Ed Speleers is taking our screens by storm.
To say he has wholly embodied these roles and left fans talking is an understatement. With his incredible work on both series, we’re confident that his next fantastic role is just around the corner, even if the charming but modest star sometimes fears the well of opportunity can dry up at any moment.
This star to watch has been on the move and incredibly busy, which makes him feel lucky.
Still, he was gracious enough to hop on the phone with TV Fanatic to chat about landing two massive roles on series with huge fan followings, his love for and approach to his craft, cast camaraderie, and more. Check out our discussion below!
Did you realize, heading into the season of YOU, how significant your role would be to the series and the impact you’d have? Did you feel any pressure from that? Rhys is probably the most important role in the series presently outside of Joe at this point.
I don’t really know what the impact is or has been. I feel that I was given a very clear outline of my character’s role in the show and the importance to the narrative that he had.
But you feel pressure when you go into any job, and it’s not just the weight of joining something with such a huge fan base that people meticulously dissect, but it’s just you want to do a good job essentially, don’t you?
So I always feel that pressure going into anything. And it all comes down to just making sure that I can perform to the best of my ability to give what I believe is the best account of the character.
Well, for one, you did. It was an amazing performance.
Thank you very much.
You were unfettered in the second part of the season versus the first. It was apparent you had more fun with the unhinged Rhys…
Well, in terms of playing the real versus the non-real Rhys, I only had to play the real Rhys a few times.
Even the person in the first half is predominantly who we see in the second, but he is certainly more measured and calculated. But that’s because he is trying to do everything he can to try and get Joe on his side, to charm him—his determination and ability to manipulate and mold Joe as to how he wants him to be.
But yeah, certainly, in the second half, I did have a lot of fun because the shackles were taken off. I suppose I was allowed this broad freedom to have fun and explore.
The dialogue lent itself to performing in that way. I’ve always felt that the dialogue that I had was very sort of muscular. I believe I was able to throw quite a physical performance behind it in a way that I hadn’t on other parts. Even the way he speaks enhances how he moves, allowing for these great opportunities to play.
You had a nice balance. It’s incredibly dark material in some ways, but it was also very humorous. So did you find it challenging to walk that line between darkness and humor?
Yes, of course. And I think the thing is you don’t play menacing, and you don’t play humorous. It all comes down to the truth.
And because the scripts were so tight and the character was so well thought out on the page, a lot of my work was taken care of for me. I had to just throw myself into that.
But yeah, I did relish it. It was also really important to me not to come across as like the pantomime villain, which is another line to tread because you want the humor to come across and be playful. You almost want the character to be winking and nodding at the audience, but he’s not quite there.
It is a difficult line-toed, but Rhys and Joe’s dynamic is set up in such a way that they are trying to form some sort of friendship, even if it may be shrouded in toxic masculinity or however we want to view it.
We feel that there is a desire for both of them to form some bond or connection. And when you boil that down and concentrate on those things, the surrounding elements of humor or menace will operate around that essentially.
You and Penn were great together. You guys have such great chemistry. It was like you two had to work in tandem with each other. Did that approach and chemistry come naturally to you?
Yeah. We struck up an excellent rapport early on. He is a wonderful human, but a wonderful guy to work with because he’s got an amazing ethos towards the work, but he’s very calm, and he’s very measured and quite a cerebral individual. But that allows a great space for both of us to explore.
He’s happy to talk through various beats in every scene every time we went together. Trust is vital when you’re acting with someone in such close proximity for such a long time. And I think that he and I had that in abundance.
We trusted in each other’s opinions of the work and, as a result, allowed each other to be free to explore the text and capture as much as possible. I had a great time working with him.
In that second half, there were some very intense scenes between the pair of us, and I would love to, whether it be on something like this or something else; I would love the chance to work with him again.
The season finale potentially left an opening for you to make a return for the fifth season
The way it’s ended certainly does allow the door to be opened, but I’ve not heard anything, and I don’t even know how that would manifest itself. It’s quite a difficult thing, isn’t it? I don’t know if he could exist for another ten episodes again; that would be quite relentless. That might be too much Rhys.
I don’t think there’s such a thing as “too much Rhys,” personally.
[Laughs] Oh, I like that.
I must commend you because you’re probably living an actor’s dream playing two such game-changing roles in massive series at the same time. What has that been like for you between YOU and Star Trek: Picard?
It’s been incredibly fortuitous, and I feel humbled and very lucky.
I’m so grateful that the stars aligned and that these jobs have been released at the same time. They’re two pieces of work that I’m very proud of.
I’m proud that I was given the opportunity and that I was allowed to play such complex individuals. It makes it very difficult to know what on earth I should do next because I feel very spoiled by both playing Jack Crusher and Rhys.
Were you a Trekkie when you booked the part, and did you find the history, canon, and fan following intimidating?
There is an intimidation to joining something that is 60 years of history on television, one of the most iconic TV shows ever. Of course, some trepidation goes in. But I believe that as long as you do your homework properly, you can tackle it.
I was assisted by incredible people who have been a part of that world for many years, including our showrunner, Terry Matalas, who I owe a lot for giving me a chance in the first place and wanting to write such detail for Jack…
I have nostalgic memories of Star Trek, but I went tooth and nail understanding it for this process because of the fandom, canon, and all those reasons.
I was given a long list of episodes to watch and some films that Terry felt were pertinent to both the part and the story we would be driving for this particular season.
I devoured them. And I feel that Star Trek has a very special place in my soul now. It’s very important to my family and me. I didn’t want to stop filming that one because I was having the time of my life, like charging around with phasers.
Crusher also has moments of humor, and he’s got moments of darkness. Playing these multifaceted individuals drive me the most when it comes to acting.
Stephanie [Czajkowski] told TV Fanatic that you are one of the kindest, funniest people she’s ever worked with.
Yes, she did. She mentioned it in another interview with one of my colleagues. I sense great camaraderie among the cast. Did you feel that with them, specifically the next-gen members?
It really was. We had a big family unit, and that’s what I loved about it more than anything is that the scale of something like Star Trek and what you’re trying to put together and the amount of people and bodies and money that is involved in keeping a show like that together is colossal.
However, at the heart of it, which is also at the heart of the story, is this great family just trying to make each other laugh. Each day, we go to work trying to get the best out of one another so that we can all hopefully create some memorable television or something that Star Trek fans will treasure for a long time to come.
We had a wonderful group of people across the board.
Crusher has exhibited some superpowers that are yet to be explained on the show, but did you add any new special skills to your toolbox? You’re not flying on dragons, but what else have you been up to?
No, I’m not doing all that again. [Laughs]
I wouldn’t say specifically new ones, but Guy Fernandez and Matt Mullins, the stunt coordinator and fight coordinator — I learned a lot from them in how to approach fighting and look at stunts in a new way. And I think I went a bit deeper there. I learned new skills on how to approach work.
That’s the thing about it. You learn every time you go on a job; you’re learning something. Even if it’s the smallest thing — a tiny technical thing, you’ve never explored before, in relation to cameras or certain actors you work with, or how to approach a character or find something that wasn’t working for you before.
Delving a bit deeper into the stunt world was something I learned more about, but I learned a lot about myself and how to approach my work in both parts. It was a long preparation process for me in Star Trek before stepping onto the set. I went through the personal ringer on how to bring him to life.
That’s amazing when you find fulfillment in the work that you’re doing.
Yeah, I’m incredibly lucky. I’ve been fortunate for a long time to be able to work the one job I’ve always wanted to have since I was a very small child. And to still be able to do it is great, but to be able to do it now in a creatively rewarding sphere and pushing me in ways that I haven’t been pushed before is wonderful.
I hope I find some way to keep it going and push it a bit further each time.
Now that’s the big question mark. It’s hard to do that and not get complacent and not rest on your laurels and not think you are bigger than you are. I hope to keep working on the small things to better myself and working with lovely people who create good atmospheres.
I trust you’ll be able to do that because it’s great watching you on the screen.
I hope so. I don’t know. You just have no idea.
This could be my last phone interview, and then that could be it. The doors could shut. That could be, “We don’t want you anymore, pal.” That’s it; you just don’t know. But hopefully not.
***This interview was edited for length and clarity***
You can catch Ed Speleers when you stream YOU on Netflix and Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+. Don’t forget to check out our Star Trek Picard Reviews.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You’ll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on Twitter.