Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Adds Queer As Folk's Jesse James Keitel As New Nonbinary Character

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" is continuing its so-far successful quest to be the most exciting modern Trek show around. The prequel series has just cast Jesse James Keitel in a guest-starring role as a non-binary character, according to Variety.

Keitel is a trans non-binary actor who will be playing the role of non-binary humanitarian aid worker Dr. Aspen, per the outlet. Dr. Aspen apparently used to be a counselor for Starfleet but was moved to change careers after witnessing the realities of the Federation border. The actor will appear in next week's episode of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," which airs on June 16, 2022. Thrillingly, Dr. Aspen will apparently share their screen time with Spock (Ethan Peck), with whom Variety says the character will "develop a surprising connection."

Keitel can also be seen on ABC's Montana-set mystery series "Big Sky," where they play a former sex worker and kidnapping survivor who ends up working for the show's detective agency. Keitel's turn on the series broke new ground for non-binary actors, and outlets including NBC News have credited them as the first non-binary series regular played by a non-binary actor on network primetime. The actor is also set to play a main character named Ruthie in Peacock's upcoming "Queer as Folk" relaunch.

Modern Trek has meaningful LGBT+ representation

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" is smart, philosophical, and extremely fun, and it's also been foundationally progressive from day one. Like Gene Roddenberry's original series, the show's mission — just like the Enterprise crew's — involves curiosity, collaboration, and as Captain Pike (Anson Mount) says, radical empathy. Across its first few episodes, plots have touched on topics like medical racism and other institutionalized biases, and it persistently champions the power of science. The show has so far handled each topic with sensitivity, but it also treats doing the most empathetic thing as the most obvious and heroic choice in any given situation.

The "Star Trek" TV universe as a whole is leagues ahead of other major franchises in terms of meaningful queer representation. "Star Trek: Discovery" has featured a gay couple, and that show also made franchise history by casting Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander as non-binary and trans characters. "Star Trek: Picard" and "Star Trek: Lower Decks" also both feature LGBTQ+ characters, and Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) casually mentioned dating both men and women in last week's episode of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds." While that might sound like a lot of representation, it just means that modern-day "Trek" is working harder than most shows to represent the demographics of the real world its viewers live in.

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" airs Thursdays on Paramount+.