From the days of playing an addict on kiwi soap opera Shortland Street to being cast as a silent assassin in the Bourne Supremacy, New Zealand born Urban has made a career out of playing uniquely chameleon-like characters.
Under the reigns of director JJ Abrams, Karl Urban was given a large amount of freedom to perfect his Bones character, while honouring the large body of fine work done by the late DeForest Kelley who played Dr McCoy in the previous instalments.
Die-hard Trekkies are already calling Urban's performance one of the best in the film - his portrayal of the grumpy Dr Leonard McCoy was an audience favourite at the premiere last week. Dan Long got to know the real Bones and discovered that Karl Urban is a true fan of the Trek universe.
Dan Long: Karl, you've tackled many genres before this; Lord of the Rings, Bourne Supremacy, Pathfinder, Ghost Ship, Doom and now you're back to science fiction again. How does it feel coming from the early days of Shortland Street in NZ to this massive blockbuster, with a huge character history behind it? Playing Bones, was there much pressure on you to honour this character?
Karl Urban: Oh yeah, absolutely. Let me start by saying that I'm a long term fan of the original Star Trek show - I watched it as a kid and saw all the movies when they came out. I was hyper aware as a fan that we all collectively had to do justice to these really great, iconic characters.
You know, for me, I have such a huge respect for the work that Mr Kelley did in taking what was a originally written as a supporting character and through his great work and chemistry with Mr Nimoy and Mr Shatner and elevate that character into a really central part and it became a third billing on the show. So it was a little daunting to say the least. But I was thrilled to be given the opportunity.
Dan Long: How did that opportunity come about?
Karl Urban: I had an initial meeting with JJ which I didn't think went very well at all. Then I heard from him a couple of months later, that he wanted me to come in and screen test for the role of Bones, which I did. I knew pretty much instantly that it went well and they were interested and within an hour, it was "Yep, you're our guy".
Dan Long: Being from New Zealand, along with Chris Hemsworth and Eric Bana from Australia, do you think that brings a unique dimension to these characters?
I personally feel that actors from Australasia are a little less entrenched in the business. Quite a few of the Hollywood actors have agents, stylists, lawyer's trainers, entourages and they to tend to get too top heavy and focus less on the craft of what they're doing and more on the business.
Dan Long: What do you personally bring to the character of Dr McCoy? He has some great one liners, with a real a laconic feel to the character.
Karl Urabn: I can get grumpy (laughs). I can definitely get that way. It wasn't too much of a stretch to find the cantankerous, to bring that element out.
Dan Long: He's a bit of a technophobe at the start....
Karl Urban: Yeah, here's the great thing about the character: He's this grumpy, cantankerous, irascible doctor with the most appalling bedside manner. Yet underneath that, he's got a genuine heart of gold. He's the most loyal caring friend you're likely to find, whether you're an enemy or not. He'll put prejudices aside and try and do right by you. He's a really morally centred character that just happens to be wrapped up in this prickly exterior.
Dan Long: Star Trek has always been seen an as ensemble. How did you develop, under JJ's Tutelage, the relationship with the other cast, where you could portray yourselves as a believable team on screen?
Karl Urban: I think that's actually the genius of JJ. He cast a group of people who really, really got on well together. We had so much fun - I haven't laughed so much before on a film set ever . He created a hyper-fun, yet very, very focused atmosphere. Chris Pine is absolutely hilarious, as is Zach Quinto, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood and even JJ himself - all hilarious people.
Dan Long: Did you approach any of the older stars as mentors in any way?
Karl Urban: No, but I was very, very privileged to be on set the first day that Leonard Nimoy put his ears back on and brought that character back to life after 17 years. And as a long term fan, just being there on set, that was an awesome moment. But no, I know Zach extensively spent some time with Leonard Nimoy. But I would of loved to of had the chance to spend some time with the late Mr Kelley.
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