Star Trek: Picard's Hanelle Culpepper Wins NAACP Image Award

Hanelle Culpepper, the first woman of color to direct the debut of a new Star Trek series, was awarded an NAACP Image Award for her work. Culpepper won the award for Outstanding Directing in a drama series at the 52nd NAACP Image Awards for her work on the first episode of Star Trek: Picard, "Remembrance." She directed the first three episodes of the CBS All Access (now Paramount+) series -- "Remembrance," "Maps and Legends," and "The End Is the Beginning." Other nominees in the category included Cheryl Dunye for the Lovecraft Country episode “Strange Case” on HBO, Misha Green for Lovecraft Country episode “Jig-a-Bobo," Nzingha Stewart for Little Fires Everywhere episode "The Uncanny" on Hulu, and Steve McQueen for the "Mangrove" installment of the Small Axe anthology on Amazon.

In 2020, Culpepper explained what it was like working Patrick Stewart on his return to the Star Trek universe as Jean-Luc Picard, the role he originated in Star Trek: The Next Generation. She told Variety, "Because he was so involved with the writers, a lot of the things that he felt about his character were already incorporated into the script," Culpepper says. "So for me, it was just about creating the safe space where he could do the things he wanted to do. He was still collaborative with me. But ultimately, it was nice to be in a situation where the actor and the writers are all on the same page for who this character is."

Culpepper also touched on how she balanced sci-fi spectacle with character-focused storytelling on the new Star Trek series. "I wanted it to feel inspired by where Picard was on his emotional journey," she says. "He was living in a vineyard; he felt trapped. So I wanted to have a little bit more of a static frame, and then go handheld once his world is rocked [in the pilot]. We switch to handheld cameras pretty much as much as possible after that. It's Star Trek, we have to get those big, cinematic shots with drones and cranes and stuff, but we always wanted to not forget that it's really a character-driven series with Picard at the heart.

"We went for a warmer color palette and a more contrasty look. I used anamorphic lenses. We embraced flares. We embraced shadows. The main thing [executive producer] Alex Kurtzman wanted was to always see both eyes, so the DP and I worked to make sure that when we came into close-ups, you could see both eyes and all the emotional expressions that the actors were giving."

The first season of Star Trek: Picard is now streaming on Paramount+.