TrekMovie joined a virtual group press interview with two of the stars from Star Trek: Strange New Worlds in advance of the impending debut of season 2. Paul Wesley (recurring role as James T. Kirk) and Ethan Peck (series regular as Spock) talked about what’s new for their characters in season 2 and how they relate to the canon established in The Original Series. Ethan Peck also talks about that Lower Decks crossover.
Note: The interview contains some minor spoilers and has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What did you appreciate most about your own character’s trajectories this season?
Ethan Peck: I love so much the earnestness that Spock brings to his journey. There’s such a childlike vulnerability in the way that he explores himself and certain situations. Because he is so young as a human being, right? He’s half-and-half and his human side is nascent and I think that makes for a lot of really great comedic opportunities as well because he’s always the odd man out, sort of the strange one in the room. And that’s really fun to play.
Paul Wesley: In many ways, I think Kirk is still boy, at least in the version that I sort of have been playing. I’m not sure he understands how to be a captain yet. I think he’s still a lieutenant. And I think he’s not ready to be a captain yet. And I would like to slowly begin to portray him as someone with a deep confidence and an unwavering sort of sense of who he is. But I don’t think he’s quite there yet. And I think that’s sort of what makes it sort of special to watch.
Paul, you are portraying a different version of Kirk in season 2, compared to the season 1 finale. Was there a particular touchstone or throughline you looked toward when portraying these different versions?
Paul Wesley: Season 1 is based on “Balance of Terror” and I watched that episode multiple times and Kirk is very serious. Then as you watch TOS, there are moments where he’s incredibly playful. And I think every episode speaks to a different characteristic and quality that Kirk has. And I think season 2, episode 3 was very playful. But also, the one throughline is that he’s very heroic, and he has a really good moral compass. And he always trusts his instincts. So I think that is sort of the pillar and that’s something that is not movable.
What elements of Kirk and Spock were you two most excited to explore?
Ethan Peck: I think I was most excited to explore the sort of adversarial component of the relationship, which maybe we will maybe we won’t.
Paul Wesley: Thus far, it’s obviously the genesis–it’s still the beginning of this friendship that we all know so well. But I think what’s great is that they don’t know what their friendship is going to be, yet. They really don’t know what it is about one another that is alluring or intriguing. I wanted to sort of portray a little bit of that hint of intrigue, but it’s subconscious. You don’t really understand why Kirk is drawn to this guy and why he finds him compelling.
In the challenge of playing a prequel character, how mindful are you of where you are going to in the canon that has been established before?
Ethan Peck: From a performance perspective, it’s so difficult to keep all that in mind, because we are so far from the beginning of The Original Series. I would really task the writers with that job. I think that we will see a Spock go through many different types of exploration of himself and they may appear more human at times or more Vulcan at times, or who knows how else? We’ll see. But yeah, I don’t think about it too much.
Paul Wesley: I certainly think about it. But I think it would be a mistake to sort of automatically be that version of the Kirk that is part of the canon we know. I think he’s still sort of trying to figure himself out. I think part of the fun of playing this character, pre the Kirk that we all know, is to slowly evolve and to slowly develop the mannerisms or characteristics or the cadence. I think that we can sort of slowly get there. And I think if we get there from day one it’s a little bit less interesting to watch. So I wanted to keep it sort of a little bit unique and different. But of course, I think about it.
Ethan, can you talk about what it was like working on the Lower Decks crossover, and especially with Jack Quaid, as it appears Boimler has a special relationship with Spock. And did you join him in any improvising? And Paul, please jump in if there is anything to add.
Ethan Peck: I met Jack a few years ago at a convention and we had such a nice connection right off the bat. And so I remember thinking at that time, I’d love to work with this guy. He’s also from LA. We just share a lot of similar context. And it was so much fun working with him. Jonathan Frakes, who directed the episode, coined us “Spoimler,” which is a hybrid of our names Spock and Boimler. That just made me so happy to have this joke with Jonathan Frakes, who I so revere. I didn’t do much improvising as I stay on my rails as Spock. It’s quite difficult to improvise when he’s speaking about some matters of science. But Jack had a little more leeway with that and he did improvise, which was really fun.
Paul Wesley: I wasn’t a part of the episode, so I’m going plead the fifth.
What has the positive reaction to season 1 been like for you as you step into season 2?
It’s been so relieving. We were mid-production on season 2 when the first episode of season 1 premiered. So we were well on our way into the second season. To not know how you’re doing was kind of insane. Personally, when I saw the first two episodes at the premiere in New York, I was really taken aback by the high level of quality that I was suddenly a part of. I didn’t know what to expect because we do our job; we carry the baton for the time that we’re there on set and you just kind of never know how it’s going to turn out. And so I’m just so thrilled and excited to be part of an amazing production and team of creatives.
Paul Wesley: I came in the season finale of season 1. These guys have been shooting it, and Ethan, of course, was part of Discovery. And so I came in and shot a few scenes and the next thing you know season 1 premieres, and everyone’s in love with the show. It has all these brilliant reviews. I think it’s very hard to create a version of a show that is so beloved. And I think it’s a huge, huge undertaking. And I think these guys did it so brilliantly. I’m not going to take any credit for it, because I wasn’t a part of it until the very, very end. So you know, I’m just grateful to be a part of this fantastic series with these really brilliant actors and brilliant writers, and frankly, more importantly, nice people.
Ethan, can you tell us something that you like about how Paul played Kirk? And Paul, can you say something that you’d like about how Ethan played Spock?
Ethan Peck: Paul, as the actor approaching the role, he was so careful and really took it very seriously. It was very measured in his approach, which I really love to see because I think all of us in the show really accept the burden of these iconic characters and are excited about it. And he showed up to the party with much the same approach and strategy. And then in terms of his embodiment of Kirk, I think he just brings so much charm, and magnetism. He’s devilish. And I love being on the other side of the camera from him when we’re doing these scenes.
Paul Wesley: I echo everything that Ethan just said. It’s extremely difficult to play Spock. I can’t even imagine. He does such a wonderful job of paying homage to those mannerisms, the cadence, the voice. I think the stoicism with little hints of humanity and vulnerability that he’s so desperately trying to find is so well portrayed in Ethan’s version of Spock. Yeah, I’m quite in awe of it, actually.
More to come
We have more interviews from the press junket coming up so stay tuned. Check out the earlier interview with Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.
Season 2 will premiere Thursday, June 15 on Paramount+ in the U.S, the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The second season will also be available to stream on Paramount+ in South Korea, with premiere dates to be announced at a later date. Following the premiere, new episodes of the 10-episode season will drop weekly on Thursdays.
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