The latest episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (“Charades“) was a big one for the character of Nurse Christine Chapel. TrekMovie had a chance to talk to actress Jess Bush about the episode and what it means for the future of the character. This included hints about the character Dr. Roger Korby, Nurse Chapel’s former fiancé in The Original Series, who has been teased before by Strange New Worlds showrunner Akiva Goldsman.
Even though this was a lighthearted episode, it’s also very serious and kind of a pivot point for Capel, and of course, Spock and T’Pring. So would you say this changes everything?
Well, that’s very dramatic. But yes. Yeah, it’s definitely one that pushes her into places that she hasn’t been willing to go before. She’s far more vulnerable than she’s been in the past. She has to ask for help from her friends, which is something that she hasn’t done before. And she’s forced to fess up about how she really feels, and in a public way. So yeah, I would say it is a turning point for her. For sure.
One might imagine Spock becoming human would be a dream come true for Chapel. So the twist is that it is not. So what does that say to you, as an actress, and to the character that she prefers the Vulcan Spock?
I think it’s a couple of things. I mean, even if she did prefer the human Spock, she would never do that. Morally, it’s not something that she could ever live with. Allowing him to be forever changed for her benefit is out of the question. That would never be okay. Also, yeah, I think that some elements of Spock, as his half-Vulcan self, which she might have perceived as difficulties for her, but when they’re gone she realizes exactly why he’s special to her. Yeah, she loves him for who he is. All his unique and challenging traits are part of that.
You had been playing this as unrequited love, but with this episode, as you said it’s now out in the open. So for you, which is the bigger challenge, the unrequited side or the “let’s get it on” side?
I think for Chapel it’s the “Let’s get it on,” as you put it. That vibe, yeah, I think for Chapel, letting it all be open and happening is a lot harder. Because that requires her to be vulnerable and honest and open and available. And all of those things are scary for her. So for the character, much more challenging. As for me, I don’t think either one is more challenging. They both have their complexities for me as a performer.
This episode is played for laughs, however, Chapel is sort of the straight man of this comedy. Everyone else was having fun. Did you feel like you were missing out while everyone around is joking around, you were like, “I got to fix Spock.” Did you prefer playing it straight or wish to join in on the comedy?
[laughs] Yeah. I loved this episode for me. I loved the arc for Chapel and the deepening of his story. No complaints on my end. And when we were shooting, I don’t get to see what everyone else is doing. I read it and I saw that this is a comedy for everyone else and a challenge for me. But, I love drama. It was a real delight to see the episode and see that difference and see the comedy of it and it’s very delightful.
There still was some comedy around you, like Ortegas and Uhura joking around as you go on your rescue mission. Is it ever hard to not break on set with all the joking?
We definitely have an absolute blast between takes, but we’re pretty warm now with being able to just snap into the story and get it done. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a really massive break in that way. I think we all went a little bit loopy in the interdimensional space day. Because we were in that room for like 16 hours. But yeah, we have fun between takes for sure.
The episode added some subtle nods towards Chapel’s larger arc towards The Original Series, including namedropping Roger Korby.
So how much have the showrunners laid out for you their plan for Chapel? Have they talked to you about where they are headed with the character?
Yeah, so how it goes is there are certain points that we’re going to reach. They kind of tell us the greater kind of broader points that we’re going to reach as characters. But how we get there is never really set in stone until the episodes come together closer to the time of shooting. So I have a vague idea of where I’m going, let’s put it that way.
So just to get things straight, even though you are talking about Roger Korby at the beginning of the episode, are we to take away Chapel has yet to meet Roger Korby as of this episode?
Yet to meet him? Yeah, well I haven’t met him yet.
So should we look forward to that? Are you saying?
I don’t know. Maybe.
Ethan [Peck] often talks about how he feels the weight of Leonard Nimoy and The Original Series constantly. But the showrunners have talked about how with Chapel she’s not really the same because it’s 2023 and it’s a modern character. So for you, do you still look to Majel [Barrett Roddenberry]’s performance? Or do you try to approach this just on the page as a newer different character?
I think it’s a little bit of both like. I obviously wanted to have her essence in my portrayal. But I think now looking to Majel’s Chapel, I think the responsibility lies in doing the things that she wasn’t able to do. And the things that she probably wanted to do. And the things that women are now able to do that they weren’t able to do them. So using it using her performance as a reference point to flesh out in the ways that she wasn’t able to do that, I think is the aim. And I think the writers are doing a really fantastic job of that and I’m stoked with the material that they given me to help me do that. It’s been deeply satisfying and exciting for me.
Did you have much of a chance to work with Tawny [Newsome] and Jack [Quaid] while they were on set [for the Lower Decks crossover in episode 7]?
Yeah, a little. That was so fun. That’s so fun. I didn’t actually get to go work directly with Tawny in particular, but I worked with Jack. And just having them both in the table read before the episode was such a joy because the tone of Lower Decks is so different. It’s so much faster and funnier having their energy injected into the cast was so cool. It was a real blast.
Is there anything you can tease about the rest of the season? We keep hearing rumblings of episode 9 as nuts, maybe a musical?
Do you have anything to say about that?
Look, there is some really crazy stuff to come. The second half of the season just gets bigger and louder and more surprising. So yeah, strap in.
New episodes from season 2 of Strange New Worlds drop weekly on Thursdays on Paramount+ in the U.S, the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Season 2 is also available on SkyShowtime elsewhere in Europe. The second season will also be available to stream on Paramount+ in South Korea, with premiere dates to be announced later.
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