Anthony Rapp is boldly going where no Star Trek character has gone before—at least not officially. In CBS All Access’s new, highly anticipated Star Trek: Discovery, the former Rent star plays the TV franchise’s very first openly gay character, astromycologist Lt. Paul Stamets. As the streaming series blasts into warp speed, Rapp talks about his groundbreaking role.
OUT: Did you watch Star Trek as a kid?
Anthony Rapp: It was part of my childhood, but when The Next Generation was on, I wasn’t really watching TV, so it kind of passed me by. But my friend is a huge fan from the days when they used to mimeograph newsletters to each other, so he helped me do a deep dive with a curated list of must-see episodes.
Did you ever imagine gay romances between the characters?[Laughs] No! It’s funny, Star Trek fandom is actually where that seems to have started. Same-sex fan fiction was mostly, like, Kirk/Spock slash fiction, where they were lovers. I think a large segment of sci-fi/fantasy fandom has always been LGBT, and LGBT fans have a desire to have more representation in the worlds they love.
What’s it mean to play the first openly gay character in the TV franchise?
It’s an honor. It’s also been a long time coming. Star Trek has always been progressive—apparently there were conversations over the years about having gay characters, but it just didn’t happen. But what I’m really proud of is, like everything with Star Trek’s diversity, there are no arrows pointing to it, no big neon sign flashing, no story line about what it’s like to be a gay character on the ship. It just is. That, to me, is part of the evolution as well.
Is there anything particularly important about gay characters in stories about the future?
Star Trek was built around a vision of a utopian future: humans on Earth joining species around the galaxy. Part of that would mean living harmoniously without our differences being an issue. That vision of the future is, I hope, where we’re headed.
So does that mean Lt. Stamets will be hooking up with Klingons?
In season one I’m in a relationship with Dr. Culber, Wilson Cruz’s character. But it’s my first time as a regular on a TV show—so who knows?