Mary Wiseman: Live Long And BLEEP Mary Wiseman, Cadet Tilly on 'Star Trek: Discovery,' tells us about the passion of the fandom, and plays a game inspired by her being the first character in the Star Trek universe to swear.
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Mary Wiseman: Live Long And BLEEP

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Mary Wiseman: Live Long And BLEEP

Mary Wiseman: Live Long And BLEEP

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CECIL BALDWIN: This is ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's hour of puzzles, word games and trivia. I'm puzzle guru Cecil Baldwin here with guest musician Julian Velard. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.



Thank you, Cecil. Now it's time to welcome our special guest. She's appeared in the shows "Baskets" and "Difficult People" and currently stars as Cadet Sylvia Tilly on "Star Trek: Discovery." Please welcome Mary Wiseman.



EISENBERG: Thank you so much for coming on our show.

WISEMAN: Oh, such a pleasure. I'm so happy to be here.

EISENBERG: I am a fan. So first, I wanted to start off with your origin story.


EISENBERG: So you have been in a lot of theatrical productions - serious themes theatrical productions. But you often play kind of the comedic relief.

WISEMAN: Yeah, totally.

EISENBERG: You have this comic sensibility. Is this something that stemmed from, you know, being the youngest of four - three older brothers?

WISEMAN: Yeah. I mean, I have - well, I have three older brothers. And that's why I'm like this.


WISEMAN: And they're all very funny so - and very loud and very tall. And so I always had to kind of, like, fight to get my voice in there.


WISEMAN: And we're always, like, one-upping each other, trying to do impressions. And then a couple of years ago, they finally, like, relented and, you know, gave me the title of funniest Wiseman. So I did it. I did it.


EISENBERG: Nice. So then - so you're in Juilliard. You're doing these theatrical roles. You get - you're doing some television. You're on Season 2 of "Baskets." You get to play a vagabond, street-performing clown.

WISEMAN: Gutter punk.

EISENBERG: Gutter funk.


EISENBERG: And you are playing with Zach Galifianakis who is - like, you have to play the straight character to Zach's clown...

WISEMAN: Bisexual - yes.

EISENBERG: Yes. But was it hard, like, getting dressed up as a clown and yet not able to totally goof around as a clown in that character?

WISEMAN: It was actually - it's really hard because my character is pretty upset most of the time. And Zach is literally the funniest person I've ever met. It's like, the rate at which he makes jokes is a little, like, overwhelming. You can't catch your breath. So in that way, it was really hard to keep a straight face and keep going.

EISENBERG: Yeah. And so now you play Cadet Tilly on the CBS All Access series "Star Trek: Discovery." Were you a "Star Trek" fan...


EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah. I know. I mean, "Star Trek" franchise - this is a big deal.


EISENBERG: Were you a fan beforehand?

WISEMAN: Uh (ph)...


WISEMAN: ...I sort of, like, peripherally was exposed to it. My uncle is a big Trekkie. And now my beau-friend is, like, a big Trekkie. His family's a big Trekkie. So I have people in my life who are really invested in it...

EISENBERG: OK - got it.

WISEMAN: And I respect that and have become a more enthusiastic Trekkie myself.

EISENBERG: I think your character, Cadet Tilly, is bubbly and talkative and fun and a little bit different for a character in a "Star Trek" franchise.


EISENBERG: Refreshing.

BALDWIN: Oh, how nice.

EISENBERG: So where did this character come from?

WISEMAN: The two showrunners of the show, Gretchen Berg and Aaron - Gretchen has a 3-year-old niece named Tilly. And she was sort of inspired by, you know, her openness and wonder and passion as a 3-year-old and the things you can be passionate about at 3. And so that's kind of the starting-off place for Tilly. And then I am a giant 3-year-old, so I kind of fit in there really well.


EISENBERG: So by coincidence, you're also friends with one of your "Star Trek: Discovery" co-stars, Mary Chieffo, who plays the Klingon L'Rell. How do you know each other?

WISEMAN: We went to Juilliard together. We were in the same class.

EISENBERG: Exactly the same class...

WISEMAN: Exactly the same class...

EISENBERG: ...Both Mary's...

WISEMAN: ...Both named Mary and we're on the same show.

EISENBERG: But you didn't know that you were auditioning for the same show or...

WISEMAN: Yeah. So Mary got cast first. And then I auditioned for it, like, forgot about it. And then a month later, they told me I got it. It was like insane. And then I sat on it for, like, three weeks not being able to tell Mary. And then finally, she, like, walked into the costume room and saw, like, my headshot and called me and was like, oh my God. And then we like Klingon-roared at each other, like, in pure excitement. And it was awesome.

EISENBERG: Why did you have to sit on it? Why were you allowed to say anything?

WISEMAN: It's very top secret.

EISENBERG: It is very top secret.

WISEMAN: Yeah. Have you not noticed? I'm not allowed to say anything...

EISENBERG: At all times.

WISEMAN: ...Which is good because there's so many twists and turns. So it's good.

EISENBERG: OK - very good. So, you know, obviously, you're on a "Star Trek" - part of the "Star Trek" franchise. The fans are intense for "Star Trek." And they are everywhere. I mean, it is a worldwide love of "Star Trek" out there.


EISENBERG: So were you aware of the power and the reach of "Star Trek" before you ended up on the show?

WISEMAN: I don't think anything could prepare you for quite what it's like, like, the real passion...


WISEMAN: ...For the universe. But I kind of had a sense.

EISENBERG: OK. And how - so tell me about your experience experiencing the passion.

WISEMAN: Well, so my - I keep talking about my boyfriend, but I love him.


WISEMAN: His mom is the biggest "Star Trek" fan. And so there's like a famous story that she met Patrick Stewart and then wept with joy. And so, like, me and Noah (ph) had, like, really built up calling her when I got the job. And we called her. And we were like, Mary's going to be on "Star Trek." And she was like, (imitating crying).


WISEMAN: And we brought her to set. And she got to, like, sit in the captain's chair. And she was like, (imitating crying). And she met, like, Sonequa and Jason and was, like, so nice to (imitating crying). And then she had - after we left, she said it felt like she was at church.


WISEMAN: ...Which is really cool, you know, to be a part of something that means that much to people. So that kind of has really given me a sense of what it means.

EISENBERG: OK, so yeah - absolutely. And are you - have you done, like, kind of conventions or cons where you are meeting...

WISEMAN: Yeah. We went to - I've been to, like...

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah.

WISEMAN: ...The international Comic-Con in San Diego. I went to the Fan Expo in Toronto, Comic-Con in New York. And most of that was before the show came out, so I kind of got to be a fly on the wall.


WISEMAN: You see a lot of really cool stuff. I saw a guy that was, like, dressed up as both Spock and a Lego.


WISEMAN: And I waved at him. And he kind of snubbed me. And I was like, you're going to regret that.


EISENBERG: Yes. That is the kind of attitude I love.

WISEMAN: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Now, there have been a lot of firsts on "Star Trek: Discovery." Can you tell us about them?

WISEMAN: (Laughter) I said [expletive]...


WISEMAN: ...For the first time in "Star Trek" history. You're welcome.



WISEMAN: So that's my legacy. I'm glad you appreciate it.

EISENBERG: Did you celebrate any of these milestones of making history?

WISEMAN: Yeah. I don't know. I don't think I even realized it. They get you to do a lot of stuff on "Star Trek" by saying it's the first time this is ever going to happen on "Star Trek."

EISENBERG: Oh, they prep - they get you all excited.

WISEMAN: They're like, yeah, you're going to say it. It's going to, like, you know, be a big breakthrough. I think they told my cast mates - and this never ended up happening, but they were like, you're going to be the first bare butt on "Star Trek."


WISEMAN: And he did it.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) OK, that's perfect. Are you ready for your ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?

WISEMAN: I'm so excited.

EISENBERG: OK - fantastic - Mary Wiseman, everybody.


EISENBERG: So you inadvertently kind of set this up. Mary, when we asked you about your areas of expertise, you said blockbuster film franchises and Shakespeare. Also because you were the first person to drop the F-bomb on "Star Trek," we have a quiz for you called Fill In The Bleep.

WISEMAN: OK (laughter).

EISENBERG: So we're going to play you a famous quote with one of the words bleeped out. And you just have to fill in the bleep.

WISEMAN: Oh, gosh. OK.

EISENBERG: It's easy. And if you do well enough, Wendy Dickerson (ph) from Columbus, Ohio, will win an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.

WISEMAN: OK. This is for you, Wendy.


EISENBERG: Let's start off with an easy one. From "Star Trek," it's Mr. Spock's famous catchphrase.


LEONARD NIMOY: (As Mr. Spock) Live long and [expletive].


WISEMAN: Prosper.

EISENBERG: That is correct. Yeah.


EISENBERG: Here's Katniss Everdeen...

WISEMAN: (Gasping).


WISEMAN: I love her.


EISENBERG: ...From "The Hunger Games."


JENNIFER LAWRENCE: (As Katniss Everdeen) I volunteer. I volunteer. I volunteer as [expletive].

WISEMAN: Tribute.

EISENBERG: That is correct. Yes.


EISENBERG: You love that series?

WISEMAN: I love her so much. She's the feminist anti-hero for the modern age.

EISENBERG: Yeah. This is Portia from the BBC's version of "The Merchant Of Venice."


GEMMA JONES: (As Portia) The quality of mercy is not [expletive].

WISEMAN: Strained.

EISENBERG: That is correct. Yeah.


EISENBERG: This is Galadriel in "Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring."


CATE BLANCHETT: (As Galadriel) One ring to (bleep) them all.


WISEMAN: One ring to rule them all...

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah.

WISEMAN: ...One ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness find them.


EISENBERG: We didn't know that we were hitting all of your favorite things.

WISEMAN: This is really - this goes really deep.

EISENBERG: So are you a big, like, fantasy, sci-fi...

WISEMAN: Yeah. I like to escape.


EISENBERG: Yeah. Who doesn't? I'm with you.


EISENBERG: All right. How about this? Here's Hagrid delivering news to Harry Potter.


ROBBIE COLTRANE: (As Rubeus Hagrid) You're a [expletive], Harry.

DANIEL RADCLIFFE: (As Harry Potter) I'm a what?

COLTRANE: (As Rubeus Hagrid) A [expletive]

WISEMAN: You're a wizard, Harry.

EISENBERG: Yeah. That is correct.


EISENBERG: Harry's like, what? He's like, a wizard - a wizard.

WISEMAN: Yeah. I said a wizard - wizard.


EISENBERG: This is Uncle Ben from "Spider-Man."


CLIFF ROBERTSON: (As Ben Parker) Remember, with great power comes great [expletive].


WISEMAN: Responsibility.

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah.


EISENBERG: This is your last clue. This is Juliet from the famous balcony scene in Zeffirelli's "Romeo And Juliet."


OLIVIA HUSSEY: (As Juliet Capulet) Oh, [expletive], [expletive]. Wherefore art thou, [expletive]?

WISEMAN: Oh, Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

EISENBERG: Yes, of course.


EISENBERG: I know the answer to this, but let's have some fun. Puzzle guru Cecil Baldwin, how did our special guest do?

BALDWIN: Congratulations, Mary. You and listener Wendy Dickerson each won an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube.

WISEMAN: Awesome.



WISEMAN: I love you, Wendy.

EISENBERG: "Star Trek: Discovery" is available on streaming service CBS All Access. Give it up for Mary Wiseman.


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