Mary Chieffo did her homework once she landed the role of the Klingon L’Rell, watching as many Klingon-centric episodes as she could find.
Deep Space Nine made the biggest impact on the actress. “those last three seasons really do start to have a new, serialized quality,” she said. “Somebody on Twitter yesterday said, ‘Has she watched Deep Space Nine?’ Or something like that. I was like, ‘Yeah, actually. In those last three seasons, I got so caught up in the plot that I stopped just watching the Klingon-featured episodes, because I felt that it became extremely profound.’ I think it’s got so much nuance, and all the characters are so wonderful, and lovable, and the way that they really get to evolve and develop is wonderful. Of course, I have a soft spot for Odo. Then, I think about the great female Klingons on the show, and one of my favorites, Grilka, comes in.”
Why does Chieffo love Grilka? “Grilka is definitely at the top, first of all, because she’s full Klingon,” said Chieffo. “I love K’Ehleyr and I love B’Elanna, but they’re both half-Klingon. B’Elanna, like we see with anyone who’s half and half, is they have that internal struggle. I love watching that, but certainly for me, since L’Rell is full Klingon, seeing Grilka, I love her story of eventually becoming the leader of her own house. Klingons are so patriarchal, so that was a great way to explore that story, in both episodes that she’s in. Her relationship with Quark was so fun and wonderful, and she just owned herself in this great way. There’s something about that I’ve tried to transfer to L’Rell, and it’s that her strength and power don’t negate her sensuality. Grilka is the one that really always comes to mind.”
How is Chieffo dealing with the Klingon language? “I love it,” she said. “I’ve reached the point now where I can read and write it pretty well. I’m still not fluent, because the syntax is opposite of anything I know, but it’s a really ultimately liberating process.”
L’Rell is “six dimensional” said Chieffo. “There’s so many aspects of her and I’m constantly being challenged and being allowed to explore different aspects of myself. I really do hope that there will be young girls and boys who can strangely relate to her or understand where she’s coming from. Just like with all of the characters on this show, I really think that they’ll see that.”