Rainn Wilson, who portrayed Harry Mudd twice on Star Trek: Discovery and who will reprise the role in one of the Star Trek: Short Treks coming soon, spoke about being a Trek fan himself, and on working on those two Discovery episodes.
Wilson was a Trek fan from a young age. “I would come home from school and I would watch Star Trek reruns. They would be on weekends all the time in the ’70s.
Attending Star Trek Las Vegas this summer was “basically like Galaxy Quest,” said Wilson. “It’s like Galaxy Quest come to life, and it’s fantastic. But the thing that I didn’t really realize is how amazing these Trek fans are. They’re really like… Of course, they’re nerdy. I’m nerdy. We’re all nerdy. But they’re sweet and kind and thoughtful, and really passionate about Star Trek and science fiction. It’s like they’re a family, like they’ve made a family, and even the actors from the various shows, the way they interact. They’re these big families as well. And so, it becomes this great community, really. It’s a terrific community, and it’s just got a lot of heart. And it’s been a real pleasure interacting with the fans.
“I was just thinking about this, like, now, because of the Internet, and because of conventions like this, you can find your tribe.
Wilson went several times to sci-fi conventions, where he fit right in. “You couldn’t find a message board. You couldn’t find that community. So now, there’s this community…And I would go play Dungeons & Dragons there, and I would go to the panels. They had a twenty-four-hour movie room, movie marathons playing constant sci-fi movies, and horror and stuff like that. I still have my science-fiction book collection from the ’70s, which numbers about three thousand, four hundred science-fiction books. So, I was – I am — a huge, huge fan.
“I’m about the biggest sci-fi fan that you can imagine, because my dad was a science-fiction writer.”
Wilson was delighted to get the role of Harry Mudd, and was a big fan of Roger C. Carmel‘s portrayal of Mudd in I, Mudd and Mudd’s Women. “Everything that I’d done is really a testament to his performance. He cracked this character. He has the comedy, charm, loquaciousness, kind of the dark edge. He’s willing to sell people out. That mercenary streak that you…Because so much of the Federation, let’s face it, it’s goodie-goodie two-shoes. Like, ‘Oh, the Federation, we can’t do this, and we’re so law-abiding.’ It’s refreshing sometimes seeing someone playing with the rules. Carmel nailed all those elements. So, I wanted to make him my own and take it to the next level and modernize what he did.”
Getting into the Harry Mudd character was easy courtesy of his costume, created by Gersha Phillips. “The costumes always help you find your character,” he said. “Dwight Schrute has a polyester suit, has got a calculator wristwatch. He wears a beeper, even though beepers are defunct, because he didn’t want to give up his beeper…Harry Mudd, he’s almost part pirate. It’s a little operatic. Leather boots, a lot of buckles and straps and rings. It feels very ornate. He’s kind of conman, smuggler, raconteur, roustabout, and it is really informed by his wardrobe.
In his second appearance on Discovery in Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad, Wilson was able do things that he only dreamed of when he was a young Trek fan. “It was a blast,” he said. “The flashback replay of shooting Lorca over and over again, killing Lorca in all these different ways, was fun. The cast was game, fun, collaborative. They let me improvise a bunch of lines and have creative input. It was a dream job.
“I got to fire a phaser. My inner Trekkie went crazy. I got to fire phasers. I got to be beamed up, beamed down. I got to sit in the captain’s chair. I got to be captain for a while. He controlled the ship. When you have the poster of all the Star Trek captains, I want Harry Mudd on that.”
What does Wilson think about the forthcoming Short Treks? “There’s going to be [some] fans that go, ‘Oh, no way. I’m not going to watch a short film about Star Trek. This isn’t how it works.’ But I love that they’re breaking molds and breaking new ground, and it’s a terrific mini Harry Mudd adventure. It goes to a lot of different places, from different aliens to a lot of fun situations, with some great twists and turns, and I get to direct it and star in it. It’s like a dream come true. It’s like, ‘Write me a dream job.'”