Ed Speleers on Bringing Jack Crusher to Life
Mar 19, 2023
Over the course of forty-odd years, two series, and a handful of movies, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) has been through a lot, but the final season of Star Trek: Picard introduced one scenario that he had never experienced before. Fatherhood. In the second episode, Picard learns that he and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) had a son, and that son is Jack Crusher (Ed Speleers). Due to very reasonable rationale, Beverly decided not to tell Picard about their child, but fate threw a wrench in those plans twenty years later when a dire situation led to Beverly calling upon Picard for help.
The first five episodes of Season 3 have truly showcased how perfectly cast Speleers is as the child of Beverly Crusher and Jean-Luc Picard, and watching him go toe-to-toe with Stewart while exploring the complex relationship that the two characters are forging, is something truly magical. Jack Crusher is, without a doubt, one of the best characters to be introduced in this new era of Star Trek on Paramount+, and brings a lot of hope for the next generation of The Next Generation.
COLLIDER VIDEO OF THE DAY
Ahead of the premiere of Star Trek: Picard Season 3—before the world knew just how pivotal Ed Speleer’s role would be on the very fabric of the Star Trek universe, Collider had the opportunity to have a lengthy conversation with Speleers about Jack Crusher, working with Patrick Stewart, the songs that helped him get into the role, and what it was like to interact with iconic sets and costumes. Now that Episode 5 has passed, we can finally share the spoiler-filled portion of our interview, but be sure to check out the first half which delved into his role on You. Be sure to check back in when the series comes to a close in a few weeks to read another fun tidbit from this interview.
Image via Paramount
COLLIDER: You have played in a few different iconic series like Downton Abbey and Outlander, but I really think that Star Trek is probably the biggest.
ED SPELEERS: Yeah. I mean, I would not want to do a disservice to other shows I’ve been a part of, but yeah. I mean, this thing has been going since, I want to say 1964, but that might just be in my head. It’s such an honor. I mean, the whole thing was so surreal to be a part of it and to be given the role that I was given. Yeah, it’s been a privilege from start to finish and so surreal within that because you cannot escape without knowing… It’s impossible growing up anywhere and not [having] a subtle understanding of what Star Trek is and then what it might mean to so many people globally.
I remember when it originally leaked that you were going to be part of Picard, and I was like, “Oh, that’s really cool. That’s a huge TV series to be part of.” But I don’t think I could have guessed just how big your role would be. So I want to know, what was the casting process like?
SPELEERS: I mean, I really want to say that it was incredibly extensive, and I did round after round after round and had screen tests galore, but it wasn’t. The thing that took the longest was me actually finding myself, plucking myself the courage to do the tape. It took my girlfriend really… Not [persuading] me, because I love the thing. When it came in, I was like, “Oh my God, this is great. This ticks all the boxes. This is exactly the sort of challenge I’m looking for.” But I struggled to tape. I was like, “Oh no, this isn’t working.”
I was almost in tears. I just couldn’t quite work out how to do it, and I nearly gave it up. I nearly was like, “No, I’m not doing this. I can’t. I’m not going to do it.” I was very dramatic. It was very actor-y behavior. It took my girlfriend to sit me down, have a cup of tea, tell me to grow up, pull myself together, and we shot it, and we did a late-night tape, and we sent it off. And two weeks later, I found out that they wanted to maybe test me with Patrick [Stewart]. And then very quickly, they changed their mind on that and said, “No, actually we want to offer you the role.” And I was like, “Oh, okay. This is kind of serious.” I mean, it very quickly meant a lot to me, really.
Image via Paramount+
Were you already a Trekkie or a fan of Star Trek?
SPELEERS: I wouldn’t say I was a Trekkie per se. I have nostalgic memories of coming home from school and [Star Trek: The Next Generation] being on and me sitting by the fire, and there only being a few things you could possibly watch, Next Gen being the best thing. I did remember lapping it up. My dad was quite into the original Star Trek from the ’60s.
Once I had this part, I talked at length to—who’s now my good friend—Terry Matalas, our showrunner, [whose] knowledge of Star Trek is encyclopedic. As a result, he was like, “Right.” I felt that in order to take this role on, because of this huge passionate fan base, I couldn’t do it unless I knew everything I needed to know. “I need as much backstory as possible. I need all the nitty gritty. I need the nooks and crannies. Give it to me.”
And he was like, “Right, okay, I’m going to send you to Star Trek University.” He gave me this extensive list of Star Trek films to watch, First Contact being very prevalent. He was like, “This is very important to what you are doing.” And he gave me quite a long list of episodes that he thought would be worthwhile from the Next Gen series. And I went to town, and it was amazing. When I first got to LA, getting ready for the role, I would be working on the role in the day and then in the evening I would watch a Star Trek movie. I mean, it was pretty special really.
It has to be so cool to step into such an established franchise. Obviously, there are shows that have run for a couple of seasons, but this is something that most of this cast has been part of for the better part of their lives. So, what was it like getting to join such an established cast in a role that is the physical embodiment of a relationship that meant a lot to Star Trek fans?
SPELEERS: I mean, I can’t tell you how much of an honor it is and was. It’s something that I will hold—no matter what happens from this point forward, if I never work again—I can hold my head up high and hold very dearly to my heart that I was a part of this and part of this special group of people, and special group of creatives who have worked tirelessly over decades to create these characters. To be given the opportunity to play this role that is so pivotal in the final season, or the penciled final season, for Picard, I get… I mean, I’ll be honest, Maggie, I get very emotional talking about it because the whole thing meant so much to me from start to finish.
As I said, it was the sort of role I have been craving and looking for, for such a long time. And to be given it on this level, surrounded by those people who were so supportive of me, I cannot thank Paramount CBS enough to give me the opportunity. I feel very honored and humbled, and I still find it very surreal just talking about it, to say I’m part of such a juggernaut of a franchise.
Image via Paramount+
You do so well in the role. There are so many moments that I wish I could just be like, “Let’s talk about this moment.” But something I really enjoyed was the rapport between Jack and Seven. I thought the last two seasons of Picard that Seven very much felt like a pseudo-child to Picard, the way that she looks up to him. Can you talk a little bit about their dynamic in this final season?
SPELEERS: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting angle to be looking at because I think it’s maybe one that could go under the radar, but I think it’s kind of pivotal as well. Obviously, because of Seven’s own background of who she is and what she represents, [there are] huge links there that we don’t really understand until much later on. But there is a kindred spirit between them because they’re both, if anything, the two that would push Starfleet away. Of course, Seven over time has been completely embraced by Starfleet. But if anything, Jack doesn’t want anything to do with it. He wants to find his own two feet, do things his own way. But I feel that actually, there is a connection. They have a, dare I say, a worldliness, an ability to maybe look at things from a different angle, which obviously they can relate to.
I feel that there’s a lot more to give with their dynamic actually that I think we’ve only sort of scratched the surface. But I love getting a chance to work with Jeri [Ryan]. She’s an icon of the Star Trek universe, and she is a wonderful actor. She knows exactly what she’s doing in this world in terms of how to do the jargon, how to do the action. But also, she’s just a great human. So she allows a fun, safe space to work and to play. And I feel that the dynamic between those two is a very playful one, and it could be really exciting to explore that further.
Image via Paramount+
Absolutely. Jack gets to wear a Starfleet uniform for a little bit. What was it like the first time you got to put that uniform on, and was that a moment where you’re like, “Oh my God, I am in Star Trek”?
SPELEERS: I mean, to be honest, I’m still having those moments just chatting to you about it. I’m having the moments of almost, “God, I’m in Star Trek.” But yeah, I mean, putting the uniform on and having the phaser in hand whilst in the Starfleet uniform was, of course, it’s a moment, and it feels … I guess I felt like I was welcomed in at that point.
I suppose it was already happening. Michael Crow, who did the costumes, has done an amazing job. I love those Starfleet leather jackets that come in later on in the season. I think that those are wonderful, and how each character had their own sort of different take on that was so nuanced and so brilliantly thought out. Yeah, I mean, it’s a pinch-yourself moment wearing that stuff. It really is.
I feel like bridging off of that a little bit. You also got to be on some really cool amazing Star Trek sets. You got the bridge, the brig, the bar. What was it like to just stand there and take in all of this incredible technology and design that they put into the sets on the show?
SPELEERS: Yeah. I mean, [David] Blass, the production designer, he has gone another … I mean, the beauty of working on this season was there were so many people creatively behind the scenes who are Trekkies, who are absolutely nuts for Star Trek, and in particular Next Gen, which just allowed this passion to come through in their creativity, which then feeds into yourself. As an actor, if you’re surrounded by it, it makes your job so much more enjoyable, so much easier when you’re surrounded by people like that, but also who have created this world that is so visceral to be in. I didn’t want to get overly bogged down in, “Oh my God, I’m here and this is what’s going on.” Because if you do that too much, then it can actually become suffocating. But rather to relish and enjoy the fact that you’re standing on this amazingly orchestrated set, like the Titan for example, when you’ve got those screens that are actually operating.
There’s a whole team of people led by Larry, who’s making sure that these screens work to perfection. They’re working on cue. They know when certain camera angles are happening, when certain shots are happening, when certain people were talking to respond in a certain way. I mean, the whole thing is such a huge well-oiled machine. And again, to be part of that, it’s a really special thing for me.
Genuinely, I cannot tell you how much the last 18 months, having been a part of that thing, has meant to me, and having been able to stand in these really cool sets and be sparring with Sir Patrick Stewart in a bar situation in Ten Forward, which is a place that’s held to Picard’s heart so very dearly. To be having these moments, and these great long scenes, these complex family scenes, trying to understand each other, [and] trying to understand relationships. I mean, it was a real dream for me. It was amazing.
Image via Paramount+
Well, that perfectly lines with my next question. What was it like getting to act opposite a heavyweight actor like Sir Patrick Stewart?
SPELEERS: It was incredible. It really was. I feel that Patrick and I—we hit it off very quickly. When you go into bat with someone like that, you kind of feel you’ve got to bring it. You got to bring your A-game, I suppose, and you have to be on point. He’s a very smart, astute man who doesn’t let things slip, and he wants the best. He wants you to bring your best, he wants himself to bring the best. I think we pushed each other, and I think we relished that.
I’ve got a great deal of respect for him and a lot of love for him as well. He really was supportive of me, got behind me, and we had a lot of fun as well. We had some wonderful scenes together, and I feel very, very lucky to have ever been able to play with him and talk about… I feel very lucky that we’ve been able to form a bond, I think. It was a special moment. It’s a special storyline because nothing like this has happened to his character before. So I feel he felt that as well.
It’s definitely a very fun storyline to watch play out after seeing so much of Picard’s life and then having him finally get to be a father is just so fun to watch. I feel like music is such an intrinsic part of Jean-Luc Picard’s character. Did you have a song that you gravitated towards for Jack, or maybe a playlist you created?
SPELEERS: I do. I’ve got a whole playlist! There’s certain things that did get played a lot. I’m going to have to just quickly find it. It should just come to the top of my head.
I’m very curious to know.
SPELEERS: Well, there’s different things. Oh my goodness! There’s so many things. Listen! Oh, I don’t even know where to begin. I’m just looking through it now. Primal Scream’s “Loaded” was in there. Going back to my roots, Richie Havens was in there. There’s quite a lot of Oasis in there that’s popped up before. There was a track that’s like 30 minutes long that I just discovered whilst I was out here working. It’s about 30 minutes long, it’s called “Searching” by Burning Beat.
It’s this South African group, and it’s amazing, and it’s like soul, it’s funk, it’s everything. It was something that I just discovered whilst I was out here working on Picard, and it just resonated with me, and it stuck with me. I felt that was something that, for whatever reason, the music within that, as I was driving out to work each morning, it would strike a chord with me, and it would get me in some sort of mindset, sometimes just a relaxed mindset, so I could then play the scenes the way I wanted to play them. There’s some more emotional music in there, as well, that I listened to, but I don’t want to give it all away.
The first five episodes of Star Trek: Picard’s final season is streaming now on Paramount+. You can check out our interview with Speleers from the junket below:
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