Star Trek: Strange New Worlds New Captain Kirk Actor Addresses William Shatner Comparisons

Paul Wesley is the latest actor to play Capt. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek universe. Wesley debuted in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' first season finale episode, "A Quality of Mercy," which takes place primarily in an alternate timeline where Kirk commands the USS Farragut and Pike remains in command of the USS Enterprise during the events of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Balance of Terror." While set photos revealed Wesley's casting in Strange New Worlds Season 2 early, his arrival in the finale came as a surprise.  Naturally, his performance is going to draw comparisons to the original Kirk, William Shatner, and the Kelvin Timeline movie Kirk, played by Chris Pine. Wesley spoke of those comparisons to Entertainment Weekly.

"He's somewhere in between," Wesley said, referencing the other two Kirks. "At the end of the day, the most important thing for me and the most important thing for the showrunners was to not insult the original series' Kirk by doing an imitation of [Shatner]. It's an interpretation that is different. I think doing an imitation of either [Kirks] would be an insult. We just remind people that it's not William Shatner. This is a whole new look. It's a whole new Spock. It's a whole new Uhura. It's a whole new Kirk. It's a new Pike. They're old characters interpreted in a new way. 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."

ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak to showrunner Henry Alonso Myers about the finale and Kirk's role in the series. He says Wesley's debut has been in the works for a long time, though nothing was certain.

"I think we talked about it from the beginning of the season," Myers said. "It was always an idea that we had. The real thing that hung it up was, could we find a person that we could all agree on to play Kirk in time to shoot the episode? It got to the point where we didn't know if we would. And I think we were actually trying to make a deal with Paul, but Paul is obviously an extremely successful and popular actor who has many people vying for his time. So we didn't know if we would be able to do it. And there was a weekend where I had two days before I needed a script and I wouldn't have an answer from him until that Monday. And I just was like, 'Well, I've got two days.' So I wrote two versions of this script, one with Kirk and one without. And I really hoped that I could use the Kirk one."

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Wesley will be a part of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds panel during the Star Trek Universe presentation in San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H. Star Trek: Strange Worlds Season 1 is streaming now on Paramount+. Season 2 has already wrapped production.