Seattle’s Mikayla Gingrey grew up watching episodes of Star Trek next to her mother — and as an adult, she may soon get to create episodes of her own.
Mikayla is one of two people selected in a nationwide search for The Television Academy Foundation’s "Star Trek Command Training Program," a 13-week paid internship that allows students to shadow the crew at CBS Television Studios.
For a fan of Star Trek and Afrofuturism (an aesthetic that draws from African cultures to inform Black-focused science fiction) the program is the culmination of her younger self's dreams. Now, Gingrey gets to work on her dreams of the future.
“I’m super interested in science fiction and its ability to build a brighter future,” says Gingrey, a Seattle native and graduate of Curtis Senior High School in University Place, WA. She recently earned a BA in Screenwriting with a minor in History and Political Science from Loyola Marymount University, fields that she hopes will serve her well in crafting stories for the politically complex Trek universes.
Of particular interest, she says, are authentic Black stories — and stories of Black joy. She can recall being delighted by the boundaries broken by early episodes of the series, including a Black woman in a position of respect and one of the first televised interracial kisses, which she watched in reruns with her mother.
“She’s a huge trekkie,” Gingrey says. “When I got this internship, she was probably more excited than me — we were jumping around doing happy dances. This is a dream come true.”
The franchise has always featured characters of color, from Nichelle Nichols to Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Dorn, Avery Brooks, and Roxann Dawson on Voyager. (It’s also had a few missteps, such as the appalling Next Generation episode “Code of Honor.”) In recent years, the character of Michael Burnham on Discovery has been hailed as one of the franchise’s strongest characters to date — Gingrey cites Burnham, a Black captain, as particularly inspiring, and hopes to meet actress Sonequa Martin-Green in the course of her internship. But she is also focused on learning from behind-the-camera crew as well, so that she can develop her own stories for the series.
“It would be amazing if I have the opportunity to meet [producer/director] Olatunde Osunsanmi,” she says. “I’d love to pick his brain about how he creates a vision for Star Trek.”
Her goal, she says, is to be a writer/producer. Though she’s only just started the internship, she’s already spent significant time learning about the writers’ room, studying how stories go from pitch to screen. At the end of the program, she’ll have an opportunity to pitch stories of her own — the details of which, she says, she can’t divulge. At least not yet. You’ll have to wait to see them on screen.
“The younger version of me would truly be absolutely floored” to see her now, she says. “I knew I wanted to be in film for such a long time. I think the younger version of me would definitely be proud of me to see I’m chasing my dreams and successfully doing it.”