Ethan Peck is InStyle's June This Guy

Ethan Peck Is Here to Make Space Sexy

The Star Trek: Strange New Worlds star is upgrading his Passport to Paris for a ticket to the final frontier.

At first glance, Ethan Peck is just a regular, unassuming guy. At a tall 6-foot-1, according to a quick Google search, the 37-year-old has a much more fascinating history in Hollywood than meets the eye (or forehead, depending on your height). The grandson of Academy Award-winner Gregory Peck, Ethan’s humility and welcoming presence masks his own personal journey through film and television. Not many people can say they attended the same junior high school as the Olsen twins or that Mariah Carey sang to them on their 21st birthday. But for Peck, his current mission is one of significance to Star Trek fans. In his own words, “we’re here to make space sexy.”

Ethan Peck doesn't wear shirt for InStyle's This Guy
Helmut Lang jacket and pants.

Mark Elzey

It’s something the fandom had never seen before — up until episode 1 of the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. We’re talking about a shirtless, love-making Spock. 

“Moments like that, I'm just … ‘Oh my gosh, I really hope this goes well.’ I don't want to fuck this up,” he explains of the decision to boldly go where no Spock has gone before. “That was a risk that they took and I’m just happy to be along for the ride.”

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Sans bowl cut and pointy ears, you might recognize Peck from his role as Ellis in the 2008 drama Tennessee, where he starred opposite Mariah Carey, or from his version of Patrick Verona in the ABC Family television revival of 10 Things I Hate About You, based on the 1999 film by the same name. (“Reprising the role after Heath [Ledger] was really tough,” he tells InStyle.) But Peck’s first Hollywood film credit remains one of his most formative. His role as the black-turtleneck-wearing Michel in the 1999 direct-to-video classic Passport to Paris quickly captured the hearts of teenagers everywhere. In fact, people still stop him to talk about it. 

“I'll be in an elevator and a working professional, you know, mid-30s like me, will say, ‘Were you in Passport to Paris?’” Peck says enthusiastically. “That just lasts and lasts.”

Having filmed the role at age 13 during the summer between seventh and eighth grade, he recounts how overwhelming it was to suddenly be in the spotlight. 

“Everybody saw that film,” he explains. “We had a class trip to Disneyland and my buddies were like, ‘He's in Passport to Paris!’ And it created mobs of 13-year-old girls. [My friends] thought it was really funny, but it was very intense for me.”

After the film wrapped, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen coincidentally enrolled in Peck’s junior high school. A self-proclaimed “outsider goofball dork,” Peck recalls hanging out and talking with the twins every once and a while, but that he mostly kept to his more “fringe” group of friends. 

“[The Olsen twins] were obviously very cool and popular. We stayed friends, but I played Magic: The Gathering and played sports. I was in the orchestra. So, um, yeah, I had my group,” he jokes.

Peck’s penchant for sci-fi and fantasy may have caused him to be an “outsider goofball dork,” but it’s his love of the genre that would set him up for Trek. Having read Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity when he was around 12, as one casually does, created the domino effect of absorbing as much sci-fi content as he could. While he credits his father Stephen with introducing him to Star Wars, Peck admits that was as much of the “star”-related franchises that he could stand at that age. 

Ethan Peck poses for InStyle's This Guy
The Row, Courtesy of SSENSE top.

Mark Elzey

“I somehow circumvented watching Star Trek as a kid. Next Generation [which ran from 1987-1994] would have been my Star Trek, but I was a little too young for it,” he explains. “I remember it giving me the heebie-jeebies, because it dealt with existentialism and infinity and those concepts to me as a child were really frightening.”

Despite not having previously watched any of the franchise, Peck was still terrified to step into the role of Spock, a character first developed during Star Trek: The Original Series that has been expanded upon for generations since. Spock, a half-Vulcan, half-human science officer on the Enterprise has come to be one of Trek’s most popular characters and a household name — even for those who have never seen the series. 

For Peck, the legacy left by the late Leonard Nimoy and the most recent iteration played by Zachary Quinto felt incredibly intimidating. It’s an experience he could only equate to those who take on the roles of Batman or Superman. He knew right away that all eyes and pointed ears would be on him as he stepped into the character for the first time. 

Ethan Peck poses for InStyle's This Guy
Helmut Lang outfit. Berluti sneakers.

Mark Elzey

“There are so many expectations of who Spock is and who he should be, and I knew that I was entering this world of high pressure and judgment. I also felt, ‘Gosh, am I the right person for this?’ Because I know that this deserves someone who cares,” Peck notes. “Getting a role like this is like winning the lottery. I am very aware of that.”

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From his first scene in Star Trek: Discovery, it’s clear how much intention Peck has put and continues to put into his Spock. A character whose lines are mostly read in monotone tinged with a slight sense of curiosity, there is not a lot of room for error. The weight of this helped Peck turn inward and examine how he could help make this version of Spock stand out. 

“I realized there were a bunch of things in my life that overlap with Spock. I'm such a sensitive person and out of fear of being hurt, I would hide my feelings a lot as a kid. That lasted into my adulthood in a lot of ways,” Peck explains. “Spock feels deeply and is very sensitive. He's grown up in this culture where he's not allowed to be like that. Being human is shameful and having emotion is shameful. There was some overlap there. I've learned a lot from him.”

It was clear from the reception to season 2 of Discovery that whatever he and his fellow co-stars (Anson Mount, who plays Captain Christopher Pike, and Rebecca Romijn, who plays First Officer Una Chin-Riley) were doing was working, because as their character arcs on the series came to an end, the Star Trek fan base was begging for more. 

Ethan Peck wears Louis Vuitton for InStyle's This Guy
Louis Vuitton jacket. Everlane shirt and shorts.

Mark Elzey

In May of 2020, Paramount+ (then known as CBS All Access) officially announced Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, with all three actors returning. The mission: to tell the stories of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew with weekly episodes covering their adventures through time and space. The return of the Enterprise also marked the return of the classic, episodic structure of The Original Series. A departure from the more serial work the actors had been used to on Discovery. It allowed for more room and, yes, space, for light-hearted plot lines and character development. 

“To be spun off onto another show is a fucking dream,” Peck says of the experience. “It’s a more prominent Spock. There's an opportunity to investigate his inner life and his inner world, which I don't think they even did in The Original Series. I felt that I was embarking on this unknown journey again that has a new set of rules. We are discovering them together as we film it.”

Star Trek, as a series, has always been a family show. The worlds it creates and represents form an idyllic version of what the future could look like without prejudice and hatred. The care and thoughtfulness baked into every ounce of the franchise’s writing and casting has naturally created many a family within its own crews off-screen, as well. 

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For Peck, it started with his time on Discovery. Specifically, his relationship with Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays his stepsister, Michael Burnham. In discussing their on-screen relationship, Peck credits her for not only being amazing to work with, but also teaching him about leadership (both on a starship and on set).

“[Martin-Green] comes from such a different background. She has such a different life and she was very generous in sharing with me what it is to be her. She's a woman of color from Alabama. And I'm a white dude from L.A.,” he says. “The goal of Star Trek is to understand that which is so other from you. I feel like we were practicing it in our personal lives in order to grow as people, in order to grow as actors, you know what I mean? I'm sure I probably had much more to learn from her than her from me, I would argue.”

Veteran cast member and director Jonathan Frakes, who is best known for playing William Riker on The Next Generation, worked with Peck during his time on Discovery, as well. Frakes’s leadership, while intimidating at first, has been a huge help in finding Spock. Frakes’s boisterous energy and joy, Peck explains, are what make him such a great hype man. 

“It can be scary sometimes and you can spiral. You don't hit your line and it’s so intense when you're on camera in my experience,” Peck explains. “He's an actor. He gets it. When he's on set, he just knows what he's doing and knows the universe. So, it was really comforting.”

The Row, Courtesy of SSENSE top. Dickies pant. Louis Vuitton boots.
The Row, Courtesy of SSENSE top. Dickies pant. Louis Vuitton boots.

Mark Elzey

Frakes returns during the second season of SNW to direct the highly anticipated crossover episode with Star Trek: Lower Decks (set to air July 27 or Stardate 47634.44). It stars fellow InStyle This Guy, Jack Quaid. While remaining vague about the details of the episode, Peck explains how much the cast and crew loved having Quaid and the leading lady of Lower Decks, Tawny Newsome, on set. The quick chemistry that formed between Peck and Quaid — and subsequently Spock and Quaid’s character, Brad Boimler — has already sparked a nickname from Frakes. 

“Jonathan Frakes coined ‘Spoimler’ from our character's names. So, we're definitely going to be pushing Spoimler hard when that episode drops,” Peck jokes. “[Quaid] and I have a lot in common. He grew up in L.A. His parents are actors. My grandfather was an actor. There’s a lot of overlap and so it’s really nice to meet people who are like you. He’s just such a lovely guy.”

Peck insists that the episode is sure to be a fan favorite. It’s also fair to say that there is a lot to look forward to this season when it comes to Spock-centric episodes on SNW. In season 2’s fifth episode, “Charades,” viewers get to see a more emotionally evolved version of Spock — a development that, even if unintentional, speaks to Peck’s true personality sneaking through. It’s a part of Spock that he looks forward to exploring more. 

“I believe that he's beginning to understand the value of his humanness and the strength of it,” Peck says. “I'm excited to be on that journey.”

Read on to find out if Peck would ever steal a starship, what happens in his text chain with co-star Rebecca Romijn, and the accessory that he has his eyes on. 

Ethan Peck Polaroids

Polaroid Photos by Ethan Peck

Season 2 of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds opens with Spock stealing the Enterprise. Would you steal a starship?
For the right reason, I would steal a starship. If I had the tools to handle a starship. I’m not dumbly overconfident. So, I’ll admit when I don’t know what the hell I’m doing but I can be impulsive sometimes.

Who is your favorite villain?
Javier Bardem’s performance as Anton in No Country For Old Men

What is your favorite bagel?
Everything bagel.

How do you take your coffee or tea? 
Hot coffee. Black. 

What was the first album you purchased? 
It might have been a Blink-182 album or Offspring. It might have even been Chumbawamba. 

Ethan Peck Polaroids

Polaroid Photos by Ethan Peck

Can you describe a memorable dream? 
This is probably going to give away something that I’m going to regret. Maybe not. 

I was standing in a field — and it was from my perspective. I was looking at a geodesic dome and it was growing infinitely large. It was terrifying. I had that dream as a young boy. 

When was the last time you cried? 
Oh, I probably cried yesterday. 

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I play Wordle. I have a text group with Rebecca Romijn, who plays Una Chin-Riley on Strange New Worlds, and her husband Jerry [O’Connell]. We send our results to each other. 

If you were required to spend $1,000 today, what would you buy? 
I might buy a pair of sunglasses from RetroSpecs. Brent Spiner, who plays Data on Next Generation, wears them and I’m inspired to get a pair. 

Do you have a celebrity crush? 
I would say the original is Rachel Weisz from The Mummy.

Who is your favorite Hollywood Chris? 
Chris Pine. They’re all really talented, my gosh, but I’ve got to look out for Star Trek.

Ethan Peck Polaroids

Polaroid Photos by Ethan Peck


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