'Star Trek: Discovery' adds first non-binary and transgender characters

Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander join the cast for the third season.
September 2, 2020 7:59 p.m. EST
September 2, 2020 8:07 p.m. EST
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In the Star Trek universe, Captain Jean-Luc Picard once said, “Things are only impossible until they're not." Years ago, non-binary and transgender representation was almost entirely non-existent across major Hollywood projects. But today? Star Trek: Discovery, beloved by viewers and critics alike for frequently finding ways to celebrate diversity within its sci-fi universe, is making a meaningful update to the iconic franchise.

Deadline announced on Wednesday, September 2, that the third season of Star Trek: Discovery will cover new ground with the addition of two characters: non-binary character Adira, played by actor Blu del Barrio, and transgender character Gray, played by Ian Alexander.

Del Barrio’s character, Adira, is described as, “highly intelligent with a confidence and self-assurance well beyond their years."  Adira will bond with Lt. Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Dr.Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), while making a home for themselves on the U.S.S Discovery. Gray, on the other hand, is described as, "empathetic, warm and eager to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a Trill host" — but, somewhere along the way, his life takes an "unexpected turn."

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On Twitter, fans were quick to point out that the franchise previously portrayed characters described by the official Star Trek site as an "androgynous humanoid race" on the planet J'naii, in an episode of Star Trek: The New Generation titled "The Outcast." However, Adira's addition to Star Trek: Discovery marks the first time a recurring character who specifically identifies as non-binary will be portrayed. The significance is certainly not lost on viewers, with one fan tweeting, “I’m literally so stoked as a non-binary person to see the disco crew lead the charge on LGBTQ+ rep in Star Trek."

Speaking to Deadline, co-showrunner and executive producer of the series Michelle Paradise explained that providing their audience with a truly inclusive cast of characters has always been top of mind. “Star Trek has always made it a mission to give visibility to underrepresented communities, because it believes in showing people that a future without division on the basis of race, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation is entirely within our reach. We take pride in working closely with Blu del Barrio, Ian Alexander and Nick Adams at GLAAD to create the extraordinary characters of Adira and Gray, and bring their stories to life with empathy, understanding, empowerment and joy.”

Del Barrio, a non-binary actor who uses they/them pronouns, will be making their official TV debut with the Star Trek: Discovery family. Ian Alexander, an advocate for transgender equality, social justice and LGBTQ+ rights, was previously seen as Buck Vu on The OA, and also voiced the character Lev in the video game The Last of Us Part II. In 2016, Alexander made history as the first out transgender Asian-American person to act on television.

The new season of Star Trek: Discovery premieres October 15th on CTV Sci-Fi. You know the drill — mark your calendars and, of course, live long and prosper.[video_embed id='2026867']BEFORE YOU GO: Julianne Moore joins Amy Adams in 'Dear Evan Hansen'[/video_embed]