Following Thursday’s appearance of Jaason Isaacs, Friday saw the second Star Trek: Discovery actor to appear at Star Trek Las Vegas with Rainn Wilson, and it was his first time at STLV too. The actor who stepped into the iconic role of Harry Mudd for two episodes during Discovery’s first season talked about why he wanted the job so badly. He also offered some clues about his upcoming Short Treks episode, gave some behind the scenes details for season one, and even talked a little Galaxy Quest.
Mudd Short Treks episode is going to get weird
At San Diego Comic-Con it was announced that this fall CBS All Access would begin running a series called Star Trek: Short Treks, which would be a series of short character-focused mini-episodes tied into Discovery. One of the Short Treks episodes will focus on the character of Harry Mudd, with Rainn Wilson reprising the role and directing the episode.
At STLV, Wilson said that he wasn’t too sure about the project when he was first approached by Discovery producers, but changed his mind when he saw the “fantastic” script, which he revealed was written by one writers for the hit cult sci-fi animated series Rick and Morty. Here is how Wilson described his Short Treks episode:
It is very funny and weird. You see some alien situations you have never seen before in the Star Trek canon, and I am thrilled.
When asked how it ties into the timeline of his previous two episodes from Discovery, Wilson replied:
I am assuming it is after [“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”], but it stands alone. It doesn’t really tie into the Discovery, so I am not sure.
Wilson said that even though he directed a number of episodes of The Office, working on Star Trek was more intricate since it involves special effects. He has been paired up with a story board artist and described the process thus:
I am learning a ton. I feel really privileged to be able to do it. I think the fans are just going to love this.
Star Trek was a dream come true
Getting the job on Star Trek was something Wilson actively persued, as he is a self-described “huge Trekkie,” telling the crowd he asked his agent to reach out to the producers of the show after it was initially announced. There was a meeting set up early on as the show was in development, but the producers told him that he wasn’t a fit for any of the series regulars. Wilson said getting asked later to come and play Harry Mudd was “literally my dream come true.”
Wilson also described how he especially nerded out shooting his second episode because he was able to shoot a phaser, get transported and sit in the Captain’s chair. He was particularly proud to be the only non-Captain to ever record a Captain’s Log in Star Trek, which he said was his idea.
Rebooting Mudd with an edge, but still funny
Wilson talked about the approach to “reboot” the character of Harry Mudd for Discovery. He had high praise for the original actor to play the part, Roger C. Carmel, but also noted that the show needed a different approach:
I talked a lot to the writers about what the Star Trek: Discovery universe was. It is a time of war with the Klingons, and it is much darker, and it needs to reflect our modern times…We talked a little bit about the role that Harry Mudd would play and what he is up to and I knew I had to bring a kind of edge to him, that hadn’t been in the character previously, in order to make him fit in. If you took Roger Carmel and put him into Discovery it wouldn’t work.
He found it exciting to play a character that was “part villain and part comic relief,” also noting “Discovery could use a little laughter. It is just so damn serious all the time.” As a fan, Wilson said he always liked how “humor has always been a part” of Star Trek. Later during the Q&A Wilson confirmed that he was allowed to improvise a lot during the shooting of his two episodes, adding he was glad the show allowed him to use what he sees as one of his strengths.
When a fan suggested that his Mudd was actually from the Mirror Universe, Wilson dismissed the notion, but he did note he “sure would love to meet the Mirror Universe Harry Mudd. He would just be a mean bastard. He would f–k you up.”
High praise for Sullivan for “Magic” rewrite
Wilson talked at length about life on the set for his two episode. His first day on the job for Discovery was “a little intimidating and overwhelming,” especially as he was thrown right into a scene without rehearsal with Jason Isaacs, adding how he had to be on the top of his game to “go toe-to-toe” Isaacs. The actor also noted that at first it was “tricky” to find the “voice” of his version of Mudd, who had a more flowery way of speaking, especially compared to other characters within Discovery
Regarding his second episode, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” Wilson revealed he had to think fast on his feet as the script that was shot was “completely different” than the script he was given the week before production started. However, he also had high praise for writer and co-executive producer (and not the credited writer for the episode) Ted Sullivan for making it work, saying:
It was pretty early on in the series and there had been some writer turnover. They were really finding their sea legs as a series. So, a lot of it was scrapped and rewritten at the last minute, or the three or four days before we starting shooting, there was a mammoth rewrite on that Mudd stuff.
I just want to give a shout-out to a very special writer on the current staff named Ted Sullivan. He is really something. He flew in from LA and he really helped me a lot, with the character and with the plotting. The directors were great as well, but he is a great resource in the Star Trek universe. I really enjoyed working with him. I think he really got Harry Mudd’s voice and he is a great asset to that writer’s room.
Galaxy Quest flashbacks
Rainn Wilson noted when he got on stage at Star Trek Las Vegas that it was “like Galaxy Quest come to life,” referring to the 1999 parody/homage to Star Trek, which was also his first job as an actor in a feature film. He was particularly impressed to see some cosplayers as Thermians, like his character from Galaxy Quest. Later on he joked he was “having flashbacks” to the movie and how he was expecting a space ship to crash into the convention, as it did in the film.