Star Trek: Picard's Ed Speleers On His Character's Big Reveal [Exclusive Interview]

This post contains spoilers for "Star Trek: Picard" season 3, episode 2 "Disengage."

If you've seen the latest episode of "Star Trek: Picard," you know that we got a big reveal about Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers), the brash yet morally grounded son of Dr. Beverly Crusher who is forced to work with Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) to save his mom's life and flee from the pointy-shaped ship that is hunting them down.

Jack doesn't get on too well with Picard and Riker — the three have all just met, after all. But at the end of the episode, we find out Jack has a lot in common with a certain retired Starfleet Admiral. It turns out that Jack is Picard's son. On the show, the news is certainly surprising to Jean-Luc, and it was something that Speleers didn't know about when he first auditioned for the part.

Once he knew the parentage of his character, however, Speleers could easily see the similarities between Jack and Picard. "They are quite different characters, but there are certain things they do — there's a fearlessness to both of them," Speleers told me when I talked to him in the lead-up to the series' third season premiere. "There's a real grounded moral compass understanding of trying to do the right thing. The only difference is Picard has the protection of Starfleet. Jack will always do it in a bit more of a rock-and-roll nature."

Speleers and I talked more about his work on "Picard," including how his time on the show compared to his previous stints on shows like "Outlander" and "Downton Abbey," and how it came to be that Jack has a British accent, even though his mom does not.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Jack will 'ruffle feathers in order to get where he wants'

I wanted to talk a little bit about your audition for your role. When did you know in the process who exactly you were playing, in terms of the character's parentage?

During the initial audition, I didn't have a clue, really. I was given some pseudonym, some working title, something that was linked to one of the producers. But also, you know who was involved, so quite quickly you read between the lines. Once there was interest, my agent told me what was really going on, and then I had really lengthy chats with ["Picard" season 3 showrunner] Terry Matalas about what was going to take place, who this role was, and the significance.

When you found out explicitly, how did you prepare for that? Did you look at Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden's past performances of the characters? Did you try to capture any other mannerisms? How did you take that and bring it into your character?

Yeah, I mean, I did assess certain things. I was given a long list of episodes from "The Next Generation" to go back and watch, and I was given very specific films to go and watch, but that wasn't necessarily with the mindset of, "I need to emulate certain mannerisms and create something that's already been there." I feel that I was given some free rein because the character had the luxury of having no affiliation with his father. As a result of that, that gave me the opportunity to make my own mark.

That said, the scripts were very enriching and allowed me to pick moments to show, actually, that there are similarities between these two in particular, between Jack and Picard. They are quite different characters, but there are certain things they do — there's a fearlessness to both of them. There's a real grounded moral compass understanding of trying to do the right thing. The only difference is Picard has the protection of Starfleet. Jack will always do it in a bit more of a rock-and-roll nature. He will ruffle feathers in order to get what he wants. And maybe that comes a little bit more of Beverly coming into him there. Beverly introduces also a slightly more sensitive side; she's a very strong woman, but I feel that she wants to help others. She's a doctor, and I feel that desire to help others and see the best in others is something that Jack inherits as well.

'Understand the character and how they fit in this world'

I know you've obviously had a long career before joining "Trek," but I believe your work in the past has been historical or contemporary dramas. This is your first sci-fi endeavor. Was there anything from joining a sci-fi show that's remarkably different from your previous work, or things that were surprisingly the same?

How I like to view it is that every time period is a time period. It's all part of history. Even ["Picard"], even though it's in the future, at some point will become history. Looking at it from an acting point of view, I don't worry too much about the period. Of course, there [are] certain things you have to get on point. With any work, you have to understand how things work, and how things operate, in order to live in the world that you are creating. However, for me, most of the job then becomes about trying to understand the character and how they fit in this world, how they're thinking, and what they're searching for. Those are the core things I'm looking for, and then that slots into the time period. If it's written there, in terms of character, and it's there clearly in the script, you can use that as your baseline to understand, and then the time period's working around you.

There's so much storytelling that's happening in the time period through production design, through the sounds, through the costume, through everything else, that you are feeding off that environment already. You just need to make sure you do the groundwork.

Last question, and it's a little silly: Your character has an English accent, and you have one as well in real life. I'm glad they addressed it in the show because I was wondering why Jack had one. Did Jack always have an English accent, or once you were cast, were they like, "Let's just give him one?"

In the initial casting breakdown, I think it said British or American. I feel that it could have gone either way. I think even when I was first cast, there was even a discussion of maybe either way, but we went with British. I think we quickly discovered that there was enough backstory to create that Jack had gone to school in London. And we took it from there.

New episodes of "Star Trek: Picard" season 3 premiere on Thursdays on Paramount+.