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Listen: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ EP Alex Kurtzman on ‘Dangerous’ Introduction of ‘TOS’ Characters

Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety‘s television podcast. On this week’s episode Daniel Holloway, Variety’s executive editor of television, sits down with “Star Trek: Discovery” showrunner Alex Kurtzman to discuss the show’s upcoming second season on CBS All Access.

Later, Variety‘s TV critics Caroline Framke and Daniel D’Addario discuss HBO’s “True Detective” Season 3 and Netflix’s “Sex Education.” Then, Holloway and Variety TV reporter Joe Otterson discuss the latest developments with the “Game of Thrones” prequel pilot.

Kurtzman took over as showrunner on “Discovery” following the sudden exit of co-showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg back in June. According to Kurtzman, his love for the show drove him to take over himself rather than hire an outsider.

“Without getting into a lot of specifics about what happened in the room, I think that there were issues between the writers and I really felt strongly that I did not want to go out and look for somebody else,” he said. “I’d come to a place where I had fallen deeply in love with the show and it was incredibly important to me, and remains incredibly important to me, for the staff to be happy. Because what we have to do is monumental and  you can do hard work, but it’s really hard to do hard work when people aren’t happy.”

Kurtzman also addressed the introduction of the Enterprise, Captain Pike, and Spock, which were teased at the end of Season 1 and will make up a major part of the story in Season 2.

“Maybe I was a little bolder because we did it in the films, so I felt like we had touched that area before and was so proud of the amazing work that the actors did,” he said. “It’s always dangerous because the ‘TOS’ characters are so beloved and everyone has such strong feelings and strong opinions about each character. And if the recasting or the characterization itself doesn’t meet up with people’s imagination, then we get into trouble.”

In particular, Kurtzman said reintroducing an iconic character like Spock, who will be played in “Discovery” by Ethan Peck, proved challenging.

“We did an extremely deep dive on casting and spoke with the Nimoy family and had them bless the casting,” he said. “When Ethan came in–and when I say he was over the 400th actor we had seen, I mean that literally–what I saw in him were two things. First of all, he conveyed to me with–I don’t know if it was his body language or the way he held himself during the read–that he too was struggling through something similar to what Spock is struggling with…I think that coupled with the fact the he was so clearly willing to dive wholeheartedly into this once he understood what was actually happening and who he was playing. He was so beautifully committed to saying ‘I’m gonna go as deep as I can go here. I’m gonna go as deep into this character and I’m terrified. Humble and terrified. I’m living in Leonard’s shadow and I’m living in Zach’s shadow.'”

New episodes of “TV Take” are available every Friday. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or anywhere you download podcasts. You can find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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