The wait is over. With “Light and Shadows,” the seventh episode of Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, Ethan Peck has officially taken up the mantle as Spock. He did not arrive on the scene spouting logic or lifting an eyebrow, but rather came across as a broken, disturbed figure who’ll need his family – blood and otherwise – to bring him back from the brink. StarTrek.com spoke in detail with Peck about “Light and Shadows,” becoming Spock, and things to come for the character in the latter half of season two. Spoilers Ahead.
Fans have been waiting and waiting to see your Spock. How much of a relief is it to finally be able to talk about it after all these months?
It's pretty relieving. I've been sitting with it for quite a while, so I'm both thrilled and frightened of the response.
To your thinking, what is the essence of Spock?
Spock is, to me, is wisdom. He's deeply empathetic and highly logical, obviously, as we know, and I think that makes such a wonderful combination. He's often there to offer a profound answer or observation because of his unique perspective, which is both half-human and half-Vulcan, or half-alien. And to have these two conflicting modes of operation within this one being is so compelling, and I think that's why he's been such a special character for so long.
How logical are you, or is this role totally alien to you?
Honestly, I think I've learned a lot from playing him. I tend to indulge in my emotions as Ethan, but am always striving for a better combination of logic and emotion. I think, ultimately, my goal as a human is to be deeply empathetic, but to also maintain a clear mind and make logical decisions. And so, I've learned a lot from him.
There are times in my life when I've been overwhelmed by fear or anger or happiness, and I feel the pressures of playing Spock have forced me to sit with my emotion, experience it, and still be able to think clearly about the world in front of me.
Spock is clearly not in a great place, and the episode posits the question, was he broken when he met the Red Angel, or did the Red Angel break him? Give us a sense of where you feel he is in his journey.
I think he was broken before the Red Angel. I shouldn't say broken. I think he was unrealized before the Red Angel, and his experience with the Red Angel has really exposed him to himself. I think he's compartmentalized his emotional half for most of his life, and we'll really explore at what point he starts to compartmentalize his emotional side in this season. But I think that this breaking is necessary for him to become the Spock that we have gotten to know from The Original Series that was so beautifully portrayed by Leonard Nimoy.
Spock is a bit delirious, out of it. For a portion of your first episode he was unconscious. How tough was it to play Spock in such a vulnerable emotional and physical state?
It was really hard to play because there's not really a reference point for Spock in this state of mind. And so, even though he's, I guess, quiet in his presence because of what he's going through, he's still very much alive. And to bring life and emotion into his state was a very delicate process and one we hope we handled well.
The closest thing I’d consider a reference point, actually, is the scene in Star Trek IV where Spock interacts with the computer and it asks "How do you feel?" He begins to become the next version of himself in that scene. Is Discovery building to something along those lines?
Absolutely. I think that this sort of exposure to himself is creating the raw materials to rebuild him into who he will become. And I think that's the goal of this season with Spock, absolutely.
Especially your first few days on set, how did you go about striking the right balance between emotion and logic for the character?
It was really challenging, because, as I said, there's not an exact reference point for where Spock is in this second season of Discovery, in the other material with Spock. Getting acclimated to how much he emotes, how much he internalizes, it was definitely a trial and error. But I think I was surrounded by people that cared as deeply as I did about it, and really took care of me during that process, and helped guide me. He's so disturbed at beginning of his appearances on Discovery, that… It's not for a few episodes that I really got to play with that conflict of emotion and logic. You’ll start to see it play out in the dialogue. Jonathan Frakes directed my third episode, and I think there we really started to get into balance and where that balance is truthful and authentic for Spock.
How did you enjoy your initial taste of working with Sonequa Martin-Green, James Frain and Mia Kirshner?
It was so wonderful. I really don't think I could've done this without the support of Sonequa, especially. She was so warm and welcoming when I got to set, as were James and Mia. But Sonequa's really at the head of this troupe, and she just couldn't have been more supportive and available for me, not just as a human being, but as an actor.
James Frain’s wife, Marta Cunningham, directed “Light and Shadows.” That must have been equal parts cool, weird and unusual experience, right?
Yeah, totally. And it was her first episode of Star Trek. So, we both had that in common, and that was a really nice vulnerability that we shared. Spock is in such a vulnerable place here, and I think it was just very easy to connect with her, and she was just really strong for me.
Give us a hint of what's to come in the back half of season two in terms of Spock and the Spock-Burnham relationship, especially now that we know we're on the way to Talos IV.
We are headed for a visitation of the past and a reconciliation with that past.
You met the Nimoy family when you first landed the role. Have you stayed in touch? Have they seen the first episode? Are you eager to follow up with them?
We have stayed in touch a little bit. I actually haven't checked in with them yet since the second season started airing, but I'm going to reach out to them, and I hope that they're happy with what we've done with Spock. It would mean a lot to me that they saw it and to get their thoughts and feelings about it.
Leonard Nimoy was very happy with Zachary Quinto's take on the character. What do you hope Nimoy would think about your portrayal?
I hope he would see that I took very deeply into my heart what he did with the character, what was on the page for me, and really just put all of myself into the creation of this period of Spock, this version of Spock.
Season two is wrapped. Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I'm not yet, no. I'm working on getting work.
Star Trek will put a lot of eyes on you, and it could be a real big boost moving forward, career-wise. In a perfect world, what will this lead to down the road?
Hopefully, more opportunities with strange characters. Spock is a really an odd being, and I enjoy so much that challenge of it. One of my favorite performances, I think, is Jeff Bridges in Starman. It's so underrated. I think to re-imagine and explore life as somebody that's not fully human is a really beautiful exercise as an actor. So, I hope to get more opportunities to do quirky characters, and also (to show) that I'm capable of shouldering some big responsibilities. I don't really know where exactly that leads me, but just to more strange and unusual opportunities.
Star Trek: Discovery streams exclusively on CBS All Access in the United States and is distributed concurrently by CBS Studios International on Netflix in 188 countries and in Canada on Bell Media’s Space Channel and OTT service Crave.