You may not recognize him by name, but if you’ve seen the rebooted Star Trek films, you definitely know his face. He’s Actor Jason Matthew Smith, soon to be seen in Star Trek Beyond alongside Chris Pine, Jeremy Quinto, Simon Pegg, and the rest of the crew.
Jason plays cupcake, the burly cadet that pounds Kirk into the bar after getting labled with that unfortunate nickname in Star Trek (2009), reprising the role in Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond, in theatres July 22nd.
Jason is a highly accomplished and trained actor, having earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music. After graduating, he pursued his training even further, earning a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from Northern Illinois University.
He’s best known for his roles as the aforementioned Cupcake in the rebooted Star Trek trilogy and as line-backer Eric Olczyk in the AFI Awarding winning series Playmakers for ESPN.
Not only will he be seen in Star Trek Beyond, he’s also appearing at San Diego Comic Con for the first time ever.
Chatting with Jason
Gary: Star Trek Beyond marks your third appearance in the Star Trek universe, but one major change is the man behind the camera. JJ Abrams, as most are aware, stepped out of the director’s chair, and serves only as producer this time around. Taking his place is noted action director Justin Lin, director of Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 just to name a couple.
Jason, can you speak to the difference between the two directors and their approach to making a Star Trek movie?
Jason Matthew Smith: They are definitely different captains of the ship, so to speak. JJ is someone who speaks all of the different languages of film making, he knows all there is to know about set design, lighting design, costume design and also has the ability to set up the shots; he’s kind of more hands on with everybody, especially the actors.
He knows how to speak our language and really get in there with us.
Justin is somebody who’s a little more reserved, he’s quiet, he’s very introspective, and makes sure that everything looks really, really fantastic. As far as relating with the actors and everything, it’s more of a one on one personal kind of intimate feel to it, whereas JJ is kind of the life of the party.
[img via TrekMovie.com]
Gary: The trailers clearly show that Star Trek Beyond is going to be an explosive third act to the rebooted Star Trek trilogy.
What can fans expect from this third installment?
Jason Matthew Smith: Well, obviously I can’t say too much about [specific plot elements from the film] but I can speak to my overall experience with it, which was, [it’s] visually, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been a part of, from the sets to the effects to the costumes; everything was amped up, but the one thing that I feel was different about this film is that it’s sort of a retro throwback to The Original Series.
I think, we’re [the crew of the Enterprise] a couple of years into a five year mission and everybody’s let their hair down a bit and it’s got more of an Original Series type feel to it, without neglecting the eye candy and visual effects we’ve become used to with the other two Star Trek movies.
Gary: Would you say that’s due in part to the change in directors, or the change in writers, a little bit of both, or a growing confidence of the team around Star Trek in knowing exactly what they’re looking to put on the screen?
Jason Matthew Smith: Yeah, I think it’s a mix of all three of those things that you mentioned there. I think the biggest influence is probably Simon Pegg writing and, really hammering out the story with his writing partner.
Those two guys are huge fans of the series, first off, anybody that knows Pegg knows that he is a sci-fi fanatic but also a Star Trek fanatic. He really brought the love of Trek into this film and I think that’s what the fans will see most of is the real love for what Star Trek is.
[img via hotflick.net]
Gary: There were a lot of fans that had mixed views on the second film in the series Into Darkness. A lot of that [was related] to the subterfuge surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch’s character. Do you think that those fans who were disappointed by the second film will be reinvigorated by Star Trek Beyond?
Jason Matthew Smith: Yeah, absolutely. You know most of the criticism I’ve heard about Into Darkness was that it was a very dark film. There was a lot of death and a lot of sadness in that film and I think it had a great heart to it.
It reminded me a little bit of Empire Strikes Back in that it was much darker and had a much darker feel to it, but I think the third, we’re still going to have those elements of danger, and of the personal human experience, but we also have a lot of [light] and a lot of humour. And I think that’s what will bring Trek fans back and reinvigorate their feelings toward the Trek films.
[img via imdb.com]
Gary: I would love to hear about the audition process for Star Trek. Can you give us some background on that? How did you approach the audition and what do you think set you apart from the other actors that auditioned, that ultimately won you the role?
Jason Matthew Smith: You know I was just thinking about this today, it was such an amazing experience for me. I had just found out, in 2008, that my wife was pregnant with our first son. And I was really debating what I was going to need to do to provide for my family and then my agent got this call Star Trek.
It wasn’t called Star Trek due to the top secrecy of it, but he just said “Hey look, this is Star Trek but we’re not calling it that, we’re calling it something else.” I went in, I didn’t get the material until I got there and they’d changed all the names so I had no idea what exact role I was auditioning for, they had names like Farmer #1, Farmer #2, and Jimbo, something like that, and I just shot on camera with Rachel Webster and Alissa Weisenberg the casting directors and they sent it off to the producers and I got a call about a few days later and saying that I got the part and would be on contract for the next two and a half months.
And I was like “Wow!” Just out of the blue like that, it was such a blessing, and exciting experience to keep coming back to, you know, it’s been eight years for me since I first got tapped to do the role.
And I consider myself a blue collar, working class actor. And to have the experience of being involved with Star Trek is just an amazing, amazing life changing event.
[img via startrek.com]
Gary: Your role of “Cupcake” in the first Star Trek film was extremely memorable to most fans; in fact thanks in no small part to fan demand, you’re going to be signing autographs almost the entire weekend at San Diego Comic Con this year.
I’m sure every actor hopes for that type of recognition from fans in response to their roles, but were you surprised when your role in Star Trek garnered such enthusiasm from the fans of the films?
Jason Matthew Smith: You know I was, definitely. I mean the second film I had a much bigger role than actually came onto the screen. I shot for nearly three months off and on.
When I took my wife to see the premiere at Paramount, I was holding her hand at one point, “I’m going to be killed in this scene coming up.” She’s like “oh, okay.” And I was like “here it comes, here it comes,” and they never showed it.
So I was like “omigosh, I’m still alive!” So I managed to survive the second film, which is why they could use me in the third.
Gary: So you were actually shot scenes where your character dies [in Star Trek Into Darkness]?
Jason Matthew Smith: Yes, absolutely. And then it didn’t happen so I was very fortunate to have survived the cut. And I don’t know why it was cut out, you know, that’s why my part got reduced [in the second film] because most of the action led to that unfortunate incident and thank God they did cut it out, but it disappointed my friends and family ’cause they were like “huh, I thought you had like a big role?”
But I’m like “I kinda did, but you know, it’s movie making, sometimes things get left on the cutting room floor.” Probably only JJ himself knows why that happened but I’m very grateful that it did happen.
’cause otherwise I wouldn’t have this third film coming out.
Gary: That reminds me of a story I heard about the filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Where Greg Grunberg refused to record any lines that suggested that he was hit [so they couldn’t say he shot and subsequently say his character was killed.]
Jason Matthew Smith: [Laughs] I don’t blame him. [Laughs] I kept begging JJ, every day on the set of Darkness. I was like “Man, you can’t kill cupcake. You can’t kill him.” Like. Every day.
He would just say “But it’s written, I have to,” and I’m like “You don’t HAVE to you’re JJ Abrahms! You can make him live.”
But maybe my argument won him over, I don’t know.
Gary: In the end that’s the only plausible explanation, Jason.
Jason Matthew Smith: Yeah, he got tired of saying no to me “okay, I’ll letcha live.”
[img via screenrant.com]
Thanks so much to Jason Matthew Smith for opening up to us about his Star Trek experiences and more.
Jason is attending San Diego Comic Con this year, his first (he shares his thoughts on that with me next week!), so if you want to meet him, get an autograph or picture, here’s his schedule:
Jason is signing exclusively in the Sails Pavilion on July 21st and 22nd from 2:30pm- 7:00pm and July 23rd from 10:00am – 2:30pm.
I had such a great time talking to Jason, 5 questions wasn’t enough!
You can catch part two of our conversation here.
Featured Image via hotflick.net
Want to have your own chat with Jason?
Follow him on Twitter @startrekcupcake
Follow him on Facebook Jason Matthew Smith
Visit his website jasonmatthewsmith.com
Click on the Star Trek Beyond logo for the final theatrical trailer