The first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is already underway, and season 2 is on the horizon. Melissa Navia stars as Erica Ortegas, the helmsman of the Enterprise. The journey to this role of a lifetime has been a long one, but it’s been worth it. Melissa has gone from submitting a self-tape in October 2020 to cementing herself in Star Trek history.
“What made the audition so wonderful was the writing was excellent. The character was fleshed out. I was one of the few main characters whose name, Erica Ortegas, remained,” Melissa told HollywoodLife. “Right from the bat, I knew who she was. She’s Latina, and I am as well. I was really happy to be able to play a character to who I can relate to in that way. She’s just so cool. She’s a highly skilled pilot. She’s a helmsman of the Enterprise as well as a veteran. She’s seen combat. She can handle a gun and also crack a joke. On one hand, I was just like, well, that’s great. She’s going to be in some ways comic relief, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure that the character wasn’t just comic relief, but was also just like in life, you have tragedy and comedy. That’s how I’ve approached the character… I could not have asked for a better role to come along.”
Melissa pointed out that one of the “many wonderful things” about Star Trek is that “anyone you speak to in some way has been touched by it, affected by it, loves it, has seen it.” While waiting to find out if she booked the role of Ortegas, Melissa tried watching “regular TV” of past and present.
“No matter what I watched, there was a Star Trek reference. No matter what genre. It didn’t matter. Star Trek was everywhere,” Melissa said. “When I was younger, my Star Trek was The Next Generation. I used to watch that. My favorite character… they’re all wonderful, but the guy had a bit of a crush on was Commander Riker, Jonathan Frakes, and we just got to work with him a couple of weeks ago. That’s not a spoiler at all. He’s directing one of our episodes for season 2. It’s just wild. People are now saying that Ortegas, my character, is like the Riker of the Strange New Worlds cast. My mind is blown.”
She continued, “As soon as you book a show like Star Trek, you suddenly discover all these things about your family and friends. I have a lot of Trekkies in my life I didn’t realize we’re Trekkies. In a lot of ways, this feels like it was a role that was meant to happen. I’m just so fortunate and glad to be able to bring this character to life.”
The first season of Strange New Worlds is in full swing, and there’s plenty of amazing Ortegas content ahead. “The wonderful thing about my character is you’re going to see everything in layers. You’re going to see things in Ortegas that you completely didn’t expect, and I cannot wait to see everyone’s reaction when that comes out,” Melissa teased.
The show was renewed for season 2 even before the first season premiered. Melissa admitted that the renewal is “definitely a weight off your shoulders.” The cast and crew aren’t wasting any time. They’re already hard at work on the second season.
For Melissa, she knows the impact Star Trek: Strange New Worlds can have on fans amidst the chaos of the real world. “There’s just a lot of dark things happening in our world every single day that, especially those of us with platforms we really need to be aware of and we need to speak on, but there’s just so much happening that is just so dark and so real and so part of our everyday lives. It’s wonderful to be able to be a part of this thing that people can be like, ‘I had a bad week and can’t wait to watch a new episode of Strange New Worlds.’ People are watching episodes multiple times, which is the best compliment you can get. It means you’ve done something right. It’s why we tell stories so that people can keep enjoying them over and over in new ways.” New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds drop Thursdays on Paramount+.