‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Mary Wiseman on Tilly’s Big Career Decision & Future
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 4 “All Is Possible.”]
The U.S.S. Discovery may have just said goodbye to one of its crew, but don’t worry: She’ll be back.
In the latest Star Trek: Discovery episode, Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) was tasked with teaching a training exercise for Starfleet Academy, and she brought Adira (Blu del Barrio) along. (They were surprised to learn they were being treated as a cadet during it.) But the exercise became very real when they crashed on the wrong moon and faced a deadly alien. After they were rescued (one cadet died), Tilly realized that she wanted to accept a job offer to teach at the academy.
“Getting my lieutenant post was the worst day of my life,” she admitted to Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) in a touching farewell scene. “When I got the pips, all of a sudden I realized my mom is 900 years in the past, she’s never going to see me wear them, and I started wondering if this is what I really wanted or if I just really wanted to be seen. That was humbling. I think it could be a useful perspective for a teacher.”
But don’t worry: Wiseman will be back this season. She takes us inside “All Is Possible” and teases what’s ahead.
Tilly decides to leave Discovery for that teaching position at the academy. How difficult of a decision was that? Leaving behind her friends was harder than making a career move like she did, right?
Mary Wiseman: Exactly. It was a really scary, hard thing to do, but because I think Tilly was already in the mindset of stepping out of her comfort zone, doing things that feel uncomfortable to challenge herself, that that’s part of what made her realize that the fact that it was hard is part of why she needed to do it.
She’s also had an incredible journey because she wanted to be captain and she became lieutenant, then realized she didn’t want that, then there was this training exercise.
Yeah, I think she kind of needs a moment to regroup, which is very healthy in my mind.
Do you think teaching is an end goal or just another step for her?
I think teaching is something that feels really, really good to her right now, that feels meaningful and like she’s learning something and so it’s what she needs to follow at this moment in her life. I like to think in my mind — although I truly have no idea what’s going to happen to her — that she’s going to find through teaching what kind of leader she wants to be, that she’s gonna develop those leadership skills because she found this dynamic of her in a teaching position and with younger people in her care as something really empowering and something she has a natural skill for. What I would love to see is how her skills that she develops stepping away to become a teacher translate into maybe potentially in the future a captain’s seat.
Especially since she ended up teaching during the worst training exercise to be thrown into in this episode.
Oh my God. Also, if you’re not an experienced teacher, just even getting young people to pay attention to you, it’s hard, let alone saving their lives.
I’ve really enjoyed Tilly and Adira’s dynamic this season. What does she see in them, especially as she’s trusting them now to have her friends’ backs while she’s gone and they’re dealing with this anomaly?
I think Tilly sees a lot of herself in Adira. Just because they’re so enthusiastic, they’re green, they’re very, very smart, but don’t necessarily have the greatest people skills. When Tilly stepped into that role in Discovery, she was constantly being told she was talking too much, didn’t always have the most successful social interactions. And I think in Adira, though they’re a little maybe heartier or more authentic mentally or something, Tilly sees herself in them still. It’s that kind of thing when you see yourself in someone else, loving them teaches you how to love yourself or how to support yourself or how to talk to yourself. So as she steps in this mentorship role out of the mentee role that she used to hold with Michael and Saru [Doug Jones] and Stamets [Anthony Rapp], I think she’s getting a deeper understanding of herself and her skills and what she needs to work on.
I like that snow globe that Tilly left them.
Oh my God, I’m obsessed with it. I think it’s so sweet. I love that moment. There’s also this thing, which is as Tilly is becoming self-possessed and more of herself, as you heal as a person or grow or mature or whatever you want to call it, you have more of yourself to offer to other people. I think that’s what she’s discovering right now and that’s what she really wanted to leave Adira with was this sense of, I know you can’t see yourself but I see you so clearly and you are wonderful and contain multitudes and all the things you’re telling yourself you can’t do, you indeed can.
Now she’s also going to tell that to all these cadets she’ll be teaching.
Exactly. And it’s like that beautiful mirror facing another mirror thing, where as she nurtures those people, she’ll nurture herself and continue to grow and become the Star Trek version of a superhero, which is like a thoughtful, intellectual, empathic warrior.
Even though this isn’t your last episode, there was that goodbye scene between Michael and Tilly and it was so good, especially because it was in that previously shared room.
It was really emotional and really tender. When we read it the first time at our read through, it was really teary. I love Sonequa very, very much as a person. She’s a dear friend. And I also adore Tilly and Burnham’s friendship as it exists in the story and they have had all these nice, quiet, intimate moments with each other kind of sprinkled throughout the series. And so to return to that sort of home base felt organic and just really special. I hope it came out well because it felt very good as we were doing it, and I love to work with Sonequa. She’s such a good actor.
But then we also got those sweet hugs for Tilly with Stamets, Culber [Wilson Cruz], and Saru, because those relationships have been so key for her too.
Absolutely. A lot of the people who end up on a starship drifting through space have family issues. [Laughs] I think that makes sense, like totally disconnected from the rest of life. And so you tend to create a found family and that’s very much the story of our show, both on and offscreen, that we are a found family. So it felt really important to honor those relationships as she goes off to college in a way. It kind of feels like that, like she’s going off to do this thing and all of these people show up for her to say, we’ll still be here for you when you come back and we love you and we’ll miss you. I just love that we take time to like honor those moments on our show.
And especially because they’re all they really have from the past because of that jump to the future.
Tilly brings up the fact that what she was doing was for her mom, but it doesn’t matter now.
She’s never going to see it. She’s never going to get witnessed in that way that she wants, so who is she doing it for anymore? It’s gotta be herself.
Also the fact that even though everyone’s alive right now, Tilly is leaving the crew as they deal with this anomaly, so she doesn’t know who might still be around next time she sees them.
That’s actually very, very true. That’s a whole other level of, we’re in crisis and we don’t have a lot of information, so we’re all sort of in a limbo.
What can you say about when we’ll see you again?
I can say that you’ll see me later on in the season.
Can you say anything about what might be different about Tilly?
I’ll say that her hair is slightly different and she’s wearing a different outfit. [Laughs]
What about Tilly do you think is going to stay the same no matter what she’s doing career-wise?
She’ll always have a little bit of a bubbly, inappropriate sense of humor and will always kind of step in it once in a while, put her foot in her mouth, so to speak, and I hope she never changes in that way.
What advice would the Tilly of now give the Tilly at the beginning of the series?
All the advice that Tilly is giving Adira right now is advice that she would’ve given herself if she met a younger version of herself. That’s the impulse of kind of taking someone under your wing or becoming a teacher is I would love for you to not have to make the same mistakes I did.
What’s been your favorite scene to film this season?
That’s very, very hard to say. Probably the scene with Sonequa where we kind of say goodbye to each other. That’s the dearest, the closest to my heart.
What else can you say about what’s coming up?
It’s going to be amazing, a season full of mystery and heart and strength.
What can you say about how this season ends?
I would say it has a very satisfying conclusion.
Star Trek: Discovery, Thursdays, Paramount+