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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Discovery's Rainn Wilson

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Discovery's Rainn Wilson

He’s back! Harry Mudd, last seen in “Choose Your Pain,” stuck in a Klingon prison cell after being left behind by Captain Lorca and Lt. Tyler, will return to wreak more havoc in episode seven of Star Trek: Discovery, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.” And that means more Rainn Wilson, which is always a good thing. chatted with Wilson on Monday, just a few hours after CBS All Access announced that it had renewed Discovery for a second season. Among the topics: Wilson’s love of sci-fi and Trek, his thoughts about Lorca leaving Mudd to die, and a couple of teasers about “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.” Here’s what he had to say:

How much of a sci-fi fan are you, and where does Star Trek fall into that?

Well, that's where it started. I was about six years old when I started watching The Original Series in re-runs in 1972 in Olympia, Washington. I watched every single one multiple times. I had a model of the Enterprise. I had books about it. I was just fascinated. I was there on opening weekend for the first opening movie. Obviously, Star Wars fell in there, in between. When I was about 11 years old, I started reading science fiction. I started with Ray Bradbury, which so many people do, a lot of short fiction, a lot of great short story writers, Robert Sheckley and so many more. I read all the classics. Arthur C. Clarke and everybody. But to get to go back and do a classic character from TOS... You know, actors are always like, "Oh, it's a dream come true.” It really was a dream come true for me.

You made your first appearance in “Choose Your Pain.” How satisfied were you with Harry's introduction and also how the episode came together?

I think it's a great episode. I think it's terrific. I think it works on a number of different levels. One of the things I really loved about Harry is that he's got a little bit of a backstory. The writers did a terrific job of just kind of laying in… They call it in Hollywood writing parlance, "laying pipe" -- but he laid a little bit of pipe about Stella, how I'm trying to win her over from her father, about his resentment at the Federation, his whole resentment at being a civilian that's having to go to war against the Klingons, and his issues. So, I really love that aspect of it.

Lorca and Tyler left Harry behind. Some people didn't think that was very Star Trek-like, but it sure was Lorca-like. Your thoughts?

Exactly right. I thought that it was not very Star Trek-like. The move is to take Mudd with him and then put Mudd up to trial. He doesn't get to determine the laws. Put Mudd on trial for spying in a Klingon jail and Mudd would serve a year in prison and be let out, and it'd be fine. But leaving him essentially to die? That's no bueno.

How did you land the Mudd role?

As soon as I heard about (Discovery), as soon as the writers staff was formed, I begged my agents, “Can I just have a general meeting?” So, I went in, sat around for 45 minutes, looked at some of the drawings of what they were coming up with and I said, "Hey, I’d love it if there's something for me.” And they were like, "Well, I don't know that there's anything for you necessarily right now, but we'll keep you in mind." Then, I don't know, six months later I got a call. “How about Harry Mudd?" I was like, "That's perfect."

This version of Mudd is pretty deadly, arguably deadlier than the original Mudd. How tricky was it to calibrate your performance to make Mudd sly and comedic and playful, but also disreputable and deadly?

He was always deadly. Remember, in “I, Mudd,” he's going to trap them on a planet with androids and take the ship and leave them to die. Mudd has always had a dark edge. He's a con-man and a merchant and a trickster, but he's always had a deadly edge. So, I think they’re continuing in that tradition.

We'll see you again in a few days in episode #7, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.” Give us a little preview…

Well, we know that Mudd is not so happy being left behind in the Klingons prison. We know that Mudd visits the ship. And I think that sh-t is really gonna hit the fan. That’s about all I can say.

Anything else we can drag out of you about the episode?

I get to fire a phaser. Pretty awesome.

How have you enjoyed working with Jason Isaacs, Shazad Latif, Sonequa Martin-Green and the rest of the cast?

I've loved it. Jason is, he is a very strong-willed human being. He has really strong ideas about what works and what doesn't work, and I love that. I got along great with him and we had a lot of fun together. I respect him as an actor a great deal and it was super-fun to square off against him. I've been admiring his work since The Patriot, for decades. I think he's an unheralded great actor. And the rest of the cast... I think Sonequa is the kindest, sweetest, person you'd ever want to meet, and she brings such heart to the role. It's a tricky role because she's educated by Vulcans, so she doesn't lead with her emotions, but Sonequa leads with her heart. I love working with everybody. I love the diversity of the cast. I think they're terrific, terrific actors. Doug Jones does a great job with Saru. I think he brings a lot of heart and humanity to (from) inside of all of that makeup and stuff. He's a big fan favorite. People are really loving him now, and I love that.

You’ve always got a bunch of projects completed or about to start. What else are you involved in?

The Meg is a big action film with Jason Statham. It's coming out this summer. That promises to be good. I've got a movie called Permanent coming out this Christmas. It's a comedy I did with Patricia Arquette. I'm developing a science-fiction show at AMC about an alien who takes over the body of a man living in the San Fernando Valley. I would star in that. And, this week, I'm shooting an episode of Room 104 for HBO. I stay busy in a lot of different ways.

Last question. CBS All Access announced just a couple of hours ago that it had renewed Discovery for a second season. How eager are you to play Mudd again, and what kind of mischief do you hope he'll get into if we see him again next year?

I said this to someone else in an interview, but I'm going to repeat myself because I think it's a juicy one. This is what I would like to see in season two, episode four or so: They bump into Mudd, he's got a merchant ship, he's got a crazy crew on the merchant ship, and he's getting into all kinds of trouble traveling around the galaxy trying to do little deals. And, boom! We’ve set ourselves up for a spin-off show. The Harry Mudd spin-off show. That would be my ideal.

Star Trek: Discovery streams Sunday nights on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Space Channel in Canada. The series streams on Mondays on Netflix in the rest of the world.