Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Star Paul Wesley Reveals the Story Behind His Captain Kirk Casting

About a year ago, it was announced that Paul Wesley would appear as James T. Kirk on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2. Only for his actual first appearance to happen during the season one finale, “A Quality of Mercy,” an alternate timeline take on “Balance of Terror” from Star Trek: The Original Series. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Vampire Diaries star talks about what it was like playing the role.

For instance, the casting process for the show was so secretive, and it happened so quickly that Wesley initially thought it was a prank. He got a call from his agent one weekend asking if he wanted to do a quick Zoom with showrunners Akiva Goldsman and Henry Alonso Myers alongside casting directors. Wesley said yes and asked what it was for. His agent said “it’s a character who is very iconic in Star Trek,” and to talk to them to see what happens.

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“So, we did this Zoom, and we all just had a great time. The episode had not been written yet, but they knew they wanted Kirk to come in. So, there was no material, it was just kind of a general conversation about everything you can imagine. And that was it. Then it was literally like, ‘You’re leaving next week.’ (Laughs.)”

For Wesley, the most important aspect of his performance is not to imitate something sacred, as it would be an insult to the character who is so iconic. William Shatner’s take on Captain Kirk has obviously touched people. Plus, it’s also a reminder that he’s not Shatner. So he’s playing a version of Kirk that has never been seen before and where every episode is different.

“Obviously, the season one finale is an alternate timeline that doesn’t exist, because it takes place in the future. He’s not captain of the Enterprise. He’s never met Spock, and he’s never had all those experiences. It’s a Kirk who has been shaped differently. So in the season finale, it really was open to interpretation. In season two, we meet a Kirk who we know better. I think the most important thing was to pay respect to the important pillars of his personality: His morality, his incredible instinct, his courage, his empathy towards others and how protective he is of his crew.”

Sitting In The Captain’s Chair

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So what was it like putting on that costume for the first time? Overwhelming? Empowering? Mind-blowing? According to Wesley, all of the above. Even just sitting in the captain’s chair, he had understood where to put his hands and what his posture should be. To help with that, he rewatched every TOS episode to help him feel at home in the chair.

“I ride motorcycles and when you first get on a motorcycle, you don’t really understand how it moves, and you don’t really understand how to do nice, tight turns. You don’t feel comfortable. And it’s like that with the chair, how you’re just sitting there. That was one of the things that I needed to understand, so it felt like I had been sitting there thousands of times. And it’s like that in this outfit. I know this outfit; I feel at home in it.”

A recurring character on Strange New Worlds is George Samuel “Sam” Kirk (Dan Jeannotte), who’s the brother of James T. Kirk. During TOS, we only saw Sam as a corpse, played by Shatner wearing a fake mustache. In the new show, we get to see more of their relationship together.

“Dan is wonderful, and it was very easy for me to immediately have this kind of brotherly connection with him. I don’t know how to describe it. But with that said, we will explore this in future episodes, particularly in season two. I don’t want to tease too much, but there is a rivalry between the two of them because they’re quite different. There is competitiveness. They both want to impress their father and it’s hard when Kirk has achieved so much, so quickly. It’s hard for Samuel to be able to deal with that.”

Wesley also talked about what it was like to have gotten the blessing of Shatner and said that it was very classy of him. It meant an indescribable amount to him to have Shatner go out of his way to have a lovely conversation with him and tweet ‘best of luck and congrats.’ Wesley said that to have his blessing to enjoy the character meant everything to him.