Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Kirk Recalls Chance Encounter With William Shatner

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds actor Paul Wesley recently opened up about a chance encounter he had with William Shatner shortly after being cast as the new James T. Kirk.

Almost immediately after Wesley shot his first episode as Jim Kirk, the Vampire Diaries alum happened to find himself seated next to original Captain Kirk actor Shatner on an airplane. Wesley discussed the “bizarre” meeting during a recent appearance on Michael Rosenbaum’s Inside of You podcast. “They hadn’t announced that I got cast,” he said. “And they said, ‘Don’t tell anyone. Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone.’ And I said, ‘Okay, cool, I won’t.’ I’m flying from Chicago to L.A. — and I get on the plane, and I had just binged every episode of [Star Trek:] The Original Series … and I look up, and I’m like … ‘Is that William Shatner?'”

Wesley was especially taken aback when he looked at his ticket and realized that he was in the open seat next to Shatner. (The coincidence had him thinking Paramount had set up a “Candid Camera”-esque scenario.) “And we’re flying, and I’m, like, trying to allude to the fact that I’m playing this role without saying it,” Wesley recalled. “And I honestly think he thought I was, like, some deranged [fan] … It was a disaster.” Nevertheless, Shatner did grant Wesley’s request for a selfie.

What William Shatner told Paul Wesley about playing Kirk

In March 2022, two months before Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Season 1 premiere, Paramount+ announced that Wesley would be playing Kirk in Season 2. “It’s announced that I got the part, and then [Shatner], you know, went on Twitter and just like, tweeted me, like, the sweetest thing,” Wesley told Rosenbaum. “[He] just said, ‘Take care of my ship’ … It was such a beautiful moment.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Wesley revealed that Strange New Worlds’ showrunners specifically told him not to do an “imitation” of Shatner’s Captain Kirk. “We kind of laughed about it, but I wouldn’t wanna– I wouldn’t do that anyway.”

What is James T. Kirk’s role in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds?

Strange New Worlds is both a spin-off of Star Trek: Discovery and a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series. The show takes place during Christopher Pike’s (Anson Mount) time as captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, before Kirk took command of the ship.

Wesley’s first appearance as Kirk actually came in Strange New Worlds’ Season 1 finale, “A Quality of Mercy.” The episode largely takes place in an alternate future where Captain Pike escaped his grisly fate and remained in command of the Enterprise. In turn, Kirk instead became captain of the U.S.S. Farragut, the first ship he was stationed on after graduating from Starfleet Academy. After guest starring in the Season 1 finale, Wesley recurred as Kirk — a lieutenant at this point in the prime timeline — in Strange New World Season 2.

Shatner originated the role of Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek television show, which aired for three seasons from 1966 to 1969. He reprised the role in the Star Trek film series from 1979 to 1994. Before Wesley took over the role for Strange New Worlds, Chris Pine played Kirk in the Star Trek reboot films.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Seasons 1 and 2 are currently streaming on Paramount+. A third season is in the works.