Disclaimer: This interview was completed prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.
When Christina Chong auditioned over Zoom for the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, she knew very little about Star Trek and her character, La’an Noonien-Singh. Chong accepted the role after seeing only three scenes, and the world is lucky she did – La’an has quickly become one of the series’ most beloved characters as Strange New Worlds continues its Season 2 run.
Strange New Worlds marks Chong’s first time leading a series, and she continues to meet the challenge with apparent ease. Instead of basking in that success, Chong has used it to fuel another creative endeavor: after growing up singing and dancing, Chong is reintroducing herself to the world as a recording artist, and her debut EP, Twin Flames, is set to drop this August.
We sat down with her to talk about her latest projects, and how she balances two full-time careers as her star continues to rise. Read our interview with Christina Chong below.
You grew up in different parts of England, including Broxbourne, Longridge, and Enfield. Can you tell us what your childhood was like and how it informed you creatively?
I was one of those kids who was always outside – playing with friends, getting grubby building dens in the woods, riding bikes, catching little fish in the brook, and playing games in the field until that infamous “Dinner time!” call from Mum. It would be that or dance class. I studied ballet, tap, and modern dance from the age of about four. I guess the outdoor experiences fed my imagination, and dance nurtured my musicality and physical expression!
What are some of your earliest memories of performing?
My earliest memory is probably when I was about four. I wore a long sleeve blue leotard, silver sparkly gloves, and black tap shoes with white ankle socks. It’s the gloves that make that a standout memory, and I think we wore silver chokers, too. I would often perform songs and dances for my family at home. I’d sit them all down and charge them two pounds each. They’d pay it, and then I’d give the same renditions of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and “Daisy” that they’d heard a million times before, for free!
Can you tell us about the process of auditioning for and eventually getting the role of La’an Noonien-Singh in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds?
It was during the pandemic, so everything was done online. I sent in one self-tape and was asked to do a Zoom screen test with Henry Alonso Myers. It wasn’t until just before the test that I knew I was auditioning for Star Trek. I’m grateful that I became a fan of Star Trek during the job because I don’t think I’d have landed the role if I’d been a long-time fan. It would have been too overwhelming. I couldn’t have asked for more supportive casting directors. They helped me through the whole process, and Henry is the nicest show runner I’ve ever met. It was maybe the day after the test that I got the offer, and seven days later I was flying to Toronto to quarantine for two weeks. It was a complete whirlwind! I should mention I didn’t know much about La’an. I accepted the job off of three scenes, but boy, did the risk pay off.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has been such a big moment for you. What are some of your personal highlights from working on the show so far?
The incredible character arc I’ve been given with La’an is something I didn’t expect. I genuinely thought I’d be in one or two scenes of maybe seven episodes, very much supporting the leads, but it has turned out to be such an ensemble show with every character fully fleshed out. With La’an’s rich backstory, getting to play both her trauma, vulnerability, and the spoiled princess – with my own dog as my sidekick – it’s been a dream come true. Not to mention the romance in Season 2 and the very exciting, never-done-before Episode 9…
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is the first time your character, La’an, appears in the Star Trek universe. How was it to introduce a new character to such a massive franchise?
It was an incredible opportunity and, in a way, very freeing to not have the added task of connecting her to any canon. It also meant that I really had to find a way to make her truly relatable because she’s not a pre-loved legacy character. It was only after Episode 3 of Season 2 that I realized there were a lot of people who didn’t warm up to her in Season 1. Now that her barriers are coming down, I’ve apparently won some of them over!
We’ve seen La’an open up significantly since Season 1. What were some of the challenges of portraying a much more vulnerable side of her in Season 2?
The hardest thing for me was knowing where to pitch her levels of openness, which all started in Episode 3. We had 60 minutes to go from the buttoned-up security officer to the heartbroken La’an we see at the end of the episode, and because we don’t shoot in sequence, I really had to keep track of it all. The kissing scene was the first scene I filmed with Paul [Wesley] and that was the hardest because we hadn’t gone on the characters’ journeys yet. I had to guess where she’d be, emotionally. It took quite a few tries to get it right, with Amanda’s help, of course.
You’ve gotten to share the screen with Paul Wesley a lot this season. How was your experience working with him?
So much fun. We really get along, and I think you feel that through the screen. The abundance of laughter we had on set wasn’t necessarily welcomed by the crew waiting for us to pull it together, but it absolutely was welcomed by me when we were outside filming in -17 degrees.
You’ve also recently made your debut as a recording artist! What inspired your path to music?
I studied musical theatre, so it was always something I wanted to do. I was just waiting for the right time! Star Trek gave me the platform and means to feel like the time was now.
Your first single, “Twin Flames,” reflects on the end of a personal relationship. Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the song and its title?
[The inspiration] was an amazing relationship, just the right person at the wrong time. I was told by a psychic that we are twin flames – two parts of the same soul who meet roughly every four lifetimes. Apparently, the last time we were together was in the 1800s in a fishing town in Sicily, Italy. “Twin Flames” is about our meeting and our love and passion for each other. It was super strong and amazing, but when you have something like that, there’s also a deep fear that it all could burn out and disappear.
How much inspiration did you get from your own life for your EP? Are other songs similarly personal?
The one rule in my music journey is that it has to be authentically me. Every song is based on a personal experience and every word has significance and means something to me. The whole EP is about that twin flame relationship, hence why Twin Flame is also the title of the EP.
What are some of the themes you explore on the EP?
As I mentioned, “Twin Flames” is about passion and love, “No Blame” is about our breakup, but understanding it’s nobody’s fault. It just is. “Can’t Show Love” is about healing and understanding why, and “I Get To Choose” is about finally realizing that I can be happy on my own again. It’s the full circle of emotions that any romantic relationship will take you through. We’ve all been through those stages and know you have to be happy on your own to be ready to fall in love again, hence why “I Get To Choose” is the last track.
Which tracks resonate with you the most and why? Can you share details?
“Twin Flames” is definitely a favorite because of the sexy, sultry vibe. I love the rawness of the guitar riffs and the dubstep influences, but “I Get To Choose” is very special because through the process of writing it, I realized that I was where I always dreamed of being as a teenager. It had taken longer than I imagined, but I was doing what I had trained to do – dance, sing, and act.
How would you describe your sound in your own words?
This is a very tricky one for me because I don’t even know what that means. I don’t feel I need to put myself in a box, and I definitely want to express different sides of myself, which will obviously create different sounds. With Jake [Gosling], we found breathy Dusty/Lana Del Rey vocals, which I’m loving exploring. I’m still new to it all!
Who have been some of your biggest musical influences and why?
Amy Winehouse has definitely been a big influence because of the rawness and authenticity of her lyrics. I love how she’s really being herself, warts and all. In a similar vein, I want my music to continue to be very personal.
As a new recording artist, how did you go about crafting your sound?
Ask me in a year! I’m still working on it. It’s a lot of trial and error and, of course, guidance from Jake [Gosling] and Nuuxs.
How do you balance making music with your filming schedule?
I haven’t had to yet! This EP and the release all happened very quickly. I imagine, in general, both will steadily continue with one humming in the background whilst I’m working on a specific project. I’ll also need to be very time-efficient and smart with my scheduling.
Do you have any other projects in the works that you can tell us about?
I have plans to write for TV and film. I’d also love to direct, but there’s nothing I can specifically talk about just yet.
For more from Christina Chong, follow her on Instagram.