Strange New Worlds’ Paul Wesley Talks Being the New Captain Kirk

Paul Wesley as James Kirk in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

Image: Paramount

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a prequel covering the adventures of the USS Enterprise as led by Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike, the original captain before William Shatner’s James Kirk sat in the chair in the original Star Trek series. Leading up to release, the question of if Kirk would appear was danced around, at least until Paramount revealed that yes, Strange would indeed bring in Kirk during his pre-Captain days. When season two arrives, the character will be played by Vampire Diaries alum Paul Wesley.

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But if you watched the season finale that aired earlier this week, you know that the episode is where Wesley’s Kirk first makes his debut. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Wesley revealed that the season finale was always intended to break the news of his casting, but Paramount felt they had to get ahead of set photo leaks. He’d told close family and friends before the news broke, and funnily, they straight up thought he was lying. But it was a relief for him that the news got out early, both because keeping secrets can be torture, and because “it allows people to digest it, in a way.”

The Kirk of Strange New Worlds is introduced via projection of an alternate timeline, where he’s the captain of the USS Farragut rather than the Enterprise. In Wesley’s words, that allowed him to have a bit of a looser interpretation, but not drastically so. He’s meant to be called his version “a whole new look,” sitting somewhere in the middle of Shatner and Chris Pine’s Kirk from the reboot films. “It’s an interpretation that’s different,” continued Wesley. “Doing an imitation of either Kirks would be an insult…What is most important is to pay respect to the integrity of who Kirk is — his wants, his needs, his deep desires, his morality, his spontaneity, his instinct.”

Dancing around specifics, he added that the season would explore more of the character and his relationship with Pike. And because Pike’s met an alternate version of Kirk, he’ll have to work on separating the two versions of Kirk he’s met. “It’s like, I’ve met you before, but I can’t tell you that I’ve met you before,” Wesley laughed, “and I can’t explain to you how I’ve met you before.” Still, don’t expect things to be as mildly antagonistic as the relationship that Pine’s Kirk had with Bruce Greenwood’s Pike in the movies—there’s a deep respect between the two men, according to Wesley, despite their different command styles.

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ first season is available now on Paramount+.

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