For actor Doug Jones, some of the fun in getting the role of Saru is also helping to develop a character from a new alien race.
Jones was a Trek fan from his youth. “I was born in 1960, so I watched the original series as a child on network television in its first run,” he said. “So it has become a part of my DNA, and a part of my actor fantasies, as I became an actor who started wearing a lot of prosthetic makeups as otherworldly creatures and hybrids and whatnot.”
But the actor had never been in a Star Trek series before this. “The question always arose,” he said, “from both fans and friends was, ‘Have you ever done Star Trek, and if not would you want to?’ And the answer was always, ‘No I haven’t, and yes I would love to!’ So now at the age of fifty-seven, I can finally say, ‘I’m in the new Star Trek!’ And I’m so excited about it!”
Playing Saru is more than just an acting gig. “What sweetens the deal for me is that I get to develop an alien species from the ground up,” said Jones. “I’m playing Saru, a Kelpian, and this race has never been seen before in any Star Trek series. So here I am with the writers, developing my backstory, along with the creature effects designers coming up with my look, and so an actor, I get to establish certain things about him that no one has ever had to do before. And that’s a fun thing for me. The writers have been equating me with characters like Spock or Data.”
Another interesting part of playing Saru is the relationship with Burnham. “I have much in common with Sonequa Martin Green‘s character of Michael Burnham, who is the first human who goes through the Vulcan Science Academy,” said Jones. “We meet on the starship Shenzhou about seven years before the series starts. During that seven years we have become quite competitive with another, and we are both vying for a captain’s chair one day. It’s kind of like a brother/sister relationship. We annoy each other, but we have a deep love and respect for each other as well. Saru thinks she’s the smartest Starfleet officer he’s ever worked with. So that’s where the intimidation and the competition really comes from.”