Star Trek: Discovery killed off one of its prominent gay characters, but showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg were adamant the series avoid the "bury your gays" trope: the producers ran the death past GLAAD, receiving the organization's blessing.
Actors Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz, who portray couple Lieutenant Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber, recently opened up on Star Trek's first male-on-male kiss, saying the moment had a "meaningful impact" and was "satisfying."
In Discovery's first episode back from its winter hiatus — spoilers — Culber was killed.
"You have to ask yourself, are you worried about an initial reaction, or are you worried about a macro experience?" Harberts, who is openly gay, said in an interview with Buzzfeed.
The Discovery producer acknowledged recent outrage over deaths of gay characters on genre series like The Walking Dead and The 100, saying they trusted their audience to understand the show isn't leaning into tropes.
"We knew that our side of the street is clean," Harberts said. "And we know that our actors understand what this journey is all about. We have faith that if our audience is so enraged and thinks that we would actually lean into a [bury your gays] trope, then they don't really understand what we're about as storytellers."
"After this journey is all done, the hope is that their romance will be, if not the most iconic gay romance [on TV], you know, in the top five," Harberts added.
GLAAD spokesperson Nick Adams, calling Culber "a beloved groundbreaking character," noted "death is not always final in the Star Trek universe, and we know the producers plan to continue exploring and telling Stamets and Culber's epic love story."
Cruz, who worked as a GLAAD spokesperson for two years, said he cried when he learned Culber was going to die.
"I understand why people are upset," Cruz said. "I am familiar with the problematic tendencies of television shows to do away with their LGBT characters, especially people of color."
"I give you my word that this is not what that is," Cruz explained of the "bury your gays" trope. "What's being planned is something we haven't really had an opportunity to see LGBT characters experience. I'm really excited about it."
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes air Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.