Interview: Bruce Horak On How Hemmer Is The “Outsider” On ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’

At the Strange New Worlds premiere event, TrekMovie had an exclusive chat with newcomer Bruce Horak (Chief Engineer Hemmer), who only appeared briefly at the end of the series premiere. The actor talked about getting through Hemmer’s crusty personality, doing his Trek homework, and more.

So how did you prepare to play Hemmer?

How did I prep? Well, it was three and a half hours and a prosthetics chair, gluing 15 pieces on my face… so beyond that I watched Star Trek: Enterprise where the the Aenar are introduced. I think in season four, I watched those two episodes, dug around in as much online Trek lore as I could find about them. There’s not a lot about the Aenar. So I felt like I kind of had free range to build a little bit. He’s an engineer. So I talked to some engineering friends. And you know, just kind of crossed my fingers, and leapt off the bridge.

In terms of the character he starts out a little cranky, a bit of a curmudgeon

[Chuckles] No, he’s right. He’s just correct.

What would you say are his defining qualities and what’s behind his bluster?

Well, I think it’s a confidence knowing what he knowing what he knows. And that can I think sometimes come across as a bit of a curmudgeonliness. He’s also, you know, I think he’s a bit older. So there’s experience and wisdom to that. And he’s been a bit of an outsider his whole life, I think, I think in the Trek lore, they say that there’s only 1000 Aenar left in the galaxy. So that sense of being being an outsider, being alone, and you get a bit of a hard edge when that happens sometimes.

Hemmer does the impossible down in engineering.

We know of course that the characters are going to grow over the season, what can we expect from Hemmer’s character arc?

Hmm, what can I say? What can I say? I think it’s fair to say that it’s sort of given that it’s Star Trek, you’re gonna see the bonding of these characters, and how they come together. And there’s there’s some good surprises. Stay tuned.

And are you Canadian? (I’m from Toronto.)

I am Canadian! I live in Stratford, Ontario. I’m originally from Calgary, Alberta… So you’ll you’ll hear my western drawl.

The Aenar have a western drawl, I heard.

They do now.

Get to know Hemmer

Last month, Paramount released a promotional video on social media introducing Hemmer.

More SNW interviews to come

We still have more gold carpet interviews from the New York premiere of Strange New Worlds with the cast and creatives. Check out our earlier interview with Henry Alonso Myers. Plus see our interviews with executive producer Alex Kurtzman, cast members Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijin, and Christina Chong.

New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds debut on Thursdays exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., Latin America, Australia and the Nordics. The series airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada. In New Zealand, it is available on TVNZ, and in India on Voot SelectStrange New Worlds will arrive via Paramount+ in select countries in Europe when the service launches later this year, starting with the UK and Ireland in June.

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It’s a cool idea, and I look forward to seeing him. I just hope he doesn’t go the Stamets route and become all huggy and shit right away.

“Right away”… he’s basically rude constantly unless he’s interacting with his husband, occasionally Tilly (but she also gets the worst of it too), and then Adira now, whom he sees like his child. The theatrics people jump into when it comes to Discovery never cease to amaze and amuse me.

The sort-of-friendly snippiness between him and Reno is hilarious, though.

As someone who is severely physically disabled due to a very rare genetic disorder, I feel like Hemmer is tailor-made for me. It feels really nice to have good people-with-disabilities representation on Star Trek again. And the fact that he’s a highly accomplished engineer who is a full equal. I know we had that with La Forge, but I’m just really excited to have it again.

One of the major step forward is that unlike LaForge, Hemmer is played by a person who is himself blind.

Bruce Horak is a actor and in visual and sound design who identifies as legally blind. He lost most of his vision in early childhood due to cancer.

Horak’s paintings, which are intended to show how he sees, have been shown in Ontario.

His Instagram and his webpage provide images of some of his works.

He’s a really good painter

Wow! I never knew that! I know that in TNG’s “Loud as a Whisper,” the deaf character Riva was played by an actor who is deaf in real life – Howie Seago.

Never thought the Aenar would appear in such a substantial role. Although I personally prefer the make up/prosthetics of the ENT era Aenar, both this and the USS Archer feel like a nice way to pass the baton from ENT to SNW. Although I’m sure there will be more ENT references across the season. I actually really appreciated how many little ENT references Disco S1 had peppered throughout it. Especially as Archer et al have always felt like the underdogs in Trek fandom.

The Andorians and Aenar were best new elements of Enterprise. I’m really delighted and hope that Hemmer may be the breakout, alien point of view character for the series.

I’ve been very disappointed that the new prosthetics haven’t included the animatronic antennae, but the structure of the faces is ok. Some of the blue tones on the Andorians are a bit too bright, but I like that there’s an entire range of shades.

That said, the fact that Bruce Horak who has to wear the prosthetics is truly delighted that the makeup team have been able to “give him new eyes” so that he likes how he looks on camera, seems an important consideration.

I’d definitely consider them as Enterprise’s “house aliens”, in the way DS9 = Bajorans/Cardassians or TNG = Romulans. And obviously Shran was a big part of that too. High hopes for Hemmer, I’m already a fan from the few clips I’ve seen here and there.

Likewise, feels like a huge step backwards not having the animatronic antenne. The blues could be a bit…plastic-y at times on Disco S3, (as with the Orion green skin). Hopefully the moving antenne will return one day, as it added so much.

It does feel like a win on all levels though, where Hemmer’s concerned – both character wise and actor, it’s very wholesome. Can’t wait to see more of him.

There’s a retcon theory that Thelin, of the TAS episode Yesteryear, who was grayish, was at least part Aenar. (He could see.)

(The real reason of course was that a lot of colors were off in TAS, which is why the Orions were a very light blue-green and there was a *lot* of purple.)

I haven’t heard of that idea before but it would make sense. Part Aenar, part Andorian hence why they’re not blind. Works for me!

A shame that TOS didn’t have recurring purple skinned aliens, they could have worked wonders where TAS is concerned.

Whoops, pink. The Klingon ships and uniforms were pink, the Tribbles were pink, etc.

Now I’m imagining Shran doing a TAS dvd commentary: “Look at those pinkskins” “More pinkskins…”

I got to thinking that Hemmer is actually one of the few completely new characters of the main cast- we already know Pike, Spock, Number One, Chapel, M’Benga, Uhura, Kyle, T’Pring, April, and Kirk (both of them). Noonien-Singh is a familiar name, and Ortegas is apparently a reference to the character that became Jose Tyler. That leaves the Ops officer, so far a minor role, and…Hemmer.

And here I thought, one of the core principles of Star Trek is that there are no outsiders …

But Trek series typically demonstrate that value by having an outsider become one of the crew family through a journey of self exploration of identity.

In TNG, for example started with Worf being an angry young Klingon trying to find is own path between the Klingon culture he was cut off from and the Federation culture of his adoptive family. Data was longing and ever experimenting to be more like a human.

In Voyager, B’lanna Torres struggled with her mixed Klingon-human heritage as much as Spock struggles with his Vulcan-human one. Seven-of-Nine had a major journey as an outsider, assimilated Borg to becoming human again.

Lieutenant La’an reminded me quite a lot of Seven in episode 1 in how she had survived the Gorn. You could though say similar about Kira in DS9.

I have a suspicion the Gorn are going to have some recurring role in this show given the references in episode 1. They’re relatively unexplored, like the Andorians were before ENT, and the effects may be there to do them more justice now.

Outsiders (arguably): Spock, Worf (extra-arguably), Odo, Seven, T’Pol, Saru. Welcomed by crew, but apart — at least at first.

A bit off topic – can I say that looks like a more proper engineering room for a space vessel?

I thought so too.

It somehow also reminds me of the matts of cool alien technology infrastructure in Forbidden Planet.

As a life-long Star Trek fan who is totally blind, I’m thrilled that a blind actor is playing a blind character. I had a chance to interview Bruce a few weeks ago. He is a wonderfully warm human being and I think he’ll be a big hit at conventions.