Karl Urban: From Comanche Moon's Old West to Star Trek's Exciting Future
Karl Urban, Comanche Moon
Premiering Sunday, Jan. 13, at 9 pm/ET, and then continuing Tuesday and Wednesday night, CBS' Comanche Moon
miniseries — based on Larry McMurtry's
best-selling Lonesome Dove
prequel — follows Texas Rangers Woodrow F. Call (Karl Urban
) and Augustus "Gus" McCrae (Steve Zahn) as they deal with the tensions of life in the Old West. TVGuide.com spoke with Urban (the Lord of the Rings
films' Eomer) about his latest wild venture. Plus: The best sneak peek he could let slip regarding his role as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the much-anticipated Star Trek
TVGuide.com: What drew you to this project? Obviously, playing a young Tommy Lee Jones is not to be taken lightly.
Urban: Yeah, well I didn't approach it like that. That'd be a mistake. I based my performance on the literary character that McMurtry has written in those four books, and the amazingly crafted screenplay. The character has been played by James Garner and Tommy Lee and Lee Majors, but my point of reference and inspiration was the literary character of Call.
TVGuide.com: Your many roles have placed you in assorted times and places and universes. Is this your first time delving into the Old West?
Urban: Yes, it is.
TVGuide.com: What were you surprised to learn about those times?
Urban: I was pretty surprised to learn about some of the customs and cultural positions adopted in the Old West. For example, if a white woman was raped by an Indian, she was really ostracized and quite often those women were outcast to the point that they committed suicide. When you learn facts about the harsh reality about what it was like to settle the wild frontier, it was a really brutal time.
TVGuide.com: On the flip side, is there anything about that time that appeals to you?
Urban: Yes, what really appealed to me about those times, and what was so eloquently captured by McMurtry, is the camaraderie and friendship and loyalty of this band of Texas Rangers. Roaming the West, just being out there in the wild... that really appealed to me.
TVGuide.com: You have a pretty swell love interest there in Elizabeth Banks.
Urban: Yes, she's fantastic. She's great to work with and an incredibly talented young actress.
TVGuide.com: What did you think about the recent news that Peter Jackson is going ahead and producing the Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit?
Urban: Oh, I think that it's really fantastic that New Line and Peter were able to put aside their differences and that Peter is going to once again bring Middle Earth to the big screen.
TVGuide.com: A lot of our readers have said they can't imagine The Hobbit in anyone else's hands.
Urban: Well, he did such an overwhelmingly fantastic job with that trilogy, it's hard to conceive of anybody laying their fingerprints on it.
TVGuide.com: Lastly, a few questions about J.J. Abrams' Star Trek film. How did that opportunity come to you? Were you one of the many young actors who threw their hats in the ring a few months ago?
Urban: Absolutely, yeah. I've been watching Star Trek for many years, and when I heard that J.J. Abrams, who I have massive respect for as a director and producer and a creative force, was directing it, it was something that I actively pursued.
TVGuide.com: What is Bones McCoy like as a younger doctor?
Urban: 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.
TVGuide.com: Bones is the realist of the group? The sometime skeptic?
Urban: 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.
TVGuide.com: Do you get any dialogue along the lines of, "I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!"?
Urban: I can't say! I can't say! I would love to tell you, but.... [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: One "obstacle" a prequel like this faces, as did TV's Enterprise, is how to make technology that can't be as advanced as what we saw in the Star Trek series still seem cool and exciting.
Urban: 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.
Preview Comanche Moon in our Online Video Guide.
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