Alethea recently had the amazing privilege of sitting down for a chat with the cast of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (PG-13), coming to theaters everywhere on September 18! Read on for more from the interview with Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Ki Hong Lee, Dexter Darden, and Rosa Salazar. Make sure you enter to win a copy of the book signed by the cast (!!!) and a $25 gift certificate so you can go watch The Scorch Trials at your local movie theater*. Remember to use the hashtag #ScorchTrials when you tweet at us about this film!
*US Only, ends 9/17/2015, and if your local theater doesn't have gift cards, I'll send it to the winner some other way. Book prize was provided by, and Screening/Junket were hosted by 20th Century Fox.
Director Wes Ball again helms the cast of The Maze Runner in The Scorch Trials, with T.S. Nowlin adapting James Dashner's novel, the second in the series. The relief that Thomas and the Gladers may have felt after escaping the maze in the first film evaporates as a chopper drops them in the middle of The Scorch, a big, burning, dusty nowhere, and despite the food, clothes, and (finally!) real beds provided by their caretakers, it quickly dawns on them that they've just exchanged one prison for another.
The second movie picks up the moment the first one leaves off, and lead actor Dylan O'Brien (Thomas) told us what it was like to get back into character. "Everyone was just like, giddy, jumping up in the hallways." Kaya Scodelario (Teresa) confirmed he'd sent them videos of himself jumping in the hotel, "'cause we were that excited". Putting the costume back on reminded Ki Hong Lee (Min Ho) how he felt at the end of the last film, and Dexter Darden (Frypan) reminisced that the cast mates have been able to know each other and feel like a family. Indeed, the group has a relaxed way with each other that makes it difficult to believe it's anything but real camaraderie.
I asked them about the stunts, which O'Brien said were pretty fun. Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Newt) chimed in, "It’s us traveling through this scorched, barren landscape. And so, if we weren’t kind of put to the test ourselves, then I don’t think it would’ve been as realistic." Darden added, "[Wes Ball] just allows us to throw ourselves in. And that’s what gets the real performance."
The Scorch Trials was shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in contrast to the greenery of Louisiana where Maze Runner was filmed. Asked about injuries on set, the cast recounted a sprained wrist (O'Brien), a broken ankle (Barry Pepper, who plays rebel leader Vince), and a concussion (Rosa Salazar, who joins the original cast as a possible ally named Brenda). Scodelario, Lee, and Darden all ended up in the hospital at some point. Darden mused, "I think Albuquerque’s just kind of a different beast because you’re dealing with altitude and you’re dealing with less oxygen as well. And this movie was definitely more physical.... I think our bodies were just kind of running down and just saying, hey, slow down a little bit." Scodelario joked that one of them must have taken an ancient relic, but also seriously praised the health care they received, nodding as she said, "Albuquerque Hospital was, by the way, really great."
Regarding their new cast member, veteran actor Giancarlo Esposito (Jorge, a gang leader in the Scorch), O'Brien recalls their excitement and the thrill of meeting him. "Just having a guy like that treating you, treating us like, one of his... It’s so weird for us. It’s such a trip because we admire a guy like that so much. And I’ve seen Giancarlo in movies since I was ten years old."
Scodelario talked about the ease of introducing new people into the mix. She noted how different the original cast's personalities were, and that this diversity is why they get along so well. "By the second, Jacob [Lofland] arrived, he was one of us. The second Rosa [Salazar] arrived, she was one of us... And there wasn’t anyone that was like, “Oh, I’m just going to go back to my room and watch TV.” Brodie-Sangster commented, "It was nice to have new people come in, and they do just, by the nature of it, inject a new energy... it’s quite nice because it reignites your energy for the piece as well."
The group chatted on about good-natured pranks (like Will Poulter, who played Gally, putting love letters in Frypan's apron during the first film's shoot), and forming a band with Ki Hong Lee's stand-in. "We did jam," affirmed Brodie-Sangster, who plays bass. "We should’ve gotten it going a lot sooner," gushed O'Brien, who used to drum for an indie rock band. "We regretted it because we only did it the last couple weeks that we were there. And then we were like, “Oh, my gosh. Why haven’t we been jamming like this the whole time?” It was really cool."
Next up, we talked to Giancarlo Esposito and Rosa Salazar, the newbies of the group. They both confirmed that the original cast welcomed them in as soon as they arrived. "I gotta say we were welcomed really, really beautifully," offered Esposito, who expanded on working with director Wes Ball, how open he and the rest of the cast were to ideas about their characters that he and Salazar brought to work with them.
Their characters in the film are very closely entwined, but whether they are father and daughter or some other relationship is purposefully vague. "Partners to the utmost, you know?," said Salazar, sipping a green juice. Esposito echoed, "Partners. Exactly." Salazar continued, "It was very ambiguous on purpose, and thanks to Wes, it remained that way. Not all relationships need to be explained."
Salazar said of The Scorch Trials, "When I read the script, I got really turned on by it, so I read the book. And, you can just devour this book. It's so readable. In a day you're just through it." The book and the film version are vastly different, but Esposito said, "No matter how different the script is than the book that the script is based on, it's always nice because we have a very close family. And what I love about this movie, is that James Dashner [the author] is a part of our family as well, and our writer, T.S. Nowlin, is also quite prolific at translating and bringing that book to the screen."
Salazar told us a little about herself which relates in a direct way to her character, Brenda. "I feel like I have cultivated this tenacity over the years. I didn't have a very picture perfect upbringing, so that kind of primed me for life... It was not a huge deal. I grew up in the foster system, and I emancipated myself, which is a lot better than some people have, but when they hear, like, "Oh my gosh. That's so terrible." And, I'm like, well actually the world can be a pretty bleak and lonely and sort of competitive place, and if anything, it primed me to be able to handle that."
For Esposito, it was about helping others and being part of a group. He said, "What I love about this movie and why I chose it was because we are a family. That's really it, it's the hand that reaches out that lifts someone else up that is the truth of why we're really here... All we really have here is all these things, whether they be physical things or money, and that's just a tool to be able to help someone else to realize their dream in this lifetime."
"And so I recognized that about Jorge. He's found a place to save a bunch of people for as long as he can, and that makes him feel good but also allows them, empowers them to be able to have a moment, to be educated, to get strong--whatever it is--to be able to fight the next battle."
Asked what may account for young people being so drawn to books and movies like The Maze Runner series, Esposito alluded to a sense of hopelessness in the world. "I think we're in a state now with young people where they're looking not only to be entertained by movies, but they recognize that there is something different about this one and something more hopeful and deeper about it because this movie allows them to feel like they can be a part of a new world. Because we're just not looking for simply revenge. We're looking for freedom. We're looking to be together, and we're looking to create it in a whole new way."