‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Star Ethan Peck Discusses Initial “Nearly Unbearable” Weight of Playing Spock and Profound Fan Appreciation

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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode “Ghosts of Illyria.”] 

For Ethan Peck, each episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a journey into a character whom he has come to know well — and yet remains a mystery. The actor, who debuted as Spock on Star Trek: Discovery, finds great beauty in that notion.

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His journey to becoming the iconic sci-fi character first brought to life by the legendary Leonard Nimoy has been intense, but thoroughly enjoyable and fulfilling, he tells The Hollywood Reporter.

And while it was his guest work on Discovery that led throngs of fans to demand he, along with Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn, be given a spinoff, it is the format and writing of Strange New Worlds that has allowed Peck to truly embody and understand the half-Vulcan, half-human character.

The new series on Paramount+ is only three episodes in, and yet, no time was wasted in exploring Spock’s internal trials and tribulations, including his love life struggles with T’Pring (Gia Sandhu), who was bonded to Spock as a child. Peck is reveling in the exploration of his character’s dueling identities, crediting the writers for Spock’s nuance and complexities.

The Original Series nostalgia comes through so well. How does it feel to make this series compared to your time on Discovery

It’s obvious we are in an episodic format, so each episode is its own adventure, its own world, its own conflict to be overcome by the bridge crew of the Enterprise. The challenges are new every single time, and that’s exciting for me as an actor because I don’t know what’s coming up. Oftentimes, at the beginning of the season of a serialized show, you kind of get an idea of what your character will be going through. And in this case, it’s kind of a surprise where Spock is going. That’s really thrilling.

You, Anson and Rebecca struck such a chord with fans in these characters, they demanded via petitions there be a spinoff. Has the level of that love, respect and trust set in yet? 

It’s still crazy to wrap my head around that. Fans are such a big part of why we’re here now, and I’m so grateful to the fans. It’s also been really inspiring for us because we’ve just poured our hearts and souls into this series, and I think it shows. You can feel it. But yes, I’m still kind of grasping the reality of my situation — that I’m playing this character and on this show. It fills me with wonder and honor.

I so appreciate that, right off the bat, the series deals with Spock’s exploration of his inner turmoil and conflict — trying to find his true self, as opposed to who he thinks others want him to be. You’re really pulling double duty at times in that battle.

Absolutely. I’ve been really fortunate with the level of nuance they’ve given to me in the writing. It’s also been very scary. This is such a precious character, not just to the fans, but to me. And like I said, one of the gifts of the episodic format is that every episode’s a new adventure, not knowing what Spock is going to be doing. So I feel like I’m constantly kind of searching for the character and understanding the inner details, which again is a gift.

Spock wants to be accepted by Vulcan, by his people whom he’s grown up with, but he has never been accepted because he’s half human. This is a struggle that exists on our planet, and I may not be the best representative of that, but we have amazing writers who do experience that today. I know that they contribute quite heavily to Spock’s life in that way. His human side is undeniable. He must explore it. And I think eventually his understanding of his humanness is what makes him who he will become later in the Original Series. His emotional side draws in valuable information that he can use in his problem-solving. He’s a beautiful person to be portraying and to be discovered.

Anson Mount and Ethan Peck on ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.’ - Credit: Marni Grossman/Paramount+
Anson Mount and Ethan Peck on ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.’ - Credit: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

Marni Grossman/Paramount+

I am also enjoying the exploration of his love life with T’Pring, which was only briefly touched on in the Original Series. Can you talk about that additional, mostly unexplored layer of Spock? 

It’s really complicated, and we really handle it with a lot of thought and caution because we don’t want to put anything down that doesn’t ring true for these characters and for these cultures. It’s so interesting playing against Gia because she is expressive in an even more quiet way, in my opinion, than Spock can be. And when I’m working with her on-camera, I feel he needs to be more Vulcan to be accepted because I want her to like me. I want to be accepted by her. So that’s always kind of on the back burner of Spock’s mind, that he just doesn’t belong there, he belongs with Starfleet. So it’s interesting to explore those moments with her.

There is a wild away mission for Capt. Pike and Spock in “Ghosts of Illyria.” Safe to assume away missions are more fun to shoot, especially when it is just you and Anson getting to play in the sandbox? 

Away missions can be more fun. Oftentimes, though, they’re logistically more complicated, so we might have to wake up even earlier to travel someplace to film. This particular episode we actually filmed in Ontario Place in Toronto. So in that way, they can be a little more complicated. There are more unknowns, but it’s always really fun to be in a new environment with these characters because our team just does such an amazing job with set design and decoration, and it really brings life to my work. But this specific episode is such a classic Spock and captain episode.

And Anson and I get along great. We share a lot of science fiction books with each other, both being big sci-fi fans. So, we’re often both reading on-set. I think we both approach our work with the same amount of intensity and consistency, and that’s just really special. Everyone on our show works hard, and I think Anson really sets the bar for the level of work that exists in our show, and that is something I’ve admired.

How did you build that bond between you two? Did you spend extra time paling around when the cameras weren’t rolling? 

When I was doing Discovery, I saw Pike as an uncle figure to Spock or an older brother. On Discovery, Spock became close with his adopted sister Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), but I think Pike was the human role model for him. And so with that in mind, we went into our off time between Discovery and Strange New Worlds and did as many conventions together as we could. We just had a blast and got to know each other better, discovered that we just have great chemistry on- and off-camera. And of course, working together now on Strange New Worlds, you become family. You see each other in your highs and your lows, and you learn to accept each person for who they are in every moment. And that’s a rare opportunity because we must be united and be coordinated with one another and work together. So that’s really special.

Celia Rose Gooding as Nyota Uhura and Ethan Peck as Spock on ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.’ - Credit: Marni Grossman/Paramount+
Celia Rose Gooding as Nyota Uhura and Ethan Peck as Spock on ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.’ - Credit: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

Marni Grossman/Paramount+

You and Celia Rose Gooding as Nyota Uhura are doing an extraordinary job with your incarnations of these beloved classic characters. I assume there was extra pressure initially. Do you still feel it now? 

That’s a question that I can answer in so many different ways as time goes on because it changes. In the beginning, yes, the weight was nearly unbearable, and I wondered if I would be kind of broken by, “I’m not sure that I quite feel worthy.” I’m still growing into Spock in many ways. And you know, now the pressure isn’t quite as great as it was during Discovery.

I’m trying to have an experience as Spock. I’m not thinking of what the final product will be or how it will look. But I definitely did a bunch of research, and I’m constantly checking in with the voice of Spock in my head. Leonard Nimoy made such an impression on me and that’s with me always. I’m constantly checking in with that.

Celia and I maybe have added pressure because of the characters we’re playing, but at the same time, I think Star Trek is such a beautiful burden for all of us and a heavy one, too. It represents something so special to so many people. It’s hopeful and aspirational and inspiring and curious and accepting. And I think it’s always anecdotal to all of the important things that are happening in the world.

Interview edited for length and clarity. 

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is streaming now on Paramount+.

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