*Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike going into effect. Awards Radar stands with the actors, their union, and wishes for a resolution that helps the working actor live a better life. Union Strong!*
The Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode “Charades” delivers some of the series’ funniest moments to date. In the episode we witness Spock’s transformation into a fully human being by a well-intentioned alien species following a shuttle accident – even losing his signature ears. Awkwardly grappling with his newfound humanity, Spock must also navigate through tumultuous Vulcan interfamily conflicts. Nurse Christine Chapel’s (portrayed by Jess Bush) storyline provides a balancing act to the comedy, as she races against the clock to cure Spock, driven by a mix of guilt for her role in the accident and her unrequited affection for the stoic Vulcan.
Awards Radar spoke with Jess about the “Charades” and what it was like being caught in a Vulcan love triangle.
“My journey in that episode was it was not very humorous. I’m very vulnerable and hard and scary and romantic at the end, but off the back of some really difficult stuff. So yeah, I didn’t really get to see the humor of [Charades] until I saw the episode. I loved it. I thought Ethan killed it. I think he’s so funny in this. But I’m a sucker for a heavy drama. I love a heavy, complex drama. But I also love comedy so much, and I hope I get to do more of it.”
Jess Bush isn’t the first actor to portray Nurse Chapel on Star Trek. That honor goes to the legendary Majel Barrett, wife of Star Trek creator. How did Jess Bush feel auditioning for such an iconic role?
“Well, I had the benefit of not knowing who I was auditioning for. They gave me a fake name. And I didn’t know until I signed the contract that I was playing Chapel. And then I looked into, I was like, “shit”. But honestly, I felt nothing but excitement about it. I didn’t really watch Trek until I booked the role. So I had the benefit of ignorance. And I think that also, whatever whatever jitters came with learning, the gravity of the role in the beginning, were quelled by the immense trust and excitement of Akiva and Henry. They just really trusted me with it. And then they just wanted me to have creative freedom with that. And I felt nothing but support. And that on top of the fan reception has been really touching. It’s been so much more than I could have ever expected. Kind of unbelievably. So I’m pinching myself all the time. The first convention that I went to, I was just crying the whole time. Meeting all these people who were just so excited, and they were wearing Chapel outfits, and it was such a surreal moment to be that accepted and celebrated and to feel like what I was doing was speaking to a fan base that already had such an established idea of what they wanted. And a beloved character that they already loved, like to be accepted by them was like, No words, no words.”
Jess prepared for the role by not only researching the character but also Majel’s life and personality to truly understand the character’s motivations.
“I watched Majel’s performance. I also researched into how she got into the show. I felt like that was really great. And I wanted to keep that essence. She dyed her hair and snuck back on after she got kicked off. I was just like, “that it’s so badass, and I love it”. Yeah, I wanted to keep her candor and her dryness and her wit. You know, she’s pretty sassy. And I think that that was a really cool quality that she had. I just wanted to reverse engineer that and imagine what the younger version of that person was. What was the bright eyed and bushy tailed mid 20s early 30s version of that?”
One of the strongest aspects of every Star Trek show is the ensemble. Strang New Worlds is definitely no exception. The different pairings of personalities and backgrounds adds for infinitely exciting matchups and pairings for each episode. Jess expressed what it was like working with such a diverse and exeptional cast.
“I love working with Babs. Babs and I have a really great time together. He’s a fantastic actor. And just a really great dude. I love spending the day with him on set. Working with Ethan is always interesting, because he’s so different off camera. The day that I spent with a Uhura and Ortegas was so much fun. I feel like that was the girl gang that we’ve never got to explore. Look, we all have a good time together, no matter who’s on in each day. And I’m just like hanging out with different games every day, like a different party every day. And everyone’s great. I think we’re very lucky in that sense.”
Jess may not have started out a Trekkie but the show has unexpectedly rekindled a part of her childhood.
“My goodness. I mean, I love sci fi now. I guess it’s opened my eyes, like this turn in life has really opened that up to me and I love sci fi now. It’s actually come up so much in the recent past. Like when I was a kid, when we still had VHS tapes. There were 10 tapes that we had at home that I’ve watched, ad nauseam: The Land Before Time. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Cool Runnings. FernGully, which is still one of my favorite movies of all time. What else did we have? Oh, the live action Super Mario Brothers movie. It’s so weird, but I loved it as a kid. Yeah, so you know the classics.”
You can watch Strange New worlds on Paramount+.