1 of 5 | Paul Wesley's "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" airs Thursday nights on Paramount+. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, July 19 (UPI) -- Vampire Diaries alum Paul Wesley says he constantly has to remind himself that the younger versions of the Star Trek icons he and his co-stars play in Strange New Worlds have no idea who they will become or what their most important relationships will be.
Set in the 23rd century, a decade before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series, Strange New Worlds is a Star Trek: Discovery spinoff that follows the intergalactic adventures of Capt. Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and his crew on the USS Enterprise.
They include science officer Spock (Ethan Peck); Una (Rebecca Romijn), Pike's right-hand woman, known affectionately as No. 1; and linguistics specialist Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding).
Wesley plays James T. Kirk, an officer who will eventually take over as commander of the Enterprise with Spock and Uhura by his side.
New Season 2 episodes of Strange New Worlds air on Paramount+ on Thursdays.
"Going in, I need to calm myself down and not make a big deal out of everything and just play it honestly," Wesley told reporters in a recent Zoom interview conducted before the Screen Actors Guild strike.
"I do think one's relationship with another actor off-screen or your general chemistry does translate onto the screen," he added. "We do get on quite well, Ethan and I. Spock and Kirk, obviously, and have this deep friendship.
"This is all nascent. The characters don't know how important their relationship is, which is fun because they are subconsciously drawn together, but they don't really know why."
The same goes for Kirk's kinship with Uhura.
"It's another hugely important relationship in the Star Trek universe," Wesley said.
"Celia is a really wonderful actor. She is very rich in terms of her emotions, which are so easily accessible for her. She is a stage actress and she has such a deep presence."
The actor pointed out that what makes Spock and Kirk fascinating to portray -- and watch -- is how different they are, with Spock usually calm and logical and Kirk more impulsive and emotional.
But, he said, Kirk and Uhura are equally intriguing because they are like-minded.
"She needed to sort of figure things out about her own self," Wesley said. "Kirk was able to be there for her and be part of that journey."
Pike is a good leader and positive role model for those onboard the Enterprise.
"Anson does this brilliant job of creating this incredibly confident guy [who makes you think] 'If the ship is going down, I want this guy as my captain because I think he will figure it out,'" Wesley said.
"My character's not there yet. William Shatner's character is there, but mine isn't," he added. "Kirk has a very clear moral compass that is absolutely not shakable. He knows what's right, he knows what's wrong and he has incredible instincts. I think that's something you're born with."
Wesley was careful not to drift into doing an impression of Shatner, the actor who played Kirk in the original TV series and several movie sequels.
"I asked that question going in," Wesley said of talking to the show's writers and directors about how much Shatner he should inject into his performance.
"They said, 'Please just do your own thing,'" he said. "He's not the Kirk we know yet. He's still figuring it out. He's not this sure-footed captain. He's a lieutenant. He's still kind of this boy and he's still figuring out his place.
"If I have the honor of continuing to play this character, I would like to develop some of those characteristics that we know so well."
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels alum Peck said he felt similarly about not trying to duplicate the great Leonard Nimoy's portrayal of Spock.
"It's a very delicate dance that you have with these characters that already exist," Peck said.
"I did my best to internalize Leonard Nimoy's creation. Spock is his creation, and once that felt alive in me, I let go and [tried to] just be."
Peck said it is his understanding that Spock has no desire to lead. He only wants to help.
"He really enjoys being an instrument of this team," Peck added. "His command style is sort of unknown to him."
Wesley and Peck both appeared in the brief psychological thriller series Tell Me a Story and, so, were personally acquainted before the Strange New Worlds cameras started rolling.
"i find Paul so easy to get along with and was always very excited to see him," Peck said.
"To have that foundational relationship, I think, really supports this strange interaction between these very different characters that we get to see a little bit of in Season 2," he added. "It really added a lot of nuance to the momentous moment when these two characters meet."
This season, viewers also will see a warmer side of the characteristically reserved Spock, who is half-human and half-Vulcan.
"We will see Spock further explore his human side. He does this in various situations and relationships," Peck said without divulging too many details.
"It's very apparent in his interactions with Nurse Chapel (Jess Bush) and there is a really wonderful situation where Spock can do nothing but face his humanness that I am very excited about."
In the show, Spock is given an old time, lyre-like, stringed musical instrument to help him process and express his emotions.
Fortunately, the grandson of late Oscar winner Gregory Peck grew up playing classical cello and was able to pick up the instrument easily.
"It was really wonderful to incorporate this secret ability that I have to play the cello that my friends don't know that I do. They hear that I play and they're like, 'You're playing a trick on me!'" he added.
"I do, personally believe that playing an instrument is such an amazing outlet for emotion, so it was very easy to connect with that."