Ethan Peck Thought He Auditioned For A Much Smaller Star Trek Part

For as long as visual media has been around, so have reboots and sequels. That means for decades, fans of popular stories have been debating the recasting of their favorite characters, closely scrutinizing new actors to see if they measure up to the James Bond or Doctor Who they know. That's a lot of pressure for anyone taking up the mantle of a beloved role, but I imagine it was doubly difficult for "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" star Ethan Peck. After all, in nearly 50 years, there's only ever been one TV Spock: Leonard Nimoy.

Fortunately, Peck was able to side-step some of the initial nerves that came with auditioning for such a massive role because he didn't actually realize that's what he was doing. When the actor signed on to try out for a part in "Star Trek: Discovery," he says he was "blissfully unaware" that he was in the running to play one of the most iconic sci-fi characters of all time. "When I first auditioned, I didn't even know what I was auditioning for. The project had a code name," the actor told Esquire earlier this month. Peck says he knew the code meant "Star Trek," but figured it was for a minor role.

A few years and 16 episodes' worth of pointy-eared appearances later, and it's clear that the actor is cut out for the role of the half-human, half-Vulcan science officer aboard the Enterprise. In "Star Trek: Discovery," his version of the character was differentiated from Nimoy's older, wiser iteration with a stylish quarter-life-crisis beard. In "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," which is currently streaming on Paramount+, he looks much more like the Spock fans know and love. He also imbues the character with as much logic and dry humor as any Trek fan could want.

Trying to live up to Spock

At first, though, Peck says finding out about the role he was in the running for was daunting. "By the time I learned what the role was after two auditions, I was quite frankly terrified," he told Esquire. "I was terrified of the audition, but also of the need to live up to this mythical icon, as Spock has become."

The actor says he got so nervous at his final audition that he essentially blacked out, and can barely remember his own performance. He also says getting the part didn't exactly ease his nerves. "I felt unworthy of it," he revealed to Esquire. "I felt I had so much personal growth to undergo in order to fulfill the needs of this character." Ironically, this sense of self-doubt matches up perfectly with Spock's own mixed-species identity crisis in the new series, meaning Peck's stress about the role might be part of what makes him perfect for it. "I'm constantly working to live up to him," Peck explains.

So far, the actor has. It also helps that the team behind the new series aims to broaden fans' understanding of Spock as a character. In an interview with /Film's Jacob Hall, showrunner Akiva Goldsman explained that the writers are interested in what they call "smiley Spock," the slightly more emotional, maybe less uptight version of the character that's been glimpsed a few times throughout Trek canon. "We always see him in the emotion-tamped-down part," Goldsman explains, "but that suggests that there were times when it came through in a way that's more wholesome." Peck may not have known what he was getting into with his "Star Trek" audition, but now that he's here, we can't wait to see what direction the character takes next.

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" airs Thursdays on Paramount+.