Of all the classic Star Trek characters portrayed in Paramount+’s newest Star Trek series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Spock is the indisputable heavyweight.
Portrayed by the legendary Leonard Nimoy in every episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, all six of the Original Series films, and two of the Kelvin Timeline films, any new actor would be understandably daunted by the enormous responsibility of taking on the character.
Ethan Peck has faced and triumphed over that exact challenge, stepping into the role in 2019 on Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 when Anson Mount’s Captain Christopher Pike enlists Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham to help find Spock, her adopted brother.
Now, with the launch of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on May 5, Peck is our full-time Spock with all the history and canon the role encompasses.
Speaking virtually with TV Fanatic and other outlets on a recent press junket day, Peck is quite honest about the overwhelming sensation of being a part of this highly anticipated series.
“It’s been crazy. I, a) can’t believe I’ve been cast in this role. It’s still something very strange to me. And b) that there was such a hunger for a Pike Enterprise show — which, of course, Spock would be a part of — is absolutely thrilling.
“This has been really one of the greatest journeys of my life thus far and may remain that way. Who knows? I feel so incredibly fortunate and lucky and grateful to be a part of this. It’s insane to me still.”
As his castmate, Rebecca Romijn, mentioned at her roundtable press interview, bringing Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to the screen was a long process, made more so by the pandemic and the challenges that posed to filming and production.
Did the extra time allow Peck to become more comfortable with the idea of being Spock?
“Yes, I would say absolutely, in an indirect kind of way. When I was cast in this role, once I learned what it was, which was towards the end of the casting process, I was faced with this challenge and opportunity to grow, not just as an actor but as a person.
“I believed I was barely worthy of it at that time. That’s my own personal thing and my own journey that I’ve been on since. It’s not every day or even every life that you must become more than you are. The needs of this role require that of me; for me to grow as a person as well as an actor.
“The pandemic really gave me a lot of time to flush out myself. Things that were not working for me as a person, as a human being, on this planet. I hope that I have been able to rid myself of that, and that [process], in turn, has informed my work. So, absolutely, that time was utilized.”
In growing into the role, what challenges has Peck faced?
“That’s a complicated question to answer. I would say that I’m still challenged every single day.
“I’m more comfortable at this point in time with the onus of the character, being the custodian of this character, but I still read things in scripts that I get, and I’m like, ‘I have no idea how I’m going to do this,’ or how I’ll be true to Spock because what’s fun about him is he does sort of live within these boundaries.
“Then to place him in a scenario that he shouldn’t be in or is really uncomfortable in, that’s when I think really cool things start to happen with the character and in my performance of the character.
“I’m revisiting, sort of crazily, Leonard Nimoy’s voice in my head when I’m doing a lot of these scenes. ‘Does this sound right? Does it feel right?’ I’m constantly checking in with the spirit of his Spock and am channeling it as well.
“Then there are things that are written for my iteration of Spock that have not been written before. That is my privilege as an actor and as this Spock.”
From guest-starring on Star Trek: Discovery to being one of the Big Three on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds must be an intense leap for Peck.
“Oh, yeah, I’m filled with terror all the time. I hope not to be as informed by it as much as maybe I was in the beginning.
“I want to be loved and accepted and celebrated on some level, or my ego does. I understand from an intellectual perspective that that will not occur in totality. Some people will like it; some people will not. And that’s just a part of what we do.
“I get new scripts and, like I said, I don’t know how the heck I’m going to do it. That’s informed my process in a really important way. I’ve done a lot of research, and I’ve now had a lot of experience as the character on set, on camera.
“And then I’ve got to allow a lot of space for the unknown, which is really uncomfortable. I think as creatures on this earth, we want to be in control of things in order to feel safe emotionally.
“I’ve had to do a lot of undoing of that impulse, to welcome chaos and live in a place of the unknown. That’s important to my work.”
With the looming specter of Nimoy’s past (but actually future) Spock, how is Peck calibrating the journey from his Spock to that known future iteration?
“I have no idea. I’m just doing my best. I mean, there’s definitely an eye out for that.
“It’s a very collaborative effort between myself and the writers and the producers and the other creative forces behind our show because that’s a huge task that I don’t think I can shoulder by myself.
“Also, there’s a lot of opportunity in Strange New Worlds to explore and see parts of Spock’s inner world that we’ve not seen before. There’s no roadmap for that that’s already been laid out.
“There is license in our exploration of the character in that regard which I’m grateful for and something that excites me about this show.
“I think there are certain touchstones, qualitatively, about the character that I probably couldn’t articulate to you very well that just feel right and, I hope, appear in the way that looks accurate in our final product, but that’s a very collaborative effort, the calibration.”
In calibrating that journey, how has Peck managed to deconstruct Nimoy’s Spock?
“It’s been a very delicate and thoughtful process. I don’t think I was able to be the Spock that you see in the original series a couple of years ago when I first got the role.
“Even now, I might [only] be touching on the more full spirit of that version of Spock, but I myself am in a place of development in my own life that I think lends itself to this iteration of Spock.
“I’m just really lucky to be in the right place at the right time for this role. And to have been auditioning at that time. There are so many things that worked in my favor to put me in these shoes. I’m just trying to capitalize on those aptitudes that I seem to have.”
Having played Spock on both Discovery and Strange New Worlds, can Peck quantify the difference in experiences on the two shows?
“Firstly, the shows are just so different in so many ways.
“I think the DNA’s the same – Gene Roddenberry’s vision is very much a part of both shows, which is one of inclusion, of celebration of diversity, of curiosity, of a harmonious existence between vastly different peoples and ideas – but just by its look, the shows are very different. The tones are different. The colors are different. Of the sets, of the ships.
“Our show is episodic, which is something we’re all really excited about. Akiva Goldsman put it wonderfully. He said that there’s serialized emotion, but each episode is its own standalone adventure which I think is great.
“I love to watch film because it’s a contained experience. You can have it in ninety minutes to two, two and a half hours. And it does something wonderful for you. Hopefully. If it’s done properly, right?
“I hope that our episodes can be like that for people and that we’ll convert fans to our show and to the Star Trek universe because there are so many great iterations of it that have already been made and exist and are ready to be seen.
In one of the early episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Peck’s Spock and Celia Rose Gooding’s Uhura must sing together as part of a mission. Was that a challenging experience?
“[Celia]’s an incredibly impressive and talented person, but she’s an incredibly talented singer as well, so I just did my best to sneak in behind her beautiful singing.
“I myself was a trained classical musician. I played cello growing up, so I’m not totally tone-deaf, I hope. But in terms of singing, I was quite nervous about that, and we practiced quite a lot.
With Spock being a character who has come to embody a way of thinking and being for generations of Trek fans, has playing the role affected Peck personally?
“Spock’s influenced me so much. It’s weird. I had to really look at myself when I was first cast in this role because I didn’t know what I was auditioning for from the very beginning, and something I brought to it lent itself to this iteration of the character.
“I needed to better understand that, to become more self-aware so that I could better control what I’m inputting into this performance.
“In doing so, I learned so much about myself. In my opinion, I had to grow in a profound way on a personal level and, therefore, as an actor.
“With art, your life is so informing of your work, and I had to become more than I was. I had to become more clear-headed, better focused. To not be such a hypocrite.
“We can all be hypocrites in our own ways, and I feel like Spock has so much integrity. I was in awe of that and wanted to become more like that in my own life.
“We wake up in the morning, and we have the opportunity to have whatever thoughts we want. We can do things, but most importantly, we can think; we’re free in our minds. That’s a goal that we should all have. Spock is so good and sharp with his mind.
“I would say that I learned most from him is to be more optimal with my thinking, to put it in a very Spockian way.”
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds premieres on Paramount+ on May 5.
Be sure to check back for more press day interviews with the fantastic cast of this spectacular new show!
As always, we’ll have episode reviews up every week. Prepare to be transported!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.
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