As a filmmaker, J.J. Abrams has already had an impressive career, from creating iconic television series like Lost, Alias and Felicity to having a hand in movies as diverse as Regarding Henry and the most recent Mission: Impossible.

But in bringing his latest, Star Trek, to the screen, he faced a new obstacle: How to take a 40-year-old franchise with 10 films under its belt and make it fresh and interesting.

“The audience is very sophisticated now, so it had to work on a level that they didn’t have to worry about in 1966,” Abrams says. “I never felt it was real. A lot of that had to do with resources they had.”

Abrams came on board fairly unfamiliar with the Star Trek franchise, something that certainly had a lot of die-hard fans worried. “I never quite got it the way certain people did,” he admits. But he saw that as an opportunity rather than a drawback.

“I thought that was a cool challenge, to create a Star Trek that was appealing to me.”

To make that possible, Abrams focused less on the technical aspects and more on the human — and Vulcan — factor. “I was never worried about the visual effects, I was never worried about the design,” he explains. “What I was worried about was finding actors who would make this feel real.”

While most of the cast fell into place, Abrams was most concerned with finding his two leads, Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. “I thought Spock would be the hardest character to cast,” Abrams says. “But Zachary Quinto walked in and I just gasped. It was so obvious he was born to play this part.”

Finding someone to take on Kirk, a role over which William Shatner casts a long shadow, was more daunting. “Kirk was the last person we cast,” Abrams says.

• Star Trek hits theatres across Canada next Friday.