The latest episode of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” which was titled “The Elysian Kingdom” and began streaming on Paramount+ on June 23, 2022, featured the show’s regular cast as fairy-tale figures from a children’s book. It also shone a spotlight on a particularly unique and hairy new character.
Anson Mount played the sniveling chamberlain, Sir Amand Rauth, while Babs Olusanmokun appeared as King Ridley, Bruce Horak took on the role of Caster the Wizard, and Christina Chong slipped into the part of the ethereal and ultra-dramatic Princess Thalia. “Strange New Worlds” vieers were also treated to sights of Celia Rose Gooding as Queen Neve, Jess Bush as Lady Audrey Chapel, Ethan Peck as Pollux the Wizard, Melissa Navia as Sir Adya, and Rebecca Romijn as Z’ymira the Huntress. The new character was Princess Runa, the adorable dog belonging to Princess Thalia. Princess Thalia and Princess Runa even wore matching colorful dresses in “The Elysian Kingdom.”
Christina Chong, in an exclusive interview with Heavy, was quick to admit that there was more than a bit of nepotism involved in the casting of Princess Runa. That’s because Princess Runa was played by the British actress’s own beloved pet, Runa, who even has her own Instagram account, @runa_ewok.
Chong’s Dog, Runa, Is on Set with Her All the Time
How much fun did you have dressing up, playing a very different character from your usual character, La’an Noonien-Singh, and sharing scenes with your real-life dog?
Chong: “‘The Elysian Kingdom’ was my favorite part to play, because throughout this season I’d had so much trauma and drama. Then suddenly, I get to wear this princess dress. I got to have my dog in it. I got to take Runa to costume fittings and to get measured. I think I only had two scenes in that episode, but I could literally play and do whatever I wanted to do. I was a five-year-old girl playing dress-up on the set of ‘Star Trek,’ and had my dog with me. What more can you ask for? There were no limits, and they were like, ‘Just go as far as you want with it.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ The creative freedom that I had with that was just so much fun, and I think you can tell by watching it how much fun I had.”
What else can you tell us about Runa’s experience on the set?
Chong: “They had a chair back made. Her full name is Runa Ewok, because she looks like an Ewok (from “Star Wars”). When I arrived on set with her, on her first day of filming, they had this chair back which had ‘Runa Ewok’ on it, her own little chair! She was just the best dog that day. We were all playing different characters. Amanda (Row), the director of that episode… I didn’t get any feedback. I didn’t know if I was nailing it. I was asking everyone else, like, ‘You got any feedback, guys? Is she giving you any notes?’ And they were like, ‘No, we don’t know if we’re doing a good job or not.’ Then, I have Runa in my arms and Amanda comes toward me. I was like, ‘Oh, here it is. This is the part where she gives me the feedback and she says I’m doing a good job.’ She comes up to me and she’s like, ‘Oh Christina, I just wanted to say Runa is doing an amazing job. She’s nailing it.’’ And then (Row) walks away. I was like, ‘Okay… and me?’ Runa has a close-up. She did her own ADR, which is the additional dialogue recording.”
Chong and Her Dog, Runa, Wore Matching Dresses in ‘The Elysian Kingdom’
They had her do ADR because she can react on command?
Chong: “I got her to growl on command. She’s an incredible dog and she comes to the set every day. She’s the set mascot. Everybody loves her.”
Are you your own dog wrangler each day on the “Strange New Worlds” set? What does Runa do while Mommy is on the stage, shooting a scene?
Chong: “She just sits there. I tell her to stay. She sits there. She just sits on the chair. She’s really well-behaved. She’s a Cavalier King Charles cross-bred with a poodle. She’s a Cavapoo. She’ll stay there, and then in between scenes Ethan (Peck) loves playing with her. She likes playing dead with Ethan and fetch with Anson. Sometimes she jumps in their chairs when we get back.”