilson Cruz was “a kid,” he was so obsessed with The Next Generation, he set not one, but two goals for himself: “I wanted to be in a Broadway musical. And I wanted to be on Star Trek.” The 43-year-old has since achieved both, his Broadway cap-feather being Rent, in which he played opposite Anthony Rapp.
Recently, the other goal was met, as Cruz is starring in Star Trek: Discovery, on which he portrays Dr. Hugh Culber, a brilliant, young medical officer on the experimental ship. Once again, he finds himself paired with Rapp, who plays Lt. Paul Stamets, a fungal expert central to the ship’s ultimate mission. In a much-lauded move for a Trek series, Culber and Stamets are openly gay and in a loving relationship.
Set a decade before the “boldly goings” of the original’s Captain James T. Kirk, Discovery is more visceral and volatile than prior Treks (its closest cousin is Deep Space Nine). The new series, which is available on the CBS All Access streaming service and hits a mid-season finale on Sunday before going on a two-month hiatus, has a unique, thrilling narrative, with each episode boasting the highest possible production values, the sort usually reserved for feature films.
“I know a lot of people were upset about the fact that the show was being streamed and they had to pay for it,” says Cruz. “I keep telling people ‘You’re paying for something in which every cent is seen on that screen. You’re not getting gypped in any way.'”
The relationship between Culber and Stamets is revealed in a nonplussed, almost casual manner. “I am grateful for the way that they’ve dealt with it all around,” says the openly gay Cruz. “We wanted to not make a big deal about it. These are two people who happen to be gay, who also happen to be officers in Starfleet, and who also happen to be in a relationship together. I love the fact that it wasn’t ‘A Very Special Episode.'”
Rapp, also gay, recently made headlines when he took aim at Kevin Spacey with a horrifying tale of alleged sexual misconduct by the older actor when Rapp was only 14. It was the first of many dominoes to fall for the House of Cards star who, in a fumbling, misguided Tweet tried to deflect the issue by coming out as gay.
“I’m really proud of Anthony,” Cruz says of his friend of two decades. “I stand behind him, and am so proud of the fact that he has empowered other people to come forward.” Cruz, who also stars in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, which “directly deals with sexual assault and young people,” hasn’t experienced harassment on the same level, but admits “people have said inappropriate things to me. I handled it and walked away and didn’t put myself in a position for it to go any further.”
He was “furious with the Spacey statement in which he conflated pedophilia with coming out…. But I was heartened by the response — not just from LGBTQ people and their outrage, but the outrage of our allies…. I think educated people can make their own assessment about who LGBTQ people really are. The community has done a really great job at communicating that. I think a lot of that has happened on television — how we’ve used our stories and TV to really allow people to see and know what LGBTQ lives are really like.”
Star Trek: Discovery is available on CBS All Access. Visit cbs.com/all-access.
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