Michelle Hurd is an American actress, known to many as Shepherd on the NBC show Blind Spot or as Detective Monique Jeffries on Law & Order: SVU. But to Star Trek fans worldwide, Hurd is “Raffi”— the scrappy and secretive Rafaella Musiker on Star Trek: Picard.
Tough and independent, Raffi is the source of both comedy and heartache in the series. She’s also the only one of Picard’s team to dare call the admiral a nickname — the slightly controversial “JL.”
Hurd, the daughter of actor Hugh L. Hurd and psychologist Merlyn Purdy, was born in 1966 in New York City. According to IMDB, Hurd graduated from the well-known arts prep institution, Saint Ann’s School in 1984, and then from Boston University in 1988. She also studied acting at London’s National Theater.
Here’s what you need to know about Michelle Hurd:
1. Hurd Has Been, and Always Shall Be, a Star Trek Fan
Hurd says that Star Trek was always on at her house growing up. As her father was black and her mother was white, she told CBS Boston that it was important to her father for his children to “see themselves represented when we watched television.” Back in the late 1960s and early 70s, Star Trek was among the only shows on American television to show African Americans in a role beyond servant or in the background without a voice (as this PBS documentary details).
“It’s an honor to carry that torch for the other little munchkins that are out there now; they get to see themselves represented on television,” said Hurd during the CBS interview. She says that working on Trek now is an opportunity to share the positive agenda, the same one envisioned by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’ over 55 years ago.
“We talk about subjects like immigration … things like inclusion and exclusion … and prejudice,” she told StarTrek.com. Star Trek helps teach people “how to break through and embrace the world that we all live in, which is multicultural and diverse and beautiful.”
“Star Trek has always been really aware of that and they actually make a conscious effort to make sure that there is a diversity on screen,” Hurd told Nerdist recently. “I’m honored to be a part of something that amplifies and celebrates diversity and the things that make us different.”
Interestingly, Hurd does a pretty fantastic Sir Patrick Stewart impression (as you can hear in this YouTube clip). Hers might be better than Brent Spiner’s or Robert Picardo’s attempts at imitating Captain Picard’s voice.
2. Hurd Was Part of the Justice League of America Pilot That Never Aired
While the world is holding its collective breath to see if Zach Snyder’s Justice League redux on HBO Max will be any better than the version we saw in theaters, you might not know that Hurd was a part of another League. In 1997, CBS created a pilot for a new show based on the comic book Justice League of America. Hurd was cast as Fire (aka Green Fury), a character who could breathe mystical flame.
Hurd would suit up alongside other heroes, including Martian Manhunter (David Ogden Stiers), the Flash (Kenny Johnston), and Green Lantern (Matthew Settle) … though Lantern’s costume was blue. That may have been one of the reasons why this version of the Justice League did not ever make it to TV screens, though fans can watch it here.
Marvel fans can see Hurd in Netflix’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones series, portraying District Attorney Samantha Reyes.
3. Hurd Has Played a Lot of Law Enforcement Characters
Speaking of District Attorney Reyes, Hurd is often cast as a police officer or in a role relating to law enforcement. This was the case for her involvement with Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. As a New York City native, Hurd said that she loved being a part of a show that took place and was filmed in her hometown.
“I loved shooting around my city and being a part of such a legendary franchise,” said Hurd in an interview with SideWalks TV. “Just like every part that I’ve ever taken, I really wanted to make sure that this woman of color was represented in a strong and respectful way and giving brown and beige kids to see themselves reflected [in].”
Hurd had a role on the action-comedy show, Lethal Weapon, portraying Gina Santos, a character who was supposed to bring order to the chaotic police department. Much like the film series, the FOX series revolved around the antics of Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and Murtaugh (Damon Wayans).
Hurd was also cast as Lacey in a reboot of the ’80s hit detective series Cagney and Lacey. Hurd was cast to play Mary Beth Lacey, a detective in Los Angeles, who works alongside her partner Christin Cagney (Sarah Drew) to solve crimes. The reboot was announced in 2018, CBS decided ultimately not to move forward with the show.
“If it’s a choice between someone who wears heels or carries a gun, I’ll choose the gun every time,” Hurd revealed during last summer’s Virtual Trek Con.
4. Hurd Married a Terminator
Hurd is married to fellow actor Garret Dillahunt. They married in 2007 after meeting on the play 900 Oneonta, according to UpRoxx. Their story started in 1996, when Dillahunt first saw Hurd. Many couples have fun “love at first sight” memories, Dillahunt’s first memory of Hurd may be hard to top.
“She came in on roller blades,” Dillahunt told the Examiner-Enterprise newspaper. “It was a hot New York day, wearing shorts and some tiny shirt. And I was tongue-tied.”
Fans of sci-fi will recognize Dillahunt from his roles on Fear of the Walking Dead and the late, great FOX show — Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Dillahunt played three characters on the show but was terrifyingly brilliant as the Terminator Cromartie. You may also have seen Dillahunt in the 2007 film No Country for Old Men and the HBO series Deadwood.
Dillahunt said that his relationship with Hurd might be best summarized as opposites attracting. He said things can get messy and loud when they are together. Sometimes he just needs to get away, since he’s happy to quietly read books.
“I’m sure that’s part of the reason we’re together,” Dillahunt revealed on Friday Night with The Morgans. “[Her energy] was something I was missing.”
5. Hurd Wanted to Play Raffi Even Before She Knew It Was for a Trek Show
When she first read the description of the Raffi character, she told the 7th Rule Podcast team that she knew she wanted the role. When she received the character breakdown, the part was for a show called “Drawing Room” — a fun reference to the drawing room in Jean-Luc Picard’s ancestral home in France. This was where much of the start of the series took place.
Hurd asked for more time before her virtual audition, as she was recovering from foot surgery. The casting team at CBS said that they could not wait, so she “ingested” the seven pages of script and even took herself off the pain medications prescribed for her foot.
“The character is too glorious for me not to try,” said Hurd. She sent in two iPhone videos of her reading and performing as Raffi. And based on those performances, the producers offered Hurd the gig.
“It has to be one of those moments where it was meant to be,” said Hurd. “I feel like… out of all the characters I’ve played in my almost 30 years in this industry… I didn’t realize that the ingredients that [were] missing was the vulnerability of human beings. We have faults and we are perfectly imperfect.”