I participated in a roundtable interview with two of the stars of the upcoming film, “The Maze Runner,” Will Poulter and Kaya Scodelario. The film is about a young man named Thomas (Dylan O’Brian), who finds himself in an elevator with no memory of anything other than his name. The elevator opens, and he finds himself in “The Glade.” with about 60 other boys. He instantly questions why they are where they are and what is the mysterious “Maze” that opens up every so often. Gaily (Poulter) takes an instant dislike to the newcomer, especially when the first girl ever in “The Glade” suddenly appears. Now Thomas and the new girl, Teresa (Scodelario) question what is “The Maze” and how can they survive it?
Will Poulter: Hi
How was it filming in Louisiana?
Will: I loved it. I love the south. It’s kind of my second time filming in the area. It’s really fun. Southern society is so great. It was fun to experience it in abundance. People were so friendly and the food’s insane. But it is so crazy hot. Louisiana was so hot, 108 one day, 110 another. We shot May through July, so it was kind of hot, period. But that was all part of the challenge of the shoot. It meant our jobs were easier in a way, because we didn’t have to fake it. It made it real.
Kaya Scodelario: I loved it. It was definitely the most interesting place in America. I find L.A. a bit weird and boring. I just love the South, where you can just feel the culture and the history. Everyone has stories to tell. People are so friendly and made me feel so at home.
Is this your first time in Atlanta?
Kaya: Yes, well I have been to the airport. But yeah, this is my first time driving through Atlanta. I love it. I have a friend that is from here, so I love it. I am really excited to see it. What I have seen so far, it’s just so green and beautiful. Especially coming from Miami to get here, it’s like two totally different places. And the accents here are just the best thing ever.
The sets look amazing on screen. Tell us a little about your sets, including “the Maze” and the “Map Room.”
Will: Yeah, the “Map Room” was by far my favorite features of “The Glade.” Pretty much what you see on screen was actually there on set. The walls of “The Glade” were extended with CGI as were the walls of the maze. There were 20 feet of wall, and then the CGI extended it another 80 feed. The Maze walls opened and closed. It meant that we always had something to react to. It was more realistic and naturalistic (sic) to shoot it this way. That was something our director, Wes Ball, was really keen to. He didn’t want us to be tied down to a blue screen while acting. He just didn’t believe in that. That was great for us. It was really comforting to know that the digital effects weren’t going to shroud the acting experience. The CGI couldn’t take over the performances on the screen. The film is more character driven that what people expect. Yeah, CGI just enhanced what was already there. The Maze was phenomenal!
Kaya: I think it’s really special to see that level of craftsmanship. There was a huge amount of crew that was there for months and months. It’s getting rarer and rarer to see actual things that humans have built for the movies. It was so exciting to be on set; it was like being a kid again. It was cool to drive up to the sets. It’s something that we dreamt about as kids. It what we thought movie sets would look like when you were a kid. You know, in twenty yards you’re not going to see something like that. And getting to see all the locals chip in and help build it. We met some great characters that worked on it. I loved that aspect of it and it felt kind of rare.
How was your working relationship with Wes Ball? This was a pretty big undertaking for a first-time director.
Kaya: I get a buzz off of working with first-time directors. I have been so fortunate to work with some incredible first-time directors. Wes was just great! We got along great with him. He’s a young guy and we worried that he might get overwhelmed or lose his cool. He comes from a background of special effects. We waited and waited for him to crack, and he never did. Not once did he raise his voice. Not once did he lose his control, which I respect. He was great and in ten years’ time, we will be saying “We got to work with him first!”
Will: Yeah, definitely. Wes has the potential to be in the same bracket as someone like James Cameron. I really do believe that because he is an incredible combination of vision and talent. He has a wonderful eye for visual effects, along with an unbelievable talent to present characters. He has that ability to headline the truth and the light and not let the narrative get in the way of brilliant storytelling.
Can you talk a little about what attracted you to your characters?
Will: I kind of wanted to play the villain. I really did. I wanted to play the guy that is less likable. I want to play someone who is a very layered, complex individual. A guy that while deep rooted in the tough-guy exterior might be a little fearful or cowardly. So that is what interested me to play this character, who is so in denial of who he is. He is very defensive. He wants to defend who he is and his home. He is very territorial, almost animalistic in that. It’s a fresh take on a unique story. It was awesome working with such a group of up-and-coming young actors.
Kaya: I like a lot of things about my character. She’s a mystery as we don’t find out everything about her. You have to commit to the three stories to get to who she is. I like that she makes certain decisions that not everyone agrees with. Some people are kind of scared to see a woman in a film behave like that. They want us to be softer and delicate. I like that she doesn’t follow that pattern. When she arrives at The Glades, she is not shaking hands and wanting to make friends. She straight away says, “Who the heck are you guys? I want to get out of here! I don’t want to meet you or go on a date with you. I just want to leave.” I love that focus. I love that she has that strength in her. I can’t wait to make the 2nd film because in the book, she makes a decision that a lot of people are going to angry about. I think to get to explore that as an actor is great. I am excited to see how I will work through that.
What was your experience of being the only girl on the set?
Kaya: Honestly, I never felt like the only girl on the set. We were friends straight away. That is special on any job. I love going to work with my friends. There was never a day that I was thinking “Oh, no I’m sitting next to that guy.” The guys didn’t treat me like a girl. They treated me with the same respect that they treated each other. They didn’t change their behavior around me, which I really respected. I loved being around them.
I am curious about how you dealt with your character Will, because you really had to balance between being the villain, while still being a part of the group living in “The Glade.” Talk about that challenge.
Will: Yeah. I loved that it was very collaborative on this film. That Wes really worked with us. He took in our thoughts and welcomed our feedback. My concern with Gaily initially was based on the book on how villainous he was. In the book, he is an outright bad guy. I think what we tried to do in the film was make Gaily a little bit more justified. He needed to be more accessible and less the true villain. He needed to be the voice of the group that may not be the majority, but sometimes doesn’t agree with Thomas. When Thomas is reckless or rash, Gaily is there ready to challenge him, saying, “Hey, this has always worked for years. Why are we suddenly following a complete newbie?” I hope that what comes across is that although Gaily isn’t the nicest bloke in the world, voicing his opinion in a heavy-handed way, there is a sense to what he says. There is a reason behind what he says.
Of the lead actors who would be the most likely to escape from “the Glade?”
Will: Dylan, he’s the All-American athlete and is a fast runner.
Kaya: Yeah, he’s athletic, and we are British, sitting around drinking beer.
Would either of you try to escape?
Will: We have been asked this a lot. I think I would be too scared to try to escape. I think I would just be happy living in “the Glade.” I have always wanted to a “Lost Boy.” That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the movie. I saw the parallels in it with things like “Lord of the Flies.” Yeah, so I think I would kick it in “the Glade.”
Kaya: I would stay with you for a bit. You could cook for me. But I don’t like staying in one place for too long. I have always been an explorer and a dreamer, so I would eventually try to find a way out.
Thanks for talking with us!
Will, Kaya: Thanks for interviewing us.
“The Maze Runner” opens in theatres on Friday.