Star Trek: Discovery's Mary Wiseman Talks About Tilly's Future In Season 4 [Interview]

"Star Trek: Discovery" season 4 has already thrown galactic-sized threats at the Discovery crew. The challenges the characters face, however, are not all so large in scope — several crew members also face more personal struggles as the season progresses — particularly Sylvia Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman.

/Film had the chance to talk with Wiseman about the first four episodes of the season, including the journey her character goes through. Warning! The conversation below includes major spoilers through "All is Possible," the season's fourth episode. If you're looking for a non-spoiler discussion of the show, check out our spoiler-free review. The interview below has also been lightly edited for clarity and length.

'We were all living through a period ... of personal upheaval'

I had the chance to watch the first four episodes, and Tilly goes through quite the journey in terms of what she wants to do with her life. How did you approach showing that struggle that Tilly was going through in your performance?

Oh, it's so interesting. I mean, so much of it was pretty accessible because —and I think I can speak for a lot of us — we were all living through a period when we shot it, of personal upheaval. We had to recalibrate things because we shot through COVID, and I was really grateful to have a storyline that was so synchronous with my own experience, of having to take a new look at things and reassess, and then decide what you want to do from there.

Absolutely. And in episode 4 we see Tilly in a leadership position that's slightly different than leadership positions we've seen her in the past, when she's overseeing the cadets and everything goes wrong. What was it like to play Tilly in that type of situation?

I don't know if I'd describe myself as a natural leader, but I know that's what Tilly wants. It's been a very interesting assignment to see where that lives in her. And I think that this episode, in particular, defines it for me. She approaches the situation almost like a camp counselor. Like, "We're going to do fun icebreakers and we're going on a little hike!"

And then she ends up in this very extreme, catastrophic situation where she's the adult — she looks around and she's the adult and someone's been killed. And then she has these young people who can barely communicate with each other, who she has to keep alive. She's very quickly thrust into a position of real leadership and having to be the person people look to for answers. Which was, I think, terrifying for her, and myself, but also a huge moment of growth. Which is so often the case, that the worst situation pulls the best things out of us.

Abosolutely. I think Adira [played by Blu del Barrio] says at the end that when they'd never thought they'd be able to make new friends, but all it took apparently was a blob monster to do it.

Exactly. It's just the way it goes sometimes.

'Everybody had to work harder and slower'

Speaking of blob monsters and ice moons, I actually spoke with the director, John Ottman about that location shoot and he said that was all real wind and real snow. What was your experience like filming those scenes?

I don't know if he told you, but we couldn't keep tents on the ground. When you shoot and it's snowing intermittently, we can't get any of that equipment wet and also people need a place to watch on the monitor what is being shot. We were in this crazy quarry, where you have to scramble over rocks to get to different places. And then the wind picks up and is so intense — there's this really crazy windstorm, and so these four guys had to hold down the pole of each tent we could continue shooting. It was just really bad luck. And Ontario in the winter does not come to play.

I was going to ask how cold it was. And I'm guessing the answer is cold. Very cold.

It was. I wonder if you can see it in the episode how in certain takes, Blu just shivering with their entire body. They are a very good actor, but that was method.

Are there any other memorable moments you have from shooting? Either from this episode or earlier this season, that stand out to you?

This season was unlike any other in that we shot through COVID. So the strain of that was definitely there. In some cases, people were really isolated because so many of us are from the States and come and work on location. And there was not obviously free traffic to and from Canada at this time.

When we originally set out to shoot, we just couldn't really conceive of what that would look like. And it was difficult. I mean, there's guys holding boom mics over their heads or moving lights and doing all this physical labor with N-95 masks on all day. I just hope people understand how hard, especially the crew, worked to get this show out this season. Everybody had to work harder and slower, but for the purpose of not having to compromise quality.

'You will see Tilly later in the season'

At the end of this episode, Tilly comes to realization that she wants to pursue teaching with the Federation. And one of the last scenes is with her and Michael [played by Sonequa Martin-Green] in their old shared bedroom. What was it like shooting that emotional scene with Michael, in terms of what it meant for you as being on the show for four seasons and also in terms of what it meant for the character?

We've had these little touchstone moments throughout the series, other little conversations that we've had sitting on those beds, hard conversations we've had and those are huge touchstones for me in terms of charting Tilly's arc.

I do think Michael is a person Tilly feels most safe with, most intimate with. And everyone has become something like family to each other. So was great to honor that — what she's leaving behind is the last bit of family she has left in order to try this new thing. It's so very lovely. And I also, on a personal level, Sonequa is a very dear friend and I cherish getting to have really sweet moments with her because they're reflective of how I feel about her in life.

At one point, you say in that scene that you going away is "not forever." And I'm sure I'm not the only one wondering whether you as Tilly might be not as in the show as much moving forward. Can you speak at all to that?

What I've been told I can say is that you will see Tilly later in the season.

Oh, that's great! I think people will be very happy to hear that.

[Jokingly]. They have a sniper on me right now.

[Laughs]. I know you have to be careful about that. And I know we talked about Tilly's relationship with Michael and how that's her touchstone, but one relationship Tilly grew this season is with Adira. What was that like exploring that relationship with Blu?

It was really fun because Blu and I have become friends in real life. So getting to shoot more scenes with them is just fun on that level. We're very silly together and that is very enjoyable, but also I think they're a great actor.

On a character level, they're in such a place that is so similar to where Tilly was when she started the show, of having to find their way in a new environment when they're younger than everyone and maybe missed out on certain developmental and social stuff. So that mirror, I think, is very healthy for both of them. And I think Tilly wants to give Adira a little bit of what she wished she had. But then also finds herself getting frustrated with them, which is what you do with people who remind you of yourself.

The end of this episode is obviously a very important and emotional one for Tilly. What do you hope people walk away from the episode feeling just about what they saw?

I don't know, maybe this is a little lame, but I hope people are proud of her for really making a choice for herself, even though it's hard. Like the way you are for a friend when they kind of make a grown up choice.

The next episode of "Star Trek: Discovery" season 4 releases Thursday, December 16, on Paramount+.