Note: The following interview was conducted on the set of Terminator: Genisys on July 11th 2014 in a roundtable with other journalists. The full interview transcript follows.
Was it intimidating taking on these iconic roles?
Emilia: Exciting more than intimidating, I’d say.
Jai: I’d agree. I don’t think it’s intimidating. I think you always have a bit of material there to work with, but the idea isn’t to try to recreate the performance of someone else. It’s the same character in the story, but with freedom to bring your own stuff to it. I didn’t feel intimidated by it.
Emilia: No. Yeah, we’re taking on something that is legendary and beautiful in itself. What we are doing do it is incredibly exciting, and different, and kind of embracing what has already happened but getting the opportunity to create something new, which is always fun.
You guys have both taken on projects that have incredibly fan bases. Obviously Game of Thrones…you stepped in for Die Hard. Have you guys learned how to just deal with it and just kinda focus on what it is you are going to bring to your performances?
Emilia: Yeah. I think so.
Jai: The fan base thing, I don’t know. That’s something I don’t concern myself with too much. I mean you probably deal with crazy shit with Thrones…
Jai: That doesn’t really play into the performance aspect so much. I don’t know. Yeah, it’s weird. I’ve worked on a few things where there’s either been an inbuilt fan base or, you know, like novel adaptations. That’s another thing where there’s an awareness about what fans of the story…what their opinion will be. It’s not constructive to approach it with that in mind. You can’t.
Emilia: I think that’s where you look to the makers of the project that you are in. you trust that they made a good choice and the thing that you have naturally as actors that you are going to bring to the role is the right element for the project you are in. You’re lucky getting to do a novel, because, kind of like a cheat sheet, you have all the answers written in the book and you are just kinda dealing with other people’s imaginations. Whereas with Terminator, we’re taking on something that already lives on screen. But that’s where the brilliant writing and everything that we’ve kind of built takes over. And you just get to slide into place and hope that you are doing the right thing.
Did you look at previous iterations of your characters when you were characterizing….
Jai: I didn’t spend a great time…I think just for context that was there. I watched the films again. But it’s like every incarnation. I don’t know that there needs to be emphasis on trying to do what Michael Biehn did with it in 1984. What’s the point of that? I’m a different actor, so the performance is going to be different. The character is the same. You’ve still got the same kind of setup. We’ve introduced new things that we learn more about the character than we did in previous editions.
Emilia: Sort of taking the fundamentals of what the characters originally were and putting them in such a wildly different context that you are changing the course of their lives, so thereby changing their characteristics. So you kind of, as an actor, get to explore that.
In the first movie we’re dealing with this interesting dynamic of how he’s just this hardened character coming back to a world that’s very soft. She’s not really the Sarah Connor yet that we know now. She’s still a bit soft herself. Are we going to see that in this one or are we looking at totally different versions of these characters?
Jai: I wouldn’t say we’re looking at totally different versions, but I think…
Publicist: I think it’s fair to say that you are the same people shaped by different circumstances.
Jai: That’s a pretty good way of framing it.
Emilia: Nice! What he said. That’s exactly right.
When we talked Jason, he was talking about kind of relating this to Apes in the sense that they are both these big blockbuster films that, to him, have great story. He was instantly wrapped in it. It had an authenticity. Can you guys talk about what hooked you into this from the script?
Jai: I think it’s rooted in the relationships. There’s a great dynamic between Kyle and Sarah. How Sarah and … I think it’s really interesting how all the characters in this feel a different way about one another. There’s kind of four characters at the center of it. I don’t think…not one of us has the same opinion about the other, the exchange with another character. So that dynamic, that setup is really interesting to me.
And of course, yeah, the kind of epic action pieces which, for me, really come alive later on. I find it sometimes quite hard to lift that off the page. I mean you can see the potential of where you are going, but it’s not till you’ve read it a bunch or perhaps even heard it out loud. I remember the table read was when I really got a sense of how some of those kind of action sequences would come to life. And then your mind is blow again when you step on a set like this. It’s like, “Holy Shit…” I know there’s going to be a green screen…
Emilia: It’s a lot of green…
Jai: But there’s also an incredible amount of creation that’s got into building these sets. It’s epic.
Is there still room to fall in love with all the stuff that’s going on for your characters? Is that still a really integral part of you guy’s growth in this?
Emilia: Yeah. The thing that hooked me was that the new circumstances that these characters that you know and love have been thrown into and the way that they respond to it, and the kind of truths that still remain are beautiful, definitely based in a “he’s alright” kind of way.
What was it like working with Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Jai: It’s good. It’s great. It was pretty surreal at the table read when he was sitting next to us and he said certain lines, which may or may not be in the script. That was pretty funny. I mean it was just like, “Holy Shit, totally. “We’re making Terminator. There it is.” But no, it’s cool. The cast is great. We all get along really well. Whole lot of fun.
Did you have a “Holy shit! I’m making Terminator moment yet?
Emilia: Yes. Kind of daily at the moment. Every day you’re like, “OK. It can’t get any more insane, or big, or epic, or exciting” and it just does. It just keeps getting more…As we’re kind of building up to filming the end of the movie, as well, it’s getting more exciting.
What is the relationship between your character and Jason’s? You are his left-hand guy, but you are also now his father.
Jai: It’s exactly that.
How does that change things from before you got sent back to…
Jai: I don’t know what to drop into with that…
I think it is what it is. It’s a topic that you’ll see dealt with head on for the first time in this movie compared to anything you’ve seen before. Do you guys get a lot of great banter around that subject, you and Jason?
Publicist: The script is not going to dance around the relationship or the fact of it. It’s not going to be like, “Oh, for through circumstances they never actually find out or talk about it.” It will come up and be addressed. It would be a copout to do anything else.
Could we talk about their growing up with the movies and loving the movies? I wonder if you guys, before signing onto the movie, came at it from a huge fan perspective.
Jai: I don’t know if it was a huge fan perspective. Terminator 2 I watched…I think we had it on VHS. It was like just one of those, you know, as a kind you can watch certain films over, and over, and over, and over again. I know that film very, very well. I wouldn’t say I was kind of a devout follower of the series, per se, but definitely familiar with…It always makes a good story to say you are finally involved with something that was like a dream. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case. But it’s very cool.
Emilia: I had an older brother and he made me watch it from a young age. So I fell in love with it then, and now I have massive brother cred, which never gets old.
So this has been a life changing experience for your brother.
Emilia: Yeah! He’s like over the moon. I loved it. He forced me to watch it.
You also have a Game of Thrones co-star who starred as Sarah Connor in the TV show.
Emilia: I do! Yeah! She’s going to win an Emmy, I hear.
Have you had a chance to talk to her about it?
Emilia: Yeah, yeah. Dave and Dan, the writers of the show, keep wanting us to fight. So maybe that will happen. I don’t know, take each other on. Yes. We’ve had a bit of banter about it.
Linda Hamilton, especially in Terminator 2, was so iconic, especially because of these arms. When you got this part, were you testing your arms or did that ever come up on your radar as a worry or concern?
Emilia: Yeah. Yeah and no.
Publicist: Neither one of them is in a position to brag about this themselves, so I’ll say it for them. It’s kind of a wonder that they’ve had time to shoot, because they also work out like 22 hours a day, 6 days a week. Just the few months leading up to production, the physical transformation for both of you was intimidating.
Emilia: Yeah. And getting to play with real guns as well as the ones growing in your arms.
What was it like being in front of the Nikes and the duster?
Jai: The Nikes are perhaps the best part about this movie…
Jai: And possibly the only reason I’m here. I’m hoping to steal a pair.
Publicist: Better hurry. They are almost all gone.
Jai: Yeah. No, very cool. I’ve definitely got dibs on some. I have a particular friend who is a real sneaker head and he’s rather jealous.