'Star Trek: Picard': Ed Speleers on Playing Jean-Luc's [SPOILER] and Keeping It a Secret (Exclusive)

Star Trek: Picard
Trae Patton/Paramount+

The actor talks to ET about his character's 'Picard' revelation in the latest episode and why he's still digesting that he's in 'Trek.'

Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched the latest episode of Paramount+'s Star Trek: Picard.

Turns out Jack Crusher has a deeper connection to Picard than previously thought. 

Star Trek: Picard dropped one father of a reveal in the latest episode of the Paramount+ series' third and final season, confirming that Jack (played by You's Ed Speleers) is in fact not only the son of Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), but also of Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). The signs all pointed to that being the case, from similarities in their mannerisms to their British accents to the amount of time that had passed -- roughly two decades -- since Beverly cut the Enterprise crew off from all communication. 

It wasn't until Jack was faced with the possibility of meeting a dire fate following an ambush by an enemy swarm, led by Captain Vadic (Amanda Plummer), and his insistence to turn himself over to save his mother that Picard finally came to terms with the fact that Jack was very much of his own blood. But it took the Admiral a while before he faced the music. Armed with Captain Shaw's (Todd Stashwick) threat that they were going to let Jack sacrifice himself to save the USS Titan's crew and civilians, Picard pulled the ultimate power move after coming face to face with Beverly, who had woken up moments prior, and declared "the boy stays here."

After a stunned Captain Shaw asked Picard why he was putting the entire crew in danger, Picard had only one response -- and it was a powerful one: "Because he's my son." 

Following the latest episode of Picard, which dropped Thursday, ET spoke with Speleers over Zoom about playing the son of two iconic Star Trek characters, keeping and what he wants viewers to know as Jack's story continues to unfold.

ET: When this first came to you, how much did you know about who you were playing? How secretive were they during the process?

Ed Speleers: I think initially when taping before the role, it was shrouded in a lot of secrecy, although I knew Patrick Stewart's name was put on the email so it didn't take me too long to work out which sci-fi franchise I might be up for. But in terms of the specificity of the role, that didn't become clear until I was offered the part. And then Terry Matalas, our showrunner, he basically gave me the low-down of what the whole deal was, the whole story. And I think it was important for him to do that because I couldn't really play the role without that information. And also, it's just exciting. Of course, I had to keep my lips very much shut and sealed and all that. But I didn't know quite a lot, getting ready for it. When I started shooting, they were still finishing season 2, so I was sort of prepping in my apartment when I got to L.A., just getting myself ready and going through scripts.

Trae Patton/Paramount+

You're stepping into a universe that has decades of history and legacy to it. Once you wrapped your head around the fact that you're playing Jack Crusher, who's not only the son of Beverly Crusher, but also Jean-Luc's son, which we find out in episode 2, did you have a moment where you thought this is surreal to be stepping to into these shoes?

I'm still having that moment, I think. I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that I've actually been in Star Trek, which is a dangerous thing to me, because it means I could just become very lazy and rest on my laurels and be like, "Oh, I've been on Star Trek. That's great." It's one thing to be added into this incredible universe and be given this amazing opportunity by Paramount and CBS. But it's another to be playing two of the most iconic sci-fi characters there has ever been. And not to put too fine a point on it, but probably the most... I mean, between him and Kirk, he's one of the most revered captains in Star Trek history. To be his son. it did take a while to get my head around that.

But having said that, I'll caveat that with, there was so much work for me to do and there was so much... I don't know if pressure is the right word, but there were expectations that I've put on myself in order to deliver on the opportunities I've been given and to try and create as well a fleshed-out character as possible. That actually, the weight and the gravitas of the situation and what I'm surrounded by kind of dissipated because I just had to find a way to focus on the role. And also, I was in so much and I had so much to do all the time that I didn't have [the time to dwell]. The surreal moments were the quiet drives home sort of meditating on the day.

How did you prepare to play Jack? Did you study past episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation or did you choose to walk in a little blind? Did you study Patrick and Gates' mannerisms?

It's a good question. I think I find the preparation of a role -- I'm not sure every actor does -- but for me, it's hugely important and it gives you the baseline and that confidence to go out and express yourself. So to that end, yeah, I did as much as I possibly could. Again, Terry Matalas, he put me through -- I think the email said, "This is your Star Trek University," and it was this long list of TNG episodes and films going back all the way to The Wrath of Khan, all the way through to First Contact. He said, "Don't look Nemesis." I'm going to quote him on that verbatim and he may never work with me again a result. And to be honest, looking at the story for Jack and for this season, that makes so much sense. Those films made a lot of sense as well and I think the reason why he wanted me to look at things like Wrath of Khan, because I feel that [Jack] Crusher is an amalgamation of space cowboys and captains, I suppose. It's not just Picard. And I think there are elements of Kirk in him. He's almost Kirk without Starfleet behind him, I suppose, isn't he? He's like that.

We wanted him to have a sort of roguish quality to him, a sort of laugh-in-the-face-of-danger type attitude, but very conscientious of others as well. I did go to town on the research. Of course, I have nostalgic memories of TNG being on at home in the U.K., of coming home from school when I only had four channels... the wind rattling every brick in the house, to the point I thought it was going to fall over. But TNG being there, keeping me safe.

When we first meet Jack, he's quite brash. He doesn't really seem to authority very well. He's arguably the catalyst for the crisis that they're all kind of in right now. How would you describe him? Is there more to him? 

Yeah, I think he is quite brash. I've sort of refrained from using that word with him. But you're right, he is. One of the reasons that I was so drawn to him, especially once it was made very clear by Terry and others about whoever I was playing here, was the fact that he's incredibly complex. And as the season unfolds, you will discover more and more about what that complexity is all about. And it's sort of twofold. There's many things that are causing that sort of complexity. I was fascinated by this idea of relationships, and father-and-son relationships, being a dad, of course being a son as well, and my own dynamics and what it would mean to not really know your dad, but your dad to be essentially one of the most revered and famous people in the world. To not have a relationship with that person and how that might impact you. And knowing that your mother had made a choice to take you away from a certain life because she thought it was in your best interest.

So yes, he is brash, but he's also conflicted. He's conflicted because he's trying to figure out where his placement is in the universe. I think fundamentally, at his core, he wants to do the right thing. He believes in doing whatever it takes for the benefit of others. At one point, he uses the phrase, it might even be an episode 2, "You're trying to do some good in a good-less universe." I thought it's such a great line and it sort of became my POV or my MO for Jack in a way. It's so succinct. It became a point of reference. If you kept coming back to that idea, then you could look at how he responded in so many situations. He's definitely a man of conflict. Certainly, in the early episodes, there's a lot of figuring out. And much of this story as it was pitched to me, and I really hope I'm not speaking out of turn, it's almost like an origin story for him.

Even though Jack and Picard are estranged in all ways, they're forced to interact due to the circumstances they find themselves in. And it appears Jack holds a lot of animosity toward the Admiral and they have a lot to air out. How does this evolve their relationship, if at all? What challenges or obstacles do they face in the interim?

I think there is animosity from Jack towards Picard, I think you're right there, and I think he owns that. What's great about Jack's character, and it might rub people up the wrong way, might rub the viewer the wrong way, is that he isn't afraid to call Picard out. He's not afraid to push buttons and he doesn't really give two hoots about Starfleet and what they stand for. That is obviously to the detriment of the people around him. But the thing is, for those two, they're having to iron out a 24-year-old relationship without having had that relationship. And they're having to do it in the sight of others with the highest stakes going on around them, first of all, and they're having to strike up a bond. And I think they relish it. 

It's like being in the trenches, isn't it? It was quite literally, I suppose, for them in their world and they are thrown into a situation where they very quickly work out that maybe things aren't quite as black and white as one thinks in the first place. Whatever picture has been portrayed to me -- and I don't necessarily think that a bad image was portrayed to Jack by them, I don't think that's the case. I think he's maybe formed his own opinion on this guy, and I think it is broken down. And that again drives more conflict for Jack. Because he then starts to realize, "Oh, there's similarities," or there are things that they can connect over. I think he tries hard to push it away because it hurts to look deep inside yourself and confront what you're really feeling. And he's trying to figure out what he's feeling, I suppose. That's still the core. And again, he's trying to do it on the biggest scale.

Trae Patton/Paramount+

Do you have a favorite on-set memory with Patrick or Gates or being amongst the Next Generation crew? What springs to mind when you look back on your time on set?

There's lots, there really is and I don't want to be vague and flippant with it, but I felt like almost every day I was like a kid in the sweet shop. I'm going to use another sort of metaphor. I was given the keys to the castle in a way. I had the luxury of being able to work with all of these wonderful humans and great actors in such close proximity. There's moments of levity that Jack gets, there's moments of action that he gets. But yeah, I think some of those more intimate scenes with Patrick as the season unfolds, were definitely right up there. There are moments that will be cherished.

Of course, it is because he is an iconic actor and man within our industry and particularly within this world, but it's just a pleasure to go toe-to-toe with someone like that who at his age... is still incredibly passionate about the work and making sure the work makes sense and making sure that the scenes we are doing are supporting the narrative of the story and making sure that we connect. It's incredibly important to him. That's admirable. Gates is the same. Those are just moments of inspiration and moments that I always cherish. I sure hope I'm still doing it on the same level as they are now when I'm their age.

What do you want fans to know or keep in mind about Jack as the season progresses? 

I just want them to go on his journey. I know that there is a huge love and support for bringing everybody back, and to have been part of that in some ways, has been amazing. But I just want people to just give Jack's story its chance. Because I feel that if they go on his journey then, there's a lot to unpick, I hope. In the writing that we've put together and was presented to me and the way we shot it, I feel that we've got a rollicking good adventure. And I just hope that people have the faith to see it through and just keep with it.

Wil Wheaton plays Beverly's other son, Wesley Crusher, and he made a cameo in season 2 of Picard. Have you talked to him?

I have had a chat with Wil Wheaton.

Could we see Wesley and Jack together onscreen before Picard is over?

I would love that. I would love a future where that takes place. I would love a future where this role is able to be continued.

New episodes of Star Trek: Picard drop Thursdays on Paramount+.