From showrunner Alex Kurtzman, Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery (available to stream on CBS All Access) has seen the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery join forces with Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) of the U.S.S. Enterprise to investigate seven mysterious red signals. While they work together to figure out their origin and understand the appearance of an unknown being called the Red Angel, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) finds herself in the direct path of her estranged brother, Spock (Ethan Peck), which is sure to lead to endless amounts of family drama.
While at the CBS All Access portion of the TCA Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to chat 1-on-1 with actor Anson Mount (who has perfectly and seamlessly stepped into the role of ship captain) about being a part of something as iconic as Star Trek, working on such incredible sets, the coolest part of this job, feeling tremendous amounts of responsibility, the Pike-Spock relationship, his character’s sense of humor, and getting the blessing of the son of original Captain Pike actor Jeffrey Hunter.
Collider: When this opportunity came your way, what was your reaction to being in something as iconic as Star Trek?
ANSON MOUNT: It was surreal. It was totally surreal. My mother introduced me to Star Trek. When I was seven or eight, she was like, “You have to watch this show.” I was at that age where I was like, “I don’t wanna do anything that the adults are doing,” but it hooked me. And it was my make-believe game, when I was a kid. My friends would pull chairs up to my parents’ fireplace and we would use that as our bridge, and take turns playing Kirk and Spock. We never had an Uhura, ‘cause girls wouldn’t play with us. It was really wild, and honestly, it was surreal, every day. You look around and go, “I’m on Star Trek.” It’s a different kind of thing. It’s not just any other job or TV show. It’s a cultural touchstone for a large part of the world.
It’s hard to avoid being reminded of that, when you’re on those sets, you’re in uniform, and you’re talking to creatures.
MOUNT: It’s such an incredible production, from an art direction standpoint, from every direction. Everybody who had a hand in building the world did such an amazing job. It’s the largest production of anything I’ve ever worked on. We had six soundstages, and we ended up having seven or eight, by the end of this season. There is an element to it that’s a little bit more like being swallowed up by a movie than anything else. There are times when you look around, and all of the wheels and gears are turning, and you look at what you’re wearing and at everything around you, and it’s like you’ve been transported. It’s pretty cool.
What is the coolest thing about being surrounded by all of that? Is there one moment that’s just been the coolest, or is it everything?
MOUNT: I think the coolest part is getting to share it with a group of people that are all also genuinely Star Trek fans, from the crew that we work with to everybody. There are so many Star Trek fans on set and on the writing staff, and they really, honestly give a shit about everything. They really are invested in the story, and you can’t pay for that. We were lucky enough to have a group of people that were willing to put in the extra effort ‘cause they knew that these stories are important to a lot of people and to humanity, as a whole. If there’s one thing that theater or storytelling can do, it’s to get us all together in a room to hear a story told, and Star Trek is one of the biggest rooms and biggest stories that we have.
These sets are just so beautiful that you can’t not be inspired by that.
MOUNT: Yeah. And Star Trek killed the Western, in a lot of ways. Technology killed the cowboy, with the train and barbed wire, and technology killed the Western. We used to look backwards for escape and escapism ‘cause we had horses and we knew what happened, so we could recreate that. Now, in what everybody keeps calling the Golden Age of Cinema and the Golden Age of Television – and I don’t know how they know that ‘cause we don’t know what’s coming, and I hope it just gets better – the ability to do compositing and computer graphics, in general, has enabled us to look to the future for our escapism. These things go in cycles, but what I like about what Gene Roddenberry did is that he actually looked to the Western for his inspiration for Star Trek. He was basing this on the old wagon trains of the West and their frontierism during westward expansion.
You’ve previously talked about not really feeling pressure when it comes to doing something like this, but do you feel a certain sense of responsibility, knowing that it has the history that it does?
MOUNT: Oh, gosh, of course. Tremendous amounts of responsibility. At the end of the day, the pressure that come with that is really just in your head. You can’t work from a place of feeling burdened by pressure or responsibility. At a certain point, you gotta get down and get to work, and figure out a way to honor what’s there, but also make it your own. If anything, it makes you wanna work harder, and that’s always good. Luckily enough, I’ve been in the business long enough to know what’s gonna serve me and what’s not. Things like being starstruck is not gonna serve me. Things like worrying about the press is not gonna serve me. I’m very impressed with how Ethan Peck is handling all of this as well as he is doing, at his relative age. He’s doing very well, and I think he’s gonna be a big, fat movie star.
What do you like about the Pike-Spock relationship?
MOUNT: You can’t lead in a vacuum, especially on a five-year away mission. Pike is smart enough to know that his most precious resource is his crew, so you can’t compartmentalize these relationships. They bleed into friendships.
He also seems to have a real respect for his crew.
MOUNT: Oh, yeah, absolutely. If Pike has one magic power, it’s his ability to turn the bridge into a bigger brain, and you can only do that from a place of egoless-ness, which is the thing I love the most about Christopher Pike. It’s fascinating because Ethan told me that he thinks that Spock looks at Pike as a big brother type, and that he values the friendship, and I said, “Wow, I’m not sure Pike knows that. I think Spock probably keeps that bottled up.” And he said, “Oh, absolutely! Absolutely, he keeps it bottled up.” I think that Spock is maybe Pike’s most valuable resource because of his ability to look at things so coldly. He is dependable, in his ability to give a different viewpoint, every time, and he is unafraid to do so because he considers it part of his job. So, I think that Pike really tries to cultivate the friendship, and he thinks that Spock is confused by the concept of friendship, but he’s really not.
The dynamic between Pike and Michael Burnham is very different, in the sense that it seems she reacts much more out of emotion.
MOUNT: Oh, yeah. And the dynamic between Spock and Burnham is amazing, too, with their portrayals of that relationship. You’ll see Burnham’s ability to bring Spock’s human side to the surface, warts and all. It’s really a version of Spock that we’ve never seen.
That’s great because sometimes that human side could fall to the wayside with the sci-fi. This show really works at finding a balance, in a way that helps you get to know the characters even better.
MOUNT: Yeah. You’re talking about the serial structure of the show, and that these characters remember what happened yesterday. The writers were so incredibly smart, in their structuring of the season, in giving us this big mystery that has seven distinct locations. You’ll see some of those serialized elements bleeding into the serialized structure.
What’s it like to work with someone like Doug Jones, as Saru?
MOUNT: Doug is great. I’ve talked to so many people that we have in common since then, and they ask me, “How many times did he hug you?” I’ve lost count. He’s just a big, lovely guy. As you can imagine, he’s the most patient, good-humored, mannered man in the world. You have to be, to do what he does. He can’t even eat solid food while we’re working. He has to drink his food through a straw. That’s commitment, especially for a schedule as long as ours. It was weird ‘cause I met him when we began, at the cast dinner, and then I didn’t see Doug, for several months. I saw Saru. Our hours are so different that I never saw him out of make-up. One day, he finished early and I was walking to my trailer, and Doug walked by and I was like, “Oh, my god, Doug!”