Why Star Trek: Strange New World’s Christina Chong Didn’t Focus Too Much On Ricardo Montalbán’s Performance As Khan Ahead Of Playing His Descendant

Christina Chong in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
(Image credit: Paramount+)

As Star Trek: Strange New Worlds reviews have suggested, the show finds ways to put twists on the classic original series and features plenty of notable callbacks to its biggest storylines. But perhaps none are as big as the character La’an Noonien-Singh, who is a descendant of one of the franchise’s most notable villains: Khan. Even those casually interested in Trek may at least be aware of Ricardo Montalbán’s character from the series and the movie The Wrath of Khan. Those with Paramount+ subscriptions are likely eager to learn more about this bridge crew member and La'an actress Christina Chong has provided some insight into how she approaches the role.

I had the opportunity to catch up with the star, during which she explained that she prepped for the role by watching Khan-related content. The actress spoke about what she specifically screened in preparation and revealed why she didn’t focus too much on Ricardo Montalbán’s performance while watching: 

There’s not loads, to be honest, on Khan. I watched 'Space Seed’ and Wrath of Khan. I didn’t want to play or take anything from Ricardo Montalbán's performance. Because she’s not [him], she’s a descendant. As a descendant, you can be three or four times removed and still be a descendant. So I didn’t want to have that kind of through-line more than what’s in the story.

Apparently, Christina Chong didn’t feel a need to inject any more Khan Noonien-Singh into La’an than what was already there, given the distant familial relationship between the characters. Descendants aren't necessarily destined to become just like their ancestors after all. And based on what we've seen of Chong's character thus far, that would seem to be the case with her. 

While her character isn’t Khan, the actress did note that there are ways the character is just like her world-dominating ancestor. While further explaining her main reason for watching those Trek installments, Christina Chong laid out the ways that the Enterprise's security officer does mirror the classic villain (that William Shatner initially didn’t want in the second movie):

Naturally, she does have similarities to him that come through the lineage. She has a natural ability for war tactics and combat. She’s a very strong, resilient character. I didn’t think it needed anything more than that. I think the creators nailed that. I watched it more for understanding the whole backstory, her story.

It helps for the star to know La’an’s family history just as much as it did for her to be familiar with the Gorn. They've been mentioned quite frequently so far, and CinemaBlend learned that there's more to come for the reptilian species before the season is out. With that, I'm wondering if the same will be true in regards to Khan Noonien-Singh -- and if La’an might have a chance encounter with her ancestor in Season 2 or beyond. We'll just have to wait and see!

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds airs on Paramount+ on Thursdays. Season 1 is moving right along and is quite a blast, and it won’t be too long before another wonderful new Trek show is upon us. Now is a perfect time to jump in if you’re a longtime fan or just someone in need of consistently entertaining science fiction shows. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.