Last year, the Star Trek movie franchise broke ground by introducing its first openly gay character in the form of Captain Hikaru Sulu in its 60-year history.
And now the TV show arm of the sci-fi hit is on the verge of making the same move, with Lieutenant Stamets, played by Anthony Rapp, making his historic arrival on Sunday’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery.
The 45-year-old actor told Entertainment Weekly: ‘I’m really excited and happy when a gay character is a part of a story — especially when a gay character is created in a complex and human and non-stereotypical, interesting way, and that has certainly been the case with Stamets.
Groundbreaking: Anthony Rapp is joining the cast of Star Trek: Discovery as Lieutenant Stamets – the TV franchise’s first ever openly gay character
‘And you get to see his relationship. There was a little glimpse [of a relationship with] Sulu in Beyond, and it was a nice nod.
‘But in this case, we actually get to see me with my partner in conversation, in our living quarters, you get to see our relationship over time, treated as any other relationship would be treated.’
According to EW, while no mention of Stamets’ sexuality is made in his debut episode, his relationship with a male member of the Starfleet will become a point of focus the following week.
Introduction: His astromicologist character is set to be introduced to audiences during Sunday’s episode of the show
Lt. Paul Stamets is an astromicologist (studying mushrooms and other fungi in outer space). With his scientific bent and sky-high IQ, he can be a little prickly, said Anthony, which only adds to the fun of playing him.
The actor, who landed his first professional job at the age of nine, won fame 20 years ago for originating the role of Mark Cohen in the Broadway hit musical Rent, a role he reprised in the 2005 film.
He also played Charlie Brown in the 1999 Broadway revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and originated the role of Lucas in the musical If/Then in 2014.
Premiere: At the show’s premiere in Los Angeles earlier this month, Anthony attended with his boyfriend Teerakeni and fellow cast member Michelle Yeoh
‘I’ve always been a nerd and fan of Star Trek and all sorts of science fiction,’ he told the Associated Press. ‘But I never conceived of myself as being inside of it as an actor. This is like a childhood fantasy gone wild, actually doing it in real life.’
On his first day at the vast Toronto soundstage, Anthony recalled how he found himself on-set “walking through these corridors in my Starfleet uniform with my badge – like I’m in space! It’s really, really thrilling’.
Anthony added of his ground-breaking role: ‘Visibility matters. It’s so easy to denigrate or ignore someone you don’t see and you feel different from.
Movie: Captain Hikaru Sulu, who has appeared in the beloved series since the 1960s, was shown as married to a man in the third instalment of JJ. Abrams’ film reboot: Star Trek Beyond (pictured played by George Takei in the 1960s, left and John Cho in the reboot, right)
‘If there was any chance that whatever visibility I have could make a difference, I’d want to be on the right side of that.’
The new series, which begins a few years before the 23rd century time frame of the original Captain Kirk-led Star Trek, boasts a large cast including Jason Isaacs, James Frain and Rainn Wilson, as well as Sonequa Martin-Green.
Former The Walking Dead star Sonequa holds the distinction of being the first black woman in command of a Star Trek starship.
Main man: William Shatner enjoyed huge success as Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek. Discovery will take place ten years before the events of that series