While the new film Chips uses the title and characters from the iconic 1977-1983 TV series, writer-director-star Dax Shepard says that being faithful to the show wasn't his main goal. "I'm always looking to do something with action - specifically motor sports action - and comedy," he says. "And this was a show that was centred around two heroes on motorcycles. So to me, it was a lay-up as far as getting to do both things!"

Dax and Michael in CHIPSDax and Michael in CHIPS

He dove in with gusto to make the film. "Every day we blew something up or had a motorcycle crash," he says. "A lot of action-comedies are comedies with just a splash of action, so this is a bit of a throwback where the humour comes from the action. I'd like there to be 20 movies a year like Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon."

Shepard has fond memories of the TV show CHiPs from when he was a kid. "I'm from the Midwest," he says. "It was grey and cold eight months of the year. And you would turn this show on and for an hour you were in California with palm trees and beaches and bikinis. And this odd couple on motorcycles - this tall, lanky white dude and a Latino - it was a cool original pairing."

To play his partner on-screen, Shepard only had one actor in mind, Michael Pena. And Pena was happy to switch from his more serious roles in films like The Martian and Collateral Beauty to do something funny. "It's so easy to act like the stoic, leading man guy," he says. "But here I'm playing Ponch! There's people who loved him from back in the day, but I don't exactly play his style."

Pena admits readily that he's not as cool as the TV show's Ponch, Erik Estrada. "Yeah," he laughs. "I was always the dude that, after two weeks of hanging out with a girl, they'd be like, 'You're cute.' I'm like, 'Uh, okay, cool, thanks.' It took two weeks, but it's all good. It happened. I got my wife like that."

Shepard wrote the script so Pena could play the charmer. "It was very important for me to make sure that he was the stud when I wrote it," Shepard laughs. "So I had to be selfless for a selfish purpose of keeping him in the movie."

To which Pena replies, "Well, you still got naked in the movie. And you showed off the abs."

"Well, you know," Shepard fires back. "If you don't have the face, you better have the body!"

Watch the trailer for CHIPS: