Actors Anson Mount, Rebecca Romijn and Ethan Peck talk about their latest show Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

The leading trio of the latest Star Trek series which premiered this week talks about its relevance, themes explored and how it sends a message of optimism

Ayesha Tabassum Published :  06th May 2022 04:28 PM   |   Published :   |  06th May 2022 04:28 PM
Rebecca Romijn, Anson Mount and Ethan Peck

Rebecca Romijn, Anson Mount and Ethan Peck

The buzz around around Star Trek: Strange New Worlds just got louder with quite a few positive reviews in the week preceding its premiere. The12th TV series in the 55-year-old franchise and the sixth to be released by Paramount+ is a spin-off that comes after Star Trek: Discovery. The 10-episode narrative follows Captain Christopher Pike, Science Officer Spock and Number One, in the years before Captain Kirk boarded the U.S.S. Enterprise. The title of the series spells it out — the enterprise is on a quest to find new worlds and civilisations. The cast includes fan favourites from season 2 — Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike, Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Science Officer Spock — all of whom are reprising their roles. The series also features quite a few new faces playing characters from the original 1960s series. Babs Olusanmokun plays Dr. M’Benga, Jess Bush is cast as Christine Chapel, Andre Dae Kim is the new Chief Kyle and Celia Rose Gooding portrays the role of Cadet Uhura. While Discovery didn’t really receive the kind of response it had anticipated, Strange New Worlds seems promising, and writers Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet along with showrunners Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers have gone all out to not just explore individual characters but also themes of humanity, conflict, regret, existentialism and sexuality. In a round-table conference, the lead actors — Anson, Rebecca and Ethan — tell us more about the show, their individual journeys and what Trekkies around the world can expect. Excerpts:

What was the most endearing quality of your character that made you agree to the show?
Anson Mount:
I think when I did season two - Discovery, the quality that jumped out is particular to this captain more than to the other captains. It is his depth of empathy which requires a great deal of humility. The way he runs his bridge is fascinating. He believes in the motto that the best idea wins. He has this talent of turning that bridge into a larger plan. He doesn’t know what the answer is but gets it running.

Since you are playing Spock, did you feel the pressure of portraying this legendary character?
Ethan Peck:
Oh yes! I felt a huge amount of pressure. In the beginning of the audition process I didn’t know which character I was reading for. When I discovered it, I had a moment with a friend at that point in time. I was so overwhelmed by the possibility of getting this role and all of the responsibility that comes with it. I thought I have to grow a huge amount as a person and as an actor. To be called to do that is a frightening thing in my opinion because I knew that I needed it to happen in a very deep and profound way, in order to fulfill the needs of this character and this character’s journey. I still feel the pressure to this day. I am a little afraid of being fired at this point in time because I am so deeply rooted on this path.

Star Trek has always had such a diverse cast, what do you think about this inclusivity on the show and you’ve been part of other sci-fi series, so how different has the experience been to work in this iconic franchise?
Rebecca Romijn:
Star Trek has always been an incredible platform to tell stories with important messaging embedded. It’s really ultimately about acceptance and people from all backgrounds coming and working side-by-side. I have been a Star Trek fan since I was eight years old. I was introduced to the original series by my mom. Star Trek unto itself is a very different experience, I know I have been in the comic book world before this but this is a franchise that’s so loved around the world, and my character Number One that now has a name Una Chin Riley makes me feel like a caretaker of it. She’s a character that didn’t exist, she existed in the original abandoned pilot show and was never fleshed out. We have that opportunity now and the writers have come up with such brilliant ideas. I have been having a lot of fun taking liberties as well. There will be a big development for my character which will continue to develop and there will be themes dealing with prejudice, and the show explores if there's a place for prejudice in space, 250 years from now or not.

Ethan, were you influenced by Leonard Nimoy who played Spock in the original series? Was it challenging to find your own interpretation of the character?
Yes! I didn’t know which character I was reading for so I had my interpretation of scenes that were uniquely my own and this was a huge gift. Once I discovered which character I was playing, it made so much sense as to why my interpretation suited this character. From that point in time I was able to hybridise these two concepts of Spock - my own which was accidental and the one of Leonard Nimoy which was the blueprint  for my Spock, although I am a big fan of Zachary Quinto’s version of Spock that is from a parallel universe. I have done my best to hold onto my interpretation and to develop my own intuition. Strange New Worlds takes place 10 years before the original series so it gave a lot of room to play around and grow, and find Nimoy’s Spock.

Among all the Star Trek captains, what position would you rank your character Captain Pike at and how different was the experience to play the role for Strange New Worlds?
I am a Trekkie, I grew up watching the original series and the syndication when I was about eight. Then the next generation happened when I was in junior high. When I sat in the captain’s chair for the first time it was a strangely emotional moment for me, I suddenly had this flashback to when I was eight years old, and my friends and I in my neighbourhood were playing Star Trek as make-believe characters. I hadn’t thought about it for years, and suddenly I was here, continuing to play that make-believe. Then the first time that I went to a convention, I had the extraordinary opportunity of meeting fans, and seeing how deep that connection to the material goes. It’s not just entertainment for a lot of people. It’s a way of looking at the world. It’s an entire community that thinks they are family. I realised I have a responsibility to people I have met who have supported me to have this job. I think a lot about how to avoid having bad days at work. As the number one on the call sheet you have a responsibility. Then there are moments when the producers call for an emergency and everyone around is looking at you and you need to know how to handle the situation.

A very interesting and significant aspect of Spock’s character in this series is the exploration of his sexuality and relationship. Can you tell us a little more about it?
That’s something that’s not been done much before. Strange New Worlds sets a stage to go much more deeply into the inner lives of these characters, Spock included, which provides space for a lot of nuance. Not just my portrayal and performance but also in how he is depicted and to explore his sexual world is part of that. Spock is half woke and half human, these two parts of him are eternally in conflict making him such a compelling character. His sexual nature is absolutely a part of that. 

What’s the secret to keeping your face so emotionless while you are playing Spock?
I think it’s just a lot of control. I was really sensitive as a kid growing up, and I think that resulted in me hiding a lot of my feelings because I was teased when I was younger for crying sometimes or being overly excited. As I am maturing I realise that it was such a gift, to see and feel life so brightly. At least that’s how I think of it. So I have had all these years of training of putting on a mask and pretending to be not hurt when I was hurt, pretending to be not excited when I was excited, and pretending to be not furious when I was furious.  So, I am not sure if it was something that I had to learn how to do, I just became more aware of it when I was cast as this character, it was a great strength for this performance.

In an era when the world is exposed to AR and Metaverse, how challenging is it for Star Trek and the cast to keep the newer fans and audience engaged?
I don’t think it is challenging for me. Right now where we are in the world, I think we could use some optimism by getting back to the original format of the original series which was a Utopian-type of theme. Like the original series the funny bits will be funny, the horrific bits will be horrific and the sexy bits will be sexy. The Enterprise is the sexy starship, it’s groovy and it’s beautiful and  it feels very nostalgic. The sets are so beautiful, and are spread out over four-five different stages. I pass by the carpentry room every day, it’s all raw wood and sawdust, and I can’t believe they are turning all of this into a shiny-sleek Enterprise. Then there’s an AR wall which is a giant screen where they can create any strange new world for the next episode. There’s a lot of trust on my end that the VFX people will make it look great and the sets are phenomenal. Just walking on the bridge set was a pinch-me moment. When Anson, Ethan and I were doing the second season of Discovery and we had walked on to the bridge for the first time, we had no inkling where this was all going, but we thought, ‘have they built this incredible set for one episode? Is this going to go somewhere!’

Ethan, while working on this character of Spock, did you get a chance to delve into your deeper subconscious and discover a new trait in your personality?
I would say I struggled a lot with existentialism. I am not a philosopher, but I feel that I contemplate death quite often but not in a morbid way. I had a very near death experience in my early 20s that sent me on a very long journey of ideas and of self-awareness. I believe that Spock is very much the same way. He is a person of two worlds and he has very different relationships with that. Even on Earth we have very different opinions and experiences of death. I think in Western culture there is such a fear of it and obsession with youth. I think that’s something I have had to face as I have been on a journey with this character. Contemplation of death also can be a great igniter, it can inspire us to work differently, to work more ambitiously and creatively, to solve problems more quickly because time is limited as we know it. But for Vulcans it may not be the same. If a sphere or a capture can be stored in an object or in another person it changes one’s perspective of death. But I don’t know that Spock has decided what he believes in at this point in time. I enjoy contemplating this in my day-to-day routine with this character. 

Streaming on Voot Select