Exclusive Interview: Jordan Canning discusses Strange New Worlds, directing “Charades” & more
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds recently showed audiences (again) how this series can land comedy with the episode “Charades” and at the helm of that episode was veteran director Jordan Canning — known for her work on Schitt’s Creek and We Were Wolves. When the dust settled from the release of the episode, Jordan spared a few minutes to chat with us about what it’s like directing for Strange New Worlds, how that production is different from anything she’s tackled before, and what makes this show so versatile.
TrekNews.net: What did Strange New Worlds offer you that you hadn’t had as a director previously?
Jordan: It’s the biggest show I’ve ever done in terms of scale, like the resources available, and the sheer machine behind the series. I’d never worked with an augmented-reality wall before. It’s just a big show. It was amazing working on something with such detail, like the costumes, the props, the sets. Everything was just of amazing quality.
TrekNews.net: What was it like shooting on the AR wall?
Jordan: Yeah, it’s like full-on holodeck fantasy. What was really cool about “Charades” is that our AR environment didn’t have other pieces in it, like foreground objects. It was just the actresses in this fantastic, amorphous interdimensional space, and so it was very interesting to use the wall in that way. One of the things I really wanted with the aliens in this episode was to feel the scale of them. I wanted the actors to feel tiny next to these giant energy beings. The AR wall allows for that. I definitely want to do more on that set.
TrekNews.net: One of the things we like about the AR wall on Strange New Worlds, and other shows like The Mandalorian, is that the lighting looks so much more realistic on characters and objects. In The Mandalorian, the title character is usually cast in chrome, and you pick up all these realistic reflections on him because the objects casting those reflections are there on the wall.
Jordan: Oh yeah. I think we had a few supplemental fill lights going on, but all the reflections on the actor’s faces were there because that imagery was on the AR wall. And it’s just the best for the actors, because they are in that environment, and they feel like they are in an alien world. It really tricks your eye. The first time I went on the AR set, I got kind of nauseous. It’s like magic.
TrekNews.net: Strange New Worlds is really tonally diverse. In the series, we’ve seen comedy, drama, romantic drama, et cetera. To what do you attribute the show being able to do that?
Jordan: Amazing writing. And an amazing cast who are so flexible. I think this is the most comedic episode of the show thus far, and you get to see everybody shine with their comedic chops. It’s a Spock and Chapel episode, but every other member gets a little moment, a great line, or a great reaction. All those actors seamlessly roll into that tone. There are tons of little improvised moments. They’re so flexible. What’s so fun about this show is everyone gets to try new things. Everyone gets to shine in different ways. It surprises people.
TrekNews.net: Are you a Star Trek fan generally?
Jordan: Yeah! I was a Next Generation fan and a fan of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Those were my two Star Trek touchstones when I was a kid. But I’ll say, when I watched Strange New Worlds season one in preparation for “Charades,” I thought this show ruled. It reminded me of Next Generation a lot. I haven’t seen every single Star Trek episode, but working on “Charades” has inspired me to go back and watch episodes I missed.
TrekNews.net: Last question: Any thoughts you want to share about the actor and writer strike currently going on in Hollywood?
Jordan: Nothing much more needs to be said except corporate greed is out of control. I really hope the writers and actors get everything they ask for because if they don’t it’s a very slippery slope for all of us in this industry. This is really high-stakes stuff. I think the strike will continue for as long as it takes because this is a real turning point in our industry.
New episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds stream Thursdays on Paramount+.
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