Playing Spock: Intense Emotions and Growth

Ethan Peck
Photo by Maggie Birge-Caracappa

Ethan Peck makes playing Spock on Star Trek: Discovery look easy, but he is very open about the terror he felt when taking the part. He hates to admit it, but he got past all the fear and negative self-feedback by practicing gratitude, self-love, and positivity. “I hate to say it, but it’s true. And it worked!”

Peck knew that if he worked from fear then he would “create something distorted and inauthentic.” But it wasn’t  until filming the final episodes that he really felt it come alive, even though “every moment as Spock is super challenging because he’s so complex. He’s got these warring factions within himself… his logic and emotion, his Vulcan and human sides. So every moment on camera was a challenge.”

After being cast as Spock, Peck met with the Nimoy family, Adam and Julie and their partners, to get their blessing and feedback. It was a surreal moment for Peck because they met at a place in Studio City across from the place that Peck went to high school. “My head was just spinning, but they were so wonderful and so curious. I really credit them with getting to make me feel worthy of attempting to play the role.”

For Peck there was a great synergy between the growth that Spock went through during the second season of the show and the growth that Peck went through to be able to play the part. “It was almost serendipitous that I was put in position to play him. A lot of what you see is real for Ethan but worked so well for Spock. But I’m sitting in prosthetics for two and a half hours every morning, so I would really start gearing up for the day and ‘thinking Spock thoughts’ was how I put it. It’s a very different presence… something very observant and ferociously smart and sharp. It definitely takes some ramping up.”

Peck added that he is an intensely emotional person and he felt Spock is, too. Spock’s emotions inform his logic and strategy and problem-solving. While Peck had done a lot of work to break down the walls he had built to protect himself from his hypersensitivity, it was easy for him to put them back up in playing Spock, again because Spock’s intense emotions are always fighting against his Vulcan-ness.

One thing that came across strongly in the series was the relationship between Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and Spock. A lot of the on-screen relationship came from the off-screen friendship between Mount and Peck. Peck said he made Mount his “reluctant mentor” and while they are similar in a lot of ways, they are also very different. In some ways, Peck said, he was quietly looking to Mount to teach him how to be a man.

Peck is intensely proud of having been a part of a series that celebrates diversity and inclusion, with the first African-American female lead of a science-fiction show (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the first queer relationship in Star Trek, as well as disabled characters and other characters of color. He hopes that it’s the start of a long contribution to the overall Trek universe.

Audiences will soon be able to see Peck in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels. It is a new incarnation of the Netflix series Penny Dreadful. While Peck couldn’t say much about his character in the show, he did say that the amount of vision and detail going into the show is astounding.

Both seasons of Star Trek: Discovery are available on CBS All Access.

Author of the article

Max sees to the needs of her kitty overlords; polices the grammar on all kinds of published material including signage, menus, and food packaging; and cuddles with her wife while watching her favorite shows (Our Flag Means Death, Killjoys, Sense8, and Doctor Who among them). She continues to be far too excited to be working for the Daily Dragon.