Simon (Pegg) Says: Beam Me Up, Please
Before he joined the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise as the beloved chief engineer Montgomery Scott in 2009’s Star Trek and its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (in theaters May 17), actor and writer Simon Pegg earned a devoted fan base with such quirky hits as Shaun of the Dead and the British series Spaced. A lifelong sci-fi and science fan, his comments about the joys of being a geek have been embraced, reposted and retweeted into perpetual online orbit. Pegg phoned DISCOVER Associate Editor Gemma Tarlach from his home in London to talk about his iconic status.
A popular meme circulating online attributes to you the quote “Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy...Being a geek is extremely liberating.” Were you surprised those words resonated with so many people?
It’s a peculiar wonder of the modern age that it’s become this big thing. I wasn’t making some MLK speech, standing on the balcony addressing the masses. I was sitting in a dirty little room at the BBC doing a radio program. But I think the person who turned it into a meme should be commended more than me.
How aggressively did you pursue the role of Scotty in Star Trek?
Star Trek just came up. I got a one-line email from J.J. [Abrams, the director]: Do you want to play Scotty? It was that forward. I was almost angry with him. It was like I’d gone on a date and the person had asked to have sex immediately. Wait a minute, I need a meal first.
Why do you love science fiction?
I love the huge potential it presents in terms of the unknown. When I was growing up, I would watch The Clangers on TV. It was very British, with little knitted pink elephants for aliens, but even at age 3 I would close the curtains and watch. It was so tantalizing to think about the vastness of space. I love that there’s so much that’s unknown still, and yet so much we’re discovering. And a lot of time what we discover is that there’s still so much we don’t yet know.
Favorite field of science?
Quantum physics is so fascinating. I went to a lecture Brian Cox gave, and I had to really concentrate on what he was saying, but I love the idea that we are mainly space, that the distance between particles is so vast. Physics is the theoretical blueprint of everything.
Which sci-fi gadget would you give your eyeteeth for and why?
Transporter, without a doubt, though I fear for its introduction. The travel industry would collapse, and a lot of people would be out of work. There’s an element of romance to travel that the transporter would kill, but sometimes you just want to get somewhere straight away. I travel to LA a lot, and I would love for it to just be “Ping! You’re there!” But it will never happen.
You see so much potential in scientific discovery, how can you say a transporter will never happen?
It’s way beyond even theory at this point. But never say never. Especially to a scientist.