Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is quickly getting a well-deserved reputation as the best current show in the franchise, and one of the reasons is it’s incredible cast. One member of that cast is Christina Chong who plays La’an Noonien-Singh, Enterprise’s chief of security. If that last name sounds familiar, it should. La’an is a descendant of Khan Noonien-Singh who first appeared as an antagonist in Star Trek: The Original Series played by Ricardo Montalban. He later reprised the role for 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Part of La’an’s backstory is the relentless bullying she endured growing up, bearing the same last name as Khan. Sadly, this was something Chong could relate to immediately.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about relating with her Strange New Worlds character, Chong said, “What I connected to was being judged for who you are and your name. Although my mom is English, my dad is Chinese. And I don’t necessarily look English, and I don’t necessarily look Chinese, but my name is Chong. And throughout my childhood, that brought on bullying and racism. The whole journey of both being judged, having that stigma attached to a name and who you are, was easily translatable and easy to personalize.”
Chong went on to describe being made to feel shame for her background, and knowing that when her Chinese father would pick her up at school, the next day the racist bullying would be that much worse. “I felt that shame, and I never really wanted to be seen around my dad because of that,” Chong recalled. “I remember this one time walking through the playground to the car and people pulling their eyes in front of my dad.”
The Strange New Worlds actress also says that another parallel to her character, gratefully, is when she discovered there were people who wouldn’t abuse her because of her background. She told THR that when she was 14 she went to a “performing arts school,” and then things started to feel like it must feel for La’an aboard the Enterprise. “[E]veryone was from a different background, that for the first time I felt accepted for who I was,” Chong said. “They all were talented, and they all wanted the same thing. And that’s parallel to the crew on the Enterprise. La’an comes onto the Enterprise, and they accept her for who she is. It’s been an incredible journey, how Star Trek has enabled me to use my experience and put that into her. Timing-wise, it all sort of clicked.”
La’an’s past is no doubt part of what, initially, makes her perhaps the most stand-offish member of the senior officers (her only potential competition in that arena is the Aenar Chief Engineer Hemmer), but in the most recent episode she opens up a little bit. In Thursday’s Strange New Worlds episode “Memento Mori,” we learn that the prejudice she faced because of her last name isn’t the only trauma she suffered as a child. As a girl she was captured by the Gorn and hunted for food. The security chief is forced to dig deep into her memories to help the ship against their reptilian foes.