Interview: Paul Wesley & Ethan Peck On Starting Kirk & Spock’s Friendship In ‘Strange New Worlds’ Season 2

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.

Paul Wesley as Lt. Kirk with Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura in season 2 trailer

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.

Ethan Peck as Spock says goodbye to Boimler (Jack Quaid) from the season 2 trailer.

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.

Ethan Peck as Spock from the season 2 trailer

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.

Find more stories on the Star Trek Universe.

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Although I’m still skeptical of Wesley being Kirk (and I don’t think he should be around this early in the timeline regardless) I am really looking forward to seeing him and Peck together. I’m hoping we get a real spark of that relationship and the beginning of what made that friendship so iconic.

And I can see Spoimler printed on T-shirts lol. I think we are in for a really fun episode and season overall!

As i’ve been saying since last season, I remain skeptical… But I keep reminding myself that the Kirk we saw last season was an alternate timeline Kirk and never met Spock or McCoy and wasn’t supposed to resemble to Kirk we ever knew. So while I am skeptical I also remain hopeful going into next thursday.

Yes agreed. It would be unfair to write him off after one episode and that is supposed to be an alternate version at the same time. So maybe he will be a better (and authentic?) version next season.

I’m on the fence about having Kirk there at all. But now that he’s there, I’m rooting for him just like I did Pike who I also originally questioned being on Discovery.

I totally agree about having him there at all. Frankly I originally envisioned Kirk coming in for the last season of SNW. But hey here we are right? hopefully he will be in an ep or 3 and not like the majority of the season. The guy needs to be spending his time on the Farragaut and not the Enterprise.

Shatner and Nimoy had just amazing chemistry. I hope that Wesley and Peck will, too. Did the showrunners test their potential Kirks in a test scene with Peck? I remember that the reboot folks hired Quinto first, then tested potential Kirks with him…

The chemistry of Shatner and Nimoy is so hard to replicate tho. NOt only do they have the strongest chemistry of any pair in Star Trek, you’d be hard pressed to find another duo that had stronger bro chemistry in hollywood. IMO I’d a big part of what made the end of TWoK so powerful, not just the scene and the writing themselves. You just can’t replicate that which is why STID failed so hard.

“NOt only do they have the strongest chemistry of any pair in Star Trek…”

Alexander Siddig and Colm Meaney (or, for that matter, Siddig and Andrew Robinson). Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan (and, to be clear, I’m a certified Voyager hater.)

To be sure they have strong chemistry. But not nearfly as much as Shatner and Nimoy. And Mulgrew and Ryan hated each other during the original VOY run.

Yeah, Shatner and Nimoy are amazing together. There’s an interview they did together after not having seen one another for years, and they just click instantly, to the interviewer’s amazement.

I thought Pine and Quinto had excellent chemistry — Abrams hired Quinto, then tested potential Kirks with him, to make sure — I thought the ending of STID failed because the characters hadn’t EARNED that ending yet. TOS’s Kirk and Spock had been in 79 episodes and one movie together, so they really did have a profound relationship. Reboot Kirk and Spock had been in a single movie together, so they had a superficial relationship and hadn’t earned the emotional death scene.

My head-canon is that Spock went apeshit when Kirk died, not because he was so fond of Kirk, but because it was the last straw. He’d lost his mother and his entire freaking PLANET, and he couldn’t lose one single thing more.

My head-canon is that Spock went apeshit when Kirk died, not because he was so fond of Kirk, but because it was the last straw. He’d lost his mother and his entire freaking PLANET, and he couldn’t lose one single thing more.”

I detest that movie, but this is an absolutely fair reading of that (and is very kind to Abrams.)

Oh, I hate STID, too; I think it’s a cheap and cynical attempt to capitalize on the popularity of TWOK, without having earned TWOK’s emotional resonance. But I love the TOS characters enough that I want their reboot counterparts to make sense to me, so I think about them, anyway. :-)

PIne and Quinto did have good chemistry. I won’t say great but I did see thim in interviews together and they did seem like a genune good fit. But as you said in STID it wasn’t earned yet. But that wasn’t just in universe but IRL too. We didn’t get a chance to grow with these esentially new characters which, lets be honest, they were.

I agree Spock lost his planet and then Kirk and then it was like *SNAP*! But it’s like throughout that trilogy Spock was ironically the most emotional peoson of the crew by far and that just made me snap lol. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I really want Spock to be a restrained and logical Vulcan scientist, not an emotional guy who happens to have pointed ears. But reboot Spock watched his entire planet implode and saw his mother fall to her death inches from his hand. I think the guy must have severe PTSD, which results in reboot Spock’s having WAY less control over himself. I hate it that the writers did this to a character named Spock, but I think his post-implosion emotionality does have a reasonable explanation.

Leonard Nimoy was so good that he looked restrained and controlled even when you saw him from the BACK; he just had this visible aura of containment about him. That’s what I want to see in any Spock; unfortunately for Zachary Quinto, he can’t play that, because the writers aren’t writing him that.

Thank heavens the SNW writers are talking about giving Peck’s Spock a journey that will have him end up where we know Spock is supposed to be. I really think taking Spock’s behavior in the failed first pilot as canon is a mistake, but that ship has obviously sailed, so now I’m just hoping for a good story reason for him to become ever more Spocklike.

Yeah I know. Quinto Spock had every right to be as sad as he was. He lost his entire world, literally. But for me it just wasn’t TOS trek after that and it took me out of the story. I know they made it a soft reboot for a reason so they could do what they want and more power to them for that. It just didn’t resonate with me personally is all.

Oh, no, I agree! If Spock isn’t a restrained Vulcan scientist, then he’s not MY Spock! :-)

Wesley is great in S2. Really warming to him. Since they teased it here, I really like their first meeting. Understated.

Thanks for the nonspoilery confirmation.

It’s great to know that Paramount has learned from success of the wide distribution of screened for Picard S3. Getting more episodes to more than just the pro critics seems the way to build buzz.

Maybe there is hope for Paul Wesley as James T. Kirk. We shall see.

AHHHHH 1 week and counting!!!!

YES! Soon, oh, soon!!

I wish we could have a viewing party!!!!

I wish that, too! They can’t invent the transporter soon enough!

I remember a long time ago, like over a decade ago, there was a network, like scifi (back before it was syfy) that aired a Star Trek TOS marathon and at the botom of the screen was an Internet live blog stream where fans could post in real time about the episode(s) that were airing. That was fun!

I can’t help but wonder if “alluring” means what it sounds like…

I noticed that, too. A hint of K/S there… :-)

Paul Wesley seems like a nice guy and a solid actor. I will go into this season open-minded, but I just don’t like the idea of a young Jim Kirk on this show and think he was miscast.

But I AM very excited for the Lower Decks crossover. I love funny Star Trek along with serious Star Trek and hope this is a good one!

I wouldn’t mind a new TOS series with Paul, Ethan, and Celia after SNW.

I wouldn’t mind if it was year 4 and 5 of the 5 year mission. Just don’t retcon TOS.

Well, we only saw 79 episodes within that 5-year mission, so that leaves roughly 1700-odd potential stories left untold. They could weave a lot of new content between the existing canon waypoints, without touching them. At best, we might get some extended content that answers questions left dangling, sheds new light/context, etc, and that’s fun.

Ya thats true. They could intermix. But tbh that makes me more nervous. But ya that could also be fun with in universe references and stuff! Like a follow up ep to Balance of Terror and such

Like Kirk’s first mission and the final mission, where Spock and McCoy resigned.

Agreed there.

Although I’ve long thought that Paul Wesley is way too old to portray a Kirk in his 20’s, I really like his thinking here! He’s clearly an intelligent and thoughtful man who cares a lot about getting it right, and that goes a long way with me.

I still wish he were 28 instead of 40 and had light brown hair instead of dark brown, but this interview is making me want to overlook those things. Good job, Mr. Wesley!

It definitely eases my mind a bit going into Season 2. He doesn’t seem at all cavalier about the role he has stepped into. I’m excited to get to know Lieutenant Kirk, I just hope his presence doesn’t override what SNW is supposed to be. If he’s in a couple episodes this year, fine, but I’d be totally okay if they excluded him from Season 3 completely.

Yes, I really want this to be PIKE’S show, not Kirk’s. Anson Mount is doing a fabulous job as Pike, and I don’t want him to be overshadowed by anyone. There’s plenty of time to bring in Kirk once Mr. Mount gets tired of the role. It sounds as if Kirk might be only in one episode, though.

Most of the actors in SNW have sounded as if they really GET it. Mount, Peck, Romjin, Wesley, Navia, Gooding … they all sound like they know what they’ve been entrusted with. It’s heart-warming.

Right for the part or not, he seems to genuinely care about the part. And fun fact, he used to be neighbors with William Shatner and knows him! So I’m betting he has him on speed dial lol

LOL ya, he is way too old… But to be fair this has always been a hollywood thing. How many times have we seen a show about a bunch of high schoolers played by people in their 30’s :)

I think that’s a little different, though. It takes time to learn the craft of acting, so there aren’t that many 15-year-olds who are great actors, so showrunners hire people in their 20’s. But Kirk is supposed to be like 28 at this point, and there are plenty of good actors within five years of that age; they don’t have to go TWELVE years older.

Thats true. Fair

I just hope there’s a reason why Kirk seems to have captains stripes. He should be a lieutenant. That is not a nit pick. It’s way too early for him to be captain.

Wesley says in this interview that Kirk is a lieutenant here.

He has lieutenant’s stripes in another episode.

We know there’ll be time travel at some point. So, let’s not get ahead of what we’ve seen.

Yeah, I have a feeling that the scene with him and La’an involves some sort of time jump where Kirk is Captain and Space Seed has already happened.

My hesitations about the casting of JTK aside and his appearance at all already, I’m kind of bummed this is even a thing at this point. I really like Mount as Pike, and was hoping/expecting/was led to believe this was to be Pike’s story,, which would also get into why Spock was so loyal to him as to disobey direct orders in ‘The Cage.’ Bringing JTK in so early and prominently, I don’t know. He and Spock seemed practically strangers in WNMHGB. Ahh, prequels.

As always dude, we fully agree. Of course it’s cool to have Kirk back and the ratings upside alone makes it an easy decision once you went back to that era and on the Enterprise. I just wish they had a little more restraint and pushed it off a few more years. Five years before he even becomes captain seems like a ridiculously long time. We have to believe he knew Uhura for that long too and she basically just felt like a subordinate in the first season of TOS. But of course we also have to believe both her and Spock was close with his brother as well since he literally worked on the ship. Sigh


Though the episode starts off with a friendly game of chess between the two, their interplay after that is so fraught that many have assumed over the decades that Kirk and Spock’s friendship doesn’t really begin until the tag of “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” where Spock admits to feeling regret over Mitchell’s death and Kirk wryly allows that there might be some hope for him after all. So if their friendship is evident in this season of SNW, some could say that’s a bit of a retcon, but not a serious one.

I like it. The friendship starts when Kirk beats Spock in a game of 3D Chess and Spock is intrigued because no human, Pike included has ever been able to acomplish that before. Kirk is a genius and known for being a walking stack of books at the academy after all :)

This is the first interview where Wesley didn’t come across like an arrogant @ss.
JTK should never have been brought into this show, but now that we’re stuck with him, I hope Wesley’s portrayal is more true to what he says here instead of his earlier comments.

I noticed that. I’m wondering if he’s seeing the comments on himself.