A key component that enabled the successful 2009 re-launch of “Star Trek” on the big screen was the impeccable casting. Well, that and J.J. Abrams’ vision and crafty directing.
Simon Pegg, the actor and writer best known for his spoofing comedies “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” was bestowed one of the iconic roles from Trekkie lore via Abrams. And even though the sequel, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” is making another voyage across the country, he’s still surprised how the filmmaking captain approached him about playing the high-strung engineering genius, Scotty.
“I didn’t read for anybody,” says Pegg. “J.J. just emailed and said do you want to play Scotty? He just asked me outright. I think he was looking for a Scotty and hadn’t found him.” And having worked with me before (“Mission: Impossible III”) he said, ah screw it, I’ll ask Simon Pegg, he’ll do it.”
Pegg didn’t jump aboard right away as he felt this was a “gigantic decision” to make.
“But when J.J. said, ‘Look, the worst thing that can happen is we get to hang out every few years and have some fun,’ I thought that was a great argument and said yes, please.”
And the fun continues, as the returning crew of the Enterprise ventures to the far end of the galaxy pursuing a traitor (Benedict Cumberbatch) in their own ranks, who is always a diabolical step ahead of the resilient and vengeful Captain Kirk (Chris Pine). The goal of this one-man army is to destroy Star Fleet headquarters and instigate a war with the savage Klingon race.
Although the tone is dire at certain turns, there is still plenty of comedic charm that made the original series charismatic and engaging. And even though many assume it will stem from Pegg’s natural wit and presence, he’s really not leading the laugh parade.
“There’s plenty of huge laughs that have nothing to do with me,” he says. “And I’m glad I’m not just there for that reason (comic relief). But there are genuine moments of peril or sadness that do involve me.”
Pegg isn’t worried about being labeled the class clown or anything like that. But one person does tend to massage that side out of him more often than not while on set.
“J.J. tends to encourage me quite a bit. I’m quite keen to just play the role straight. Scotty naturally has funny lines based on his reactions. But sometimes J.J. winds me up to do stuff. But I like playing the serious stuff. I like the character to be random and in jeopardy and not just be a planned comic foil.”