Star Trek's Karl Urban Honored DeForest Kelley Despite Being Free To Make Bones His Own

Lengthy, trailblazing space exploration missions require medical officers who are as gruff and tough as the extreme environments they face – and the strange ailments they'll have to treat. One of the best examples of such combative space medics is Dr. Leonard. H. "Bones" McCoy, one of the key officers aboard U.S.S. Enterprise. DeForest Kelley's catchphrase-spewing character is a core part of the show's allure as the passionate yin to first officer Spock's cool, calculated yang.

It's hard to imagine a better actor to take over the role from Kelley than Karl Urban, whose acting résumé proves him to be one of Hollywood's premier portrayers of passionate hardmen with a heart of gold. Urban does a good job as "Star Trek's" Kelvin timeline incarnation of Bones, and while some of the timeline's versions are quite different from their main timeline counterparts, it's not hard to draw parallels between the two McCoy actors' performances. As it turns out, this was completely by design. Here's what Urban has to say about the way he chose to honor Kelley's performance, despite being entirely free to create his own take on the character.

Urban incorporated elements of Kelley's performance in the role

"Star Trek" is hardly the first iconic franchise "The Lord of the Rings" veteran Urban had been a part of at the time, but he nevertheless felt intimidated when taking over from DeForest Kelley. In an interview with GQ (via YouTube), the actor discussed his feelings about approaching the role -– both as an actor, and as a Trekkie himself.

"Well, there was certainly points there where I definitely felt the weight and responsibility of getting it right," he said. "Stepping into such an iconic character that was played so wonderfully by the late, great DeForest Kelley, and really a beloved character."

Because of this reverence he felt toward the character of Bones, and Kelley's approach on playing him, Urban chose to incorporate elements of the original actor's way to play the character in his own work. His goal was to create a careful balance between the original aspects of Kelley's performance, and director JJ Abrams request for the actors to explore their versions of the characters.

"JJ was adamant that we should go in there and make these characters our own," Urban continued. "To some extent, I did. But I also felt like as a long-term fan of 'Star Trek', that it was important to see some sort of recognizability, particularly in the character of Bones. For me, it was really about sort of cherry-picking some of the essence of what DeForest Kelley did, and sort of imbuing it into the character without sort of slipping into some kind of imitation, which wouldn't have been a good move."

Even though this may seem like a daunting balance to discover, Urban ultimately found the process extremely pleasant ant entertaining, and Abrams supported him and the other actors all the way as they were crafting their approach to the iconic characters.