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[This story contains spoilers for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode “All Those Who Wander.”]
Bruce Horak was not taken by surprise. He knew how it was going to end for Lt. Hemmer.
The Star Trek: Strange New Worlds actor was informed shortly after being cast as the Enterprise’s chief engineer for the first season of the Paramount+ series how his character’s arc would conclude. And when it finally came, Horak found great beauty in the moment, even though it signaled his time on the series as a regular had come to an end.
In “All Those Who Wander,” the penultimate season one episode, Hemmer — unknowingly at the time — sacrifices himself to save Nyota Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding) when a Gorn attacks, spitting venom that hits him instead of her. Initially believed to blind or burn would-be victims, it is later discovered the vemon turns the body into a host for Gorn, leading to the deadly species’ babies bursting out of the body à la Alien. Hemmer, realizing what has happened, kills himself to spear his crew more harm and himself from horrendous agony.
Playing Hemmer was a delight and honor, Horak told The Hollywood Reporter prior to the premiere of “All Those Who Wander.” The brave, wise Hemmer is an Aenar, which are an albino subspecies of Andorians. Although blind, Aenars have powerful telepathic abilities. In landing the role, the Calgary-born Horak actor became the sci-fi franchise’s first blind star.
Even though “All Those Who Wander” had been shot a year ago, Horak recalled with THR all the emotions that swirled around not only for his farewell but the entire Star Trek journey. In the below conversation, the actor touched on a number of topics, including how he was cast in the series, and the strong bonds he forged with the cast and his makeup team.
First, how are you doing, sir? I assume there must be a lot of emotions now that this heartbreaking and surprising episode has arrived.
Well, we shot it a year ago, but I’m really happy with how the episode turned out. When I was approached to play the part, they told me right off the bat that this was going to be the character arc of Hemmer. So, I knew it going in. There was a bit of trepidation off the top about how the death was going to happen, how the grand finale was going to play out. When I read the script, I was so happy — well, happy is not the right word. I was relieved. It’s a pretty great death for a red shirt. (Laughs.)
Was there a special dinner or party for your goodbye? I know some shows have a tradition when a beloved character meets their demise.
There were a lot of tears. The final day we shot was actually the landing on the planet. It was really tearful, especially the prosthetics crew Allan Cooke and Shane Zander, who worked tirelessly on the look of Hemmer for the season. We really had a special bond, spending three and a half hours every morning getting ready and then an hour at the end of the day to get out of the prosthetic gear. Honestly, Shane and Allan sent me off in great style. There were exchanges of gifts. It was really lovely.
That perfectly leads me to my next question: How was the makeup process for you? Some actors tell me they don’t mind it, while others get super anxious sitting for so long.
I have to say, I actually really enjoyed the process. I found it incredibly relaxing, and I was just in awe of their skill. It’s really a work of art industry. On the initial day, I had the head mold made, so they had to cover my face and hair with this sloppy goo, kind of like blue mud. And all of that was fine, but then when they covered the whole thing in plaster, that was a little unnerving.
How did you land the role of Hemmer, and what did it mean to you once cast?
The audition call came through my agent. We knew it was a new Star Trek, but we didn’t know anything else about it. But as soon as I found out it was Star Trek, I was totally in. Then the character description sold me: I’d be playing a blind alien, and they were specifically looking for a blind or visually impaired performer to do the role, which again, I got really excited about because it felt like the door was being open[ed] to me. I think there were three or four auditions. I just couldn’t believe it during the whole process. When I did the camera test in the full makeup, standing on the bridge of the Enterprise, that was the point I took a huge breath in and had this incredible feeling of climbing to the top of a huge mountain and looking at the vast expanse in front of me while thinking, “This is going to be a heck of an adventure.” And it sure was.
What was the development of the character like? Did you have input given they sought to cast a blind actor in the role? I think of the scene early in the series when Hemmer dismisses any claims that his blindness is a handicap.
Honestly, all of that great character was written, and that very first scene you mentioned is what I read for the auditions. They’re kind of leaping in and discussing his impairment, which is — it’s a tricky word and always kind of has been when you’re coming up against living in the world. When I read that scene, I just immediately connected to it. In terms of the contribution, I added nothing to the text, it was all in the playing of it. It was really just about finding the way he moves and how he interacts in the world and bringing the physicality and the poise to it. That was my contribution.
I loved the bond formed between Hemmer and Nyota. Not only does he save her, but through the series, he encouraged her to believe in herself and let her walls down. What was it like working with Celia and creating those lovely moments?
I knew that Hemmer was going to be a mentor figure. He starts off gruff and kind of aloof, but there are beautiful moments when he guides Nyota and then in the end, talks about purpose with that wonderful resolution in this episode. It feels like a really beautiful arc for the character. And for myself, mentors have been absolutely forefront in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am without people who have guided me and offered advice. So, I really connected with Hemmer. Celia and I connected from the very beginning. Most of our scenes are together, so we spent a lot of time off-camera just hanging out and connecting about music and theater. She has a background in theater, as do I. That was one of the hardest goodbyes, for sure.
And finally, Star Trek has taught me to never say never, so I will say I hope Hemmer comes back via a flashback or an alternate timeline. Safe to assume you’re on board for that?
I do feel the same way, and so does my bank account! (Laughs.) Well, I have been released to say that this is not the end of Bruce Horak’s career in Star Trek.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The season finale of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streams on Paramount+ next Thursday.
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