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Star Trek's Anton Yelchin Had Fun Messing Around With Chekov's Accent

Today's Trekkies are quite familiar with the late actor Anton Yelchin's memorable performances as Mr. Chekov in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" movies, but the iconic character of the young, Russian ensign made his debut in the original "Star Trek" series during the Season 2 episode "Catspaw." Yes, chronologically, Pavel Andreievich Chekov, who was first portrayed by veteran performer Walter Koenig, joins up with the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise for that season's initial voyage to the planet Vulcan in one of the show's best episodes, "Amok Time." However, "Catspaw" was moved down the schedule from Episode 1 to Episode 7, so the spooky installment would air just before Halloween (per StarTrek.com).

Chekov was originally going to be named Ensign Jones because the character was based on a member of a popular pop/rock band that rose to prominence during the mid and late 1960s. "The whole idea was inspired by Davy Jones of The Monkees," Koenig told the Television Academy's "The Interviews: An Oral History of Television" (via FoundationINTERVIEWS). "They were looking for an actor, or personality, that would appeal to the same demographic that Davy Jones did."

Yelchin's version of the Enterprise's iconic navigator doesn't resemble Jones in the least, but the actor was quite proud of both his real-life Russian heritage and the "Star Trek" legacy. As a result, he did everything in his power to make his Chekov sound like Koenig's take on the role, while still having a bit of fun with the accent.

Yelchin toyed around with Chekov's accent to get it right

Anton Yelchin took up the mantle of Chekov when the Enterprise crew battled the vengeful Romulan, Nero (Eric Bana), in 2009's "Star Trek." Yelchin understood the importance of stepping into such a legendary role, which Walter Koenig originated more than 40 years before production began on J.J. Abrams' reboot. But Yelchin respectfully messed around with Chekov's accent to match it with Koenig's original interpretation.

"I have no problem doing a real Russian accent, but that wouldn't be Chekov to me," Yelchin told TrekMovie. "The interesting thing about it is that his accent is a Cold War stereotype of a Russian person. And when I watched the series and the films, that is what I found interesting about it. And I adjusted it." It wasn't exactly the same, but Koenig visited the set and gave Yelchin his seal of approval. "[He] was like, 'That sounds like me.' ... It was fun to purposefully mess around with the Russian accent — to purposefully change what I thought a Russian accent was to suit that stereotype they had in the '60s."

Yelchin was born to figure skaters Irina Korina and Viktor Yelchin in Saint Petersburg, Russia (per StarTrek.com), so the thespian's connection to his birth country was an asset when it came to understanding Chekov. Sadly, Yelchin's run as Chekov ended with the actor's death in 2016. Abrams has said he won't recast Yelchin's part in the fourth "Star Trek" film.