Throughout Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Ethan Peck has been the Enterprise’s famous half-human/half-Vulcan science officer Spock. But in the latest season two episode of Strange New Worlds “Charades,” Spock’s Vulcan DNA is removed by a group of confused aliens. The results are hilarious, allowing Peck to indulge in the kind of over-the-top acting that the character of Spock is rarely afforded. We had a chat with Peck about finally getting to play a version of Mr. Spock that’s less about logic and more like an overgrown adolescent.
Nerdist: There’s always at least one episode of every classic Trek series that feels like a sitcom. And now this season it falls on Spock to be at the center of it. How did it feel to lean into the comedy aspects of Star Trek, which isn’t something that your character gets to do a whole lot? Or really ever?
Ethan Peck: It was so fun and terrifying and intimidating. Because it’s such a stretch, and it’s such a risk, in my opinion. And I remember reading the script and thinking “No way, this is nuts.” And I personally love that style of acting, which I guess is comedic, goofy, silly. I think a lot of my friends think it’s hilarious that I’m playing the character of Spock, because they know what a weird goofball I am. Which is what Spock is underneath the Vulcan veneer, right? He’s just a weird, goofy person filled with wonder and looking to be amused and entertained.
In this episode, Spock without his Vulcan half is very much like a teenager going through puberty. He’s angry, he’s sad, he feels helpless, he’s hungry all the time… among other things. Was this episode one of the most liberating for you as an actor after playing a Vulcan with suppressed emotions since year two of Discovery?
Peck: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Definitely the most liberating for me as an actor playing Spock. Because usually he’s on rails all the time. There’s a rhythm and a musicality and an efficiency to the way he speaks. Also a brilliance to the way he speaks. It’s really difficult as an actor, and so to be able to be loose and have more fun, it was definitely very liberating and really fun. And I really got to shout-out Jordan Canning, the director of the episode. They really helped guide me through those big explosive and crazy moments that I got to play as human Spock.
Spock and T’Pring essentially break up in this episode. Or at least take some time apart. But in the original series, it seems like whatever feelings she had for Spock have evaporated. She was willing to let him die in “Amok Time.” Can we expect to see more of the two of you on screen together before the real estrangement happens between them?
Peck: I really don’t know. I don’t know what to expect. It’s funny, I don’t know what “a break” even means to Vulcans. It could be weeks, months, or years. Who knows? They have a long lifespan, and they’re very patient and very self-regulated. So I’m sure they could do just fine without one another for a long time. And they do, right? Spock and T’Pring spend a lot of time apart. So I don’t know where things will go. I’m excited to see, and I hope that there’s a lot more because Gia Sandhu, the actress that plays T’Pring, is so wonderful, and she and I get along really well, so I love working with her.
You have incredible chemistry with Jess Bush as Nurse Christine Chapel. And in this episode, you both take things to the next level. The original series always seemed to imply that Christine’s feelings were unrequited, but now we know better. Did you know when the show started that Spock and Chapel would become a thing, or did it take you by surprise?
Peck: I mean, it’s all taken me by surprise. I didn’t know. I guess I could have assumed that would exist at some point in the future, but I didn’t know when. Just didn’t know how. And yeah, it’s all been a surprise. Every couple of weeks is a surprise when we got a new script, which is really fun.
You got to reunite with Mia Kirshner, who played your mother Amanda on Discovery. But you got to spend a lot more time with her in this episode, without Sarek in sight. What was it like to get to flesh out that dynamic in a totally different context?
Peck: It was so wonderful. Mia Kirshner is such an incredible actress and scene partner on set. We just really get along well, and she is really talented and skilled, and works really hard and really cares. And she brings her heart to every moment. And for a scene partner, that’s a gift. So yeah, to figure out those moments and what they’re like, it’s also so different because before it was Vulcan Spock, and now in this episode, it’s mostly human Spock. And so it was a totally new dynamic, and it felt really exposing and it was really touching.
Now that Paul Wesley has appeared a couple of time on the show, how do you feel about eventually meeting his version of Kirk and establishing that iconic friendship? And do you feel a lot of pressure to get that chemistry just right, because of the enormous history with the previous iterations of Kirk and Spock?
Peck: Yeah. I mean, Paul and I get along really well too. I’ve got to tip my hat to the casting directors of the show, because they choose just amazing people. Paul and I get along super well. He cares deeply about his work generally, and I mean, from my experience, especially Kirk. And so we have a great rapport off camera that I think will really make its way on camera. So I think it’ll be very easy to find and very unique to us. It’ll be different than Nimoy and Shatner, but I think it’ll be the same too. It’ll be the same spirit.
Can you give us some hints as to whether or not we’re going to see that Sybok (Spock’s half-brother from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) Easter egg from season one payoff anytime soon?
Peck: I would love to explore that. Yeah, maybe Sybok is his nemesis? What do you think about that?
Speaking for much of Star Trek fandom, I think we are collectively down for that.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season two premieres episodes every Thursday on Paramount+.