Jess Bush Binged Star Trek: The Original Series for Strange New Worlds Role

Posted 2022/05/08 6 0

The first episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, “Strange New Worlds,” has arrived for streaming on Paramount+, and viewers were re-introduced to one of the oldest Star Trek characters: Nurse Christine Chapel, played on Star Trek: The Original Series by the First Lady of Star Trek, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, wife of Gene Roddenberry. According to Jess Bush, the Australian actor who is playing the updated incarnation of the character on Strange New Worlds, there was a lot of preparation that went into stepping into the role.

Bush, who competed on America’s Next Top Model in 2011 and later worked as an artist, spoke to and other press outlets about taking on the role originated by the late Majel, saying that stepping into the role and franchise with such a strong cultural impact was exciting. She said her prep included binging The Original Series episodes that featured appearances by Chapel and more. “I read as much as I could on Majel and Chapel,” Bush said. “I watched a bunch of TOS. I did a lot of reading.”

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However, while Bush may have done plenty of research into Barrett-Roddenberry’s interpretation of Chapel, there were some updates to her portrayal, as well. These included the fact that her personality is no longer so closely tied to her attraction for the Enterprise’s half-human, half-Vulcan Science Officer, who originated in The Original Series, played by Leonard Nimoy. On Strange New Worlds, a younger Spock is being played by Ethan Peck.

“Chapel in TOS, her whole plot line was quite connected to who she was pining after,” Bush explained. “That was a big feature of who she was. I think that’s different this time. She’s got this lust for life and this mischievous nature that I love to embody. She’s been through some stuff, actually.”

In addition to investigating the pre-existing Star Trek material concerning Chapel, Bush also did a lot of thinking about the character herself. When asked about how Chapel felt about a topic covered by an upcoming Strange New Worlds episode, the laws governing genetically modified species, Bush had an answer prepared.

“As a character, Chapel believes that rules are guidelines and people come first,” Bush said. “You have to pay attention to the circumstances of a situation and not be blinded by the rules. Yes, I think there’s definitely a respect for the rules and the regulations and that they’re there for a reason, but it’s almost a framework from which to then make decisions.”

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry Originated the Role of SNW’s Number One

Interestingly, Chapel is not the only character originated by Barrett-Roddenberry who appears on Strange New Worlds. One of the show’s three leads, alongside Peck’s Spock and Anson Mount’s Captain Christopher Pike, is Number One, a character who appeared in the original pilot for Star Trek, “The Cage.” However, when footage from the unaired pilot was re-purposed for the TOS season one episode “The Menagerie,” Barrett-Roddenberry was credited as M. Leigh Hudec.

Barrett-Roddenberry reprised the role of Chapel on Star Trek: The Animated Series, where she also played another member of the Enterprise bridge crew, M’Ress, a Caitian Starfleet officer. She also played the voice of the ship’s computer, not just in TOS and TAS but in many subsequent Trek shows, including Star Trek: The Next Generation.

According to Rod Roddenberry, the son of Barrett-Roddenberry and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, there’s just one Trek character Barrett-Roddenberry would have a hard time seeing played by a different actor. Rod said that Lwaxana Troi, who appeared in TNG and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, held a special, personal place in his mother’s heart.

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