Star Trek: Starfleet Academy is bucking past trends with its casting

Times they are a changing.
STG Presents Paul Giamatti's CHINWAG
STG Presents Paul Giamatti's CHINWAG / Mat Hayward/GettyImages

Star Trek just landed its second huge name for Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. As our very own Rachel Carrington already covered, 57-year-old actor, Paul Giamatti will be joining the series as the show's main antagonist. Though, details as to what that character actually is right now is anyone's guess.

Giamatti's Starfleet Academy character will have some dark connection to one of the cadets; and while not stated, we have to imagine either as their father or as a father figure.

Giamatti is coming off of a nice run of content lately, with a run on the Showtime series Billions that garnered critical acclaim, including many nominations from various outlets. He also recently starred in The Holdovers, a critically acclaim film that saw the film (and him) winning multiple awards across the board. He's as impressive as he's ever been, and he's just landed with Star Trek.

This is one of the best actors in Hollywood, having had the Academy Awards nominate two of his roles in the past while winning multiple other awards, including an Emmy, several Golden Globes, and a few SAG awards. He's a genuine star, and Star Trek got him to star in their youth-centric series.

Getting Giamatti and Holly Hunter to be the stars of this series is a rather surprising shift in tone. While Star Trek isn't known for finding obscure nobodies and giving them leading roles, they have often given leading roles to actors and actresses who are on the rise.

William Shatner wasn't a household name but he was starting to get some traction thanks to the Twilight Zone. Patrick Stewart became a household name after years of Shakespearian work. Avery Brooks was lifted to a new level after years of playing side characters on shows like Spencer: For Hire. Kate Mulgrew was mostly a cameo or guest star on shows like Murder She Wrote.

Sonequa Martin-Green had a nice little role on The Walking Dead, but Star Trek: Discovery was her launching point to bigger roles. It's the same with Anson Mount, who was most known for being the lead on the failed Inhumans show. Prodigy's lead may be Brett Gray, buy nailed new 'it' girl in Ella Purnell to star alongside him. Just like with Lower Decks, featuring Tawny Newsome in the leading role, but grabbing Jack Quaid before most saw him for the leading man he could be.

Even the 2009 reboot of Star Trek cast a very unproven Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto to lead the franchise, a bold choice considering neither really had a resume at the time to suggest they'd succeed as leading men.

Save for Scott Bakula, Star Trek often goes for talent who need a major break. It's a cheaper method, but it's also one that galvanizes the brand so to speak. If you get cast by Star Trek, you're going to become a household name, at least that's the selling point one would make. Even in the case of Bakula, who was cast to lead Star Trek: Enterprise over 20 years ago, Star Trek has never ventured so deep into landing top names like Hunter and Giamatti before.

This is a change of identity for Star Trek but not one that's unexpected. Very likely the characters who will be cadets are going to be made up of younger, inexperienced actors and actresses, with very little name value. This is similar to what they did with Prodigy, casting mostly unknowns and building the cast of youngsters around a few established names, like Mulgrew.

So if they do end up going with lesser-known talent for the younger cadets, it makes sense that the bulk of the budget for casting has basically been spent already on two major names in Hunter and Giamatti. We'll have to see if the change in casting philosophies changes how the overall audiences resonate with the show.

If the series does very well, you can expect to see more A-list names getting starring roles in Star Trek. If it doesn't, you can continue to see lesser-known stars breaking through as series leads.