Star Trek Online just launched their newest season, House Reborn, which continues the game’s Klingon-focused storyline and features the video game debut of L’Rell from Star Trek: Discovery. Created by Perfect World Entertainment and Cryptic Studios, Star Trek Online is a mega-popular MMORPG that’s now in its 11th year of expanding the Star Trek universe. The House Reborn update available to play now also stars Sam Witwer as Tenavik and J.G. Hertzler reprising his role as General Martok from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
L’Rell debuted in Star Trek: Discovery season 1 as one of the series’ Klingon antagonists but throughout the course of the story, she emerged as a powerful voice for change in the Empire. L’Rell also had a tragic love story with Voq (Shazad Latif), the tortured albino Klingon who was surgically altered to become Starfleet Lt. Ash Tyler. By the end of Star Trek: Discovery season 1, L’Rell rose to become High Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. In season 2, L’Rell revealed she had a child with Voq, but she gave up the baby Tenavik to the monks of Boreth to keep him safe from her enemies within the Empire.
Screen Rant had the honor of speaking to Mary Chieffo, who originated the role of L’Rell on Star Trek: Discovery and returns to voice the High Chancellor in House Reborn. In a fun and far-reaching chat, we discuss how Chieffo came aboard Star Trek Online, her process of embodying a Klingon, and her hopes for L’Rell’s future in the Star Trek universe.
Can you tell us how you got involved in bringing L’Rell back in Star Trek Online?
Mary Chieffo: I met Al Rivera from Star Trek Online a few times in person in the past few years and he approached me [to join the game]. What’s interesting about Star Trek Online is they have to pre-plan [the game’s] plots far ahead of time, and I remember he introduced himself to me at a convention and let me know what Star Trek Online does, and he let me know that there was potential for L’Rell coming in at some point, so that was my initial meet.
I think about two years ago, we were at an event, and he let me know essentially the iteration of what we will see in this game. He let me know that L’Rell is going to be featured and I was, of course, super excited. Overall, just the experience of being involved in Star Trek in any capacity has always been a thrill. But something about being part of a game, and having a character created based off of the character I created on screen, is just so lovely and wonderful. Al didn’t need to pitch it to me, I would’ve said yes if they were like, “You get to be L’Rell in another capacity”, I’d have been like, “Yep, sure! Sign me up!” But the concept behind it was really exciting, and I was even more on board because I could tell everyone wanted to tell a really exciting Klingon story and give proper honor to Chancellor L’Rell.
Obviously, last year was a very different year, and I remember how referencing 2021 as when we’d probably do it felt so far away at the time, and then all of a sudden he was emailing me, “Remember that thing that I mentioned? It’s coming up!” Oh my gosh!
So this is the first time fans will get to see L’Rell after Star Trek: Discovery season 2. Can you tell us a little of where L’Rell is in her life?
Mary Chieffo: I think the more mysterious we make it, the better. Once more plot points were revealed to me, I got very excited, and I think it’ll be really fun for those playing the game to see the plot unfold. But she definitely is in Chancellor form, that I can tell you. And she looks pretty awesome.
It’s really exciting to see a recreation of L’Rell living and breathing in this format because of the artists behind have really studied… me, apparently! I was watching it and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s totally the choice I would have made!” They spend a lot of hours looking at you as a person, and obviously in my particular case, looking at me in then prosthetics and the choices I made. I can guarantee that it feels like the Chancellor L’Rell we know and love, and I would almost say taken up to 11.
Was it challenging for you to get back into character as L’Rell without the costume? I assume you didn’t have to put on anything.
Mary Chieffo: Thankfully I did not have to get back into the prosthetics, as much as I love them and love working with them. What was so thrilling and exciting was I learned so about who she was by being in the prosthetics. And certainly, choices that I made when it came to movement, and the way I was able to channel my expressions through my eyes because they were one of my greatest opportunities to communicate within all that armor. So I had already done all that homework and created this entity, so to come in and do her voice was such a gift because that part of her has always felt very akin to me.
And when I would rehearse before we would film, I was very lucky working with Shazad [Latif] and Ken [Mitchell] and Doug [Jones], when I worked with him, I would get to run lines with them whether it was in Klingon or English beforehand, so I’m used to speaking as L’Rell in human form but still speaking with her essence, but since it had been a while since I outright said lines L’Rell would say, it was really thrilling to get the sides and feel her come back easily.
The dialect I developed with our dialect coach, based on the Klingon sounds and from the Klingon dictionary – Klingons only one sound for each vowel, for example, and obviously, they have distinct ways of pronouncing certain consonants like [speaks Klingon] – so when I first started speaking English in the first season [of Star Trek: Discovery] when I tortured Captain Lorca, we developed a dialect sheet based off of those sounds. And we continued to massage it and play with it as L’Rell was introduced to more humans and heard the dialect more. Because in my mind, she speaks English incredibly fluently and had a great aptitude for it, but still her native tongue is Klingon so she has a lot of that within her. So the voice she evolves into in the second season with the Chancellor’s voice has grown from the first season. I just found her dialect and her accent came right back and tribute to Paul, who wrote my lines for the game, because it feels like her way of speaking.
The whole team at Star Trek Online did such an incredible job of really studying and paying respect to what has been created on-screen, and I just really want to celebrate that because I didn’t have to come in and say, “Guys, L’Rell would never say that.” Something that was sometimes written in that I would sometimes modify is that L’Rell generally doesn’t use contractions. Like, you don’t say “It’s”, you say “It is.” And part of that is because when we look at Klingons in other iterations of the franchise, they obviously have a certain Shakespearean, proper way of speaking. But also, someone not speaking in their native tongue is more likely to speak the full words. So it was a mixture of that but it always felt more L’Rell, and when I read those lines, they were all already written that way. So I was like, “Great! That’s exactly how she would say it.”
My goal for the character is that she has a great strength; she’s a Klingon, she’s powerful and badass, but she also has sensitivity and vulnerability, and her story with Voq is one of heartbreak. I feel they’ve infused both of those elements really beautifully. So I was just utterly delighted to get to breathe life into her again.
For fans who have yet to try Star Trek Online or are about to get the House Reborn update, give us a taste of what to look forward to with the Klingon-centric story.
Mary Chieffo: Definitely lots of conflict about honor. I really did a deep dive when I got the role and watched Klingon-centric episodes, and I got the books – I like to do my research, it gives me peace – but something that really struck me was how spiritual they are. The honor code, whether it’s adhered to well by certain Klingons, there’s real innate spirituality, mythology, ethic quality. A lot of my plot during the show was very Greek, very Shakespearean, so that’s what you get to live through in the game. I’m very moved by the story they created with L’Rell and their exploration of Gre’Thor and Sto-vo-kor, their Heaven and Hell. I think it asks a lot of important questions about life and sacrifice, which is a key part of Klingon culture and certainly a huge aspect of L’Rell’s plot. Sacrifice for the greater good.
So, I think if you’re a fan of Klingons, or even if you’re not, I’d say this would get you even more on board with Klingon culture. If you have a very one-dimensional, Federation-esque view of the Klingons…
Mary Chieffo: (laughs) I mean, hey, I’m not gonna say we are good at making great first impressions. We’re pretty intense. We can definitely be a bit abrasive. Also, Tenavik, who is a character I love…
Mary Chieffo: My boy! My little boy. Talk about Klingon therapy, we both have a lot to work out there. I love the introduction of that character and the monks on Boreth, and this other side of Klingon culture that isn’t examined as much, but is just as valid and true. I mean, it’s a fully-functioning society so there are Klingons in all aspects of industries. I think the more meditative but still intense – Tenavik’s no silly person -aspects of Klingons is interesting and we get to examine that softer side with a little more time.
It was great just in that one episode [of Star Trek: Discovery season 2], which is definitely an episode I’m so proud to be in, “In the Valley of the Shadows”, but we get to take those elements that were part of this much larger Discovery plot and just permeate in it more.
Speaking a little bit about Discovery, are you caught up? Have you seen season 3?
Mary Chieffo: I have, yes! I stayed on top of my Disco.
Even though they’re now 930 years in the future, L’Rell’s story doesn’t have to end. There’s still Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is Captain Pike’s show in that same timeline. Is there any possibility of reappearing?
Mary Chieffo: I mean, certainly from my end — I hope that the team over there understands how enthusiastic I am and how much I’d be willing to jump in for anything. And again, [Star Trek Online] is an example that there are so many great creators out there who are excited by the Klingon stories and I trust that when the right Klingon plot wants to be birthed, it’ll happen and I certainly hope that L’Rell gets to be a part of that. I’m definitely 100% on board were they to ask.
One last question for you: What’s the most fun thing about playing a Klingon?
Mary Chieffo: Such a great question. I really have fallen in love with the culture, though the research, and I would be remiss in not mentioning the Klingon fan empire that exists in the world, globally, many of whom have become good friends of mine. The Klingon Assault Group in Ontario — there’s just a lot of great human-slash-Klingons in the world that do a lot of good. The community that’s created has done a lot of charity work, so I’m very proud of that.
But when it comes to inhabiting a Klingon, from a feminist lens, as a woman, I’ve been able to be all that I am and then some. I’ve been able to push myself as someone who, in school, was always encouraged to be my full self but also like, “Okay, for this character let’s tone this down or let’s focus this”. With L’Rell, and certainly with the prosthetics, I just had to push myself to the limit to be able to inhabit such a profoundly strong character who still has true vulnerability and sensitivity.
I say this as a woman who will play more humans than Klingons in her life, I look forward to more female characters being written to the capacity that L’Rell was written. The actions she got to take, the way she was able to challenge gender norms, and embrace them. I don’t think that has not happened for human women in storytelling but I definitely hope we see more of that. That’s one of my greatest takeaways, how fully I got to be myself in the role.
Next: Why Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Is The Show’s Best Yet
Cobra Kai: All 37 Karate Kid Easter Egg & References In Season 3
About The Author