IR Exclusive Print Interview: Anson Mount For “Star Trek – Discovery” [CBS All Access – S2 – CBS TCA Winter Press Tour 2019]

Stepping into the shoes of “Captain” is not an easy job, especially when the names that have come before as Kirk, Picard and Janeway, especially for a fan who has watched the original show. After conducting a panel with his fellow actors at the CBS All Access TCA Press Day for the new season of “Star Trek – Discovery”, Anson Mount, aka Captain Christopher Pike, spoke exclusively with The Inside Reel about process, texture of character and the sometimes trickiness of canon.

Could you talk a little bit about finding Pike physically? And then mentally, on that note?

Anson Mount: Well, the physical demands is to keep those uniforms fitting (laughing). Not fun for a 45-year-old man. Combined with amazing catering…it’s like torture. (laughing) I loved how Chris Pine sort of perfectly mimics the way that Kirk crossed the bridge and sat on the chair. I wanted to see if I could do it as well as him (laughing) even though it’s a different character, I didn’t really care.

Is that the essence of confidence? Or is it bringing out certain elements of that?

AM: No. It was just an outside-in way of getting comfortable in the captain’s chair because Pike and Kirk are very, very different captains. Kirk leads from the gut. Pike leads from the Star Fleet code of conduct, you know? Very, very different characters.

When you get an established character, can you in a certain way wipe it clean and then writing your own version?

AM: No. It’s a matter of having the first act and the third act, but no second act. You’re being asked to step in and fill out the second act. And first-act Pike and third-act Pike are different Pikes. They say that we literally regenerate every cell in our body every 7 years, so we’re literally different people. So I didn’t really feel constrained at all. I felt the freedom to make Pike my version of Pike.

Kirk always almost had, I think, a jealousy of Pike because of how much Spock loved him. You saw that in “The Cage” (and by extension the TOS episode “The Menagerie”). You being very familiar with canon….there’s so much probably that Pike does not say that we’ll see later in the season. Could you talk about that white space?

AM: About the relationship with Spock?

Yes.

AM: It was really a matter of feeling it out as the writers figured it out. Really, I got lucky to be handed an actor as incredible as Ethan Peck (as Spock). That guy right there is going to be a big, fat movie star. He’s got it all. Wait until you see him. And he’s a really, really, really good actor. We kind of also took some of the cues from our own friendship that we gained on set. He’s such a lovely guy and, sort of, getting his feet wet in this world for the first time. He was sort of leaning on me perhaps for a few answers to some of the questions that plague us as younger actors.

What questions? About fame? Or walking into this universe?

AM: Just, in general, am I screwing this up? Or just nervous stuff. Because it’s not going to help you. He’d [also] never done TCA before so I was like, “We’re working.” It’s like watching a NFL game from the pressbox. (laughing) Just know that.

But it is daunting kind of walking into this universe, given its history and the fandom for it.

AM: If I sit around and think about it. Yah. Thankfully this role came to me late enough that I’ve learned that when I find myself daunted, it means I’m usually not doing my homework. And I need to put down the mirror and, you know, the internet, and all the bullshit that surrounds what we do. And get to work. Because it just doesn’t help you.

Is it easy to get caught up in though? Because no one is immune to the aspect of expectation…

AM: A little bit. I mean look. We all have a media machine in our pocket. So it’s hard to miss. Your friends are texting you things. You can’t avoid it. But you get better at just filtering it and putting it aside.

Right. But before that happened, what was your impression because you’re such a fan of Star Trek… just stepping in.

AM: Oh my god, it was completely surreal. I mean the first time, I sat in the chair I got quite emotional. And then every day on set – literally every day there’s a moment that you look around and you go, “Wow. I’m in Star Trek. Me. I. Me. I’m the Star Trek. I’m in the captain’s chair. I’m the captain. How did that happen?” Like, I was doing this for free as a kid and now they want to pay me.

I know. I heard a little bit of Shatner right there.

AM: Yeah right.

What was your favorite episode then. You said you grew up with the Kirk. What was your favorite episode?

AM: I always– I can’t remember the title of it, but it’s the episod where he battled the Gorn.

Arena”

AM: I can not turn that episode off when it’s on. I have to see the slow-motion fight choreography. And the double ax handle from the back of the neck.

Did you want to find a bit of that logic and physicality in Pike?

AM: What I like about Pike is that he’s egoless. He knows that when his bridge crew is working together, [that]is a bigger brain than he will ever have. And that’s what he does– and you’ve seen it already…he’s very good about saying, “I’m lost. Anybody got a better idea?” And he does that throughout the season. I think it makes for great television.

Can you speak to the emotional challenges that he’ll go through?

AM: He goes through some major emotional challenges in this season. I can’t talk about any of them. (laughing) But, you know, I was challenged as an actor on this job as much as I’ve ever been challenged.

The one thing I liked about –obviously we had only seen a couple episodes so far — is the aspect that there’s a feeling a little bit more of the old Star Trek. They’re going and doing problem-solving on our planet. The second episode does that. Could you talk about looking at these scripts and seeing this kind of elements of the character come out?

AM: It’s funny establishing a character on television. You have to be very very very careful about the footprints you’re putting down. Because they’re going to be there forever. They’re going in cement. And particularly with a character that’s as celebrated as this one has been in the past. But you have to remember that it’s not all in your hands. The writers are trying to figure it out at the same time. And so as long as you have a good communication with your writers and he’s [pointing to Alex Kurtzman] an incredible leader, then you’re probably going to be okay. And it was great to learn about this man, this character I’ve come to respect, even more. You’re playing him as we continue through the season. There were moments I was surprised. “So yeah okay. I’ll go with that.'”

Does it make it harder because you know all the intricacies of Star Trek? I mean, you were talking how your favorite character is Data. I’d love for you to talk a little bit more about that.

AM: Say again.

Well, it’s a two-part question. Why did you love Data as a character so much? And how come that appealed to you? You were talking about him, this is your favorite character.

AM: I’m actually jealous that another actor got to play that role. I mean — I can’t think of a better role than a machine trying to figure out what it means to have true sentience. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful character. And Brent Spiner did such an amazing job.

My question is also the aspects of canon. When you read the script, you’re probably like, “I see that. I see that. I see that. I see that.” Can you talk about the joy of that? Reading the scripts as a fan and getting to play them.

AM: In terms of my character?

Overall.

AM: Overall…I mean there’s some things that I honestly I didn’t know. I mean there some really esoteric stuff and easter eggs in our show. Like the Saurians. I didn’t know the Saurians had been established in “Wrath of Khan” for like a second. Okay. That was cool. But yeah we will be referencing canon associate with Pike. But probably not in the way that most are imagining it. I’ll leave you with that.

By Tim Wassberg

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IR Interview: Sonequa Martin-Green For “Star Trek – Discovery” [CBS All Access-S2]

Unconscious Persuasion & Notions Of Behavior: An Interview With John Noble of “Fringe”

Discussing the finer points of hubris and the collective unconscious with John Noble who plays Walter Bishop in the highly effective and popular series “Fringe” on FOX would be interesting even in the quietest of circumstances. But huddled against a pillar inside Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier during Fox’s All-Star Summer Television Critics Party is something else entirely with bells and whistles flinging off in every direction. Ironically, this is something that would quite literally make Dr. Bishop nuts. However, coolness prevailed with the ever focused  Noble discussing the notion of morality within the confines of the mind, the collective unconscious and the simple emotional connection between a father and son.

Could you talk about the evolution of Walter’s morality versus his emotionality?

The moral issue is being examined constantly in “Fringe” through Walter as much as you can. [It is about] what happens in simple terms when you play God. Taken into a more mundane, how does [one] crack and depending how much [pressure] is given, how much does [one] crack. Those issues we have certainly dealt with. We don’t lay them on [too heavily] because not everyone cares. We will however continue to look at that morality because it is important in the world we live in to look at bigger issues.

How heavily does academia play into the creation of this character or does that angle become secondary to the emotional angle?

I’d like to think that the work we do leaves a legacy for everyone. If people are people are interested in  [the academia] and we make  reference to it, [they can] say “These are intelligent people….they thought about that!” [In this way] it can go beyond being entertainment. I certainly think about those issues and, on occasion, we question our work if it is slipping away from that. All the people involved [in this series] are sensible enough to know that. I use the word “legacy” because it’s nice to think that perhaps college kids watching this show are saying “It’s nice to think they [the characters] are talking about stuff we do in Psyche 3”.

But also, in terms of “legacy”, applied in a more literal term, people might be able to look at “Fringe” in 20 years and say “They were ahead of their time”.

(laughs knowingly) Isn’t that the way science fiction is…if that is what we are. [At times] I don’t know what we are. I guess so, if it has that longevity, people will look back [at our show] and look as a curiousity to some extent. And they’ll [probably] laugh at some of the things we think. [However] what we try to do with our science, and with the morality [of the characters], because we do talk about that, is make everything that needs to be done within the possible [and] the plausible. Human characteristics, for me, [require] that I need to find a reference point somewhere…God knows there’s plenty of them…for all mass behaviors, genius or not. All these things I reference deliberately.

When we talk about plausibility in terms of human behavior, can you discuss Peter’s forgiveness of Walter in last season’s finale?

We are examining what happens when trust is broken. How does that compare? With a breach in anything, it can be repaired [and] it can be made stronger…but it will never be the same. Josh Jackson and I talk about this all the time [in terms of] “How are we going to go ahead?” I was [even] talking to him about this today because we want to get it right.

How much then does the notion of the unconscious and the sub-conscious assimilate themselves into who these people are?

I don’t think you can play multiple characters without dealing with that.

Are you making reference to the alternate universe in “Fringe”?

I am talking simply about modern characters. I am talking about anything. We’re all multiple characters…you and I. We all have many personas. What we see in Walter Bishop is a man who is more overt in all of these things but also [in the fact that] Walter-nate is what he could have become with a turn of the screw 20 years ago. This is fascinating stuff in intellectual terms. I certainly think that.

How many levels [of consciousness] do you think are possible within Walter?

With a character you might or might not have to take them all the way but you have to keep digging. It is what I like to do as an actor anyway. If you are doing Shakespeare, that is what you do…you grapple…you’re dig deep. For me it is not “a day at the office” but something I like doing.

What has Walter allowed you in playing his persona to learn about your own observation of human behavior?

This is interesting. [For me] the best thing about playing Walter as he has developed is that his appeal has crossed the complete spectrum of our audience…from the kids who think he is a wonderful old grandad to people in their 60s or 70s who say “I understand him”. That is me. That is my concern.