Will Poulter & Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner)

Will Poulter & Kaya Scodelario: The Interview (The Maze Runner)
Shakefire (SF): How was it filming in the South?
Will Poulter (WP): It was great.  I love the South. It’s really fun. People are so friendly. The food is insane. It’s just crazy hot. Louisiana was just madness. I think it was like 108 degrees close to 110 one day. It was nuts. It was the end of May beginning of July so it was the kinda hot period. That was actually all part of the challenge in shooting. It meant our jobs were easier in a way because you can’t fake that.

Kaya Scodelario (KS): I love it. I think it’s one of the most interesting places I’ve been in America. I find LA weird; I find LA a bit boring. There’s nothing there. In the South I love it. You can feel the culture, the history. Everyone’s got stories to tell. People are so friendly. I felt so at home.

SF: Can you talk about the sets of the film, especially the Map Room?
WP: Yeah, the map room is phenomenal and one of my favorite features of The Glade. It’s really incredible. A lot of what we see, pretty much all we see, in The Glade is there actually. The walls were extended in CGI and so too were the walls surrounding the Maze. We had 20 foot replicas. We see it’s big and they functioned, opening and closing. It meant we always had something to react off for a more naturalistic performance I think. That was something Wes was really keen to create for us. He didn’t want us to be acting against blue screen for the entire time. He just didn’t believe in that. And that was really great for us, really comforting as actors. We had to know that the visual effects, though there were many, weren’t going to shroud the acting experience or in anyway contend with our performances. So yeah, CGI was just added to parts that were already there. And the Maze was phenomenal.

KS: I think it’s really special to see that level of craftsmanship. There was a huge amount of crew there for months and months before we got there.I think that’s probably going to become rarer and rarer to see things that humans have built for the movies. It’s so exciting it’s like being a kid again. That’s what we dreamt what movie sets would look like, and maybe in 20 years time it won’t be like that. It’ll just be a giant blue screen. So I think it was special to get to see that and get to see all the locals building it all in a day. It felt like they were a part of it as well. I met some great characters that were there, and I love that kind of side of it. It felt kinda rare, which was kinda sad, but it was special.

SF: What was it like working with Wes, who is making his directorial debut with The Maze Runner?
KS: I get a buzz working with first-time directors. I’ve been so fortunate to work with really incredible first-time directors that just do things differently and aren’t afraid to rock the boat a bit with producers. Wes is just great. We were all kinda like, “He’s a young guy. We really like him. We get on with him. Is he going to be able to handle it? Is he going to lose his cool? He comes from a background of special effects. Is he going to know how to talk to us as actors?” And we ticked every box and we waited and waited for the day to come where he’d crack and he just never did. He never did. Not once did he raise his voice. Not once did he lose his cool. He was in control and he gained our respect straight away. He just has both sides of the coin, which again is so rare. And I think in 10 years time we’ll be like, “We got to work with him first.”

WP: Definitely. Wes Ball’s got potential. He has an unbelievable ability to present characters and not allow the narrative to get muddled in anyway. He’s just a brilliant storyteller.

SF: What attracted you to your characters in the film?
WP: I kinda wanted to play the dick. I really did. I wanted to play the guy who’s less likeable, certainly, and someone who’s, to me, very layered and a complex individual. I think behind the whole tough guy exterior is a little fear and he’s quite cowardly. So that was interesting for me to play someone who defended not only who he was but his home so defensively. He’s very territorial, almost animalistic in that sense. But just to be part of this project on a very fresh take on a trending theme in movies. To be part of a very unique story and to work among people like Kaya and such an awesome group of young up-and-coming actors was really exciting.

KS: I liked a lot of things about her. She’s a mystery. You kinda don’t find out anything about her. I like that it’s a journey. You have to commit to the three stories to really get who she is. I like that she makes certain decisions that a lot of people won’t agree with. It’s very human. For some reason we’re kinda scared of seeing a woman like that in film sometimes. We like them to be softened and delicate and do the right thing. I like that she doesn’t follow that pattern. When she arrives she’s not shaking hands and wanting to make friends. She’s straight away like, “Who the fuck are you guys? I want to get out of here. I don’t want to meet you. I don’t want to go on a date with you. I want to know who I am.” I love that focus. I love that bravery and that strength in her. I can’t wait if we get to do the second book. She makes this decision and a lot of people are going to be angry with her and not agree with her. I think to get to explore that as an actor is really great because I don’t even know if I’m going to agree with her or not, and I’m kinda interested to see how I can work through that.

SF: What was your experience like being the only girl on set?
KS: Honestly I never felt like the only girl on set. We were friends straight away and that’s special on any job. I love going to work with my friends. They didn’t treat me like a girl; they treated me with the same respect as anyone else. They didn’t change how they behaved in front of me, which I really liked. They’d still made their dick jokes, and fart, and perv and that was cool. That’s who they are. I love being around that. My friends back home in London, I’ve got a lot of guy friends. I’ve worked with a lot of guys that I really respect. It just felt like friends. And also there were a load of girlfriends that would come and visit. I flew my best friend Paige out. And I did need girl time and I had that as well.

SF: Your character you’re most known for is Effy from Skins is a lot like Teresa in that she’s mysterious and strong. Who do you think you relate more to?
KS: I think for me the reason I love Effy is that when I speak about her, when I think about her I feel something. She had so much going on up here, she’s such an interesting character to play from a mental health point of view. Whereas with Teresa there’s no memory, there’s no backstory, she’s just coming into the world again. She’s being reborn and she’s building her way up while Effy’s issues were always about dealing with the past, or not dealing with the past. And it was tough playing her for four years. I don’t know if I could really go back there. It was good at the time because I was going through those things personally, but now in my 20s I’m ready to explore something different, but she’s always really special to me.

SF: Will, what challenges did you have to face with balancing your character between being the somewhat villain of the film but also someone who looks out for the whole community.
WP: What’s awesome about this experience is that it was very collaborative. Wes engaged us every decision and he really took on our thoughts and welcomed our input. My concern with Gally initially just based on the book was how villainous he was. He was kinda an outright bad guy. I think what we tried to do with the script, we all agreed on this idea that Gally needed to be a little more justified, a little bit more understandable at times, a little bit more accessible. I think he need to voice the opinion of that group who may not be the majority. That group who don’t always be with Thomas, who appears a bit rash and lacking in sensibility. Gally’s the one who assesses things a little more conservatively. He sticks his hand up and says that this has been working for the last three years, why are we all of a suddenly following this newbie into what seems to be darkness? So yeah, what I hope comes across is the idea that although Gally isn’t the nicest boy in the world he goes about voicing his opinion in quite a heavy handed way, there is sense to this and there is an intelligent basis to the points that he raises.

SF: What is the most powerful scene for each of your characters?
KS: For me it’s the moment being up in the tree with Thomas, for many different reasons. It was a day where I spent the whole day with Dylan and I got to know him as a person really well. Got to know him as an actor. We kinda sized each other up as actors and learned how we could work together and clicked really well. That’s why I’m so excited to work with him again hopefully. We kinda have a buzz between us. And also for my character, that’s her one moment of softness. She allows herself to be scared and it’s really important to show that it’s only with Thomas that can happen because that sets up that connection for the next three movies and books. And it’s not romantic. It was our way, in the book they have a telepathic relationship, and we couldn’t do that in a movie because we were worried it would be cheesy. It’s just something that can’t really translate, so we just used that moment, that scene, to establish that connection and show that there is something there between them.

SF: Franchises like The Maze Runner have hugely passionate fans. How do you deal with the pressure and expectations of fans?
KS: You don’t think about it until the work’s done. That’s the most important part. When you’re on set coming into any character you put your full focus into that instead of thinking about fans or about this side of it or anything. When you’re there on set it’s about that. And that goes for whatever budget you’re on, whatever set you’re on, whoever the director is, whoever the actor is, it always has to be that same focus. And then you kinda get to this point and you stop to see it. It can be overwhelming and kinda scary, but I think Wes has done such a good job at keeping fans a part of this project. From the very beginning before any of us was cast he would chat with them on Twitter. He showed the first concept art on Twitter. Every time one of us was announced he would tweet us. I think he really made the fans of the book a part of this movie and they support it. They want it. They really want it to happen. They’ve all been excited.

WP: And their enthusiasm from the get-go, from the moment we were announced as being involved, really just infused us, fueled us, on set. It was always a reminder how great it’s going to be if we do a good job as opposed to it being some pressure that made us less confident or worried or out of our zone on set. It’s not progressive to be daunted by the pressure. You’ve just got to embrace it and take it on. It’s a little bit like performing into a live crowd.