Anson Mount wasn’t due to be on set the day he first saw the bridge of the USS Discovery.Cast as the dashing Captain Christopher Pike for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, the actor had come in for a costume fitting. The art director decided to give him a tour, which included taking him onto the bridge.“I got to sit in the chair and thank God I got that out of the way on a day I wasn’t working,” says Mount in an interview with Postmedia. “Because I got surprisingly emotional when I sat in the Captain’s chair. There is this weird full 360 to realize that I was still playing make-believe and now I was doing it for a living and I was going to play the same game that I played when I was a child. It was wild.”The original Star Trek was in syndication when Mount was a child growing up in Tennessee. His mother encouraged him to give it a try. He was reluctant when told it was about a bunch of guys flying around in a space ship visiting aliens on other planets. But it only took a few episodes before Star Trek became the make-believe game of choice for young Anson, taking over from cowboys and Indians.“I find it funny that Gene Rodenberry was famous for saying that Star Trek was basically a western itself,” says Mount, who will be at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27. “He modelled it after the old wagon trains moving west. It made a lot of sense to me when I heard that quote.”Until taking command of the USS Discovery, Mount was probably best known for his five-year run on the Alberta-shot, post Civil War western Hell on Wheels, in which he played the brooding Cullen Bohannon. A true AMC anti-hero, Bohannon was an ex-Confederate soldier whose brutal quest to avenge the slaughter of his family is eventually interrupted by his involvement in building the Union Pacific Railroad. Mount immersed himself so fully into the haunted, laconic character that it became difficult to imagine him as anybody else.All of which makes his transformation into the amicable and diplomatic Christopher Pike all the more entertaining. A true-blue Starfleet hero, Pike is resourceful, brave, selfless and often verbose, prone to giving his crew rousing pep talks. In other words, he’s much more of a boy scout than Bohannon or even Captain James. T. Kirk.As devoted Trekkies know, Christopher Pike has a rather complicated history in the Star Trek universe. Back in 1965, Jeffrey Hunter played the role in an original pilot for the series that was rejected and eventually shelved. Star Trek was retooled before debuting in 1966 with William Shatner’s Captain Kirk replacing Pike. But snippets of that unaired original pilot did appear in the two-part episode, The Menagerie, a fan-favourite that had Pike return (this time played by Sean Kenney) as an older, mute and physically disabled man who seems to hold the key to a mysterious planet.Meanwhile, when J.J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek in 2009 in an alternate timeline as a big-budget blockbuster, Pike was played by Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood as a stern mentor to a young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine.)
Anson Mount. Courtesy, Space.
Ben Mark Holzberg /
Star Trek: Discovery takes place roughly 10 years before the original series, which means it’s prior to Pike being injured. He was a new character for the second season of the series, taking temporary command of the USS Discovery after the end of the Federation-Klingon war that dominated the first season. Pike comes aboard to investigate seven mysterious red signals that have been detected, which sets off a multilayered story about time travel, espionage, family and loyalty.What was it like to be the fourth actor to step into the shoes of Captain Pike?“It’s not so much a long history as it is a long life in our imaginations,” Mount says. “For source material, there’s not a lot of it. I don’t know of a single revered character in the Star Trek canon that we know so little about, or knew so little about. There really was a tremendous amount of freedom in coming in and fleshing out his second act. That’s really what it was. It’s an interesting situation. I don’t know of anyone else who is in a situation like this where we know the first act of the character and we know the third act of the character but had no second act. To be asked to do that was enormously flattering; obviously a bit daunting before I realized there was a lot of room there to go in and play. And I think the writers did an extraordinary job of handling how to use the character in Discovery and flesh him out to just the right extent.”Mount recently met Kenney — the actor, not the politician — at a fan expo. He also met the son of the late Jeffrey Hunter, who told the actor that he approved of Mount being cast in the role. The actor says he is excited to return to Calgary, the city where he spent five years of his life filming Hell on Wheels and where he also met his wife. At the time of this interview, the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery had yet to air but Mount is not expected to return to the series for its third season.Still, there has already been some speculation, or perhaps just wishful thinking, from fans about whether Pike will be reborn one more time for his own spinoff series. Mount says he would love to play the character again.“It checks all the boxes,” he says. “It’s a character I love, it’s a franchise I love, it’s an experience that I have already loved. Obviously, any opportunity to go back and play with that incredible team, led by (executive producer and co-creator) Alex Kurtzman and all of those incredible artisans from costumes, to makeup, to art, to props. Everybody in that crew is operating at the top of their game.”Anson Mount will appear at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo on April 26 and 27. Visit calgaryexpo.com for a schedule.