Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Beams In One Of The Best Actors Ever For Villain Role

In Alexander Payne's recent dramedy "The Holdovers," the Oscar-nominated Paul Giamatti played a grumpy (but charismatic) teacher, largely hated by the student body. It seems that the students of Starfleet Academy are about to hate him even more, as — according to a new report from Variety — the actor has been cast as the central villain of the upcoming "Starfleet Academy" TV series. The Variety report says that Giamatti will serve as an as-yet unnamed recurring antagonist throughout the "Star Trek" show's first season, and that his character will have "a sinister connection to the past of one of the (yet to be cast) cadets." Variety didn't specify if he'd be playing a human or another alien species.

Speculation may now commence. Will he be playing a bitter former professor? An escaped convict and serial killer who just happens to be the father of one of the main characters? A charismatic cult leader, angry that a Starfleet student escaped his cult? A Section 31 operative panicked that a former agent, now posing as a student, will "activate"? No details about the plot or characters of "Starfleet Academy" have yet been released, so any of these stories are possible.

This casting news comes on the tail of the announcement that Holly Hunter has joined the cast of "Starfleet Academy" as its central "captain" character, playing the chancellor of the Academy. Hunter has been nominated for four Academy Awards and won in 1994 for her performance in "The Piano." Giamatti has been nominated for two Academy Awards, for both "The Holdovers" and for his performance in "Cinderella Man." He also gave amazing performances in films like "American Splendor," "Cold Souls," "John Dies at the End," and "12 Years a Slave," and won an Emmy for his performance in "John Adams."

Alex Kurtzman's statement about Paul Giamatti

"Star Trek" will be Giamatti's first sci-fi project since "Morgan" and "Ratchet & Clank" in 2016.

"Starfleet Academy" will be overseen by "Star Trek" head honcho Alex Kurtzman, with Noga Landau serving as its showrunner. The series will take place in the 32nd century, following the distant-future timeline of the recently-concluded "Star Trek: Discovery." Giamatti's casting was a cause célèbre, and Kurtzman and Landau issued the following statement:

"Sometimes you're lucky enough to discover that one of the greatest actors alive is also a huge 'Star Trek' fan, and meeting Paul was one of those miraculous moments for us. [...] The sheer delight with which he dove in on 'Starfleet Academy' is only surpassed by the gratitude we feel about him joining our incredible cast." 

"Starfleet Academy" will boast the largest physical set ever constructed for a "Star Trek" series, as the show's creatives had to build a school from the ground up. It will include a student amphitheater, multiple classrooms, a cafeteria, and, naturally, a quad.

With Giamatti and Hunter in the cast, "Starfleet" now possesses (arguably) the highest-profile regular cast of any "Star Trek" project to date. Previously, Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg joined the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as a recurring character named Guinan. Later, "Enterprise" launched with Scott Bakula as the central captain. Later still, "Discovery" would debut with Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones, and Jason Isaacs in its cast. Hunter and Giamatti contain a lot of what Variety calls "star power," which is rare for the debut of a "Star Trek" project.

The main student characters on "Academy" are, as of this writing, still being cast.