When Captain Gabriel Lorca was captured by Klingons in Star Trek: Discovery, the newest version of the saga that debuted this Fall, his cellmate turned out to be Harcourt “Harry” Fenton Mudd, a conman who Trekkies will remember tormenting Captain James T. Kirk on more than one occasion. Back in 1966, Mudd had an ostentatious mustache and was played by Roger C. Carmel, but now, he’s a bit younger, rocking a full beard and played by Rainn Wilson.
“I was excited to tackle the dark edges of Mudd,” Wilson tells Inverse of the role. “He’s kind of goofy, and he’s kind of dastardly.”
Wilson’s take on Mudd is a microcosm for the entirety of Star Trek: Discovery’s relationship with its source material: You want to believe he’s the same character from the original series, but you’re simultaneously jarred by how brooding and real this new spin on an old character seems.
Despite Wilson’s iconic turn as Dwight in The Office, he doesn’t think of himself as a comedic actor.
“I approach every role the same: ‘Who is the person? What do they want? What is the world they are in? What can I bring to that character?’ I always like to start the conversation that way,” he says. “I think comedies always come naturally to me, but I don’t really have a comedy background. I look a little bit dorky — so I had more of an in for comedy early in my career. But did a lot of heavy serious drama stuff among the comedy. I played Hamlet in college. I did Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night at the area stage.”
Back when Wilson moderated the Star Trek: Discovery panel at San Diego Comic-Con he joked about the superiority of Star Trek over Star Wars, a fact which he doubles-down on when asked which he truly prefers. “I will always like Star TREK better than Star WARS,” he says with an unexpected degree of earnestness.
“Though I like both. I think there is place in the world where both can be appreciated. But Star Trek has always been smarter than Star Wars. And if you look at the themes it has tackled in its episode and movies over the years, Star Trek is more interesting. George Lucas even admitted that he just made an action, space opera with a little bit of mysticism”
Wilson jokingly suggests that Harry Mudd could not only pop-up in an Abrams Trek film (Abrams directed the first two reboots and produced the third), but in a galaxy far, far away, too. “In fact, I think [Abrams] should bring Harry Mudd into the Star Wars universe and blow everyone’s mind. Mudd’s there, set up in Mos Eisley as a trader.” (Abrams directed and co-wrote Star Wars: The Force Awakens and will co-write and direct Episode IX)