Star Trek: Discovery's Doug Jones Talks Saru's Role In the New Future

Star Trek: Discovery has thrown the crew of Discovery 930 years into the future. The season [...]

Star Trek: Discovery has thrown the crew of Discovery 930 years into the future. The season premiere caught up with Michael Burnham and her new ally, Cleveland "Book" Booker. Episode two, "Far From Home," revealed how the rest of the crew were introduced to the 32nd century one year after Burnham's arrival. With the ship in disrepair after a crash landing, it was up to the ship's acting captain, Cmdr. Saru, to keep the crew working together towards their goals. That mission turned out to be trickier than expected when a trip with Tilly to a nearby settlement turned into a Western-style saloon brawl. Good thing for Saru that former Terran Emperor Philippa Georgiou disobeyed orders and came to their rescue. had the opportunity to talk to the man underneath the Kelpien makeup, Doug Jones, about "Far From Home." In addition to a couple of off-topic questions about Hellboy and the Silver Surfer, we asked about Saru's growth as a commanding officer, relationships with Tilly and Georgiou, and more. Keep reading to see what Jones had to say, and check back later this week for more from Jones about this week's Discovery episode, "People fo Earth."

Star Trek Discovery Saru Doug Jones Interview
(Photo: CBS)

Congratulations on the season four renewal. Does it feel at all like you've become a time traveler since, thanks to the pandemic, you're sitting here talking about the second episode of season three just a few weeks away from starting production on season four?

Doug Jones: Season three just started airing, and we're already looking ahead to many storylines later. So I do feel a bit like a time traveler, because it's so fun to see all of the comments and reviews and social media posts, that people are just now seeing episode two or three of Star Trek: Discovery. Yeah, it's like, "Oh, right. We did that. That was a thing. Oh, right, that's what happened. Yes, that's all coming back to me now."

This episode of Discovery had a very Western vibe to it, which I'm not sure a lot of fans were expecting from Discovery. What was that like for the cast on set? Was there a lot of talk about really leaning into those tropes?

Yeah, I think you can tell from the production design and the set dressing that, that's exactly what they were going for. Even our director, Olatunde [Osunsanmi], would tell you that he was wanting to work in some Western tropes, to give it that feel, and I think we pulled it off. It was kind of fun. Now, of course, I forget what the name of the episode was in Next Generation when they did that. But they did more literal Western, didn't they?

Yup, "A Fistful of Datas."

Right. So we were just kind of hinting at it. And when our bad guy, played by Jake Weber, came walking in, it was such a great showdown. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. And of course, then Georgiou, bursting in, to save the day against my orders, but I'm glad she was there, kind of a thing.

Speaking of Georgiou, Saru is in the command position right now and I don't think any other Star Trek captain or commander has had to work with someone under their command quite like Georgiou. Some of those scenes with Saru and Georgiou are pretty intense. What was the process between yourself and Michelle Yeoh working out that relationship and those interactions?

Well, Georgiou, she has an uncomplimentary barb for everybody, including Saru. But Saru is giving them back to her now. I have my pre-threat ganglia and post-threat ganglia days with her. Now that I don't live in fear anymore, I stand up next to her. She's half my size, and I outrank her. So I think Saru is owning that now. He's more aware of his position, and she's not the threat that she wants everybody to think she is. But yes, she's a badass. She can kick all of us to our deaths, but I know she wouldn't.

And so, getting in her face and reminding her what Starfleet is, who we are, what we stand for, and that I will not allow this on my watch, this behavior. But yet, she's well aware too, that she's a very valuable asset, especially in this moment, where we're dealing with an unknown and unknown protocols, unknown morals. They live by different rules in the future. She comes in going, "Oh, yeah. I know these rules really well." So Saru, underneath it all, he's kind of grateful she's there.

It's interesting seeing Saru playing off of Georgiou, where he's the one with the power, even though this new world they're in seems more like the Mirror Universe than the universe Saru remembers.

Exactly. Right. That's why I think that Emperor Georgiou from the Mirror Universe understands this new world way better than the rest of us. I think Saru has kept her on point because he's forever reminded that this mirror universe Emperor Georgiou used to eat his kind as a delicacy. And she's reminded him of that more than once, but she's wearing the face of Captain Georgiou from the prime universe, that was a maternal, nurturing captain that brought him up through Starfleet. So I think it's because of that that he tolerates her as well as he has.

There's this great scene in the episode where Saru and Tilly are walking across the icy planet. They're talking and Saru is mentoring her and it reminded me of the scene that opened the series, which was Georgiou and Burnham walking across a desert planet.

Oh, right. Yeah.

I felt like a way to signal just how far Saru has come in terms of his leadership ability and how he's taken Tilly under his wing. Can you tell some of what was going through your head and what you were discussing with Mary Wiseman when you were working through that conversation?

Well, as we jump to the future anyway, all of us on the starship Discovery left something behind, whether friends, family, a world, familiarity. We left all that behind, and all we have now is each other, so we became a chosen family really quick. And in that chosen family, Saru is very much looking to her as a daughter figure, and she looks to him as a father figure now, I think. That's how it feels.

And so, that whole walk-and-talk was reminiscent of a walk-and-talk I had with my dad when I was in eighth grade, and he wanted me to go out for the basketball team, and I didn't want to. And so, he was putting a hand on my shoulder as we walked around the neighborhood, saying, "You can do this, son." That's the talk I was having with Tilly, was, "You can do this, daughter of mine. And the reason I asked you along on this mission, and only you, is because you're the one that makes a good first impression."

He rolls his eyes at the appropriate times with her, because she often blurts things out and can't help herself. But through it all, Saru sees her potential and sees her smarts that she has that are unique to her.

Have there been any kind of quality of life improvements to your prosthetic process for Saru this season? Has the time it takes you getting into makeup lessened at all?

Well, no, it didn't have to be, because the Saru makeup process started streamlined. It started at just under two hours, and it stayed there. And just under two hours, by the way, is mercifully short when you're looking at that much of a transformation. But the makeup, I can tell you, takes weeks ahead of time, with the sculpting, the molding of the pieces, the pre-painting of those pieces. Much artistry goes into it before it ever gets to me. So the application process, with my team on set, they're the ones who get it on in less than two hours, and it's really good. They're amazing.


New Star Trek: Discovery episodes stream Thursdays on CBS All Access.