Interview: Ethan Peck and Anson Mount On Becoming Spock And Pike On ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

Ethan Peck and Anson Mount at NYCC Star Trek: Discovery press roundtable

After the Star Trek: Discovery panel at New York Comic Con, TrekMovie had a chance to talk with the cast and executive producers at roundtable interviews in the press room, where they elaborated on some of what they’d said in the panel about the character arcs (for both new and returning characters) and stories coming in season two. We’ll be rolling more of them out throughout the week; here’s our interview with two of the show’s newest cast members.

Ethan Peck (Spock) and Anson Mount (Christopher Pike) were teamed up to talk about what it’s like playing such well-known characters, the Trek history that affects their acting choices, and the stories coming our way in season two. Not only that, Peck demonstrated one very specific Spock-like ability for our camera. Watch the full video below the interview.

Do you feel pressure taking on such iconic Star Trek roles?

Mount: I’ve been deflating this question for six tables. Feeling that kind of pressure is not useful to me as an actor. Not that I don’t respect the canon. And not that I don’t do my homework and respect what has come before me. But I can’t be working efficiently and at my top game worrying about what other people think about me, or are going to think about me. I guess I’ve just gotten to the point in my life where I don’t give a f–k? Unless it’s my wife or my mother that I’m talking to.

Peck: I admire you, Captain. Yeah – to me it seemed like it was an impossible task. But I’ve been chosen to do it, and … the night before I found out, I was like, “Should I do this?” Like, this could change my life in a way that’s irreversible, and that’s very scary too on a personal level. And as an actor I’ve never had more responsibility, never been more challenged. But I’ve been chosen for a reason, and you gotta start someplace, and I was chosen for what I brought to the room in the very beginning, which I can’t talk too much about where he’s at, but I don’t start as the Spock we know in the original series. And in no way would I ever try to imitate Nimoy, because what they created on that series was so special. And we will honor that all the way through.

What was the very first scene you each filmed?

Peck: The one you see in the trailer, where I’m lying down, that was my first shot as Spock. They really eased me into Spock. Unconscious Spock, I could handle that. (laughs)

Mount: Mine was like a three-page soliloquy.

Spock unconscious in the Star Trek: Discovery season 2 trailer

Ethan Peck’s first scene as Spock was not terribly demanding

Ethan, can you raise your eyebrow?

Peck: Of course. Both!

Did “The Cage” inform your performances as Pike and Spock?

Mount: Not as much as “The Menagerie.” The sacrifices that Spock makes, his willingness to put everything on the line to do something for Pike, that definitely informs the relationship.

Peck: Yeah, I think “The Cage” was more – it was definitely important to me – but I think it was definitely more informing for the writers.

Spock of “The Cage” was still rough around the edges

Later on, Spock will risk his career (and life) for an injured Captain Pike

Will we see Captain Pike on the USS Enterprise, before he takes over the Discovery?

Mount: Maybe you will, and maybe you won’t.

What is the dynamic like between Pike and Number One?

Mount: Well I can’t say much, but I can say that maybe you’re going to see that relationship get fleshed out a little bit more, and maybe you’re not.

What is Pike’s relationship like with Saru?

Mount: Well .. Pike has never encountered a Kelpien before. You’re not just meeting a being, you’re meeting a being that’s trying to figure out his place in all of this. And depending upon how that character handles that journey is going to determine my relationship to that character. How I utilize him, how I approach him. And Saru goes through a lot of changes. Doug wasn’t just paying lip service, he goes through some very profound changes this season. So the relationship, and my way of encountering has to sort of fluctuate with him.

An awkward handshake between Pike and Saru

Ethan, can you tell us about meeting the Nimoy family?

Peck: Oh man, so I grew up in L.A., and the Nimoys did as well, Adam and Julie. And I wanted to speak with them and CBS set up a meeting between us at the Sportsmen’s Lodge, which is in Studio City, and I went to Harvard Westlake [elementary school], which is up the street, and we had, like, our football banquet at the Sportsmen’s Lodge, so it was just like … very nostalgic and surreal, because I had just found out that I had gotten the role, and here I was driving over the 405 like, “I’m gonna go meet with the Nimoys!” Like I couldn’t wake myself up to that fact. And they were just so warm, and curious. And I watched the documentaries they each made, For The Love of Spock and Remembering Leonard Nimoy, and they gave me signed copies of those, and were just very kind of calm, and interested, and I was like, “Do you have any advice?” And they were like, “Just watch the original series” and they basically told me to be curious, which was the best advice I could have gotten. Because Spock was so observant, right, and so I felt I really had to find something and really scrounge for something without having heard the obvious, so it was a great gift to me with them. And they made me feel worthy.

Anson, what happened when you met Chris Hunter?

Mount: Chris Hunter, who’s Jeffrey Hunter’s son, came all the way to San Diego Comic-Con just to tell me that his father would have approved, which was like … my god. That, and the fact that when I first joined Star Trek, everybody kept saying, “Welcome to the family, welcome to the family.” I was like, “Wow, that’s a mantra that has caught on.” And then I went to the Star Trek convention in Vegas. And all the fans were saying that. And I was like, “Oh. Oh.” And Vegas was so much more chill. The convention was so much more chill than anything I could have imagined, that it really is a kind of extended family. That’s what I really love about this series and this fan base.

Watch the full interview

More from NYCC

There is more to come from our post-panel interviews, plus details from the panel itself in our coverage of New York Comic Con. So stay tuned.

Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else. The second season will debut on All Access and Space on Thursday, January 17th, 2019, and on Netflix January 18th.

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 13th.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news here at TrekMovie.

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You know, I had never noticed before that Pike went from having black hair in The Cage, to blonde in The Menagerie.

Scotty in TWOK: “It’s … the ra-di-a-tion … ” (in this case, delta rays, right?)

I think the radiation would have made all his hair fall out.

or gave him superpowers

That’s funny, given that they were ‘delta’ rays and Deltans are mostly hairless. Have to assume Stewart and Sinead O’Connor were also hit by them.

Remember when just about everyone pilloried O’Connor for daring to suggest that a Certain Organization might not be on the up-and-up where it came to its sexual abuse of children? Good times.

Her career died for THEIR sins. How ‘righteous’ is that?

I think they were trying to dye Sean Kenney’s hair gray but instead turned out blonde. Couldn’t get it right.

It probably would’ve looked white/grey on the old tvs. HD really doesn’t do Fred Phillips’ makeup dept any favours.

It did look white. Yes, I remember Trek on my black & white TV! It was still great even without the amazing colors.

Blonde? No, whitened from radiation.

As long as it wasn’t from age — Mendez says Pike was about Kirk’s age!

Recall Peter Graves was blonde, but the lighting made his hair appear white in MI.

That line always seemed WAY off to me; Pike is supposed to be about Kirk’s age (early to mid 30s), and this is years AFTER he commanded the E for 11 or 13 years? When did they give him the ship, as a going away present when he left the academy? (oops, that was AbramsKirk.)

There’s a goof along these lines in one of the Bond books that suggests he got his first Bentley automobile in the early 1930s, when he couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11. And that was pre-HotWheels!

Yeah, Pike had to have been Kirk’s senior by at least a decade or so. Not that it’s all that big of a deal; I always took Mendez’ statement as more of a generic “young man cut down his prime” moment than anything else.

Just curious but did nobody think to ask about a potential Pike/Enterprise spin off series or was there an embargo on certain questions?

Since the producers have their hands more than full with the new Picard series, not to mention trying to get DSC on an even keel after a rough first season, the likely answer to such a question is pretty obvious, so why bother? A more interesting question for Mount might have been if knowing Pike’s ultimate fate had affected any of the choices he made as an actor.

It’s pretty obvious that everybody involved in these productions is kept on a tight leash in terms of what they are allowed to say but we can sometimes glean a lot from non commital or vague answers. Much like Patrick Stewart sent the internet into a frenzy when he said that he may soon have cause to check out Discovery or when Kurtzman’s no comment made it abundantly obvious that he was developing a Picard show. Regardless, I didn’t ask why Trekmovie didn’t ask for the actors feelings about doing a spin off series I asked why nobody did. Mount makes it clear that this was his 6th round table interview in succession, if him or Peck had expressed any interest in doing an Enterprise based series there would be an article about it somewhere and it would be picked up by other media outlets as well. I’m just curious, did nobody not think to ask or were they given instructions not to discuss other spin offs that may or may not be in development.

Okay, thanks for the clarification.

No problem Michael.

I commented on a post on twitter that a Pike’s Enterprise show would be a great spin-off idea and Anson Mount gave my comment a like. Something could be happening.

There’s certainly an interest in it from the fans and CBS seem to have cast people that are capable of carrying their own show. It feels a lot like how Marvel/Netflix tested the water for a Punisher series by showcasing the character in season 2 of Daredevil. Maybe more of us should be suggesting it on Twitter!

Same here

As Fats Waller said, “One never knows, do one?”

Zachary Quinto met Leonard Nimoy in the elevator going to their panel where his casting as Spock in the reboot was going to be announced. Quinto said that Leonard turned to him and said, “Kid, you have NO idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

It sounds like Peck DOES have some idea what he’s gotten himself into. :-) And that’s good, because we Trek fans can be very, um, passionate. :-P

Bring this all on… Spock’s treatment of Pike in “Menagerie” is a defining “Spock” moment for sure.

One of the best uses to which the character was ever put, IMO. Nimoy certainly thought so.

Agreed. Risking the death penalty to improve his former captain’s life … Spock is such a noble creature.

I recall reading a very old Newsweek review of TOS — on microfiche, no less! — which cited this particular episode at the time it originally aired. The author wrote favorably about the plot and Nimoy’s performance, but stated that he thought the story was essentially a betrayal of the character in the end since Spock’s motives in aiding Pike turned out to be entirely human. I think he missed the point, but I still gave him credit for taking the show as seriously as he did, and on its own terms, when it was still something that was very, very new.

Interesting. I agree that the writer missed the point, since Spock’s claiming to be Vulcan while showing flashes of humanity IS a big part of the character. It’s nice that somebody at Newsweek cared enough to take it seriously, though.

In his essay about TOS, Norman Spinrad said, “Over and over again, Spock surrendered to human emotions against his will, but almost always when those emotions represented human virtues like loyalty, empathy and compassion rather than vices.” Yep. And that’s part of what makes him so compelling.

When Kirk eulogizes him as “… the most … human,” he is speaking of Spock’s exemplary qualities,”loyalty, empathy and compassion” [per Spinrad] … Spock’s moments of humanity were ones Kirk himself may have aspired to.

@AJinMoscow — One which is never explained. Did Spock do this entirely on his own? Was he influenced by the Talosians who appear to have no limits to their psychic abilities? Did he contact the Talosians? Did he have prior interaction with the Talosians? How did anyone in StarFleet justify his actions, despite the outcome (anyone complaining about Burnam really hasn’t been paying attention)? How do we know they can’t still use Vena and Pike to restart a human colony to do the Talosians bidding?

I realize all these questions miss the point of the story, but if this were real world they would mater greatly.

I think the script actually makes it fairly clear at the end that the whole kidnap/trial scenario was something that Spock and the Talosians had worked-out beforehand. Their abilities evidently can operate across light years of space, and he’s a natural telepath, so why not?

But, sure. At the end of the day it’s just two hours of television, with many elements of the story elided or glossed-over. But it’s a great two hours of television.

His devotion set the mold for his character’s willingness to sacrifice everything for Kirk as well. I’d love to see a show in which we get to see Pike’s and Spock’s command relationship born, one developing into total trust, that develops into such deep respect that Spock was about to chuck his entire career to take Pike to where he could feel free, and loved.

Perhaps THIS thing on DSC is supposed to deliver on that to a degree, since they’re presumably setting out to rescue Spock from whatever thing he has gotten into while also solving the whatsis mysterything.

Geez, if I’d known all I’d have to do to even get an audition for Spock was be the grandson of a Hollywood legend…

Would mean anybody with the last name of Westmore would be a lock, y’think?

Well, that probably helped open the door, but Gregory Peck was famous for his commanding voice, height, and dark hair. So if his grandson has that, and as Mount said, “the talent to back it up,” then those are all great qualities to bring to Spock. Casting Ethan Peck almost makes me wonder what Star Trek would have been like with Gregory Peck as Spock. I think that role would have fit him pretty well.

I could see Peck more as Sarek. When Peck got emotional, his work suffers, which is why I can’t get through MOBY DICK and find BOYS FROM BRAZIL to be an unintentional hoot when he’s onscreen, and why I am always finding the HORNBLOWER film a disappointment, because I can’t connect with the guy, even though I should be able to (and certainly did in the three best novels, which are the source material for the film.)

But when Peck maintains an even strain, he is very very effective, which suggest full-Vulcan more than Spock, whose emotional moments are supposed to engaging rather than disturbing. (that might also fuel my complaints about most actors who have played any kind of Vulcan — that they don’t connect with me as a viewer. Whatever criticisms I have of Nimoy, I have to admit that he delivered a full characterization that proved compelling, even if I do like Kirk and McCoy more.)

You’re right; the “even strain” Peck, while often a compelling performer, strikes me as just too laid-back to play Spock. (Based on what we’ve seen thus far I fear that I might have a similar issue with Anson Mount’s take on Christopher Pike, who was much more angry and disaffected than he was Kirk-likable.) The other actor who was famously considered for the role, Martin Landau, conversely always struck me as just too intense to play Spock at the time, though as he dialed that back in later years I really came to appreciate his work as an actor.

Also agreed about the vast majority of actors who have put on the pointed ears over the decades and played their roles all too often as affect-less, unemotional, downright unlikable drones. For the most part, they’ve been awful. Robert Foxworth in particular, who can be a fine actor on occasion (and did well as the unemotional android Questor), was just excruciatingly bad.

Foxworth did the ear thing? I only remember him as a DS9 human.

This may be kind of out-there, but I think another component that works against actors being successful as Vulcans in more recent years revolves around how films are made. There is much more use of diffuse or soft light, so actors often don’t display a certain ‘gleam’ in their eye, and when a performance is constrained by other factors (like being a Vulcan), taking away that gleam for key moments is akin for an actor to losing a few toes for a runner, or worse. I think Nimoy’s ‘gleam’ really helped with the human connection to the character, but think that by the 90s, that was already being lost to newer more ‘realistic’ lighting approaches that undercut what I think of as almost mandatory stylistic excess that elevated TOS to what it was.

Kinda estoric, I know, but it’s my thought for the day. Now back to work writing about BUMBLEBEE and THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (only point of overlap I know of on those is Orson Welles doing a voice for the old TRANSFORMERS cartoon movie.)

He played a Vulcan official in the trio of ENT episodes where Archer teams up with with Surak’s ghost — ahem, katra — to restore to that venerable race its IDIC-mojo, a premise that makes me grind my teeth to this very day. At the conclusion, Foxworth’s character is in fact revealed to actually be a Romulan operative, something that any Vulcan over the age of five should have easily deduced, as he snarls, bugs his eyes, and does everything but $hit the carpet to demonstrate what a not-nice person he is. Really, it was painful to watch. Sadly, Joanna Cassidy, who of course will live forever in our hearts as the replicant snake-dancer Zhora, and who actually had some real chemistry with Foxworth in their time together on Six Feet Under, doesn’t come off much better. Vulcans are hard.

Surak’s ghost — it sounds like an exclamation Rickman’s character would utter in GALAXY QUEST! (the katra is out of the bag, I guess!) I had no idea about these casting bits! Have occasionally flirted with trying to watch some ENT episodes beyond most of the first season I lasted for, plus MIRROR DARKLY and at least a couple of the Weller ones, but now may-be not …

Always really dug Cassidy, honestly think she might have been better than Sarandon for THELMA AND LOUISE and wonder if that factored into her not sticking with Scott. When they were first talking about a MAG 7 remake in the early 90s, I was really hoping she’d be one of the team, she struck me as somebody who’d look great in western duds.

“Enterprise” Season 4, the Syrannite Vulcan 3-parter. That Vulcan was crazy as a bedbug.

And that is very interesting about lighting, focus, and the “gleam.” That is why I always thought Spock had a sense of humor. His eyes wouldn’t quite twinkle, but there was a flash of amusement at certain times.

But Foxworth was anything but emotionless. He was a very angry Vulcan. Not scripted super well, and yes, a bit hammily acted.

When I read that, I was thinking of Will Ferrell saying, “he’s an ANGRY elf.” Ruined me for the hour!

Nope, that’s not all. He studied theater at NYU for four years, has a black belt in karate, starred in several movies, and was a regular on a couple of TV shows.

In other words, he’s probably more famous than Leonard Nimoy was when HE was cast as Spock. :-)

I’ve never heard of him before now. I’m sure he’s a fine actor.

I also studied theatre for four years of university. I did not, however, have family connections to the industry that allowed me access to the best agents so I could build a resume.

Anyone who has chosen to pursue theatre into post-secondary education is generally a talented individual. I fully admit I’m sucking some sour grapes (mostly tongue-in-cheek).

I had, as no one will recall, “auditioned” for Spock back in the spring. I put myself on video and shared it around all the pertinent social media accounts. I’m very much the same “type” as young Mr. Peck, so I thought it would be fun to try to catch the producer’s attention.

(I will say, hopefully with no conceit, that there is nothing Mr. Peck has that I do not in terms of talent or skill. If you’ve been through a classical theatre program/conservatory, you’re going to come out the other end well-prepared to do the job.)

I failed. I didn’t even receive a “thanks for watching” or “that was ballsy” acknowledgment. So that tells me it went entirely unnoticed. What could I expect, though? The entertainment industry is what it is. No one has to like it, but you do have to accept it in the end.

This is all I was referencing in my original post (which you must read with a hint of detached sarcasm). I wasn’t disparaging the new Mr. Spock’s talents in any way.

They should have asked the obvious questions like if he could do the Vulcan salute and the Vulcan Nerve Pinch?

I don’t really blame Mount for not trying to emulate an actor who showed up in one episode in an unaired pilot from 50 years ago. I don’t even understand why anyone feel he would have to emulate him much since we don’t know much about Pike outside of that one episode and his character is based several years after that episode. So he should play him any way he wants.

Clearly that’s what Bruce Greenwood did for his version of Pike in the Kelvin movies and no one seemed remotely bothered he didn’t tried to be like Hunter in any way. He played him like a different character entirely and was one of the best things about those films.

As for Peck, it’s the complete opposite lol. I mean he should be free to play Spock differently from Nimoy but he knows everyone will probably expect him to play close to that as much as possible. But you can’t help it when that character is so known and iconic. I mean there are people here discussing his lips should be a different color or something. I did read on another site where he said he’s been studying Nimoy as Spock to get down as many ticks as he can but not try to be exactly like him either which is probably the best way to go.

I don’t disagree, at least not entirely. “The Cage” depicts Pike at the point where he’s seriously questioning his life choices, and he’s presumably in a happier place by the time of the events depicted on DSC. Still, the TOS Pike had an interesting edge, and if Mount has chosen to forego that in favor of likability I hope at least that he and the writers found something to put in its place.

Mount has a serious dose of early-TommyLeeJones affability that served him very well on the western series (how many ‘quest’ shows have ended their first season with the hero killing the wrong guy? His sincere performance helped keep me from quitting the show several times during the run.) It makes me think that his Pike might be more of a ‘country Kirk’ … or that he was only going to seem Hunteresque in scenes where he is with just his E crew, which is possible, since this group ain’t his family.

It also occurs to me that maybe folks who don’t like DSC s2 or Mount’s performance should probably be preparing memes of DeltaRayPike flashing twice for ‘no’ over and over again. Then again, I’m the guy who was on four deadlines this week and still found he had to spend precious minutes jotting down spoof lyrics for SKYFALL (at the sky mall/you can buy all) and SPECTRE (the writing’s on my balls) instead of buckling down to write about Orson Welles’ last movie and the next Transformers flick.

OTOH, it’s definitely possible to go too far in the opposite direction from bland affability. Back in 2009 I was working in upstate New York on the never-released New Voyages episode “Origins.” Late one night they were rehearsing a scene where Pike dresses-down Young Kirk, and I wouldn’t be surprised if residents could hear that actor screaming all the way across town.

Is there a story about that ORIGINS ep worth relating?

Yes— and apparently the mods didn’t like me telling it. :-(

No prob, figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

I doubt Mount would jettison any “edge” the character might have. I have to confess, whenever I see “The Cage,” I think Pike’s whining is some of the clumsiest exposition ever.

I loved Greenwood as Pike. More like a real captain. A little brisk, businesslike, with a sense of humor. [Like I hope Prime Lorca will be, should we ever see him.]

I don’t agree at all about Pike as portrayed in “The Cage,” obviously, but have no real issues with Greenwood’s interpretation of the character either. (In fact it’s one of the very few things about Trek 2009 I don’t have a serious issue with.)

Ethan Peck is killer hot. Just, FYI :)

I was just about to say it myself.

Why did they have to meet the children of Nimoy and Hunt? To receive their blessings? That’s ridiculous. What has the son of Jeffrey Hunter – who played Pike only one time, more than 50 years ago – to do with Star Trek? Many children of former Star Trek actors try to bask in the (little) glory of their parents.

An equally pertinent question might be: why do you care?

More to the point, why do they care?

Maybe the families are just curious.