Ming-Na to Play a Lesbian on “Stargate Universe”

Ming-NaFollowing on the heels of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, the latest Stargate series — Stargate Universe, or SGU — will include the franchise’s first lesbian cast member: political attaché Camille Wray, played by veteran Chinese-American actress Ming-Na Wen (pictured, right).

The franchise began with the 1994 feature film Stargate, and has since spawned three live-action series, an animated series (Stargate Infinity), video games (Stargate Worlds), novels, and comics.

The Stargate universe is one in which soldiers and scientists from contemporary Earth interact with alien races possessing far superior technology via a top-secret Stargate (pictured below) that utilizes wormholes to quickly transport people and objects to cosmic locations far away.

Here’s the official description of the new series from Sci Fi channel’s press release about the series in February:

Edgier and younger in tone, SGU will take the franchise in a dynamic new direction, appealing to longtime Stargate fans and first-time viewers alike.

SGU follows a band of soldiers, scientists and civilians, who must fend for themselves as they are forced through a Stargate when their hidden base comes under attack. The desperate survivors emerge aboard an ancient ship, which is locked on an unknown course and unable to return to Earth.

Faced with meeting the most basic needs of food, water and air, the group must unlock the secrets of the ship’s Stargate to survive. The danger, adventure and hope they find on board the Destiny will reveal the heroes and villains among them.

In addition to Ming-Na (who professionally uses only her first name now), the series also stars Lou Diamond Phillips and Robert Carlyle.

Ming-Na got her acting start with a role on As the World Turns, but got her first big break with a critically acclaimed performance in The Joy Luck Club (1993). She went on to star on ER (NBC) from 1995 to 2004 as Dr. Jing-Mei “Deb” Chen, and more recently starred in the short-lived 2006 series Vanished (Fox) with Gale Harold.

Ming-Na on Vanished, left, and ER

She voices Disney’s heroine in the Mulan movies, and has done voice-over work for several other movies including Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

Stargate‘s Camille will be the first Asian American lesbian on a primetime broadcast or basic cable show, and one of only a few Asian American lesbian or bisexual characters ever on primetime American TV.

The first Asian American bisexual character was Lindsay Price as quasi-bisexual Jane on the extremely short-lived 2003 American version of the British comedy Coupling (NBC). Biracial actress Michaela Conlin (of Chinese and Irish descent) currently plays a bisexual character on Bones (Fox). Biracial actress Sonja Sohn (of Korean-American and African-American descent) played a lesbian character on The Wire (HBO) for five seasons, from 2002 to 2008.

L to R: Price on Coupling, Sohn on The Wire, and Conlin on Bones

Camille is so far likely to be one of only two lesbian series regulars of any race or ethnicity on American TV next season, since there are currently none on primetime TV right now. (Jessica Capshaw‘s Dr. Arizona Robbins will be the other one, if she becomes a series regular on Grey’s Anatomy next season as rumored).

Producers for Stargate Universe are currently casting for Camille’s longtime partner Sharon, who reportedly may become a recurring guest on the series, indicating that we may see the lives of the people the crew left behind, as well as those stranded on the other side of the Stargate.

Fan site Gateworld.com reports that viewers will meet Sharon in the show’s seventh episode, “Life,” when Camille uses a long-range communications device to return home to Sharon for a brief respite.

In the casting sides we’ve seen, the couple is portrayed very naturally and affectionately — talking, making dinner, and sharing a kiss.

Stargate Universe will premiere on the Sci Fi channel in October.