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Paul Wesley felt ‘pressure’ taking over former neighbor William Shatner’s ‘Star Trek’ role

A photo of William Shatner next to Paul Wesley.
Paul Wesley dishes on what William Shatner thinks of his Captain Kirk on "Star Trek."

He went from Mystic Falls to the Enterprise.

Paul Wesley, best known for starring as Stefan Salvatore on “The Vampire Diaries,” has stepped into William Shatner’s shoes on “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” — but not before speaking to his predecessor.

“Oh, yeah. Multiple times. I know William Shatner. In fact, we used to be neighbors,” Wesley, 41, told The Post.

“He’s actually a lovely guy. He’s been nothing but supportive, which obviously means the world to me, because his support is all that really matters.”

Wesley joined the Paramount+ series in Season 2, taking up the iconic Captain James Kirk mantle, which Shatner, 92, originated in the original “Star Trek.”

Paul Wesley said he and William Shatner used to be neighbors. Marni Grossman/Paramount+
Paul Wesley said he and William Shatner used to be neighbors. Marni Grossman/Paramount+
“He’s been nothing but supportive,” Paul Wesley said about William Shatner. Getty Images
“He’s been nothing but supportive,” Paul Wesley said about William Shatner. Getty Images

A spinoff from “Star Trek: Discovery,” the show has currently aired two seasons, with a third coming at an unannounced date.

“Strange New Worlds” is a prequel set years before “Star Trek: The Original Series,” following USS Enterprise crew Capt. Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Number One (Rebecca Romijn) and Lt. Spock (Ethan Peck).

“Did I feel pressure? Yes. Oh my God. Are you kidding me?” said Wesley.

“I was like, ‘Okay, do I do an impression of William Shatner? Do I do my own thing?’ I  ended up going, ‘I’m going to do my own thing,’ because it’s free enterprise. I’m going to try to create my own career, maybe have him slowly develop into more of the Shatner version of Kirk.”

Wesley said his portrayal of the iconic character “took a lot of thought.”

“The writers and executive producers are very smart, very kind and generous. They let me run with it. I certainly know this is one of the most iconic characters in the history of television. I don’t take that lightly. It’s a huge pressure. But, I’m also going to do what I’m going to do. And some people are going to like it. Some people aren’t. That’s just all art, ever.”

Paul Wesley as Captain Kirk. Kharen Hill/Paramount+
Paul Wesley as Captain Kirk. Kharen Hill/Paramount+
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and William Shatner as Captain Kirk in “Star Trek.” CBS /Landov
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and William Shatner as Captain Kirk in “Star Trek.” CBS /Landov

Since he starred on “The Vampire Diaries,” Wesley is no stranger to the trappings of genre fare — including fan conventions. But he said the energy at conventions for “Star Trek” is “a totally different experience.”

“It was a much older crowd. A lot of them had watched the show in the ’60s, in some in the ’70s and ’80s during reruns. And so it’s a totally different audience. And they definitely approach you less with, ‘Oh my God!’ fanboy / fangirl. It’s more like, ‘Hey, let’s talk about this character.’ Which means so much more. I would say they’re a calmer crowd.”

Paul Wesley first rose to fame playing the vampire Stefan Salvatore on “The Vampire Diaries.” ©CW Network/Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection
Paul Wesley first rose to fame playing the vampire Stefan Salvatore on “The Vampire Diaries.” ©CW Network/Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection
Paul Wesley said he’s experienced fan conventions for both “The Vampire Diaries” and “Star Trek,” and the latter is a “calmer crowd.” Michael Gibson/Paramount+
Paul Wesley said he’s experienced fan conventions for both “The Vampire Diaries” and “Star Trek,” and the latter is a “calmer crowd.” Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Wesley is also currently starring in the Shudder movie (now streaming) “History of Evil.”

Set in a futuristic police state, the story follows Ron (Wesley), a member of the resistance, his wife, Alegre (Jackie Cruz), and daughter Daria (Murphee Bloom).

Because Alegre is a wanted fugitive, the family seeks refuge in an abandoned house that turns out to be haunted.

“My favorite genre are films that have some sort of a cautionary tale or perhaps an event that we are dealing with in our real modern world,” he said.

“I always find that the best films are films that make me think. I go, ‘What was that movie really about?’ And then you go, ‘Oh, it was about x, x and x,’ and it’s a conversation.”

Paul Wesley as Ron in “History of Evil.” ©AMC/courtesy Everett Collection
Paul Wesley as Ron in “History of Evil.” ©AMC/courtesy Everett Collection
Paul Wesley in “History of Evil.” ©AMC/courtesy Everett Collection
Paul Wesley in “History of Evil.” ©AMC/courtesy Everett Collection

He admitted that he didn’t make much money from “History of Evil,” but said that’s not why he did it.

“I don’t want to do something for the sake of doing it. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you’ve got to take a job because of money. I didn’t really get paid anything; I lost money on this. This one was just something … I met with Bo [Mirhosseni], the director, and we connected instantly. The producer, Lucan [Toh], is a very good friend of mine. And he sent me the script. And Bo has a great filmography. He’s made some really interesting genre films that are rooted in sort of symbolism.”

“I knew what I was getting myself into,” he continued to The Post. “And whenever you do an independent film, you know you’re going to be making a lot of sacrifices. You just want the film to resonate with people … and frankly, the character arc is so fantastic. Any actor would love to have an arc like that.”