Rainn Wilson Teases Harry Mudd’s Star Trek: Discovery Episode 7 Mischief

Former star of "The Office" compares his roguish franchise-favorite character to former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon — but, you know, lovable.

by | October 26, 2017 | Comments

Star Trek: Discovery - "Choose Your Pain" Pictured: Rainn Wilson (Michael Gibson/CBS)

Rainn Wilson, who has made an art of portraying social misfits — example A: his Dwight Schrute from The Office — takes on another difficult personality in Star Trek: Discovery’s Harry Mudd, who first appeared in the Star Trek universe in a 1966 episode of The Original Series.

On, Wilson’s version of franchise-favorite Mudd is described simply: “Intergalactic con man.” In TOS episode “I, Mudd,” Captain James T. Kirk elaborates: “thief,” “swindler and con man,” “liar and rogue.”

But that was an older, more cynical Mudd of 2268, right? No — that’s just Mudd.


Back in 2256, Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) and Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) got a bitter taste of Wilson’s younger Mudd when, while imprisoned with him in episode “Choose Your Pain,” Lorca discovered that Mudd had been spying on them to curry favor with their Klingon captors. That revelation was in addition to Mudd assigning his own torture to a wounded Starfleet officer in a hideous corruption of the “pay it forward” concept.

Lorca very intentionally left Mudd behind when he and Tyler busted out. Mudd’s last words rang through the halls: “You can’t walk away from me, Lorca. I’m coming for you. You hear? You haven’t seen the last of Harcourt Fenton Mudd!”

It appears Lorca’s day of reckoning has arrived in Sunday’s episode “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.” The episode preview reveals that the Discovery crew gets caught in a time loop with Mudd making a very conspicuous appearance in the trailer.

Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Wilson this week about the series’ renewal for a second season, taking on the Mudd legacy, and what the future might hold.

"Choose Your Pain" - Rainn Wilson; Shazad Latif - STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (Michael Gibson/CBS)

Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: I was excited to hear the news about the season 2 renewal.

Rainn Wilson: That’s fantastic. The show’s terrific, and fans are loving it. I’m really excited to see what happens.

RT: I noticed in the next episode’s preview that you make an appearance. So is this going to be a big episode for you?

Wilson: Yeah, this is a big episode. Harry Mudd visits the Discovery. He, obviously, was not so happy being left behind in a Klingon prison. So I imagine some sparks are gonna fly.

RT: We asked some of our Facebook followers to submit some questions for you — that OK?

Wilson: Yeah! Let’s do it!

First-Look Photo: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY - "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad" -- Episode 107

RT: The first one is from Brad Turner, who asks, “How much backstory did you have to prepare for such an iconic role? Did it worry you about taking on this huge character, and what did you add from your own acting repertoire to make the role yours? PS: Love you in this role. Thought you nailed it perfectly. Hope we see more of Mudd with you in the role.”

Wilson: Yeah, that’s nice. You know, I grew up watching Star Trek, and I loved Harry Mudd from the get-go. I was probably six years old when I saw my first Harry Mudd episode. And that’s really no exaggeration. I love what Roger Carmel did in terms of his kind of both flamboyance and comedic-but-deadly at the same time. I love that combination. I’ve been excited to play with my own version of that.

When I spoke to them — we had a conference call about Harry Mudd when they first offered it to me — and the writers and producers were like, “Listen, this is a modern-age, this is a real Harry Mudd. He’s got to be a real, flesh-and-blood character. He’s got a backstory — he’s got history. He’s got to have an edge to him for it all to work.” So I knew that this would be a great opportunity for me. I was really excited to dig into that, you know?

Part of what I do as an actor with any role that I get is like, “Well, why should I be playing this role? What can I bring to this role that’s special, that no one else can bring?” I think every actor kind of has to do that to find your way into how you would play the role. I don’t know what that is, exactly, but that combination of the theatrical and the dangerous was something, the dynamic I was really excited to play with.

Roger C. Carmel, William Shatner in Star Trek TOS episode I, Mudd screenshot (CBS)

RT: Tom Spillman asks, “What is the most interesting part of playing an iconic character, where you have more screen time than the original, yet you have to lead us to those plot points?”

Wilson: One of the great things that the writers did was really flesh-out some backstory for Harry, which we saw in “Choose your Pain.” We got to see that he’s madly in love with Stella, that his courting her has been quite an endeavor. He bought a moon for her. That she’s got a powerful father that he’s trying to appease. We also see his resentment at the Federation. And he has some very different ideas.

He’s one of the rare kinds of civilian characters. So it’s kind of an insight into — you know, there’s the Federation and there’s Starfleet, but then there’s billions and billions of people that they’re overseeing, and we rarely see that in the Star Trek universe. That’s also an interesting insight as well. I like that he has this resentment at the Federation, and that probably a lot of people do, down on these planets, that are following rules that they don’t want to follow.

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca; Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (Michael Gibson/CBS)

RT: That leads me to my own question: The love story Harry Mudd tells — is that true or false?

Wilson: I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s for you to decide. I am sure it’s not 100 percent true. I’m sure it’s not 100 percent true because he rarely says the truth 100 percent.

RT: Since the love story is central to his personal mythology or truth — depending on what that is — could you name three pluses to Harry and three minuses to Harry. Are there good parts of his personality?

Wilson: I don’t see any minuses. It’s hard for me — I’m sorry, I don’t see any minuses. He’s charming. He’s devilishly handsome. He’s a survivor, and he’s dangerous. What’s not to like?

RT: His being a survivor is one thing that we know is fact.

Wilson: Yes.

RT: Surely we’ll be seeing him in season 2, right?

Wilson: I haven’t gotten any word about that, but I would love to be involved in season 2. I really would. I hope they’ll bring him back.

"Choose Your Pain" -- Episode 105 - Rainn Wilson; Jason Isaacs in STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (Michael Gibson/CBS)

RT: If Harry Mudd was a real person living on Earth today, what would his lifestyle be like? Can you compare him to somebody real living today?

Wilson: I think that Harry Mudd would be — I think [former White House Chief Strategist] Steve Bannon would be a great comparison.

RT: Really?

Wilson: Yeah, maybe, I don’t know. That’s one way to go with him. Some conspiracy theories — Remember, Steve Bannon worked in Hollywood. He’s an author, he’s on boards, he tries to make money however he can. A scrapper without any morals.

RT: But his ideology wouldn’t be anywhere near Steve Bannon’s though, would it?

Wilson: No, he would not. He doesn’t have an evil ideology, though I don’t know if you could call Steve Bannon’s ideology evil. He’s just trying to get by for himself and to do whatever it takes to make a profit and take care of him and what he has.

RT: He’s a con man. Does he live well? I mean, other than being imprisoned in a Klingon ship?

Wilson: I think when he’s not in prison, he lives like a king. I think he likes the ladies. I think he likes the androids. And I think he likes to live the high life.

RT: I was going to ask you if you could name three ways you and Harry Mudd are similar, but I think you already mentioned it: charming, devilishly handsome, a survivor — right?

Wilson: Yep, exactly.

"Choose Your Pain" -- Episode 105 - Rainn Wilson - STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. (Michael Gibson/CBS)

RT: It’s hard to ask specific questions about Harry Mudd because we’re discovering him as the episodes go forward, and that discovery is so enjoyable. What can you tell us about him other than what we’ve seen so far?

Wilson: Well, I think in the next episode, you’re gonna see some other colors to Harry Mudd that we’ve never seen before. That will be very exciting. There’s nothing really I can tell you, except in this next episode, you will see Harry Mudd use a transporter, sit in the captain’s chair, and fire a phaser. So there’s gonna be a lot to see. There’s gonna be a lot to learn.

RT: About Harry Mudd, who is …

Wilson: Yes.

RT: … charming and devilishly handsome and a survivor — and out to get Captain Lorca. That was a life-and-death situation for Harry. Is he looking to do more than mischief? Is he out for blood?

Wilson: Well, you saw him screaming, “You haven’t heard the last of me!” while locked in a Klingon prison cell with blood coming out of his face. So I think the stakes are quite high for Mudd. Yeah.

RT: Is he a sociopath?

Wilson: He’s a capitalist. I think all capitalists are part sociopaths. As in anything for the bottom line.

Star Trek: Discovery streams Sundays at 8:30/5:30 p.m. ET/PT on CBS All-Access.

Tag Cloud

Amazon Prime Biopics cinemax Showtime Fall TV Rocky a nightmare on elm street sag awards Apple Freeform BET Awards Pop sitcom slashers sports batman south america GoT scary movies movies cancelled TV series Chernobyl football NYCC Shondaland vampires superhero Tarantino Vudu films MSNBC jurassic park cats Turner Classic Movies news stoner ESPN Television Academy Mudbound Black History Month Amazon Studios Spring TV Country golden globe awards Pet Sematary WGN Ghostbusters Bravo kids spider-man Spectrum Originals Disney Holidays Crunchyroll deadpool scorecard mission: impossible rotten Spike Nat Geo facebook Tubi archives 72 Emmy Awards japanese emmy awards Mary Tyler Moore FXX cancelled ghosts cartoon Rock Best and Worst Winter TV Musical TV renewals disaster discovery Comedy composers Turner Walt Disney Pictures screenings nbcuniversal social media Sundance Now OWN toronto SundanceTV dc Set visit Comic Book richard e. Grant Nickelodeon zero dark thirty Amazon Prime Video Endgame Star Trek finale The Witch X-Men Rocketman theme song Lionsgate all-time Marvel Studios werewolf Peacock Fox News spy thriller dragons TCM FX The Walt Disney Company green book historical drama Pop TV HBO Awards Tour child's play Academy Awards TBS Grammys Apple TV Plus foreign YouTube Premium series Pirates VH1 WarnerMedia james bond fresh die hard Extras Writers Guild of America Interview Tumblr Thanksgiving Awards festivals The Arrangement aliens Netflix Kids & Family New York Comic Con ABC politics Stephen King MTV zombies reboot black 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Music Hulu Women's History Month YouTube Red singing competition Reality E3 free movies NBC Hallmark festival Amazon asian-american ABC Family rotten movies we love Cannes Reality Competition First Reviews Trivia CBS All Access what to watch SXSW crime thriller cancelled TV shows mockumentary HBO Go Song of Ice and Fire Paramount Network crime 24 frames tv talk Christmas best stand-up comedy Sundance The CW strong female leads OneApp comic books Discovery Channel Warner Bros. spain spanish language cops Elton John Quiz Mystery Summer book Adult Swim Family Podcast travel Musicals 2016 Countdown Mary poppins Lifetime Christmas movies thriller reviews supernatural renewed TV shows Superheroe Sony Pictures zombie worst AMC pirates of the caribbean hispanic DGA Opinion independent YouTube TCA Awards Box Office President Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 71st Emmy Awards christmas movies casting Masterpiece PlayStation Trailer transformers ratings A&E Lifetime Comedy Central comic television blaxploitation Disney Plus blockbuster cancelled television doctor who comics Epix Fantasy war 45 Columbia Pictures medical drama 2015 binge BAFTA TCA Winter 2020 Holiday award winner Universal Teen Film cults Star Wars Food Network spanish sequel Trophy Talk 007 TCA 2017 anthology Certified Fresh adaptation robots chucky A24 name the review CNN Binge Guide ITV hollywood Syfy obituary CW Seed Starz teaser toy story serial killer Logo Britbox directors Creative Arts Emmys Calendar crime drama unscripted biography comiccon Crackle Comics on TV 2017 Fox Searchlight E! BET TLC Photos revenge Disney streaming service GLAAD Pixar Video Games Sneak Peek DirecTV Tomatazos romance Marathons MCU Esquire DC Universe HBO Max Animation rt archives San Diego Comic-Con worst movies venice spinoff streaming period drama TCA universal monsters witnail Funimation Rom-Com Sci-Fi technology Arrowverse LGBTQ canceled TV shows CBS TV Land Hallmark Christmas movies American Society of Cinematographers See It Skip It USA latino Ellie Kemper game show YA GIFs romantic comedy documentary Marvel SDCC Lucasfilm Winners Mary Poppins Returns VICE jamie lee curtis Pride Month Super Bowl Heroines police drama ABC Signature cars laika Year in Review remakes joker Cartoon Network natural history BBC One dark elevated horror justice league Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 2020 Character Guide children's TV LGBT dceu screen actors guild space APB criterion Oscars hist National Geographic Television Critics Association classics trailers cooking The Walking Dead PBS science fiction History franchise 4/20 breaking bad political drama anime based on movie ID dramedy TruTV VOD dogs Film Festival Toys Horror critics adventure golden globes Infographic boxing Action Emmys FX on Hulu sequels miniseries indiana jones true crime Martial Arts boxoffice docudrama Apple TV+ Classic Film TNT harry potter quibi documentaries Acorn TV Election Western IFC Films IFC Travel Channel Hear Us Out Dark Horse Comics parents fast and furious Captain marvel versus BBC America Emmy Nominations video USA Network RT History 2018 Black Mirror Watching Series Ovation TIFF Polls and Games movie FOX mutant concert Premiere Dates canceled 20th Century Fox Nominations Alien PaleyFest diversity halloween tv First Look twilight Schedule Brie Larson 2019 stop motion Valentine's Day Mindy Kaling The Purge Superheroes italian crossover DC streaming service BBC DC Comics 99% Paramount game of thrones Shudder indie RT21 TV Disney Channel Disney+ Disney Plus TV One rom-coms Red Carpet Drama animated El Rey psychological thriller Marvel Television video on demand comedies nature Baby Yoda satire halloween Anna Paquin nfl CMT Sundance TV french Avengers Cosplay The Academy 21st Century Fox australia talk show Netflix Christmas movies psycho