Star Trek: Discovery had a lot to prove going into its second season—especially in its bold move to cast new faces as two very familiar heroes from Trek’s past and bring them into Discovery’s morally murky take on a pre-original series Federation. But Discovery’s second season not only took on those high expectations, in many ways it surpassed them.
Of all the things well-received about Discovery’s sophomore outing however, Anson Mount and Ethan Peck’s casting, as Captain Christopher Pike and Spock respectively, were perhaps among the most beloved additions to the show. Recasting two fundamentally important figures from Trek’s past—and in the latter’s case, following in the incredible footsteps of the dearly missed Leonard Nimoy—was a risky move for a fandom that has a long history of treating change with very wary eyes.
But Mount and Peck took on their duties with a gusto that didn’t just win fans over during the course of the season—it went down so well that by the end of it, we were already wondering if they could team up with Rebecca Romijn’s Number One for their very spinoff show.
In anticipation for the launch of Discovery’s second season on Blu-ray and DVD in early December, Gizmodo recently sat down with Mount and Peck to discuss their time on the show, from the challenges and pressures they faced inhabiting legacy characters, to the chance to return to those roles as part of Star Trek: Short Treks’ second season. Check out the full interview below!
Gizmodo: Now that Discovery’s second season is behind both of you at this point, looking back, how does it feel to be so wholly embraced by Star Trek fans as the new versions of such characters like Pike and Spock?
Anson Mount: Well, just speaking for myself, as a Trekkie, yes. It was a little daunting at first because I knew what was being asked of me. But, you know, I don’t know a character in the canon that is more revered, yet we know very little about him—I did not envy Ethan’s situation, which was more difficult, I’d say.
Ethan Peck: I don’t know if it was more difficult, I just has more cornerstones to uphold. I mean...Anson’s right, there was “The Cage” and “The Menagerie” we had to include in his constriction as opposed to his preparation. But, yeah, it’s been an amazing journey—and a terrifying one. Such joy from me. I can’t believe that they accepted us. And me, especially. So, it’s just been very peak life, for me.
io9: Anson, in particular—part of the expectation for you was compounded by the fact you were coming into this massive fandom off of the back of a project with another huge genre fandom, Inhumans. Coming into Trek with Pike, did your time with Marvel impact the way you prepared for the role?
Mount: No...As a young actor, I felt like I had this little secret, which is I felt like I had no technique. Because I feel, every role, I have to roll back what it is that I’m doing to play that particular role. At this point in my life, as a craftsman, I do recognise that I do have a technique, but the practice of looking at the fresh light has not really changed, at all. You’re talking to a guy who has also played Jesus and used to do construction. I feel good about starting the next chapter with a clean page.
io9: Ethan, you were not just stepping into such a huge character’s footsteps, your arc in the second season was a very emotionally complex, and it was also one fans had to wait quite a while to see really get going. Was it a challenge in those early days—not just having to dive into such an emotionally rich storyline like that, but knowing the weight of fan expectations?
Peck: Yeah, it was really challenging. I was full of fright because Spock hadn’t been taken to this place emotionally and psychologically. You know, what the wonderful writers do on Discovery, they write these emotionally interesting characters and what was on the page for my Mr. Spock was something that had never been written about him before. Layers to which he had never been exposed. And an atmosphere I found really thrilling, a part of his life that we haven’t really seen before. So yes, figuring out every moment was a tightrope walk that was never emotionally empty. It was always emotionally full, as a matter of keeping a lid on this pot that was always boiling.
In the beginning, it was hard to trust he would be this emotional. Like, I had an episode with Jonathan Frakes—episode nine or something—and it was the first time we saw [him] speaking, and I remember having discussions with Jonathan. “What’s too much? What’s too little?” How to sound it out without trial and error. And I looked at it in post and in editing, and actually, we didn’t really know where the character was going, in his arc, at the beginning. So, it was a ride that I just went on and trusted everyone around me. I could not have been surrounded by a better group of people.
io9: Both Pike and Spock come into the series with an already established, deeply rooted friendship and camaraderie from their time on the Enterprise—but the way the season plays out, you don’t actually spend that much time together. How did you both approach working to get that relationship across in what was a relatively short period of time in terms of the actual story?
Peck: You know, the funny answer is “we drank!” But the real answer is that I have tremendous...I think the best part of the job was getting to know Anson, actually.
Mount: Oh, good. You know, when you start out as a young actor someone invariably tells you that an acting career is a bit like summer camp. You go far away to these amazing places and have these amazing times with people you get really, really close with. Everyone says they’re going to stay in touch and then they never do. And every now and then, you develop a friendship that you know you’re going to have forever. And I feel like Ethan’s definitely one of those people, for me.
Peck: Aww, wow! That’s what I would say, too. You know, I really look up to Anson and I spoke to him a lot about working and life stuff, and I like the way that parallels Spock and Pike. Which is so annoying, that that’s true! But I had imagined that maybe Spock really admired Pike and was looking at him in terms of how to be human. Which is what he ultimately does in season two. Anson and I were around one another a lot, so yeah, we spent a lot of time together.
io9: Your characters may have been separated but in a way, the stories were connected through the relationships and the journeys they both go on with Michael throughout season two. Can you both talk to me about what it was like getting to work with Sonequa Martin-Green throughout the journey?
Mount: Oh yeah, I mean it’s not until you are the lead in a series that you understand how it’s more than just a backing gig. It’s a leadership role. It’s arguably a producer’s role. And Sonequa embodies that responsibility better than I ever have. She takes her role, both as an artist and as an uncredited producer, very responsibly. She is consistently the person who brings fun to the room and the adult in the room. I can’t say enough good things about working with her.
Peck: Yeah, I completely agree. The very first day that I was on set, I heard, “Ethan!” in this big parking lot and it was Sonequa and she ran over and gave me a big hug. I hadn’t met her yet until that moment and she said, “I’ve been waiting for you.” That’s just an example of how she treats each and every one of us on set. And I remember going into the job and being really nervous about ruining this beloved character. I just felt unproven and a little unsafe about it. And Sonequa was so warm and supportive and there for me. Generous as an actor, generous as a friend on set. And I got to spend quite a lot of time with her and a lot of Spock’s season with Michael Burnham and she just dives right in and trusts implicitly. And I was so grateful to her for that.
io9: Removed from season two, you have both continued to work on these characters through the new Short Treks minisodes where the scale is much smaller and intimate. What has it been life for the both of you, removed from the wider context of Discovery’s storyline?
Mount: Oh yeah, any opportunity to lean back on and jump into that particular playground is an honour and a joy.
Peck: Yeah, completely. It’s really nice not to be tethered to a greater story. With Short Treks they’re episodic and self-contained and it was really nice to have the characters in their pure state. I was on the Enterprise, first day, and it’s just him and Number One and this little event that occurs. It wasn’t complex. And it was just nice to finish that as Spock, with Number One in the control room.
Mount: As an aside, I’m a big believer in the source itself, the genre, but I just think it’s exciting the streaming technology kind of allows for the short film to have a usefulness.
io9: Ethan, to follow up on something you were saying, your Short Treks episode took Spock to another place—we got to see him as this young, fresh-faced Ensign boarding the Enterprise for the first time. Given what you went through with the character throughout season two, what was it like trying to get into that headspace of this younger, less-seasoned Spock to tell this short story with Number One?
Peck: At first I was almost resistant because I felt like I had worked to graduate myself and this character to a more well-rounded Spock. The Spock that we end up with in the original series, portrayed by Leonard Nimoy. And so to go back and to let go of everything I went through in season two as this character, it was interesting. I was self-conscious about it. To go back and just kind of have fun and be like—speaking as Mr. Spock —what’s it like to have felt like I never belonged? And to show up and maybe be really nervous and really want to fit in and have those new kid feelings in Starfleet. It was a really wonderful exercise. And ultimately, of course, we had Michael Chabon and this really wonderful director and Rebecca is so great. It was such a privilege to explore that little moment in his life. So, I loved it.
io9: Part of the warm welcome your characters have been embraced with by the fandom has come with a lot of this demand of, “We’re getting a lot of Star Trek now, why can’t we get Pike and Spock and Number One, the show?” Do you both see Spock and Pike’s futures in a potential ongoing format like that, or are you satisfied with putting the uniform on every once and a while and doing something like these short films?
Mount: Would we prefer the appetizer or the entree? [laughs] I’ve learned to count my blessings. And as a Trekkie, it’s one of those things that’s actually not even on your bucket list because it just never occurs to you, even as an actor, that you’re going to be on Star Trek. Literally, almost every day, Ethan and I would look at each other and go, “Can you fucking believe what we’re doing right now?”
Peck: Absolutely. Every day, yeah.
Mount: Yeah. So...these decisions are made by people you and I have never met and will never meet. So, whatever the Network Gods determine, it doesn’t matter. I feel blessed to have had this experience.
Peck: Yeah, if that’s it then I’m so happy, thrilled, grateful to have been a part of it. If there’s more, I would jump at the opportunity to work with Anson and Rebecca and everyone else. Mostly Anson and Rebecca. And it would be an absolute joy and pleasure.
Star Trek: Discovery season two will be available on Blu-ray and DVD in Australia on December 4 or you can stream it on Netflix.