The U.S.S. Enterprise of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” will be populated by characters and, in some cases, actors that fans have seen or heard of before. The bridge crew includes Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck), Number One (Rebecca Romijn), Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding), and La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong). Mount, Peck, and Romijn previously appeared on “Star Trek: Discovery,” while Uhura is a cadet version of Nichelle Nichols’ character from “Star Trek: The Original Series” and La’an is distantly related to the infamous Khan Noonien Singh from “The Original Series” and “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” So, the wild card on the Enterprise bridge in “Strange New Worlds” — which will begin streaming on May 5, 2022, on Paramount+ — is Lt. Erica Ortegas, an original character played by Melissa Navia, an actor with no previous “Trek” affiliation.
Navia, according to the Internet Movie Database, counts among her credits such television shows and movies as “Love Eterne,” “The Affair,” “Hymns,” “Billions” “New Amsterdam,” and “Bull.” During a Zoom interview with Heavy on Star Trek and a group of other journalists on April 18, 2022, Navia acknowledged that she enjoys a level of freedom with Ortegas in that no one knows the character’s future or her personal endgame. That’s as opposed to Captain Pike, who is aware that he’s going to die in about 10 years, or Uhura, who will eventually evolve into the character portrayed by Nichols. Even the Singh character, though brand-new, comes with the baggage of her name. That open-ended future for Ortegas, Navia explained, let her create a character who is presented as a bold and ambitious young woman who aspires to be the best pilot ever to graduate from Starfleet Academy.
Ortegas Accepts the Challenge
“When I first got the audition for the role, there’s a thing that you say — as an actor — when you’re like, ‘When the right role comes along, it’ll be the one,'” she said. “The writing was so wonderful. I felt this connection to Ortegas. I had the breakdown. I knew it was ‘Star Trek.’ She was a combat veteran and skilled pilot. Can handle a gun and a phaser. Can also crack a joke when a joke needs to be cracked. I felt that the audition sides I got were so much me. I like to say Ortegas is a cooler version of me in the future. In the future, I’d love to fly a starship. When I booked the role, I also got the added element of this is a brand-new character that gets to interact with all these legacy characters, which is going to be a lot of fun for fans. She’s so confident, but not cocky, in a lovable way, not an obnoxious way, because she is really skilled. Pike trusts her intrinsically and she has such great trust in the rest of her crew. That comes off.
“When somebody is good at their job and trusts everybody equally in their workspace, then you’re allowed to joke and play,” Navia continued. “That comes off. She loves the adventure of what she does and she also takes it seriously. We get these great, episodic adventures where you get to see the toll that it takes when lives are on the line. I’ve been having a blast creating this character and also looking back to all the pilots that have come before, the characters that fans are already comparing her to, even though they haven’t seen anything. I’m trying to make my own mark on it by bringing myself to it and letting what the writers have created come to the screen. I’m also taking a lot of what the fans love about ‘Star Trek’ and putting that into Ortegas. She loves Starfleet in the way that fans love ‘Star Trek.'”
Navia is Ready for ‘Strange New Worlds’ to Take Flight
Navia laughed at herself when she admitted that she takes the character’s job of piloting the Enterprise “super-seriously.” So, when Ortegas is flying the ship, Navia is flying the ship. If the helm and all the colorful buttons ever become mere props to her, “we might as well go home,” she said. As a result, even before the cameras rolled on “Strange New Worlds,” Navia wanted to know not only what each button did, but what pretty much everything on the Enterprise did.
“For me, with the helm console, I was doing these Zoom sessions with the graphics department, with people who have been with ‘Star Trek’ for the last 30, 40 years, asking about the engines and the way everything works,” Navia said. “Apparently word got out that ‘Melissa is a little loony. She really thinks she’s flying the starship.’ For me, it was important to know, ‘How am I going to impulse?’ ‘How am I going to warp?’ There are times when I’m doing evasive maneuvers, where Pike will give me an order, and I’ll be like ‘On it!’ but it won’t come up on my screen.
“I’d be straight-up texting (the) graphics (department),” she continues. “I’d be like, ‘Can you guys give me something? ‘Well, it probably won’t play in the episode.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but it’s playing in my face.’ They would create all these things for me. I’d be like, ‘Can we change this screen and that screen?’ I also think it’s important for the fans. There are going to be fans who know more about the Enterprise than I do, even though I’ve been doing my research. For me, when I’m there and flying, there’ll be times when Anson would be speaking to somebody on the viewscreen and I’d have a little quip. I’d miss it and Anson’s like ‘Melissa!’ Then I’m like, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m flying.’ I’m so focused. I’m the dorky one on the bridge, for sure.”