How did you end up with the role?
It started off because I got some tweets on Twitter saying, "I hear they're casting young Jean Grey, you're ginger – maybe you should do it!" I love X-Men, so I asked my agent if I could audition. I think I did about three auditions and they called me to LA for a screen test. I tested with Tye (Sheridan), who plays Cyclops, Alexandra (Shipp), who plays Storm, and then a couple of weeks later, I found out I got the part and it was amazing!
Given your prior knowledge, did you read up on Jean before going for the role? And did (director) Bryan Singer or (writer/producer) Simon Kinberg give you homework?
No, they never actually made me do any homework. Before the screen test, I met with Bryan and I asked him for any advice. He said, "Know your character," and luckily, when I was really young, I read a couple of the comics so I knew who Jean was, and a bit of her background. I obviously did my research, including watching all the movies. And then once I got the part, I emailed Famke (Janssen), who played Jean in the first three movies, to ask her if she had any advice or any moves (is this meant to be 'movies?') I should watch to prepare for the role and she kind of just said, " You've gotten this far, so you must know Jean pretty well...."
So how did Bryan pitch this take on the character? What is Jean's story this time?
In this film, she's at the school; she's very young and very alienated, because she's a very powerful mutant, even at that young age. So much so that she almost scares the other mutants, possessing incredible power that she can't control. She's very much pushed to the corner, but she alienates herself as well because she doesn't want to be the center of attention. She just wants to be a teenager, not an all-powerful mutant. So it's about how she learns to embrace her powers.
There are always themes in Bryan's movies. So what for you, and for Jean, is the theme in Apocalypse?
I've seen all the movies and the ongoing theme is Jean trying to be comfortable in herself and with her powers. Days of Future Past changed a lot of things, so you never know if Jean is going to be battling it in years to come like she was in The Last Stand. We'll see. She might embrace them and be able to work with them, who knows?
How was it taking over the role, and joining a film series with such a huge, passionate fan base?
Going into it was quite nerve-wracking, because Famke did such an amazing job and the fan base is so passionate and has very high expectations. I guess I was sort of used to it with Game of Thrones, but this is a whole new game for me, and a whole new set of fans. I try not to think about it too much, and we definitely didn't when we were shooting it, we just blocked out the rest of the world. I haven't really looked at the response yet. I'm just hoping that the producers made the right decision to cast me, and as long as they're happy, I'm happy.
Did the existing cast make you newcomers feel welcome?
Oh my goodness, yes! Almost to a degree I really wasn't expecting. They're so established and have such an amazing relationship with each other. Tye, Alex and I were all a little bit nervous but they definitely welcomed us with open arms. We all bonded, we went to concerts together, we went out together, and formed a really good relationship before we even got on set. To this day they're some of my best friends.
Did you get to participate in the behind-the-scenes fun this cast gets up to between scenes? Even the BB gun fights?
Yes! We were all involved in the BB gun fights. It was nice because it was so hot in Montreal and we'd all just go outside at lunch time, pull out our BB guns and have fights with each other. And there were a ton of games we'd play on set, such as truth or dare. It was probably the most fun I've had on a movie. I don't know how Bryan and the assistant directors had tolerance for us, because we all went back about five years and became giddy teenagers!
How was it working with Bryan as director?
Bryan is the mastermind behind all of the X-Men movies. He knows everything there is to know. You ask him any question and he immediately has the answer and is so passionate about the films. So having him on set is a real blessing, because you ask him one thing and he can end up telling you a character's background and the whole story, and it's fascinating. He’s amazing to work with; he is very collaborative and loves to hear input. James (McAvoy) is also a very collaborative person, and he likes to add his own input. I remember we had one scene laid out and James flipped it all on its head and said, "What if this happens... and this..." And he changed the direction of the scene and Bryan went with it and said, "Yeah, this is amazing," and it turned out to be a really great scene. It was a very collaborative process and we all felt very involved.
You have some experience with effects work, but Apocalypse sounds like it was much bigger. How was the experience?
It was crazy, it was pretty much like nothing I've seen before. I don't really work with that much green screen so all the explosions and lightning and thunder were insane! Meanwhile, people are waving their hands around and things are moving from one place to another; it was very surreal – the kind of film set you imagine when you're a 10-year-old. I think that's why we all turned into children, because we were all running round like, "That's so cool!"
What was it like hanging on a harness pretending to levitate?
It was really fun for the first 10 minutes! And then it did get painful in the groin area... But no, it was really cool, I love that kind of stuff, it feels very active!
Did you have to master looking effective while using your powers? And did you have to have any specific training?
I trained and I worked out for three months prior to the filming, and then during, but I didn't have to do any specific training, because for my character it's all done with my mind and moving my hands around. But I watched the way Famke would use her hands and the looks she would use in order to convey whatever she needed to. And then I watched James, and how he puts two fingers to his forehead for any kind of telepathy and tried to take in from both of those performances and combine them to make my own.
It's set in the 1980s and also features new X-Men uniforms. Did you enjoy your look?
The costumes were amazing. Obviously you get the superhero spandex stuff and then my favorite costumes were actually Jean's everyday wear in 1983 with the big shoulder pads and the bright colors and the big hair. I loved it! It was all quite Breakfast Club inspired, which was really interesting. And during every costume fitting we'd have '80s music playing to get us in the mood, so it was a really fun process to find that style.
Days of Future Past was pretty big, but Apocalypse seems huge. What can fans expect this time?
This one is a step up, the whole world is in jeopardy and it's down to just a few people to save it. It's on a huge scale and you could definitely feel it when you were on set – the destruction that Apocalypse and the Horsemen cause is unbelievable. It's a big one, and it requires everyone united together to defeat this guy.
Jennifer Lawrence is a big Game of Thrones fan. So was she trying to get information from you on set?
Yeah! Definitely. I was on set with her the day after Jon Snow was killed in the last season and she said, "Please tell me! Please tell me! Tell me he's alive!" She told me she would text me every day to find out about the secrets, she was insistent! But I didn't tell her!
X-Men Apocalypse is out now on Digital. Available on 3D, Blu-ray & DVD September 28.
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