Urban Talks Trek Characters and Production Design

TV Guide has put up an extended version of their interview with Karl Urban about his upcoming roles in the CBS mini-series Comanche Moon as well as the new Star Trek movie. Urban repeated to TV Guide that he was a fan of Star Trek who actively persued the the role of McCoy and he feels that the characters are faithful and the designs are like ‘high definition’ versions of the original (more below…no spoilers).

Regarding the film in general he stated:

The movie that we are making is very, very faithful to the spirit of the original series and the characters that were created back in the ’60s. It’s those same character dynamics, and you know what? It’s a lot of fun.

Urban on McCoy in the new movie

He is that lovable, irascible humanist that he has always been. He is, as he was written in the original series, a good friend of Jim Kirk’s. J.J. is going to reinvigorate this franchise in a fresh and exciting way. It’s going to be amazing.

Urban on making a prequel to the 60s still look futuristic

The way I feel about it, being as specific as I’m allowed to be, is it’s like listening to a radio station in AM and then tuning it into high-definition stereo. Everything will sort of really come into high-definition focus… if that makes any sense. All I can really say is the production as a whole is incredibly faithful to the Star Trek universe and takes into account what has come before. The very fact that Leonard Nimoy is reprising his role of Spock, for the first time in, like, 15 years, is a huge endorsement. He wouldn’t be doing it if he didn’t believe the spirit of this production was not in the right place.

Urban talked to USA Today about his performance as McCoy

The tricky part is injecting fresh perspective. You don’t want a carbon copy of someone’s performance.

Full interviews at TVGuide.com and USA Today

The western mini-series Comanche Moon with Karl Urban kicks off this Sunday at 9PM on CBS

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hmm… well i got high hopes still

I still think he’s totally wrong for the part of McCoy.

Urban’s comments, more than any so far, make me look forward to this film.

great interview!!

I hope it will be realy good. I like HD. :D

Sounds good! Of the main crew McCoy was one I was having a harder time thinking of someone for the part but i’m looking forward to seeing how he plays it. I think Urban will work, my biggest surprise (WTF) was Pegg as Scotty (was really pushing for Mcgillion) but the more I thought about it I think it could work well. Really have to wait a year to find out for sure, i’ve seen actors in parts I wouldn’t expect “blow me away” before so i’m hopefull!

I have a good feeling about this guy. He’s got a good attitude about things. You gotta give him points for all those years of having watched Trek, too.

Only one concern. Perused or pursued the role?

“By golly, Jim, I’m beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!”

Sounds like the design of the sets might not be such a radical departure as everyone has been fretting about. Just shows there’s no point worrying and arguing about it all until people the photographs are out there.

I’ve changed my opinion now. I think he’s gonna do fine.

It really seems like Urban is a Trek fan, and I appreciate that. I knew he did a lot of Sci-Fi and Fantasy throughout his career, but I thought that was just for a paycheck, not because it was a beloved genre of his. I hope, for all our sakes and his too, that this movie is good.

Karl Urban will do great I’m sure. It’s obvious he’s a Trek fan which is always cool!

Thanks Anthony

A different ship along with a new crew with a fresh story makes more sense to me. The way their doing it and attempting to pass it off as something new makes as much sense as running backwards UNLESS the director can somehow manage to pull one out of the hat and I doubt he has the ability.
He’s too young and inexperienced. Fresh ideas are fine as long as their tempered by someone who has a the LONG track record. Oh well….

hmmm…I think he’s wrong as far as his “carbon copy” statement. what made these characters what they are is the original actors mannerisms and delivery of their lines, which is why many people feel Kirk [I]is[/I] Shatner, Kelley is McCoy, etc. A new actor portraying such a classic and long established role needs to emulate the previous actors performance down to a “t”, otherwise they are rewriting the character.

I can’t help but be encouraged by everything Urban he has said. I’m really looking forward to Commanche Creek.

@13 Don’t agree. Different actors brought different flavours to Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, Superman etc. Having an actor trying to mimic another actor’s performance to a ‘t’ is a recipe for disaster and a target for ridicule.

Capturing the essence of a character is the goal and the key to success.

Urban’s comments stand well with me.

13 – Star Trek: The Rich Little Edition.

15 hit the nail on the head. Look at Superman Returns. I thought it was a great homage to the Christopher Reeve films, but Routhe’s performance was so to a ‘t’ mimicking Reeve the ‘actor’ instead of Superman the ‘character’, that the film comes across as soulless and devoid of any long-lasting impact. I don’t want that kind of carefully planned carbon copying with this new Trek movie. Yes, honor canon. I like the analogy of bringing the ’60s TOS technology into greater detail and focus rather than a complete overhaul. But let these actors bring something unique to the roles…

Hi CanuckLou (15)

Problem is, some people misguidedly feel that Star Trek is somehow ‘special’ among the many franchises out there and deserves different treatment from Batman, Superman, Sherlock Holmes and so on.

To some people, Trek is a set-in-stone pseudo-religion that can’t be revised in any way! They can’t recognise that it really is just another franchise, albeit one that we love.

With new performers, we have the opportunity to draw out different nuances from the characters and explore sides to them we haven’t seen before. That’s the excitement of seeing different performances in the theatre and something that can only benefit Star Trek.

IMO, Urban’s stressing Abram’s intention to respect the original to the point where it almost becomes defensive.

But at least he has two sentences to say about McCoy’s characteristics and the “character dynamics”. Not much, but far more than Pine had to say about the character he’s about to portray.

If any of the actors in this movie try to copy their predecessors to a “t” they will fail. Mainly because of some of the narrow minded fans. All they can do is stay true to the spirit, which is fine by me. and Mr. Urban’s enthusiasm for the role is nothing but inspiring, imo.

And to all those people that think they have to do it to a “t”, or else it will fail, you obviously don’t get what Stra Trek is about – at all. If Mr. Roddenberry’s vision of the future was trying to teach us anything, is was open-mindedness, which some of you obviously don’t(and will never) get.


What is this “high-definition” talk? The ’60s STAR TREK was all about analog!

I’ll be picketing outside the theaters on 12/25/08. ;)

OMG, the movie is gonna be great! OMG, J.J. is gonna just totally screw it all up and it’s gonna suck! OMG, now it’s gonna be great again! I love the contravercy, but I’ll still just go to see the movie and make up my mind for myself.

I dont’ have a problem with remastering things. As a matter of fact I couldn’t sit down and watch an original series episode with it’s HORRIBLE graphics, but I spent the money for the new HD remastered set and It’s breathed new life into the series and made it watchable.

As long as this movie respects canan, I’m happy.

#13 :” A new actor portraying such a classic and long established role needs to emulate the previous actors performance down to a “t”, otherwise they are rewriting the character.”

You’ll never find an actor of any ability who’s willing to take the part, then.

13. ctiii –

If you knew anything about acting…you would know what a colossal waste of time that would be…it wouldn’t be acting, it would be impersonating….and would be as flat as a pancake on Jupiter.

It’s absolutely possible, for a different actor to filter the qualities of a character through their own physical and mental interpretation…and still be the same character. Copying…is NOT reasonable or realistic.

#13 CTIII –

If ALL of the new actors do indeed mimic the original TOS actors “to a T,” then audiences around the world will giggle and laugh throughout the film, as if they were watching one, long 2-hour “SNL” skit.

With all due respect… that’s one of the most ill-informed statements I’ve ever read on these boards.

@18 Dom – I hear you loud and clear.

If one is going to approach this movie with the mind set that ST XI is going to be a carbon copy of the 60s show they will severely disappointed.

The actors, the sets, the look, the sound, the… everything is going to different. The trick is, will ST XI capture the spirit and themes of the original? That is what the goal is. Everything else is window dressing.

That’s the mindset I am going into the movie with. Any little touches they can throw in, beyond having Nimoy in the film, that reference the original series is a gift to the fans.

I am looking forward to seeing what new courses JJ et al can set for this iteration of the Enterprise and crew in the original Star Trek era.

Totally agree with Canuck Lou and others that mimicry is not the same as performance. Just get the basics right; accent, attitude, and then put your own stamp on it. If Trek didn’t get an insfusion of fresh blood when it did, I doubt it could’ve Lived Long or Prospered to a new audience. And let’s face it; the hardcore audience (myself included) is getting older. We don’t go to movies as much as younger folk. Just hoping they can walk the tightrope of winning new fans (which the franchise needs) and not turning off too many of the hardcore tribe. Some will automatically boycott (granted) because they’re just close-minded. I, for one, wish Karl Urban and co. luck! But I worry about the over-abundance of pessimism and negativity creeping into fandom lately. Trek is not sacred, folks; it’s an entertainment property. If it doesn’t take chances, it’ll become stagnant. Let’s ALL just wait and see!

#13… absolutely wrong…. the worst thing they could do would be to try and do imitations of the original actors’ performances. that would just be awful

#26.. i agree completely

Just like with the changes in set design – ship interiors, uniforms, etc. – the vast majority of people that would be interested in seeing this film, which includes a huge sci fi audience that probably like Star Trek, but aren’t hard core trekkies – will recognize from the begining that this is a “new” vision of Star Trek. They won’t expect it to look exactly like the 1960’s show, nor will they want it to. They won’t expect the actors to act just like the original actors, nor will they want them to.

It seems to me that a small group of hard core trekkies want this movie to be nothing more than a carbon copy of the 1960’s show, down to the acting (or lack there of). Basically, they want another TOS episode blown up to the big screen.

I fully expect that not to be the case when the movie comes out because that would be a disaster. Most movie going people will want something new and something different. Most people don’t want to see the same thing over and over. They go to the movies, and especially a movie like this one, to see something new. All the anticipation leading up to seeing the film is about what new things they will have, new technologies, new set designs, special effects, etc.

Spirit of the character…
That’s exactly right. I recall in Generations and First Contact that the TNG characters suddeny changed- no different actors of course, but very different interpretations by the writers. Data became the laughing spaceman, Picard became an action hero blasting away at every Borg and smashing his glass case. Those instances were made up for in Nemesis when Data really developed into a humanistic person and Picard was once again the introspective man he had been (unbearingly at times) throughout TNG.

Well, Picard snaps and shoots up the Romulan ship. And Data’s death was treated inhumanly. Oh, well.

TOS was about humanity developing and working together for a better future (so to speak.) But what fans really fell for was the friendships between such dynamic characters interpreted by such unique actors. Shatner was Kirk, maybe moreso than any other actor was their part. Now he’s the laughing spaecman. : )
(Oh- hope I’m as active when I’m in my seventies…)

Good characters can be re-interpreted through good acting without losing what made them special.

So, why isn’t Carrot Top in this movie? Let’s start a campaign for him to play a Gorn- rocks are good props.

#13 :” A new actor portraying such a classic and long established role needs to emulate the previous actors performance down to a “t”, otherwise they are rewriting the character.”

Well, I can’t say that they need to mimic the originals to a “t” but with Nimoy being involved there should certainly be something very “familiar’ about how these characters are played. And since these characters were literally born into the bodies of Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, etc…and where there for decades…there are no other benchmarks. Kirk..pauses…his ..delivery (at times). and delivers flying jump kicks. Spock raises one eyebrow alot and grasps his hands behind his back when standing still. McCoy is very animated with his hands when he ges excited. These unscripted actions by the actors are a HUGE part of what defines theses characters and make them who they are.

The new guys will certainly bring their own traits to the roles as well…but if Nimoy is going to be in this movie AS Spock, if he lifts an eyebrow, I hope Quinto also raises an eyebrow. And if I’m really lucky, we might even see a flying kick from our new Kirk.

Agreed – no to mimicking other actors!

I like to think that anybody that hasn’t watched any Trek, can pick up a good TOS novel or two, and (gasp) still get to “know” the characters.

If this film is a success, then hopefully in sequels the actors will find a dynamic of their own that we’ve never seen before (in canon). And perhaps, from that will grow a unique and worthy take on these characters, and Trek.

Hopefully this film series is so good, some people will even forget “canon rules”! That’s certainly the intent, if they are inventing a revised timeline.

It would certainly free up the new film series to do it’s own thing, and boldy go where no other Trek incarnation has gone before ;-)

Hi, star trackie (31)

Even the use of hands is a choice the actor has to make. Zachary Quinto might prefer to have his hands in front! Karl Urban might be more saturnine or even more animated. That’s something the cast will come up with along with the director.

Remember, Zachary Quinto is starring as Spock in this film. Leonard Nimoy plays an apparently substantial role in the film, but he is very much a guest star in someone else’s film, handing over the reins.

Even Leonard Nimoy’s performance will be a compromise to get the best synch with Zachary Quinto’s leading role, devised by the actors and JJ Abrams! Basically, the same as ever happens in movies where more than one person plays the same character.

There are no absolute musts in this film. Think of this film as having as much relation to TOS as a new York Met Production of Wagner’s Ring has to a Bayreuth production of the same! Sometimes the same actors appear and sometimes they don’t. One version has one sort of sets and another is completely different. End of the dat, they’re still The Ring!!!

Simply mimicing a performance is a bad thing, but if you are trying to bring to life a character done for years by another actor, you better dang well make sure that you make sure your performance echoes something of the original… or you have failed.

It’s all acting… so “act” like the character! That’s how I see it.

#6 “my biggest surprise (WTF) was Pegg as Scotty (was really pushing for Mcgillion) but the more I thought about it I think it could work well”

Yes, Pegg is a terrific actor and I have great faith in him. I have to say that, honestly speaking, there is a lot of talent in this new Trek casting. More than was in the original cast. Don’t get me wrong, I really love Shatner, Kelley, Doohan and Co., but I don’t think about them as top actors.

Urban’s comments sound far more encouraging than stuff like “this ain’t your daddy’s Star Trek” and “hardcore fans will probably freak out”. I am re-assured for now until someone else affiliated with the production decides to spout some new drivel.

#26: “With all due respect… that’s one of the most ill-informed statements I’ve ever read on these boards.”

Stick around. ;)

#31: ” And since these characters were literally born into the bodies of Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, etc…and where there for decades…there are no other benchmarks.”

Now, there will be.

#13–Asking a professional actor to approach a project in that manner would be an insult. Not only would it be personally insulting to the artist, but then the whole thing would look like a collection of people doing impressions. Do you really want to see Chris Pine doing a Shatner impression? I do not, anymore than I want to see Karl Urban mimicking Deforest Kelley. It will be fans like you, who cannot broaden their horizons enough to appreciate anything in this film that is not a carbon copy of the 1960’s version, who will decide to dislike this movie for all of the wrong reasons. This incarnation of the pre-TOS-era/TOS-era Star Trek should be appreciated not only as part of the Star Trek film collection, but as an individual film as well. Here’s to hoping that there are more of us than there are of you…

38. Closettrekker.

Worse than that, ‘fans’ who dribble on about ‘canon’, copying performances to a ‘t’ and insisting that the bridge rail (assuming there is one!) is the exact shade of red tend to shout the loudest.

You can guarantee they’ll be spouting off in the lead up to the film scaring normal people off seeing it. I mean, who’d want to be associated with people that anal?!

Like it or not, us fans who are sensible and open minded need to drown out the vocal minority that are determined to spoil everyone’s fun!!!

mimicry schmimicry! Even the original cast did not mimic their own performances from the original series when they were making the movies. It was understandable because in the movies they were older and wiser. Now, we will have characters who are younger and less experienced (I’m talking about the characters, not the actors), so they should not be copying the original series characters to a ‘t’.

#36 Jim – I agree with you. I think they should make Urban the official spokeman for the new movie – he can generate enthusiasm without any slip of the tongue. His enthusiam is contagious.

a long time ago a young cgi designer who was developing a character named jar jar for a guy named george stated that “25 years from now we should be able to recreate a now dead actor. Using vocal samples and motion mapping we could probably make a sequel to Casablanca.” he went on to talk about why that would not be a good idea, because no matter how good the cgi was, there would be no acting. i think the same thing applys here. only a pedantic fetishist would find such a recreation useful. a real mccoy requires life behind the role.

Jeez. Between the ST cast and the presidential candidates, this is gonna be a long year of empty soundbites.

Just watched Mission Impossible III last night. All they need is one of those mask-making devices and the vocal thingy they put on their throats — and everyone can look and talk exactly like the original cast. Takes about 5 minutes.

I mean, come on, this is 2008, use the technology that’s available already!

Heh heh heh.

I’ll be quite happy with a new CG-animated re-version of the animated series, where the original cast are concerned.

I’m just looking forward to the new movie!!!

But if having new actors play these classic roles isnt a big deal, why didnt the studio just throw some money and support to the “New Voyages” people and let them do the movie? For that matter, why isnt “New Voyages” more popular among Trek fans and the general SciFi community than it is?

As far as all the mannerisms like Spock raising an eyebrow or putting his hands behind his back, or McCoy speaking with his hands, and the new actors being free to change them on their own…that isnt something for them to interpret and change. The “character” Spock (or McCoy) did those things, not the actors…some of it was probably even written into the script as stage directions making it the “characters” traits.

I wouldn’t want to see the new actors imitating the original ones, too. This would not only be impossible, it would not make much sense either.

In STXI, we will probably learn something about a period that hasn’t been covered before and that’s what may make it bearable or even interesting. We will be told a new story and the characters‘ reactions to the possible events, their emotions should be congruent with the established image but may as well imply different features as being shown at a pre-TOS stage in their development.

As regards the characters’ acceptation at large, they are meanwhile well embedded in people’s minds. Becoming archetypes and cultural icons, being recognized by all cultural, social and age groups is a masterly achievement and tells its own tale. The image was created 40 years ago and was cemented by subsequent congruent portrayals.

If the film meets its own claim, it will add one, maybe adventurous, chapter to the already written ST encyclopaedia, nothing more. But the TOS characters as a fundamental component of cultural heritage do not need benefit or promotion, they already have reached the peak and will remain there; with or without the film.

#37- ” “And since these characters were literally born into the bodies of Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, etc…and where there for decades…there are no other benchmarks.”

Now, there will be. ”

…maybe..maybe not. depends on how successful the film is. I’d wager than when debating the fictional character of Jim West, not a lot of folks bring up Will Smith’s wry smile and witicisms.

and # 38 “#13–Asking a professional actor to approach a project in that manner would be an insult. Not only would it be personally insulting to the artist, but then the whole thing would look like a collection of people doing impressions. ”

Now that all depends on how you approach the project, doesn’t it?

Are you rebooting with a whole new mindset or are you portraying younger versions of established characters? Clearly Quinto is playing a younger version of Nimoy’s Spock. That detail alone dictates how it should be played, no different than if an actor was asked to play John Kennedy. Yes, I know I know, Kennedy was real, Spock is not…I can you screaming now. But that has little to do with this. In context of the MOVIE…we are asked to believe that Nimoy’s Spock is real…and we are asked to believe he is the same Spock that we have seen for 40 years. We are also asked to believe that Quinto IS a younger version of that very same Spock…not a new Spock…1966 Spock. So, in the context of the movie…if we see a younger Spock there should be at least SOME semblence of Nimoy’s portrayal.

Is it insulting to ask Quinto to arch an eyebrow? Hardly.

Not unlike an actor being asked to portray Kennedy, or Elvis, or Patton, many proffesionals would see it as a challenge. Will Smith is the perfect example. He stepped into the established character of Jim West and the whole reboot was a titanic disaster.

His take on Ali was acclaimed. In fact I’d bet he was quite proud of his portrayal of Muhamed Ali. And I don’t think he was insulted in the least when asked to take the role.

It’s all how you look at it.

#46 –

1) “But if having new actors play these classic roles isnt a big deal, why didnt the studio just throw some money and support to the “New Voyages” people and let them do the movie? For that matter, why isnt “New Voyages” more popular among Trek fans and the general SciFi community than it is?”

First, the new TREK XI crew look more like the original characters than the NV crew does, and second (and more importantly) they’re already ESTABLISHED actors. NEW VOYAGES is a fun little time-waster, but they ain’t actors, my friend.

And the reason why NV isn’t more popular is because it’s a slavish, amateur production. It’s FUN to watch, mind you (if you have nothing more to do on a Saturday night) but nothing more. Putting the NEW VOYAGES up on the big screen (even with a bigger budge) would be seen as one big giant goof. It ain’t happenin’.

Let NV have their fun on the Internet and let the Big Boys do their thing with TREK XI.

I don’t believe a word of it. The writers of this movie have no feel for the Star Trek universe. Don’t fall for the spin.