Here's The Research That Went Into Bringing Nurse Chapel Back In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" is constructed from what modern entertainment discourse refers to as "legacy characters." That's journalistic shorthand for familiar characters that had previously appeared in long-ago films and are being resurrected in older form, or they have been recast by new actors. Christopher Pike, Cadet Uhura, Dr. M'Benga, and of course Spock all appeared in previous "Star Trek" episodes back in the 1960s, and they are now updated into a modern streaming-era iteration. 

Notable for "Strange New Worlds" is that three different roles once played by Majel Barrett have had to be distributed among three different actresses. The computer voice, stalwart first officer Number One, and the capable and compassionate Nurse Chapel are now played by Alex Kapp, Rebecca Romijn, and Jess Bush, respectively. As professionals, each of the actors behind their respective legacy characters did their own research into their characters, exploring both the in-universe canonical history, as well as what "Star Trek" characters meant within the context of a large pop culture map. 

This was certainly the case for Bush, who revealed her research process in a recent interview with /Film. 

Majel Barrett vs. Jess Bush

Jess Bush explains in the interview that playing an established character — especially one from a franchise as heavily scrutinized as "Star Trek" — required a balance between established canon and the need to bring something new to the role. More than anything, Bush was excited for the latter, understanding that Nurse Chapel, while appearing in various episodes of the original "Star Trek," was given very little by way of backstory or a personal life. "Strange New Worlds" was going to provide more of that. Indeed, "SNW" has already provided Chapel with a previously undisclosed set of skills, as well as a dating history; Christine Chapel is bisexual, we learn. Her research involved watching Majel Barrett and familiarizing herself with "Star Trek" at large. Says Bush: 

"So yeah, I did do my own research, both into 'Star Trek' more broadly and how it fit into pop culture contextually when it was first around, and how it has done that throughout the decades that it's been around. Because I think that's important, too, in character development in this show in particular. And into Majel [Barrett's] performance."

Medical research

More important than research into Nurse Chapel's pop culture legacy, however, was Jess Bush's need to accurately portray a medical professional. While medicine in "Star Trek" is centuries advanced from our own, and the technology used is all fictional, knowing a history of medicine, how the science advanced, and where humanity is right now, was vital to the actress. Indeed, several times throughout "Star Trek," the doctor characters have had to rely on low-tech means to cure injuries and illnesses. Documentary films, Bush said, helped out a lot in getting a handle on the field. After all, if one is going to use professional language, one ought to know what it means:

"... This has been more of an ongoing thing, but just reading into different materials like nursing memoirs, and watching different documentaries on medical work in different contexts, like medevac and things like that, too, which I think have been really helpful. Yeah, so there's all that background research, but a whole lot of intuition, also. I think that just builds the skeleton for then things to unfold organically."

"Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" is currently available on Paramount+. Its first-season finale will air on July 7, 2022.