Thursday, June 2, 2011

Interview: Edi Gathegi Is First Class

Edi Gathegi, photo by Tyler Shields
"X-Men: First Class" opens nationwide tomorrow to excellent reviews, and I am sure, an excellent box office as well. I recently spoke with Edi Gathegi — perhaps best known for his portrayal of Laurent in "Twilight" and "New Moon" — who plays Darwin in this latest superhero incarnation. You can bet he's got me itching to see this thinking-man's action movie.

Celebrity Extra: My first major exposure to you as an actor was in the "Twilight" series. When you were filming "Twilight," at the time it was a smallish movie that not a lot of people knew about. And then it just exploded, I think a lot with the help of MTV and the Internet. Could you have ever guessed that it would morph into such a mega enterprise that it’s become?

Edi Gathegi: Well, a couple of things happened, I went through different generations of emotional feelings about it. I thought when I first booked it, knowing the book series, I immediately thought I would be a part of a trilogy. They were making the first movie of a three-book series ("Breaking Dawn" had not been published). I thought, This is it; this is the major franchise. And the reality of it is, people have to actually go to the movie in order for them to want to make the sequel. So, my expectations had dropped, and my hopes and dreams were dashed. 

And then we made the movie, and we experienced a common occurrence where a lot of the fans camped out overnight just to see us. The increase of the book sales was astronomical after we did the movie. So, that restored my confidence that this could be major, and then it did become major. But then my character didn’t survive past the second movie. (Laughter) It was up and down, up and down, but nevertheless, it’s still a great thing to be a part of.

CE: Were you disappointed to be killed off in "New Moon"?

EG: No, there is a reason for everything. I was definitely disappointed, but at the same time if I hadn’t had gotten “fired” from the team at "House," and if I wouldn’t have gotten "fired" from "Eclipse" and "Breaking Dawn," then I wouldn’t have gotten to do "X-Men: First Class." And "X-Men" honesty is like a dream of mine, because I was an excellent fan growing up, and I love the first two movies that they did. And to be a part of the "X-Men" franchise is such an honor, in any capacity.

CE: What can you tell me about your character and his place in the movie, without giving away too much, because I like to remain spoiler-free.

EG: Good, that’s a good way to go into it. I’m the same way. So, I don’t know anything about my character to that effect. (Laughter) Just kidding. My character, his name is Darwin. He’s named after Charles Darwin, because his mutation is reaction adaptation. Which basically means he’s in a constant state of evolution. Like if the house fills up in flames, he becomes fireproof. If he gets thrown into the ocean, he grows gills. If he gets capitulated into outer space for some bizarre reason, he doesn’t need oxygen to breathe. He will adapt to any environment to keep himself alive.

CE: Wow, that’s the best superpower!

EG: You know what? I think so too! Darwin is a relatively new mutant introduced into the franchise. But if he was around when I was a kid, it would be all about Darwin. As it was, I was all about Wolverine. That’s who I loved. But if Darwin were there, I would have been a Darwin geek.

CE: You also have a lot of kick-ass actors in the movie with you. Like, James McAvoy and Kevin Bacon. How were they to work with and how was the cast in general?

EG: Goodness gracious — they assembled a fiercely talented cast. Kevin Bacon: He’s Hollywood royalty. He’s an old-school brilliant actor, and he’s like the nicest guy. He’s the most noncelebrity celebrity you’ll ever meet. Super down-to-earth, super funny, super nice and smart — I’m a huge fan of Kevin Bacon, can you tell? 

And then James McAvoy, he’s just got crazy skill. We did a read-through on one of the first days, and I was just in awe of him. I said, “If he does his performance just like he did this first read-through, he’s gonna slay it!" Michael Fassbender: He’s a real actor; he’s a man’s man. He’s got a lot of talent. Across the board, they just hired talented people.

CE: What I really love about the "X-Men" franchise is that they hire actors first. It’s not that they’re hiring action stars, they hire actors first. I think that’s what makes them a step above many of the other action franchises.

EG: I think what makes a good movie is story and characters; "X-Men" is going to have the strength of a blockbuster movie, and it's also about character and story. It's definitely the thinking-man’s action movie. Which in my opinion makes the best kind of action movie. 

CE: I guess you’re accustomed to it because of "Twilight," but are you ready for the fanboys and fangirls craziness when this comes out?
EG: I think so. I think I’ve been through the rodeo once or twice before, and I think instead of the girls screaming, it will be the guys being shy. Because guys try to play it cool: “Hey, you’re in 'X-Men'! That’s cool, man. Good luck.”

CE: What can you tell me about the pilot for USA network, in which you're slated to star?

EG: The pilot is called "Wild Card," and it’s about Vegas law. Basically, when people go to Vegas and they have the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” But only if you happen to get a lawyer. Let’s say someone gets thrown in jail for partying too hard or doing whatever. Our job is to get him out of jail before the sun comes up. So, it’s like a 12-hour nighttime procedural with a comic twist. Quirky characters, fun scenarios and I play the detective to the lawyers.

CE: I really like that premise. I would watch that.

EG: Well, you should! It’s probably going to be picked up. It’s a great script, I met Ben (Lawson) yesterday at a barbecue, and I think he’s just a great actor. He’s going to do so well on the show. And the script is solid. I love my character. I cannot wait to play it. Hopefully people respond to it and it has a chance to be on the air.

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