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The importance of being in Star Trek is not lost on actor Michelle Hurd.
As Jean-Luc Picard’s estranged colleague and friend, Raffi, arguably Star Trek: Picard‘s most breakout character, Hurd both inherits and carries on the franchise’s rich legacy of servicing audiences as a diverse and inclusive show — a tradition that started more than 50 years ago with Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura on The Original Series. The weight of this, along with acting alongside Patrick Stewart as he reprises his most iconic role after almost 20 years, is one she was both aware of and more than ready to take on.
“I think I didn’t realize how important all this was until I got the job,” Hurd tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Then I kind of had this flashback to my childhood, of my father having us sit around and watch Star Trek.”
Hurd, who is biracial, stressed that viewing the series with her father, Hugh Hurd, who is a black actor, was more than just escapist viewing for her and her family. “It was really important [to my dad] that we see ourselves represented in the arts. So literally, when I got the job, I was like: ‘Oh my god — Uhura was literally involved in the first biracial kiss ever on television. The first woman of color, in a position of power, on a TV show like this. So when you think about the stories that were told [on The Original Series], using aliens and sci-fi to tell stories with themes like inclusion and immigration, I absolutely acknowledge and own my role in it. I’m so excited about it.”
That excitement carried over into her first appearance opposite Stewart, who, like Hurd, is playing a character who is no longer in Starfleet and struggling to re-enter parts of that life. That experience, Hurd explains, provided a commonality for the two actors that helped fuel their on-set dynamic.
“Like Patrick, Picard, too, has grown in the time he has been offscreen. Both actor and character have been affected by what’s happening in the real world, and in the one of Star Trek,” Hurd says. “Patrick is impacted by that, and I just adore working with him.”
Despite being No. 1 on the call sheet, and all that implies, Hurd insists that was, refreshingly, not the case.
“Every day, it’s like actor Christmas,” Hurd says. “As soon as you are working with him, he is your scene partner. Your ensemble member; he’s just right there, acting with you. There’s no weird hierarchy there because, I mean, he’s Patrick Stewart. But, no, he believes in the ensemble. Loves the ensemble, and that includes the crew as well. First on the call sheet sets the tone, and he is spoiling the younger actors because what they get to see is ‘our leader’ being kind. And generous and mindful.”
Whatever the future holds for Raffi, Hurd appreciates that she gets to play a character outside what’s expected from audiences when it comes to being a Starfleet officer. “I really like this character because she’s not perfect, even though she worked for an organization that, on the surface, appears to be. She’s struggling — she’s haunted, she has vices. But I love that. She’s really trying to do the right thing.
She adds with a laugh: She’s vaping through it! I mean, I feel like we all need to be doing these days, just sayin’.”
“But not only am I a woman of color,” Hurd continues, “but I can tell that story about all of us who have struggled similarly. Who have some demons. And, in doing so, show that — not all of us are bad people. We’re all out here trying to do our best. We’re all human beings, with stories worth telling.”
Raffi’s story continues to be told with new episodes of Star Trek: Picard streaming Thursdays on CBS All Access.
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