Interview: Ethan Peck On Feeling The Pressure To Get Spock Right On ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’

At the Strange New Worlds premiere event, TrekMovie spoke with Ethan Peck, who returns to the role of Spock after taking it on for season two of Discovery. The actor talked about the pressure of playing such an iconic role and life on the set of Strange New Worlds.

In your interview with us last week and others, you seem to be feeling a lot of pressure about getting Spock right. So how do you shake that off?

Uh, I don’t know yet. But if you figure something out, you let me know.

Leonard Nimoy struggled with the same thing…

Did he?

He struggled playing an emotionless character. When everyone else was having a lot of fun, he was not.

Yeah. That’s often the case on set. People come up to me after a scene or after a day’s work and they are like, “Did you have fun?” It’s like, “Yeah.” I mean, in between takes I have fun, but being Spock is quite a pressurized experience and a delicate endeavor because he is in control of so much of his emotions. It’s quite challenging, at least for me as an actor. What’s too much emotion? What’s too little? What’s too Vulcan? What’s too Human? So I’m constantly wrestling with those things.

Ethan Peck as Spock on Strange New Worlds

In terms of the growth of Spock, do you have a clear path of how he gets to where we saw him on The Original Series from where he is now?

I do not. I have no idea. I get new scripts and I do my best to interpret them and experience them as the Spock that is in me. I hope there is one in me.

Of all the moments you have been on set, what was your biggest, “Oh my god, I’m in Star Trek” moment?

That takes me back to season two of Discovery. The very first time I walked out onto the bridge, I was waiting in a turbolift. The cameras had just started rolling before action. And I was with Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Anson Mount, and they were all in character. And I was in the back right corner. And everybody kind of got ready. And I was like, “I’m here.” And I couldn’t see anything that wasn’t the set and that felt very real to me. And that was pretty startling and I’ll never forget it.

You must get the same kind of feeling with alien planets and the AR wall virtual set?

Oh yeah, absolutely. But that is quite different, though. When it’s practical and you are surrounded by people in character, that’s a very different thing. But the AR wall is another thing entirely. It’s an incredible thing and really does a lot for us and for our imaginations.

Ethan Peck as Spock in season two of Discovery with Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and  Anson Mount as Captain Pike

Still 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, Christina Chong, and Bruce Horak.

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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Just dropping a line to thank Laurie for this series of interviews from the gold carpet at the premiere, and even for finding a different angle of questions for the well known cast members and characters.

The TrekMovie coverage of the premiere is very comprehensive in comparison to most of what else is out there. While it’s great that many non-genre media are profiling and praising the show, they aren’t comprehensive or deep in many cases. It’s great to have you reaching for that extra angle and detail that long time fans are looking for.

I’m hoping and looking forward to some TrekMovie interviews with the production and costume designers. It sounds like they are excited to share once CBS permits it, and the For Your Consideration campaign is starting immediately for this Emmy year.

By the way, the local CBC in BC ran a story that high fashion boot and shoe designer John Fluevog designed the boots for the crew for SNW. This hails back to a well known Italian boot designer crafting the boots for TOS. But better, Fluevog will actually be selling the boots as a licensed product through his stores and on line site. They will go for about $CDN 500 here.

One difference with Spock between this series and TOS, is that on TOS Spock appeared to be the only alien in an all-human crew, which set him up as “the outsider,” an important aspect of his character as portrayed by Nimoy. In SNW he is clearly not the only non-human, and it seems the “outsider” mantle will be worn by the new engineer instead. Doesn’t that affect the character development?

That’s a really good point, but if they’ve actually thought matters through before embarking on this course of action (a very big if, granted), then the fact that the crew shifts from this melting pot to a ‘seemingly all human except this one half-human guy’ in the next few years might itself have fueled some of Nimoy/Spock’s isolationist aspects.

It would be hairy, and would require some kind of xenophobic event, or a backlash against humans and Starfleet by other member races, to make such a huge exodus remotely credible. Plus if you look at what Uhura says to Spock in MANTRAP about Kirk being the closest thing to a friend Spock has onboard, you might wonder if Spock himself is responsible in some way or perceived as responsible in some way for his isolation, or perhaps even for the fact there aren’t any other aliens on board. Maybe Vulcan pissed off all the other alien races in some Israel or Switzerland kind of way? That would be particularly ironic, given my take is that not just Sarek, but most of Vulcan, probably frowns on Spock being in Starfleet.

The only other way I can see this happening is if they try to do some parable-of-now thing with Starfleet actively hounding out aliens in an attempt to make it a genuine humans-only club, but that would probably alienate a lot of the optimistic-minded viewers who would see it as a total betrayal of GR/Trek principles.

I just reread all that, and man, I wish they would go down some path like this. Likelihood, however, is zero.

It’s an interesting idea, if likely impossible to pull off well, but I see what you’re saying. Might also explain why there was a starship [the Intrepid?] with an all-Vulcan crew, which sounds like a holdover from the early days of Starfleet. I think it’s just more likely Spock’s later isolation is due to being the only Vulcan on board, and there “were” in fact a lot of alien species serving on Kirk’s Enterprise, but we just didn’t see them. I don’t see a real need to explain Spock’s outsider perspective as the result of a nearly all human crew.

I’m sure TOS would have shown more aliens on Kirk’s Enterprise if they had the budget for that sort of thing… but they just didn’t!

We know there’s an all-Vulcan ship in Starfleet, because we saw the Intrepid in “The Immunity Syndrome.” I figured that members of all Federation species were in Starfleet, but they mostly serve on single-species ships, because the different species have different physiological requirements. The temperature and oxygen percentage on a mostly Vulcan ship would be bad for humans and Andorians, and a mostly human ship would be too cold for a Vulcan, and the air would feel unpleasantly thick.

There can be a totally mixed Starfleet SERVICE while still having single-species SHIPS.

The thing about Spock is that he is a hybrid, so which ship do you assign him to, an all-Vulcan ship, or an all-human ship? He’s an outsider in either place.

You just came up with the next spinoff: STAR TREK: SHIP OF FREAKS.

Actually that’s kinda what I wished they had done in the 24th century if Dukhat hadn’t gone back to being pure evil. When he took over that BoP, he could have had a crew of castoffs ranging from Ishara Yar to Barclay, a whole shipful of weird character types. Would have almost made up for them totally blowing the Maquis angle, which to me was the biggest squandered potential of all.

Thanks for all interviews Trekmovie. Yeah, I enjoyed the first episode. Nothing to really complain about. The episodic structure felt very fresh next to the dull serialisation we’ve had for 6 seasons. At least it wasn’t grimdark or depressing but seemed optimistic, as it should be. I’m hopeful.

He’s facing the same thing Nimoy did on the show originally, which is interesting. Now that they have set Pike’s date with destiny as ten years away, the writers have a lot of room to feel around what Spock can be.

Who knows, we could get 70 stories or more with Ethan. So knowing too much Would be overwhelming.

10 years away? Isn’t THE MENAGERIE a 2266 event?

Spock asked when, and I thought I heard Pike say, “a decade.” Is that wrong/misheard?

Maybe that is a new kind of reboot, one that accumulates over time via a multitude of flagrant canon violations. I thought this series was set in 2260 or 61, and if WNMHGB is 2265, then MENAG should be 2266 or 2267.

I could have heard wrong or….Pike doesn’t know what he thinks he knows?

Discovery seasons one and two were in the 2250s.

Season one was set in 2256-57, and season two in 2257-58.

SNW starts sufficiently later that the Enterprise has been through a major refit and the aliens in the premiere were able to reverse engineer a warp bomb.

So, let’s say it’s late 2258. There’s still a good six or seven years before Kirk takes command.

I replayed the scene. Pike says, “It’s almost a decade away.”

I guess there is wiggle room.

And plenty of room for 70 episodes of Ethan Peck’s Spock.

It’s quite a legacy to live up to, but i think Ethan Peck and Zachery Quinto have done a great job trying to meet the bar set by Leonard Nimoy!
I have to admit being a little skeptical back in 2009 to seeing anyone else portray Spock, but when Mr. Nimoy himself endorsed Quinto’s work, I think that meant a lot to some of the skeptics. I hope Quinto’s work helped lessen the pressure on Ethan Peck in 2019 and when Nimoy’s family did the same for him back in S2 of Discovery, then I hope most fans were pretty ready to welcome another Spock into the Trek family.
From what I have read, it seems Peck has had great reviews for his work in 2019 and in last week’s premiere – so much so that I think many fans like his work over what we saw in the Kelvin movies. That is a testament to all of his hard work that he has put into the role.

I definitely like Peck’s Spock more than Quinto’s emo kid, but he’s more humorous in a contemporary sense than Nimoy Spock, who was just so cool and funny without having to be “funny” in the way Peck’s Spock is being written in SNW.

He’s really upped his Spock game in SNW, and I definitely noticed.

When you recast a long-established role, it’s extremely difficult to separate the character from the actor. Out of all the people I’ve seen “play Spock”, Quinto was easily the best. (Which was tough to pull off literally playing opposite Nimoy in some scenes.)

But this first episode of SNW… man, I gotta give the crown to Peck. I liked him well enough in S2 of Discovery, but I didn’t always feel like “yeah this is a young Spock”.

But since then he’s clearly been working on it, and it’s paying off. Not only was he believable in the role this week, but he actually did the opposite of taking me out of the moment. His portrayal really made me feel more “at home” with the show (which was already dynamite), like a warm blanket.

I really haven’t felt straight up GIDDY about Star Trek in a long time, and his work is one of the many things that has contributed to that feeling with Strange New Worlds. 😎

“Pressurized experience”? “Delicate endeavor”? Geez, this guy sounds like Spock even in interviews ;-)

I think he’s doing an outstanding job in the role!

Ethan Peck seems like a nice guy in real life, but I truly believe he has been miscast in the role of Spock.
I expect a certain “vibe” off the person playing the part, and I get nothing from Peck’s performance. Zilch. Nada.
As an example, when I watch any incarnation of Sherlock Holmes or James Bond, I expect the actor to convince me they ARE that character. And I’m not talking physical resemblance to the original actor who made the character famous. Benedict Cumberbatch is such a skilled actor, I bought him as Sherlock Holmes, and didn’t even think of Basil Rathbone (as an example) in comparison.
Nor did I go looking for Sean Connery in Daniel Craig.
The same is true regarding any comparison to Leonard Nimoy. When it came to casting Spock, couldn’t the casting director find some actor (in their ‘30’s) with great acting chops who could showcase a character with passionate emotions deep down, but who suppresses them with a cool logical exterior? You know, someone who jumps off the screen with both charisma AND talent. Someone equal to Anson Mount for screen magnetism.
And, brother, that ain’t Peck.

Isn’t expecting a “certain vibe” and “magnetism” from a Vulcan…..illogical?
To me he plays the part perfectly, I find his voice and acting quite soothing for some reason.

Personally I like Ethan, and have no worries about how little or how much he ‘channels’ the late great Leonard’s version of ‘Spock’…as I’m looking on Strange New Worlds as being set in an ‘alternate fantasy universe’ to the TOS show setting and it’s characters anyway.

I know it will matter to all those who wish to imagine this as an actual ‘prequel’ to TOS’s ‘prime fantasy universe’ however…so a LOT rests on the writers of the show I’d say.

...‘alternate fantasy universe’….

Same here, Cervantes. I’ve come to the conclusion I’ll enjoy the show all the more if I consider it the same. That said, I’ve had no issues thus far with Peck’s portrayal of Spock, and think it’s much better than Quinto’s was/is in the Kelvin films.

I think Peck’s delivery as Spock has been fine; now that he’s freed of being Burnham’s second fiddle I can only hope he will grow. That said I found his comment about Spock’s growth interesting: “I get new scripts and I do my best to interpret them and experience them as the Spock that is in me.”

It’s as much the responsibility of the writers to understand where the character is at this point in his life and where he’s going as it is the actor’s. On TOS, Nimoy was able to bring his own ideas and experiences to the role; he basically invented the nerve pinch and Vulcan salute by himself and I’m sure there are more examples. Does Peck have that kind of freedom? Are the writers open to those kinds of ideas? I read comments like that and I get the sense that there is no overarching discussion about the matter.

TonyD, a reasonable idea until one day Peck suggests a dune buggy scene with Spock behind the wheel!

Well, Vulcan does have a lot of sand dunes….

(wipes tear)
Good one, TonyD!