For years Sonequa Martin-Green, the former Walking Dead star and current captain on Star Trek: Discovery, heard the same rumors we all did. Rumors that NBA superstar LeBron James was going to take the mantle left by Michael Jordan and make another Space Jam for Warner Bros. That talk had been floating around since 2012—and now that Space Jam: A New Legacy is here and she’s in it, the actress is excited beyond belief, but also reflective of how long the journey took.
“I had heard those rumblings too, and... I was really interested in how they were going to modernize the story,” Martin-Green told io9 on a recent video call. “Because [the original] was obviously perfect for 1996 but so much has changed. And I wondered about that. Even when I had the blessing of coming on board—once I got over the overwhelmingness and the freakout and my mind being blown and just so grateful to God for it—I did wonder how will it be modernized and how will audiences today take it in. But I am pleased to say that I think it was modernized to near-perfection. It did everything that it needed to do to be nostalgic and be connected to the original, but also be its own thing, have its own identity and speak to people today in 2021.”
In Space Jam: A New Legacy, Martin-Green plays Kamiyah James, the fictional wife of LeBron James (who, as you may know, is a real person) and mother to three kids, one of whom will get sucked into a computer-generated world called the Warner Bros. Serververse. There, LeBron will team up with the Looney Tunes to play against the world’s creator, AI G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle) to get his son back, all while his wife and kids are a literal captive audience. That means not only was Martin-Green on set to watch James play in this high stakes game of Space Jam, she ended up standing alongside Warner Bros. characters like Batman, Catwoman, the Jetsons, and the Flintstones. Some of them were on set in costume, but most were added in CGI later.
“I was geeking out over the script. I was so happy about it,” she said when asked about the film’s cameos. “I remember telling my husband, I remember telling my sister like, ‘Oh my goodness. you are going to love what they’ve done with this.’ I think that they were entrusted with [the Warner Bros. legacy] and I think that they succeeded with flying colors. I really do.” And she’s not just saying that because she’s in the movie, though that is probably part of it. Martin-Green is a legitimate fan of the original Space Jam. “It was a big deal in my home,” she said. “I grew up with that film. I really, really loved it. We loved Michael Jordan in my house. We loved all things MJ and Chicago Bulls and all that good stuff. So Space Jam was a big deal to me.”
What was also a big deal was working with James, a man whose worldwide reach and celebrity overshadows most human beings on the planet, not just actors. “I had never seen someone like that operate in their day to day life,” Martin-Green said. “He has so many things set up around him in order to ensure his success and I had never seen that before. So it was actually really inspiring to see everything that is in place that he has determined is necessary to be the champion that he is. So that was very different for me to see that and witness that firsthand.”
As fans, we’ve witnessed firsthand the rise of Martin-Green as a fan favorite sci-fi superstar. From Tamara on Once Upon a Time, to Sasha on The Walking Dead, to Captain Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery, she carved out an admirable niche for herself long before hanging out with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. A niche that wasn’t specifically planned, but ended up working out nevertheless.
“I didn’t think I would be in the sci-fi genre, and especially not for this long,” she said. “I did not imagine that or expect that. But I love this genre and I have come to love this genre so much because I feel that it ends up being so integral to people taking in the themes of the movie or the TV show, whatever it might be. I think that having these circumstances that are so hyper-realistic, those kind of fantastical circumstances to believe in, causes you to suspend your disbelief in such a way that the themes of the movie or the TV show can really get into your heart or your subconscious. That’s true of sci-fi for sure and that’s what I love about it. You can really tell some stories and really get strong, important messages across through these fantastic circumstances.”
You can get more of those messages in Space Jam: A New Legacy. It opens in theaters, and on HBO Max, July 16. Star Trek: Discovery returns with season four later this year on Paramount+.
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