Karl Urban Explains The Challenges Of Playing Bones In Star Trek


Any Star Trek fan will tell you that the heart of The Original Series is the entertaining friendship between Captain Kirk and his trusted first mate Spock. Sure enough, this is something the rebooted movies have captured very well through Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto’s own version of the unlikely human/Vulcan bromance. What’s unfortunate, though, is that they’ve arguably forgotten the third wheel in this friendship who was invaluable to the team dynamic in TOS. 

Of course, we’re talking about Leonard “Bones” McCoy, who was always a joy to watch as he usually served as the voice of reason. This looked to be replicated in the first reboot movie, too, as Karl Urban was such a spot-on replacement for DeForest Kelly. Unfortunately, though, he wasn’t given a whole lot to do in the first two films – particularly Into Darkness. 

Thankfully, Beyond served him much better, as he was marooned with Spock for a large portion of the plot which gave room for the friendship between the two to develop. And while Urban has done a fantastic job in the role, and seems honored to be playing it, he revealed at a convention over the weekend that it certainly comes with some challenges.

Taking on the character of McCoy was a daunting challenge because unlike some of my colleagues who hadn’t really watched [The Original Series], I was aware of it and I liked the TV show and was definitely aware of the special legacy and contribution of DeForest Kelley, who I have massive respect for.

So, for me, sometimes I felt the pressure to get it right. The challenge was not to do an imitation but at the same time I felt like if I was in the audience I would want to see some semblance of recognizability with the character. I would have felt jipped if I had gone in there and it was nothing Bones-y about Bones. For me it was about identifying the core what DeForest Kelley was doing and that sense of spirit and trying a younger version in an alternate timeline.

Continuing on, the actor explained how he nailed the voice for Bones, saying that he worked hard with a dialect coach.

For the first couple of [Star Trek] movies I worked with a dialect coach extensively. We looked at DeForest Kelley and that Georgian accent and he sort of toned it down a little bit when he came to Los Angeles to work. You can really hear it when his character Bones got angry. So, we studied that. For me it was about a feel, more than anything. It was tonal and it was feeling. There was irascibility, there was also compassion in the voice and I like to work from that rather than from the outside and try to mimic.

As for when we’ll see the rebooted take on Bones again, well, Star Trek 4 is still facing some troubles given the recent contract dispute with Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth, but Urban’s confident that that’ll all be worked out in short order.