EXCLUSIVE: Doug Jones of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Talks Saru, Conventions, and Vulcan Love

Doug Jones as Saru

Getty / Paramount Doug Jones as Saru

Doug Jones has made a career of making fantastic creatures and characters come to life. His roles throughout his lengthy career include the Silver Surfer (in one of Marvel’s “Fantastic Four” films), William “Billy” Butcherson (in “Hocus Pocus”), and Abe Sapien (in the “Hellboy” movies). At 6’4”, Jones towers above most of the actors he works with and can bend and contort his body in incredible ways to perform at nearly any height.

Fans of “Star Trek” know him best as the calming Mr. Saru, the Kelpian first officer on the U.S.S. Discovery. Since the first episode, Saru has been a part of the crew and has changed nearly as much as the show has through its four seasons. Saru was first quick to judge and feared most everything, but thanks to a few changes in his anatomy and personality, he’s the voice of reason and logic on “Star Trek: Discovery.” He serves at the rank of captain in an advisory role alongside Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green).  

Doug Jones in ‘The Shape of Water’

Heavy caught up with Jones, who is on hiatus from filming “Discovery” fourth and fifth seasons. He said that meeting fans in person is among his favorite things to do. He and his manager Derek Maki recently flew back from a convention in Indiana to Los Angeles. Jones is preparing to head to Arkansas for another convention in a few weeks.

“I absolutely love it,” says Jones. “Not every actor loves the convention scene, but I do. I love being able to have … even a little bit of one-on-one time with fans who have been, not just watching what I’m currently doing.”

“Most of them have been with me all my 36 years — through everything that I’ve done,” says Jones. “And to be able to see each other… I hear so many great stories of first dates, and children born, and something they watched of mine helped them get through a rough time or the death of a loved one. The stories are endless.”

Jones says that he loves to connect with the fans, and he’s also happy to get together with members of the “Star Trek” acting family as well. Since he’s been a part of “Discovery,” Jones has been a part of the Trek convention scene and has made quite a few friends.

“You mix and mingle at the ‘Star Trek’ specific conventions — even if it’s just in the green room, while you’re taking a break,” says Jones. Among the Trek names Jones has connected with are Zachary Quinto (Spock from the Kelvin films), Sir Patrick Stewart (Picard), Kate Mulgrew (Janeway), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), and William Shatner.

“You basically meet him quickly,” says Jones. “He doesn’t linger for much chit-chat.”

Jones says that he enjoys catching up with Jonathan Frakes at the conventions as well.

“Of course, I’ve known him since I was working on ‘Falling Skies,’” says Jones. “He’s been a director for quite some time. I met him on a couple of episodes of ‘Falling Skies’ back in 2013-14. And now, he’s directed several episodes of ‘Discovery.’”

“When we see each other at conventions, we’ll go out to dinner together — just he and I,” says Jones. “We did that in Ireland when we did a convention there. I just love him dearly.”

Kelpian and Vulcan Love

While Jones usually is cast to play a creature, alien, superhero, or similar character, much of the time, the subject of romance is not part of his storyline. The big exception being his role in the highly-decorated film, “The Shape of Water.” That character, Amphibian Man, showed the world that love could be understood without words. And thanks to Jones’s performance as Saru this season, fans know that it is indeed a universal language.

Jones’s Saru has been in the center of a quiet courtship with T’rina (played by Tara Rosling). Since Saru and T’rina are struggling to end a threat to both Earth and Ni’Var, their time together always seems to be cut short. 

Even more difficult than sharing just a few brief moments might be the fact that the emotional and cautious Saru has started an intimate relationship with a being who is unable to show any emotion.

According to Jones, the relationship between Saru and T’rina was actually his idea, and he shared that with the show’s writers.

“When we first met each other in Season 3, when she just came aboard our ship for one episode to help work out a little diplomatic issue … I felt like this could be a budding thing if they let it go on … if they bring her back ever,” says Jones. 

“Especially the way we said goodbye to each other,” says Jones. “I was the diplomatic contact with her, who was trying to ease the pain of them being out of the Federation and us wanting them back. Our chats down the hallways and our private moments … when we said goodbye, there seemed to be a connection there.”

“I thought that was the writers’ intention, but when I brought it up to the writers, I said, ‘Is this where this is going?’” Jones asked. “‘Oh! Well, maybe it could be!’ I brought the idea to them basically.” 

Jones says that he and Rosling — who he says is “just fantastic” — both felt that something was happening between Saru and T’rina. When T’rina returned for Season 4, the writers obliged and gave Saru and the President of Ni’Var something more.

Saru and Species 10-C

Saru, though, understands her on a different level, says Jones. Even with the suppressed Vulcan emotions, Saru is able to connect.

“She comes from a place of logic as opposed to emotion, but Saru, of course, all of his emotions are rather present,” says Jones. “He has a dignity about him that understands the logic, and he understands the poise of her. He has a poise of his own, even though he lets it down quite often and shows emotions — wherever they go.”

Jones says that he’s also made an effort to understand how human beings in the present express love in different ways. In the book “The Five Love Languages,” which Jones read and recommends, people are divided into different groups, depending on how they show affection. Those categories are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and gifts. 

“In my own life, I’m very huggy-touchy and very wordy,” says Jones. “And not everybody responds back to that.”

Jones says he is optimistic that Saru eventually will figure out T’Rina’s love language, and they will find happiness.

Fans know that all will not end on March 17, 2022, when the final episode of Season 4 streams, as Paramount+ announced that “Discovery” would return for a fifth season. But Jones was careful to avoid letting any spoilers leak. 

Becoming Saru

He addressed the strange situation of two captains operating on the same starship — Saru and Burnham — and if this means eventually one of the characters will no longer be on the Discovery.

“To have a captain come back to a vessel that he captained once, and to be a first officer to another captain, seems like an underutilized ranking,” says Jones. “I would agree. It seems like he came back for a specific reason, because of this 10-C issue.”

“Saru has been torn this entire season, and he has a longing for home,” says Jones. “And as you’ll see, in a quiet moment, I will have my hand up giving a stroke to my Kaminar pin. He does have a constant longing for home. He does have a tether to Kaminar, but also responsibilities to Starfleet. Where that goes — we shall see!”

Catch Jones as Saru for the season finale of “Star Trek: Discovery” on Paramount+ on March 17, 2022. Jones reprised his role as William “Billy” Butcherson for “Hocus Pocus 2,” which is scheduled to stream on Disney+ sometime soon. 

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