In an interview with StarTrek.com, Michelle Yeoh explained how her Trek captain is different than othern Trek captains; and about Georgiou’s relationship with Michael Burnham.
“You have to own your character, right? You have to understand what is this role and then after that, you define who is Captain Georgiou,” said Yeoh. “Who is she? Where did she come from? How…So, I worked very closely with Aaron (Harberts) and Gretchen (Berg), our show runners, and then with David Semel (director of the pilot) and some of the writers that were here at that time, and Ted (Sullivan), to get a feel of ‘When you wrote this character, what were you thinking? Is she married? Does she have family? Does she have that?’ Because it forms who she is.
“So, I know that she is a war veteran. She has seen the horrors of war because it comes out in the dialogue as well. But she is a very compassionate person. As I look into her, she, by heart, is an explorer. She loved the universe. She loved the ability and the possibility of seeing new stars, new novae being born. She’s always awed by that. That’s what I love about this character. She’s not cynical. She’s not jaded by all the things. She believes — and she firmly believes — in the hope and the goodness of humanity. It’s very pure to play a character like that, to bring her to the fore, but she’s also very smart. Otherwise, she would’ve been dead a long time ago. Space is quite a dangerous place.”
Georgiou is a mentor to Burnham and that is courtesy of a friendship with a familiar Trek figure. “She is definitely a mentor because when she came…even at the prelude you already know that they’ve been together for seven years,” said Yeoh. “She’s obviously the one who’s been teaching her, trying to guide her on the right path. But (Burnham’s) background makes it so interesting because she’s the only human. She forgot she was human because she was growing up in the Vulcan world. She was becoming more Vulcan than Vulcan itself. She beat herself up to even more than that. And, it’s brutal. I don’t know how anybody can survive, unless you are a Vulcan, the kind of training you have to get through so that you are so in control and everything becomes about logic and clear cut and things like that.
“Sarek, Spock’s dad, is a dear friend of Captain Georgiou and he truly believed that Captain Georgiou would be able to instill the good human qualities back into her, because fundamentally she’s a human being, right? You cannot deny yourself what you are. So, it’s not just about discovery into space and finding new friends and new cultures, species, but it’s self-discovery. And, especially for Sonequa’s character because when she comes, she is like, ‘I am the Vulcan of the Vulcans, man.’ Captain Georgiou’s looking at her, ‘Oh really? We’ll see about that.’ But it’s not about breaking her spirit. She worked so hard to be who she was seven years ago. But it’s about putting back, instilling… I don’t want to break her spirit. I want to instill back, ‘What is love? What is compassion? What is empathy?’ Because, if you don’t have that, you will make the wrong choices. Because the choices in your life define who are, right? So that was the bond that they had.”
At first, Burnham was not on board with this attitude. “Michael Burnham looked at Captain Georgiou first with disdain,” said Yeoh. “Like, ‘Really? Uh…’ But she begins to respect this woman. She understood and began to understand where she came from, what she was trying to teach her, and then that bond was solidified.”