While certainly not the first gay actor to play a major role in a Star Trek television series, it’s possible new Star Trek: Discovery star Anthony Rapp could be the first openly gay actor to be cast in a series.
But does that necessarily mean his character, the fungus specialist Lt. Stamets, is gay? Entertainment Weekly‘s James Hibberd thinks so, although it’s not clear if the reporter is saying that simply because Rapp himself is gay, or if he actually has some inside knowledge on the production. Going off the news released by CBS on Tuesday, Hibberd simply describes Stamets as the new gay character, although CBS didn’t say as much when it announced the casting.
Before he departed as the series showrunner, Bryan Fuller – who is openly gay himself – told fans he would follow in the footsteps a bit of this year’s Star Trek: Beyond by finally diversifying the franchise with members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He didn’t provide any other details, and Entertainment Weekly seems to be the only outlet that is definitively calling Stamets gay.
While many of Rapp’s recent roles have him playing gay characters, it’s not uncommon for heterosexual actors to play gay roles – think Sean Penn in Milk or Matthew McCormack in Will & Grace – or gay actors playing heterosexual roles – think Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother or Rapp himself in Rent.
So to assume Stamets must be gay because the actor who is playing him is gay might be something to avoid, even if it is indeed ultimately true.
One thing we might know about Stamets, however, is that it’s very likely he’s named after an actual real-life fungus expert. A little work from the GeekNation research department has turned up a real-life mycologist named Paul Stamets – popular enough to have his own Wikipedia page.
He is a mushroom expert who lives in Shelton, Washington, located outside of Olympic National Park some 90 minutes away from Seattle (unless you’ve got a boat). He’s written several books on mycology, and even delivered a TED Talk in 2008 sharing what he says were six ways mushrooms could save the world.
Stamets also has popped up in several documentaries over the years, including 2007’s Dirt! The Movie and 2010’s Dance With Destiny.
There’s been no official indication if the character was named in honor of the real-life mycologist, but it would be a rather amazing coincidence to call your ship’s fungus expert (something a bit new to the Star Trek world) with the same unusual name as someone who is an actual expert in that field.
Rapp will star in Discovery along with Doug Jones and Michelle Yeoh, the only actors announced so far by CBS. The new Star Trek series will debut on CBS in May, with its run taking place on the subscription streaming service CBS All Access.
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