The writing of this character was heavily influenced by Simon Pegg, with fellow Star Trek Beyond co-writer Doug Jung describing the character as "a Simon thing."  According to Justin Lin, Grunberg asked to have his character be the alternate reality version of Finnegan. 
He was James T. Kirk's would-be "killer" and "victim" in the titular challenge of the Star Trek: Starfleet Academy YA novelThe Assassination Game. Kirk dodged one attempt by utilizing a variation of the corbomite maneuver, claiming that he had accidentally spilled chemicals that were going to explode if Finnegan didn't leave the room immediately. Also in the novel, Finnegan's first name is given as "Jake".