Star Trek: The Cruise is absolutely thrilled to welcome Ethan Peck, Discovery‘s Mr. Spock, to the 2020 voyage. This isn’t just Peck’s first Star Trek cruise, it’s his first ever cruise of any type. We had the good fortune to speak with this erudite and thoughtful young man about playing such an iconic character, and what he expects when he sets sail in March 2020.
Here is an edited version of that conversation:
Have you been on a Caribbean cruise before?
No, and this could not be more exciting for me. I’ve always been so curious about it. My best exposure to the cruise ship life is that famous article written by David Foster Wallace. I spoke with Jonathan Frakes about it, and he was just so exuberant and excited. I have so much love and respect for Jonathan, so I’m thrilled to get invited. And to see the fans!
You’ve jumped right in with the convention scene. Did any of the Trek alum give you some coaching?
A little bit, again, by Jonathan. He directed one of my first episodes on Discovery, which was a special, wonderful experience. Every convention has been a little different. It’s such a privilege to be a part of this universe. Sometimes I meet a bunch of people, sometimes only a few. Sometimes, I only have a limited time, but it’s about being present. I’ll likely spend a lot of time with fans on the cruise, probably more than they will want!
It’s all about being grateful, in my opinion, and I think Jonathan really sees that. As does Garrett Wang. We’re all in reverence of this thing that is so much greater than us all.
A few people have mentioned feeling “seen” by Discovery‘s representation of Spock. He has long been considered a hyper-intelligent being, and it was revealed he has L’tak Terai, which is Vulcan dyslexia. I had an experience with this young woman in Calgary, who was struggling, and was so grateful for the character. Then her friend approached me when I was in Montreal, talking about how she was so uplifted by the role and just by meeting me briefly. To have that kind of effect is very surreal but also beautiful, because my intention with playing the role was just to survive.
It’s such a special and iconic character. I wanted to bring my own truth and identity and hopefully depth, but mostly I was just crossing my fingers. The response has been great, though, they really rolled the dice with me. I mean: who am I?
It really was a “big swing” for this new show to recast the most iconic character, but you pulled it off. Were you happy you had the beard at first, maybe to differentiate yourself from the character we knew?
I knew that people would react strongly, positive or negative. But the beard was my own. It grows to natural points on my cheek, very Vulcan, which I think fit the ears and the eyebrows. I like it because Spock begins in a place of emotional and psychological disarray, he’s like degenerate Spock. Then shaving at the end of the season serves the transformation so well.
One thing very similar in your performance to “Classic Spock” is the pronunciation of the word “sensors.”
Nobody quite says that word like Spock! Was that something the producers told you to do?
No, I just came it with that, after I did my preparation. When I was chosen, the first thing I did was try to figure out “why me?” I was given these dummy scenes to read – they weren’t for Spock. So I needed to figure out what in those scenes were Spock. Then I watched a lot of The Original Series. I rewatched the first season very attentively, rewinding and listening to the way Leonard Nimoy spoke. I prepared my lines with Nimoy’s Spock in front of me on a television. Then I read Nimoy’s books, both I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock.
It’s a hyper-focused performance. My Spock is the Prime Timeline Spock, unlike Zachary Quinto’s Spock from the Kelvin Timeline. It’s a very specific thing to do. Who is Spock? And what is Nimoy doing as an actor? So things like “sen-sores” can’t be ignored.
I grew up as a musician, playing the cello. So I have a bit of an ear for that. There is such musicality in Nimoy’s Spock. He really hits his consonants.
Do you still play the cello?
Actually, I just picked it up again recently! It’s been many years away, about 10 years, but there will come a time I’ll get back into it full-fledge. I studied it for about 15 years.
You know, part of the fun on the cruise is when the Star Trek celebs get to do something on stage that they don’t normally get a chance to do at a convention. Maybe we’ll get a recital out of you?
I better start practicing.
Were you into sci-fi as a kid?
Yes. I am a huge sci-fi fan. I got into it as a kid reading A Wrinkle In Time. I was quite young. Then it was Isaac Asimov. I read The End of Eternity when I was in 7th grade or so. That book got me heavy into sci-fi and also electronic music. That book and Radiohead’s album Kid A were very side-by-side for me in my development. I still love older sci-fi. I just read Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. And then movies: Blade Runner; 2001: A Space Odyssey; Alien; Moon. These are some of my all-time favorites, so getting the role of Spock? Living a dream.
Star Trek fans are often well-versed in classic Hollywood, too. We’ve got to talk a bit about your grandfather, Gregory Peck. What are some of your favorites of his that are maybe a little less known?
Well, I have not seen all of his films, but I just saw The Big Country with Charlton Heston. Funnily enough I am friends with Jack Heston, his grandson – it’s just a random, small world thing. But this movie is so good. My uncle Carey turned me on to that one. It’s a genre piece – a Western – and has similar characteristics to Giant, but then it becomes strange and violent and so, so good. It’s impossible to predict.
Another one is Spellbound, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which I suppose is very well-known, but people should check that one out if they have not seen it.