Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Paul Stamets of the CBS All Access series "Star Trek: Discovery." (Credit: James Dimmock, CBS)

With the sound of a distress signal, the mysterious appearance of seven red signals and the enigmatic Red Angel and the reemergence of Spock, season 2 of "Star Trek: Discovery" promises to be a riveting one when it returns to CBS All Access (download for iOS and Android) on January 17.

While actor Anthony Rapp, who plays Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on the sci-fi series, promised that fans can expect plenty of the exciting action sequences that the "Star Trek" franchise is famous for, he said there'll also be quieter moments of moral and ethical exploration and discussion. He's particularly grateful for the reflective time his character, who lost his lover Dr. Hugh Culber (played by Wilson Cruz) at the end of last season, will gain.

SEE: Top Star Trek apps for streaming and games

"My character finally gets to have time and space to deal with the aftermath of the loss of Hugh," said Rapp, best known for originating the role of Mark Cohen in the stage and screen versions of the Tony-winning rock opera "Rent" and for turns in such iconic films as "Dazed and "Confused" and "A Beautiful Mind." "At the end of season one, everything was so hectic and the stakes were so high in terms of just surviving the situation that he didn't have the time or space to really settle in or experience the loss. I think it gets explored really well here, so I'm very grateful that the writers have given me that opportunity to play some of that."

This is the kind of material that the actor who tragically lost his mother to cancer in his mid-20's as he was blowing up on Broadway is particularly sensitive to. Rapp opened up about his struggle to balance his career responsibilities with his familial ones during his mother's cancer battle in his 2006 book, "Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent," which he later adapted into a solo stage show.

"Anything that deals with loss and grief and moving through that process is really meaningful to me," Rapp said. "If it's not done right, it makes me really mad, so I was very pleased that I felt very well taken care of by what the writers had given me to do with that. I was so satisfied with the emotional content of each episode, so richly conceived and executed by the producers."

It was the "brilliant, quality writing" of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" -- not just the bang, bang, pew, pew, pew and swollen-headed aliens so often associated with science fiction -- that really turned the actor onto the franchise in the first place. It's the human stories that are compelling and resonant and make you delve deeper into the greater themes of what it means to be alive that he said "Star Trek: Discovery" aspires toward.

He finds his Lieutenant Commander Stamets character -- a brilliant scientist with little time for mediocrity or pussyfooting around issues, who's willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of the greater good -- equally inspiring.

Rapp, who, in 2017, came forward and accused actor Kevin Spacey of sexual misconduct and continues to be a tireless fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, told that he can relate to his character's drive to "do the right thing."

He also spoke about amplifying important causes on Twitter, which apps he turns to to search for the right words and which app could save civilization.

What's the one app that you use the most?

One of them is OpenTable (download for iOS and Android). I'm a foodie and I really rely on the app, especially with all the traveling I do. Especially if I'm traveling on tour, it's led me to some really great restaurants around the country.

I use Twitter (download for iOS and Android) and Instagram (download for iOS and Android) for interacting with fans and sharing things with people. The kind of activism I get involved with, Twitter is the platform where I retweet and amplify things that are important to me and engage with fans.

What's the last app you downloaded?

I was just on vacation with extended family and they were all playing a word search app that I had never seen before, and that got me on a rabbit hole of different word game apps that have been really fun and helped exercise my brain.

They all have similar names, but there's Word Search Puzzles (download for iOS and Android), Wordscapes (download for iOS and Android) and Word Town (download for iOS and Android).

When you wake up in the morning, what are the first apps you look at?

I look at my Mac email and iMessage apps. Those are the first apps I open just to make sure that I haven't missed any communication with friends, family and business folks.

If you could invent your own app, what would it do?

I use Goodreads (download for iOS and Android) to keep track of my reading, but there are aspects of the app that are not user friendly, so something that can curate my books, my video games, my TV and movie library and watching in a way that makes it that much easier to track the progress I've made and my queues. That would be an entertainment catalog/productivity app.

If there was an app that could save civilization, what would it be?

It would filter out fake news.

Are you an Android or Apple user? Why?

I've been a Mac user since I first had a computer many years ago and I just find the interface really appealing and feel at home with it. I also like the blend of design and utility -- that utility isn't sacrificed and they can stand side by side.

"Star Trek: Discovery" returns for 14 episodes on CBS All Access (CBS All Access is owned by CBS,'s parent company), on January 17 at 5:30 p.m. PT and 8:30 p.m. ET.

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(Credit: James Dimmock, CBS)

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Joshua is an editor for CNET's He covers the mobile tech and apps that power our lives and interviews celebrities about their favorite apps. Previously, he worked as an editor at Healthline and and as a contributing writer for Mac Directory, MacAddict, SF Weekly, SF Examiner, and SF Chronicle.