Star Trek‘s new Captain Kirk actor, Paul Wesley, has shared the biggest misconception about the legendary Star Trek captain. Following in the footsteps of the great William Shatner, and Chris Pine, Wesley has taken on the role of the famous Star Trek character in the newest Star Trek series Strange New Worlds.
Wesley first appeared as Kirk in the season 1 finale, but joins the main cast of Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 in a recurring guest role. And, as Strange New Worlds gets closer to the start of TOS we should be expecting Wesley to take on an increasingly significant role in the prequel.
Now, the actor has spoken with Esquire about following in the footsteps of Shatner, and has explained the biggest misconceptions about Captain James T. Kirk. “If you actually watch The Original Series, yes, there’s some exaggerated stuff there, but for the most part, Kirk is pretty down-to-earth.”
Continuing, Wesley says, “He’s not like the caricature people think of, or as big as people have made him out to be in their heads over the years.”
The actor is spot on. While Kirk is perceived to be an outrageous, cocky, womanizing rogue, the truth is that his portrayal in the series and subsequent Star Trek movies is far, far more complex and grounded. He’s confident, yes, and bold. But Kirk is also thoughtful and measured, and is quiet more often than he is loud.
Referencing a specific quote from the episode Where No Man Has Gone Before (where Kirk’s described as “a stack of books with legs!”) Wesley carried on with his analysis of how people get Kirk wrong.
“I totally took that “stack of books with legs” line and I actually based my Kirk on that line. I didn’t want him to be a complete stack of books with legs, because that would have been like watching paint dry. But I wanted to incorporate that brainier aspect of Kirk into my version of the character,” he said.
“When we think of Captain Kirk, there’s an immediate sort of reaction: we know who he is. Kirk has obviously been established very clearly by not only pop culture history, and, but also, obviously, what William Shatner did in the 1960s. But the key thing is he’s recognizable.”
Shatner’s performance is the foundation for how we still see Kirk, and Wesley does an excellent job of bringing that version of Kirk to the screen while not simply doing an impersonation of Shatner. It’s a delicate balance, and a fine line to walk; but one which the actor manages to get right.
On the flip side, the Kelvin timeline version of Kirk as seen in the Abrams movies is often a caricature of Shatner’s character, amplifying minor aspects of his personality to remove a lot of complexity. In Beyond, Pine (and the script) does a much better job of getting Kirk right, showing him to be more level-headed and mature, albeit resourceful and bold.
For more on the Star Trek captains, find out the one question Stephen Hawking asked William Shatner. Or, see which Star Trek captain would win in a zombie apocalypse. You can also read our Star Trek Strange New Worlds season 2 review, before seeing why we don’t care that its new episode just broke canon.