Why Star Trek: Strange New Worlds' Paul Wesley Isn't Doing an Imitation of William Shatner

Paul Wesley took on the role of Captain Kirk on Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Find out how he's managed to steer clear of doing a William Shatner impression.

By Daniel Trainor Jul 08, 2022 1:02 AMTags
Watch: Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley Dish on Their 'Firsts'

Paul Wesley knew better than to impersonate a legend.

The Vampire Diaries alum stars as Captain Kirk on Paramount+'s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which wrapped its first season on July 7. In taking the role, he was well aware putting on Kirk's iconic gold uniform would draw comparisons to William Shatner, who originated the role of Kirk in the 1960s Star Trek series.

"I think the biggest insult would be to do an imitation of what William Shatner originated and what people fell in love with," Wesley told Variety July 7. "If I did that, it would just be a reminder that I'm not William Shatner. And that in a way it's almost like an insult of character, right?"

Shatner debuted as Kirk in 1965 and also played the indelible Captain in in the first seven Star Trek movies.

While Wesley was adamant not to copy Shatner, he clearly did his homework to understand what made Shatner's performance so lauded. 

"When you watch the original series, he's so incredibly charming" Wesley said of Shatner. "He has this incredible sense of leadership, but it's done with this little twinkle in his eye that no one can quite describe. It's what made him so famous. It's what made that character so iconic, and it's just not something you can easily replicate. That's something that comes organic to the actor himself."

So, while Wesley pivoted his performance to something uniquely his own, the show still paid homage to Kirk's legacy.

"What they really wanted was for me to make sure that of course we pay respect to the character," Wesley said. "We're staying in canon. We're really respecting who he is and his character traits."

Paramount+/ Shutterstock

The opportunity to play Kirk has given the 39-year-old actor a chance to move on from The Vampire Diaries, where he played Stefan Salvatore for eight seasons from 2009 to 2017.

"This to me feels like the next evolution for me as a man now," Wesley said. "I'm in my late 30s. I want to go to that next phase. I don't mean to demean Vampire Diaries. It's awesome. But I mean, Star Trek feels like a more adult level of that. I was very excited to move on to that next phase of my life."

The first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is available to stream now on Paramount+.

Get the drama behind the scenes. Sign up for TV Scoop!