Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje may have made his name with his television roles as Mr. Eko from “Lost” or the downright chilling Simon Adebisi from HBO’s “Oz” but it’s beginning to look more and more likely that his stellar work on television has made for a smooth transition to the big screen with the multi-faceted actor’s performances in flicks like Faster, G.I. Joe, Killer Elite and the upcoming Universal Studio’s project The Thing (review here).
In the prequel, Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays Derrick Jameson, the yin to Braxton Carter’s (Joel Edgerton) yang. The pair of war vets are responsible for transporting a research team to the Norwegian base camp in the Arctic after an alien creature and its ship are discovered frozen deep within the ice below their feet.
Dread Central recently caught up with Akinnuoye-Agbaje for a roundtable interview during the press day for The Thing at Universal Studios where he chatted with us about his thoughts on making a prequel as a supplement to John Carpenter’s original 1982 classic thriller, the differences between European and American horror, surviving the pranks of co-star Edgerton and much more.
Check out our roundtable interview with Akinnuoye-Agbaje below and look for more on The Thing which hits theaters on Friday coming later this week!
Question: So, would you say that you were you a fan of the original film?
Akinnuoye-Agbaje: A big fan. In the 80’s while growing up in England there weren’t a lot of mentors, or actors that you could aspire to. In the (John) Carpenter original it was the first time you saw black characters (Keith David) living to the end of the movies and portrayed as individuals as opposed to a role that just plays off of their color. I thought the casting was great because it was diverse and they were real characters; they felt like real guys and so that original movie was a huge influence on me.
Question: Does that mean that you saw yourself stepping into the Keith David role, even though this a prequel?
Akinnuoye-Agbaje: I wouldn’t say stepping in necessarily but I would say I’m certainly representing the African American demographic. With The Thing being a prequel you always try to put your own stamp on things and this is a different kind of character. I play Derrick Jameson, who’s a buddy to Carter, who’s played by Joel Edgerton and we’ve set up a ferrying system at the Antarctic, which is a little different. Being British it was nice to play an American character and knowing that David Foster, the original producer, was involved meant it would be steered in the right direction.
Question: In terms of horror movies, would you say that there is a vast difference between European and American horror films?
Akinnuoye-Agbaje: You know, I think they made an interesting decision in hiring Matthijs (van Heijningen Jr.) for the movie. I think Universal wanted that European element in this movie. Both have their strong points but I think a European brings an intellectual side to it because it seems that you get more invested in the characters than just big bangs. And he was particularly insistent on the acting. The star of the movie is ‘the thing’ so we were in service of that. This is an ensemble so it’s all about actors and we had to be real with the horror the suspense. This was the first movie like this I’ve done and it’s very hard to act like you’re scared and not overact or trying to be too cool. Matthijs was very insistent on keeping everything feeling authentic down to the Norwegians speaking Norwegian and I like that. He’s an actor’s director.
Question: So what was your reaction the first time you saw the creature?
Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Actually, I was physically repulsed even though I think they did an amazing job. They didn’t unveil it to us as a cast until the last quarter of the movie; we shot The Thing like a drama at first and then all of a sudden these prosthetic animated creatures, some even fashioned on the faces of the actors were showing up on set and it was very surreal and very gory. But it was great for an actor to have that instead of a green screen and someone calling “now an arm falls off. Aaah.” I think there’s a point in the movie where you can see the reaction, and it’s real, because you can’t believe it. My first reaction was “are you kidding me?” (laughs)
Question: You mentioned earlier being a fan of the original. What was your initial reaction upon reading the script, and doing it as a side prequel rather than a remake?
Akinnuoye-Agbaje: You know, I was really happy that it was a prequel. It makes you a little nervous when you’re doing a straight remake and considering how great the original is, that to tackle as a remake is just asking for trouble. For me, I did four movies this year and they’re all coming out now so I liked the range of Jameson. I played English against De Niro in Killer Elite, and playing Jameson was my chance to not only play an American but do a buddy role as well. I also just did a film where I’m the arch-enemy- and he’s a real meanie- but this guy in The Thing gave me a chance to be cool, relaxed and affable so it was a good choice because it shows off another side to my talent and my repertoire.
Question: You spend most of your time on screen playing against Joel Edgerton; what was it like working alongside him on The Thing?
Akinnuoye-Agbaje: Joel was great; he’s Australian and I’m British so there was an immediate synergy there. You come into these movies and you’re supposed to play best buddies where you have known each other for 20 years and I’d never met him before this movie in my life so you have to find a way to form that bond very quickly. But with Joel it was very easy because we had a lot of things in common and we hung out; from day one we hit it off with lots of pranks and fun on set.
Question: What kind of pranks?
Akinnuoye-Agbaje: He loves to play with the vocabulary, shall we say and a lot of our scenes were shot in a pilot cabin so you’ve got these big tungsten lights beating down on you as you’re wearing five or six layers dripping with sweat and trying to look cold, and so you just sit there for hours telling each other jokes; relying on the very dirty ones to keep each other awake. Boy stuff; it was always hard to keep a straight face.
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