Interview: Ethan Peck On Listening To Nimoy’s Voice To Get Spock Right For ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’

TrekMovie joined a group press interview with Ethan Peck, who took on the role of Spock for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery and returns in the upcoming series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. The actor spoke frankly about his process, honoring Leonard Nimoy’s legacy, and how Spock has changed his life.

Note: The interview contains some minor spoilers and has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

What were the challenges you faced in bringing Spock to life on Pike’s Enterprise, making him your own while still being true to the original Spock?

That’s a complicated question to answer. I would say that I’m still challenged every single day. I think I’m more comfortable at this point in time with the onus of being the custodian of this character. But I still read things in scripts that I get, and I’m like, ‘I have no idea how I’m going do this, or how it will be true to Spock.’ Because what’s fun about him is that he does sort of live within these boundaries. And then to place him in a scenario that he shouldn’t be in or is really uncomfortable, and that’s when I think really cool things start to happen with the character. And I hope in my performance of the character. But constantly I’m revisiting – I say sort of crazily –literally Leonard Nimoy’s voice in my head when I’m doing a lot of these scenes. Does this sound right? Does it feel right? I am constantly in with, ‘I hope this is in the spirit of his Spock’ and am channeling it as well. And then there are things that are written for my iteration of Spock that has not been written before. And that is my privilege as an actor, and as this Spock.

So you have talked about your Spock has an arc towards becoming the full Nimoy Spock. So how are you calibrating and evolving that journey as you go through season one, and now into season two?

Dude, I have no idea. I’m just doing my best. No, I mean, there’s definitely an eye out for that. And it’s a very collaborative effort between myself and the writers and the producers and the other creative forces behind our show. Because that’s a huge task that I don’t think I can shoulder by myself. I think there are certain touchstones qualitatively about the character that I probably couldn’t articulate to you very well that just feel right and I hope to appear in a way that looks accurate in our final product. But that’s a very collaborative effort, the calibration.

And also, there’s a lot of opportunity in Strange New Worlds to explore and see parts of Spock’s inner world that we’ve not seen before. And there’s really no roadmap for that’s already been laid out. So there is license in our exploration of the character in that regard, which I’m really grateful for. It’s something that really excites me about this show.

Ethan Peck as Spock in Strange New Worlds

How did you deconstruct the role of Spock from only seeing the Nimoy end result?

It’s just been a very delicate and thoughtful process. I don’t think I was able to be the Spock that you see in The Original Series a couple of years ago when I first got the role. I think even now I might be, in my opinion, touching on the more full spirit of that version of Spock. But I myself am in a place of development in my own life that I think really lends itself to this iteration of Spock. And I’m just really lucky to be in the right place at the right time for this role. There’s so many things that worked in my favor, to put me in these shoes, and I’m just trying to capitalize on those attitudes that I seem to have.

How much has Spock as a character influenced you, as a person?

Spock has influenced me so much, it’s weird. I had to really look at myself when I was first cast in this role, because I didn’t know what I was auditioning for in the very beginning. And so something I brought to it lent itself to this iteration of the character. And I needed to better understand that to become more self-aware so that I could better control what I’m inputting into this performance. And in doing so, I learned so much about myself. I had to really grow in a really profound way on a personal level, and therefore as an actor.

I think with art, your life is so informing of your work. And I had to become more than I was. I had to become more clear-headed, better focused, to not be such a hypocrite. We can all be hypocrites in our own ways and I feel like Spock has so much integrity. And I was in awe of that and wanted to become more like that in my own life. We wake up in the morning and we have the opportunity to have whatever thoughts we want. We can do things, but I think most importantly, we’re free in our minds. Or at least that’s a goal that we should all have. And Spock is so good and sharp with his mind. And, and I would say that I learned most from him is to be more optimal with my thinking, to put it in a very Spock-ian way.

There is a musical scene where Uhura and Spock are matching notes. Did you have to do any kind of vocal training to sort of match each other sounds?

[Celia Rose Gooding] is just an incredibly impressive and talented person. But she’s an incredibly talented singer as well. So I just did my best to kind of like sneak in behind her beautiful singing. I myself was a trained classical musician. I played cello growing up. So I’m not totally tone-deaf, I hope. But in terms of singing, yeah, I was quite nervous about that. And we practiced quite a lot.

Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura and Ethan Peck as in Strange New Worlds

On the production side, how has shooting Strange New Worlds been different than your time on Discovery?

Firstly, the shows are just so different in so many ways. I think the DNA is the same. Gene Roddenberry’s vision, I think, is very much a part of both shows, which is one of inclusion, of celebration of diversity, of curiosity, of sort of a harmonious existence between vastly different peoples and ideas.

But just by the look, the shows are very different. The tones are different. The colors are different on the sets of the ships. And our show is episodic, which is something that we’re all really excited about. Akiva Goldsman put it wonderfully when he said there’s serialized emotion. But each episode is sort of its own standalone adventure, which I think is great… I love to watch film because it’s a contained experience, you can have it in 90 minutes to two or two and a half hours. And it does something wonderful for you, hopefully, if it’s done properly. And so I hope that our episodes can be like that for people and will convert a lot of fans to our show into the Star Trek universe because there are so many great iterations of it that have already been made and exist and are ready to be seen.

People were clamoring for this since they first saw you in Discovery. And it’s the fans who really pushed for this show, what’s it been like to be in the center of all of that?

It’s been crazy. Firstly, I still can’t believe that I’ve been cast in this role. It’s still something very strange to me. And secondly, there was such a hunger for a Pike Enterprise show, which of course Spock can be a part of, is absolutely thrilling. This has been really one of the greatest journeys of my life thus far and may remain that way. Who knows? But yeah, I feel so incredibly fortunate and lucky and grateful to be a part of this. It’s insane to me, still.

More to come before May 5

TrekMovie will have interviews with more of the Strange New Worlds cast in the coming days, so stay tuned. Check out our earlier interviews with: Rebecca Romijn and Anson Mount.

The first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will arrive on May 5 on Paramount+.

Strange New Worlds poster


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“Who has questions…?”

(thousands of hands raise)

“…that aren’t about my sideburns?”

(everyone lowers their hands)

hahaha exactly

Yes, I’m happy the show is episodic. The stories being told on Disco and Picard are too drawn out, over a whole season of episodes. Strange New Worlds will hopefully feel like a mini movie each week, with established characters. Maybe I don’t like a particular episode, but I get fresh start next time. The story doesn’t drone on for the whole season.

Most of TV has gone to serialized stories, and it’s kind of annoying. “Who is this guy again? What was going on with him? How is he important?!”

I’ve been re-watching Futurama and boy, is it great to have a single episode about one thing!

Lost, you can bite my shiny metal *ss. It’s all your fault.

it didn’t hurt ds9

Serialization by itself is not a bad thing. DS9 did it superbly. Nu Trek is not.

Star Trek in the previous era had plenty of poorly written episodes, luckily they only lasted 42 minutes and not 10 episodes. Can you imagine Code of Honor being stretched out over 10 episodes??

TNG has some really awful episodes. The first 2 seasons were some of the worst! It TNG was on Network TV, it would not have had a third season.
The last season of TOS had a majority of poorly written episodes.

But the point is there were also some excellent among those like The Measure of Man in TNG season 2 or The Enterprise Incident and The Tholian Web in TOS Season 3. You can’t just blindly say all the episodes were awful especially if its an episodic show.

I am not blindly saying it. I am speaking from actually watching it. I found season 1 and 2 of TNG to be overall horrible. Yes, there is an episode here and there that were good. Don’t forget, that a lot of the scripts were reused from the scrapped Phase II show and rewritten. Deana and Riker were Ilia and Decker.

Still anything that has a good episode can’t be blindly labeled as “horrible”. That is just too hard of a word to describe it. Maybe better to say “not good”.

DS9 had better writers. FAR cry from Discovery or Picard. 🙄

DS9 kind of did both. There was an thread running through the entire thing, but most of the episodes were still self-contained.

Yeah, very few episodes actually moved the Dominion plot forward. If you look at DS9 as a serialized show about the Dominion War then a large part of the episodes were filler. People just didn’t mind back then.

DS9 didn’t cause every freakin’ show to go serialized!

Exactly, people seem to forget that even in DS9 and Enterprise’s serial arcs had some excellent standalone episodes in them.

Movies last a lot longer than 40 minutes, particularly these days. There’s a reason that the willingness of A-list stars to embrace television coincided with serialization.

The gradual downgrading of the cultural importance of movies might also have something to do with that. There’s a reason theaters were struggling even before the pandemic.

In all honesty TV has become the more prestigious medium these days. Movies still have a lot of clout but it’s not like the old days anymore when only people who couldn’t make it in movies do TV shows. Actors of every caliber does it today.

There was a good article a few weeks back in the New York Times about movies becoming less important and just more “content.” Well, it was kind of depressing, but still. It was an honest assessment. Wish I could remember the author.

Thaddeus, the article was written by Ross Douthat and appeared in The New York Times on March 25, 2022.

That’s the one. Thanks!

you can see the influence of serialised tv on the MCU in terms of story, character arcs though of course the comics did that first.

some say ‘infinity/endgame’ was like a 2 part season finale.

And influenced by Trek… namely ”All Good Things”

The end credits of ‘endgame’ are a shout out to TUC, the cast signing off.

And then someone took the same end credits of Endgame and applied it to Star Trek as a whole:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLsfVteCVFI&t=1s

I think I watch this almost once a week to remind myself not only how awesome Star Trek is but how awesome I am just for being a fan lol. Gives you goosebumps!

WOW!

to absent friends

Yeah I love it! Glad you watched.

What I will say is that he captures Spock’s voice just naturally (thank you Gregory Peck) better than Quinto. What I will also say is WTF with those sideburns! lol

Agreed. I thought Quinto was OK but didn’t really feel like Spock to me. But Peck hit it out of the park and a big part of that was his voice. But he also does a much better job with his mannerisms too.

The voice is what killed Quinto’s version of Spock for me. I was distressed when they recast Spock again for Discovery, but found Peck immediately winning me over and it was because the voice was right. It wasn’t necessarily that he sounded like Nimoy. He certainly wasn’t doing a Spock impression. But, he was masculine, authoritative and wise beyond his years like Nimoy in a way that Quinta never was.

I was also distressed to hear they recast Spock … again. I had a lot of reservations, but he plays the part with aplomb.

I had no issues they recasted Spock because it was always going to happen again even after Quinto. Especially after Quinto. Once you’re the first of anything it gets easier after that.

But that said I thought it was going to be a total disaster lol. I knew fans wouldn’t accept him right away and would harp on every issue they had, especially since he was playing Nimoy’s Spock. But to my surprise he was well liked from his first appearance on and certainly made it easier once people wanted a Pike show.

I think people are now more concerned with the casting of Kirk. Hopefully Paul Wesley’s interpretation of the character can be as effective as Peck’s interpretation of Spock and hopefully when both of them come together they have that chemistry that made Shatner and Nimoy’s interactions so iconic.

You’re right but it’s funny it’s the same freaking arguments many had when Peck was cast. A lot of “HOW COULD THEY???” to “He doesn’t look that much like him to me” and my favorite, “The character is too iconic to be cast again”. No, it really isn’t because it’s a character.

For me, I never heard or seen anything this actor has done (like I never heard anything of Peck before) so it’s just a wait and see now. But I said this before I’m surprised that anyone is surprised Kirk would show up once you decided to make a Pike show and made half the cast TOS characters in the very first season.

I guess the only thing that matters is that Nimoy himself seemed to love Quinto… In what way was he not masculine, authoritative and wise? His voice wasn’t as deep as Peck’s is which I love’s Peck’s voice and his mannerisms but I’m genuinely curious because I never felt Quinto wasn’t any of those things you mentioned.

I love how very thoughtful Ethan Peck is being about playing Spock and how much it’s affecting him. That line about incorporating Spock’s integrity into his own life just blew me away.

I have no idea if the writers will WRITE us a faithful Spock — I hope they will — but it’s clear that Mr. Peck is sweating blood to PORTRAY a faithful Spock, and I appreciate that so very much.

Spock is so very important — to millions of individual people and to Star Trek in general. It’s clear that Mr. Peck recognizes that. Thank you for giving it your all, sir!

Well said. I am certainly one of those millions. I can tell you are too. He’s certainly a class act!

Thanks! And yes, we’ve been most fortunate in the quality of the human beings who portray Spock.

“…I have no idea if the writers will WRITE us a faithful Spock — I hope they will…”

Amen to that, Corylea. It’s not so much the actors I’m concerned about, here.

Yeah, it’s clear the actors are excellent; the only question is the writers.

*crosses fingers for luck*

Can he raise one eyebrow though?!

He can! There was an interview when he was cast as Spock in Discovery, where he raised first one, then the other, back and forth for a few seconds. His eyebrows are definitely quite mobile and under his complete control. :-)

There’s a promo scene out there where Like tells Spock about his eventual death. Peck starts speaking off camera, and for a second I got chills. Quinton’s Spock was brilliant, but Peck’s deeper, more resonant voice gives him a solid foundation. Nimoy talked about how he created Spock’s voice by listening to readings by Somerset Maugham. I wonder if Peck did the same :)