Jess Bush is going to the Chapel… and she’s stepping into some mighty big shoes. The Australian actress co-stars on “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” as Nurse Christine Chapel, the character portrayed on “Star Trek: The Original Series” by Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the wife of “Star Trek” creator, Gene Roddenberry. Bush, as viewers will see when “Strange New Worlds” debuts on May 5, 2022, on Paramount+, plays a very different version of Chapel from the one Barrett Roddenberry originated. This new version, as trailers have revealed, is still a pro at her job, but also fun, irreverent, and a bit of a live wire.
Bush competed on “Australia’s Next Top Model” in 2011, according to the Internet Movie Database. She later worked as an artist, and many of her pieces can be viewed on her Instagram page. Her television and film acting credits start in 2017 with the Australian series “Home and Away,” according to the Internet Movie Database, and also include “Skinford: Chapter II,” “Playing for Keeps,” and “Halifax: Retribution.” Bush participated in a Zoom call with journalists on April 18, 2022, on behalf of “Strange New Worlds.” Heavy on Star Trek was on the call, during which Bush discussed the “privilege” of acting on ‘Star Trek,” how Majel Roddenberry’s performance informed her take on Chapel, and her thoughts about the show potentially running for seven seasons.
Nurse Chapel Wants to Mess with Your Genome
“Star Trek” has been around for so long and families watch together, meaning there are going to be children who look up to your character. What is the most exciting part about getting to see how these characters are going to help younger generations find what they like in “Trek,” and help with their journey?
It’s an enormous privilege as an artist to be able to contribute to “Star Trek.” It’s always had such a strong cultural impact. It’s evident in everything, and it means so much to so many people. The people who make “Star Trek” have always been mindful, to be intentional about that power that they have and hold. To be invited into that as an artist, to be able to use your voice, your heart, and your passion to positively influence the younger generation with that is the goal as an artist for me, personally. You couldn’t ask for more. It’s an enormous responsibility and privilege.
One of the surprises is how Chapel feels like a whole new character. How do you see Chapel in comparison to the original character on “TOS”? How did the original inform you?
I think that when I watched Majel’s performance, what I distilled most from that, what I took from that, was her candor and her humor and her wit. But those things were just little seedlings. In the 2021 rebirth of her, there’s so much more to her, I think. Chapel in “TOS,” her whole plotline was quite connected to who she was pining after. That was a big feature of who she was. I think that’s different this time. She’s got this lust for life and this mischievous nature that I love to embody. She’s been through some stuff, actually.
(Executive producers) Akiva (Goldsman) and Henry (Alonzo Myers) were great in the sense that before the start of season one, we sat down and chatted about who she’s going to be. They had some points and they also gave me license to explore. We talked about what her backstory might be, because that wasn’t really explored, either. Her life outside of Starfleet wasn’t really explored. She’s fallible and she’s rough-and-tumble. She is really curious about other people and what their honest expression is and bringing that out, which I think is a cool, thoughtful, and kind of an aspect to her that is new.
Jess Bush Approaches the Final Frontier
How much did you study up on the Spock/Chapel flirtation once you got the role?
I definitely read into it. I read as much as I could on Majel and Chapel. Obviously, the Spock relationship is a major part of her portrayal on “TOS.” I watched a bunch of “TOS.” I did a lot of reading.
There’s an episode coming up about genetically modified species. Do you feel that rules are sometimes a necessity? Rules that are in place to protect humanity from themselves?
As a character, Chapel believes that rules are guidelines and people come first. You have to pay attention to the circumstances of a situation and not be blinded by the rules. Yes, I think there’s definitely a respect for the rules and the regulations and that they’re there for a reason, but it’s almost a framework from which to then make decisions.
“Star Trek” shows can run a long time, in some cases seven seasons. How exciting is that? And at the same time, how daunting is that?
I think it’s so delicious. The prospect of that is amazing to me, like, “Wow, I could be with this character for so long. I could be developing these relationships for a significant portion of my life.” The prospect of that is exciting, to me, anyway.
“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” begins streaming on May 5, 2022, on Paramount+.