'Star Trek: Discovery': Is Culber Really Dead? Wilson Cruz Previews Return -- But There's a Twist (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
CBS All Access
Warning: Spoiler alert! If you aren't up to date with Star Trek: Discovery, do not proceed. There are major spoilers ahead from recent episodes of the CBS All Access series.
Jaws dropped on Star Trek: Discovery when Dr. Hugh Culber, the brilliant medical officer on the Discovery and Dr. Paul Stamets' partner, was killed after having his neck snapped by Lt. Ash Tyler in one of the most shocking death scenes so far on the show.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t surprised and a bit heartbroken at first," star Wilson Cruz told ET of Culber's dramatic death in the Jan. 7 episode. "I didn’t know exactly where we were going with this. But I had a wonderful conversation with [executive producers] Aaron [Harberts] and Gretchen [J. Berg] weeks before we were actually shooting the episode and they said, ‘This is a necessary part of the story. We have to go here because Dr. Culber is a little too smart for his own good and he’s figuring things out a little too quickly.'"
Rest assured, Trekkies! Cruz's beloved Culber is back in Star Trek: Discovery's orbit in Sunday's episode, though the how and the why of his return, we'll leave as something to be discovered. Trust us though, it's pretty darn beautiful.
Cruz teased that fans of Culber and Stamets' relationship are in for a real treat when viewers see his character again, and said it's Exhibit A as to why their romance -- Star Trek's first gay couple on TV -- is timeless.
“This episode really sets [Stamets] up for the heroic journey that he’s about to embark on, but also sets up the fact that there are a multitude of possibilities for Dr. Culber going forward," the 44-year-old actor hinted, potentially leaving the door open for future appearances.
"They’re so tender and sweet and also so fragile," Cruz said, adding that he enjoyed reuniting with Anthony Rapp. "I think they exemplify that this couple and their love goes beyond even this mortal coil. It transcends time and space.”
When asked if there was anything he wished he could have explored further while Culber was "alive," Cruz respectfully rejected the notion that he felt there were storylines left on the table.
"I wouldn't sit here and say 'I wish I had done that,' but what I will say is I'm excited to see where we're going. I think there is so much opportunity for this couple in what I've been told in how we're going forward," he said. "You're not rid of me yet. There is a whole lot that this couple is going to go through before it's all said and done."
Earlier on Friday, Cruz, along with GLAAD president/CEO Sarah Kate Ellis and Transparent's Tracy Lesyette, announced the GLAAD Award nominations from Park City, Utah, and he was in a celebratory mood over Star Trek: Discovery's nom for Outstanding Drama Series.
"We're so happy about it!" Cruz said excitedly, sharing the origins of his relationship with GLAAD that began in the '90s when he received his first GLAAD Award nomination for My So-Called Life. In 2008, he was awarded the Visibilidad Award by the organization.
"Fast-forward to today, when we’re nominated for a storyline that involves two genius men who are in love with each other far in the future is incredibly gratifying," he said. "We are incredibly proud of the storyline, of this relationship and how we were introduced to the Star Trek viewers. We’re just thrilled that people are enjoying it. We’re overwhelmed by the response. We were expecting fans to be excited but this response was even beyond our own imaginations.”
Cruz shared a recent fan encounter he had at a Comic-Con event over the weekend that has stuck with him.
“The most moving part of interacting with Trek fans is the people who come up and say, ‘We’ve waited decades to see an LGBT couple be a major part of the storyline and so grateful to be included and excited to see where the story goes,'" he said. "They’re on this ride with us and lord knows, we’ve given them a lot to handle the last couple of weeks."
"We’re incredibly grateful to the viewers for hanging in there with us and going on this roller-coaster journey of this relationship," Cruz continued. "It’s an epic story. There’s going to be heartbreak. As an actor, to be able to be a part of an epic love story like this one that I’ve never been able to -- up until this point in my career -- really take on, it goes beyond this universe and back.”
Star Trek: Discovery premieres new episodes every Sunday after 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT on CBS All Access. The After Trek aftershow airs Sundays at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT.