David Cronenberg's Kovich is emerging as of the most eccentric figures in Star Trek lore on Discovery making his second appearance on the series in the episode "Terra Firma, Part I." As a doctor in the 32nd century, he came to study Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), who's dealing with a metaphysical deteriorating condition that's slowly tearing her body apart due to her crossing dimensions from the mirror universe to the prime and traveling 900 years into the future. Kovich talks to Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) about what he knew about the condition informing him of the Temporal War and another traveler who suffered a grim fate before Discovery's doctor was able to extract the information that could save Georgiou's life. The actor, who will return to Discovery for season four, spoke to Variety about how he fits into the series and making sense of his character like a space John Munch.
"[Kovich] is an interrogator who's also kind of an academic historian," Cronenberg said. "He plays his cards pretty close to his vest, as does the Emperor. And as he tries to pry open some secrets from her, she actually is doing the same to him." Known far more for directing classics like The Fly (1986), The Dead Zone (1983), and A History of Violence (2005), the Canadian's been more in front of the camera than behind it lately with the last project he helmed in 2014's Maps to the Stars preferring to finance his own projects.
He also opened up about how the Star Trek franchise affected him growing up. "Well, I was certainly a fan of the original Star Trek, and so that's my main credential," Cronenberg said. "I dipped into a couple of the series a bit and also, you know, JJ Abrams' movie, but I hadn't been following Discovery. And of course, in each case, it's quite a complex universe with a lot of characters and in fact, more than one universe, as it turns out. So I can't say that I have untangled every possible knot in the show at all. [I'm] concentrating, like a good actor, mainly on my character and his particular role at the moment. Really, it's a 'be here now' kind of thing, because I still haven't figured everything out."
As far as getting the role of Kovich, Cronenberg said it was a chance opportunity when executive producer Alex Kurtzman came calling. "I'm cheap and I'm available," he said. "I live in Toronto, and it's being shot in Toronto. I think that's my main qualification. But I just got a note through people that I know, casting people, saying that Alex Kurtzman was really thinking of having me do a spot on the show. I said, of course, I'd be absolutely delighted. Who wouldn't be, especially as an original Star Trek fan — and for Canadians, too. I mean, because William Shatner, one of the lead actors on the [original] show, he was a very well-known Canadian actor. To have him be in a successful U.S. TV series was quite thrilling. So it's kind of come full circle that Star Trek should be shooting in Toronto. And so of course I was delighted to be a part of the multiple universes of Star Trek."
Despite growing up on The Original Series, actually appearing on the show was furthest from Cronenberg's mind. "Never. No. Especially in the '60s — when the original series was playing — I considered myself a potential novelist," he said. "I never thought that I would be in film at all. I had done some acting on stage as a student, but the production of something like Star Trek — it really did seem like a galaxy far, far away, to mix the franchises. [Chuckles] It never occurred to me in a million years that I would actually be on screen in a spaceship." Asked if he would consider directing an episode of Star Trek, Cronenberg seemed less than optimistic.
Will David Cronenberg Direct an Episode of Star Trek?
"No, really not," he said. "It's a very different kind of directing. It's almost like another job entirely, you know, and that's another thing that I was very interested to see. It's more technical. Now I can't say this for certain about Discovery, because I really don't know, but I doubt that the directors are around for post-production, for all that CG, and for when you have to do additional recording. I did do some [ADR on my episode], and there was no director involved. It was just the sound people who were putting the soundtrack together. These are all things that when you're directing a movie, you are totally involved in. And you are involved in choosing the cameraman, you are involved in casting, and so on. When you come to a series like Star Trek, a lot of that stuff has already been determined by the producers and the showrunner. So it's quite a different kind of directing. If I do direct again, it wouldn't be to direct an episode of a series."
For more about Cronenberg talking about Kovich's obsession with the mirror universe, his initial set visit to Discovery during season one, and how he chooses his roles, you can check out Variety. Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays on CBS All Access.