I heard that, and correct me if I’m wrong, but Jon Chu actually did interviews with you as your character?
We did a lot of rehearsal and when we all first got down there, it was pretty cool. You know, with a movie like this, the action is nuts and on the day there’s explosions and craziness, so there’s not a lot of time to walk away from one of these sets and go, “I have a question about my motivation...” We were on a schedule. So, Jon was gracious enough to carve out a lot of time for Adrianne, Dwayne and myself and other people. And we did, we sat down, we did interviews, we improved a lot, went through different scenarios that were going to happen in the movie, just so that we developed those character relationships and so that on the day, it was muscle memory and we could do it all and make it seamless.
Is that the way you kind of prefer to work overall or was it kind of just specific for this project?
Every project, it depends, but I like to do half and half. I like to do enough preparation so that I can forget about it and then I just kind of naturally know where my guy is coming from but I still have room to spontaneously pop up on the day.
We hear about Lady Jaye’s backstory with her father, but we don’t hear too much about Flint’s backstory. Is that something that you looked to when you’re approaching the character?
Yeah, you know, the Flint character in this film, we’re introducing. So, he’s kind of a younger version. So, you’re kind of watching his introduction into the... yeah, I mean the Flint we all know is leader. It’s him and Duke. We’re trying to illustrate it and hopefully if we continue more movies we’ll watch his full arc continue and we can watch him turn into the leader we’re used to seeing. But we see the things that, you know Flint’s kind of a hard ass who like to do things his own way. We see that with the way he is with Roadblock and the other guys. We know that the Flint and Lady Jaye storyline and where that goes, the beginning of that. So, we just want to hopefully get to grow it out a little more.
In terms of working with Jon Chu, he’s obviously an established director, but it’s mostly through dance films. This is his first big action movie. So. were you kind of, having that knowledge, were you approaching it both with fresh eyes, with that kind of a collaborative sense in the sense that you’re both new to this kind of action world?
Yes and no. I mean, look, I had some experience on some big sort of action movies that didn’t necessarily come to fruition. For Jon, yeah, it was obvious that it was his first big action movie, but the thing is, you can’t hold someone or label them based on the first thing they did. If we did that, we’d have no great directors, we’d have no great actors, we’d have no great anything and he was really... Those movies he made were really successful and really well done. He’s a huge G.I. Joe fan and we both had, we both took it very seriously and we’re both around the same age, so there wasn’t...
Was that a connection as well?
Oh, absolutely. The energy was one of collaboration. It felt like I was playing G.I. Joes with a friend of mine again. So the pressure on the outside, we put the pressure on ourselves. We just wanted to make the best movie we could.
What was the atmosphere like on set? I’ve heard that on days when you have big explosions, it’s actually pretty tense.
It can be. There were days that were just kind of exhilarating. There were days that were exhausting. There were days that were painful. There were days that were just ridiculous laugh out loud fun. It was a big movie and we worked on it for a really long time, but you know, especially because we changed the tone and we wanted it to be a little grittier and a more realistic. That means the fights hurt more, because they’re real and it’s you and the in-camera effects being, they’re real. Those are real explosions. It’s real fire. There’s a lot of real danger. So, it did get really tense. There was a lot of things, there’s only so much chaos you can control. We all got banged up and bruised and there were a few close calls.
I know you did free-running and stuff like that to train. How long was the process and how hard is it? I have to imagine, that’s not easy stuff.
I trained with Team Temp. It’s out of Los Angeles. It’s a great group of free-runners and stunt guys and we worked on it for about two months and then once we got to New Orleans, my stunt double and I built the fight choreography and mixed in hardcore with this close quarter combat fight style and it was incredibly hard, man. I did as much of it as I possibly could. There were a few things, a couple things that were just absolutely death defying, you know there’s only one guy in the world that could pull it off and I give all the credit to my stunt double for that, but I was really proud of it.
Just in kind of getting back to that idea that Jon Chu started with these dance films, was there kind of almost a translation that you saw between fight choreography and dance choreography?
There kind of was in a way. I think it’s just, it comes down to Jon’s creative choice and his aesthetic taste. He’s very good at capturing kinetic movement and that’s exactly what those two things are and you know, I think his eye lends itself to both and I think that’s why he did so well with it.