I recently got the opportunity to talk to Jesse Reid about his role in ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’. Here, Jesse talks about how he got involved in the project, and who has influenced him as an actor…
Hey Jesse. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ is currently in UK cinemas. The film is a origin story set in San Fransisco, where man’s own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
Thank you very much! I appreciate the chance to chat!
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
My character’s name is Donnie Thompson. I play a veterinary technician at a genetic engineering lab called GenSys who helps take care of an ape that has been given gene therapy in order to heighten her brain functioning. The tests and gene therapy are being run in an effort to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In the story, (as well as in the ‘Planet of the Apes’ timeline), she is the first ape to receive such a brain boost. Ultimately what happens (I hope I’m not giving too much away) is that she gets a bit aggressive and I get tossed around in the turmoil. She escapes and tears through the GenSys Labs only to get shot and killed. It nicely sets the tone for a great film.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
Way, way back in July of 2010, I auditioned for the role of a character called Adams, who was later re-named Robert Franklin and ended up being played by a wonderful actor called Tyler Labine. I went in and read a fairly simple scene which later turned out to be re-written and morphed into a number of different scenes in the film. I guess they wanted to throw together a fairly broad scene that they could test actors out on, without giving away the general plotline of what was considered then a highly anticipated re-boot. I made it to the call-back round which is where you perform the sides in front of either a director or producer or usually both. That day it was just the director, Rupert Wyatt. I remember getting called into the room all ready to do my thing while he was mid-conversation with the casting director. I just kind of stood there awkwardly for about a minute. Finally, he asked me to come back in a couple of minutes so they could finish their chat. So, I stepped outside thinking it was something I did or that maybe I should have had enough charisma to grab their attention or something stupid like that, barely taking into account that he was probably a very busy man at the time with a million things to worry about at that stage in production. Either way, I made it into the room, did my little shtick and left. I thought I would probably never hear back! Luckily, I got a call from my agent saying I had booked the role.
Obviously, taking into account the previous franchise – which is your favourite ‘Planet Of The Apes’ movie?
To be honest, it had been so long since I’ve seen the films. I don’t think I’ve seen them all in fact. I think as a child I saw the remake when it came out. I’ve also seen ‘Escape From The Planet Of The Apes’, which I really enjoyed. However, on this one, out of sheer ignorance and bias, I have to side with ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’. And not just because I’m in it! I found this flick really enjoyable to watch. I loved the effects even though a lot of people trashed them. Taking into consideration that every ape was 100% CGI – you’ve really gotta give it to the avatar people. Some of those scenes were nearly indistinguishable. Of course, it would have meant nothing if the story was shitty, and it wasn’t. There were some breathtaking moments and it was an enjoyable plot to follow.
How would you say this film tries to stand out and be unique to its previous installments?
Well, a big thing about this instalment is the CGI! This is the first ‘Apes’ film where they relied completely on CGI to portray the apes, and I think it went splendidly. I loved the way they weaved the plot together and threw in the odd easter-egg now and again. Again, I won’t give too much away, but there are a few famous lines re-created in this version. I think another big thing is the sympathy you have for the apes in this one. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sided with the apes for most of the film. While the movie mainly was a fun ride, it was also neat to see the underlying threads of oppression that the apes felt and the darker side of humans. Aside from the 3-4 main characters and perhaps the character I played, the other humans were jerks in this one. By the end, I wanted the apes to win!
The film stars the likes of Andy Serkis, James Franco, John Lithgow and Brian Cox – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I never got a chance to meet any of the actors above. I was only on set for a couple of days to shoot the two scenes I had. I was James Franco adjacent for a scene that was later removed from the film, I guess because of time or because it simply didn’t fit. We didn’t share any words, but he seemed like a nice fellow. It’s great however to be in a film with so many people whose body of work I admire. The crew on the film was absolutely amazing! I have had the pleasure of working with many of them before on the set of the film ‘Watchmen’. The stunt co-ordinator named Mitch, who organized me getting tossed around – was a great help and taught me a lot, and my stunt double Raymond Chan took a wall to the back just to make the action sequence look extra cool. It was also a blast to have such a great scene with Tyler Labine, a fellow Vancouver/Los Angeles actor who is quickly making his way into the public consciousness. He’s a skilled actor and he’s very friendly.
If an ape could suddenly talk, what do you think it’s first words would be?
“I LOVE BANANAS!!!!”
Let’s talk a bit about you Jesse. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I started acting about 6 years ago when I was 14. The idea of being an actor was always what I loved, so I found an agent and started taking classes, which was where I really fell in love with the art and craft of acting. I booked a small role on a T.V show called ‘The Evidence’ which had a brief run on ABC in the U.S. Then shortly after, I booked my first role in a film, ‘Watchmen’. It was a huge blast and opened up huge doors for the rest of my so-far very tiny career. I’ve been very lucky thus far to work on some of the projects I have and I’ve learned a ton of valuable knowledge that I’ll use to find some bigger roles on films or television in the future.
Which movies and actors has inspired you as an artist?
The list is pretty long but I have to say my list of inspirational performers is probably pretty standard. Robin Williams is a great actor, whom I loved as a child and whose career I still love to follow. He’s a great actor both comedic and in dramas. Will Smith was always another inspiration to me growing up. He’s got such a diverse array of roles throughout his career. It’s pretty admirable. Paul Giamatti is another hero of mine. I love character acting, that’s really the direction I want to take my career. Jason Segal is a really great actor, his work is really honest and real which is a skill that I strive for in my own journey. Some films I enjoyed them in, in no particular order were ‘Hook’, ‘Death To Smoochie’, ‘One Hour Photo’, ‘Pursuit Of Happyness’, ‘Man On The Moon’, the John Adams mini-series, ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’, and ‘I Love You, Man’. The list goes on and on but I think that’s a good ballpark of my favorite actors and films.
If I gave you a room to decorate, which colour would you paint it in and why?
I would probably keep it white, I’m a bit of a minimalist.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
The London riots are national news here in Canada and they are definitely something I’ve been keeping my eye on. I still don’t really know much about them or their cause so I won’t comment too much. Without condoning the criminal activity, I certainly found the idea of lawlessness and rioting fascinating. Not good, but certainly interesting.
You’ve had numerous roles in different films and TV projects – who has been your favourite actor to work with and which has been your favourite project to be part of?
I’ve been very lucky to have acted alongside some really great people and consider myself lucky to have worked with a wide array of performers that I admire. I recently acted in a movie called ‘This Means War’ starring Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy. I got to act in a number of scenes with Chris which was so much fun for me. I was so fortunate to have been able to jump in the ring with a real-live movie star. He knew exactly what he was doing on camera and the experience lent me some knowledge for future projects. It was also cool to get to meet Tom Hardy – this was shot around the time that he was announced to be in ‘Dark Knight Rises’ and not long after his role in ‘Inception’ so it almost felt like an achievement to be on the same project! I don’t know if I could ever pick a favorite. I really do love being on any set. In 2008, I was on a show called ‘Under One Roof’. It was a sitcom starring Flavor Flav from Public Enemy. It got cancelled pretty quickly, but we got to shoot an entire season, where I got to learn the workings of a 4-camera sitcom. I also gained so much confidence being in front of a camera six days a week for nearly three months. Nothing ever really came of it, but I’ll always treasure that time in my life and experiences.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
This year I’ll be in a live adaptation of a cartoon franchise called ‘The Fairly Odd Parents’. It should be out already or coming out sometime before fall. Sorry, I’m really horrible with this stuff so I don’t have any exact dates. I also filmed a movie called ‘Lloyd The Conqueror’ about three community college students who join a LARP tournament. It should be hitting the festival circuit in North America by the fall. It’s starring Brian Posehn and Mike Smith of ‘Trailer Park Boys’ fame. I will be in an episode of the new R.L Stine series ‘The Haunting Hour’ on Hub Network in the states. The title of the episode is Mascot. Last but not least, ‘This Means War’ should be coming out in February of next year.
Thanks for the interview!