How Chris Pine puts his own spin on Star Trek's Capt. Kirk

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Chris Pine told reporters that he plays the iconic role of Capt. James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek a bit differently from William Shatner, who originated the role in the classic 1960s TV show, and traces the character's arc from an immature rebel to the man fans know and love. (Spoilers ahead!)

"What was presented to me was this vision of Kirk in the script as an angry young kid who is dealing with some heavy family s--t and is angry at the world," Pine told reporters in a group interview last weekend in Los Angeles. "He's a rebel without a cause. I think everyone can remember what it's like to be 15, and he's a 25-year-old 15-year-old! He has to mold all that energy and that drive and all that passion and obstinance and the spectrum of emotions into the man that Kirk then becomes, which is the captain of the ship."

An early scene in the movie shows Kirk in a drunken bar fight the night before he boards the Enterprise and changes his destiny. "For our purposes and our script, this is the arc of this character, from that kid, that boy-man, presented with a challenge, to the boy becoming the man he becomes towards the end of the movie," Pine said.

Another scene highlights some of the film's broad comedy, in which Kirk has a hilarious side effect thanks to one of Bones' (Karl Urban) experimental injections. Pine said that he got to play a wide variety of scenes.

"I loved it," he said. "I had the easiest job on the planet. I got to do everything: comedy, drama, ... the whole nine. Someone like Zach [Zachary Quinto, playing the stoic Spock], that takes a real actor to [do]. ... He's got to take those emotions and make them minimal, to sit on them and play this sort of minimal acting. And I get to explode out into the world. The humor was really fun. I'm hopeful that it will allow people into this world [who] kind of think of Trek as this campy world where you couldn't laugh at all. It's a lot easier to buy into the drama with the humor: It can connect people to the characters, and J.J.'s got an incredible sense of comic timing, and he's the best person for that job, to know when it's too much."

Like director Abrams, Pine has previously said that he always preferred Star Wars to Star Trek as a moviegoer. But now he's gained an appreciation for Trek's underlying optimism. "Not being a fan, I didn't understand why it was so appealing," Pine admitted. "But it's an optimistic series. It's different to The Dark Knight or Watchmen. It's not dark and gritty and Blade Runner-esque. It's bright and funny and done with a wink. How can people not respond to that? I think it's pure, wonderful entertainment with a real subcurrent of great ideas. This is a different species of film."

Star Trek opens on May 8.