By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario reprise their young recruit roles in the futuristic “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” the follow up to the hit 2014 action drama, based on the bestselling post-apocalyptic YA book series by James Dashner.
New York City-born O’Brien, 24, returns as Thomas, the resourceful leader of a group of young combat trainees known as Gladers. Scodelario, 23, and a native of Britain, is back as Teresa, a mysterious young woman who shares a past connection with Thomas and also a Glader.
“Scorch Trials” picks up where the original left off: The Gladers are unloaded from the helicopter that flew them back from the maze and hustled into an underground bunker, which is run by the duplicitous Janson (Aidan Gillen). There, Janson orders the Gladers to undergo exhaustive testing in the lab and interrogates Thomas about his memories of WCKD (an acronym for the government entity World Catastrophe Killzone Department).
While there, some of the Gladers are found to be immune to the fatal Flare disease that is ravaging the population, but the tests take on a sinister aspect. With the help of a Glader from a different maze, Thomas, Teresa and some of the other youngsters escape the compound in search of a supposed safe haven known as the Right Arm Camp. Their escape triggers an all-out military search. They embark on a perilous journey across an unforgiving landscape in hopes of reaching safety and freedom from WCKD.
O’Brien and Scodelario, who next stars opposite Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” spoke about returning to the franchise, working again with director Wes Ball (who helmed the first film), injuries, scary moments and more.
Q: Which scene were you most intrigued to see on screen?
O’Brien: I was most intrigued to see how our party scene would look. I was very interested to see but I was a little worried. I remember really wondering how that would go and I remember being blown away by what Wes (Ball, director) did with it even on the day coming away from it when we were shooting it I thought it looked really cool.
Q: After shooting the scene in the desert, where was the weirdest place you found sand on your body?
Scodelario: On the back of my knees, because I was wearing jeans throughout the whole movie, so I don’t know how that happened.
O’Brien: I have a weird thumbnail and, because it’s weird, things stay in there for a while, so I think I still have some dirt from this movie underneath it.
Q: Why is it weird?
O’Brien: It’s weird because it got slammed in a trunk when I was nine and it never grew back the same. It has little creases. I’ve always thought it looked like (“Star Wars” bounty hunter) Boba Fett.
Q: You seem to have more practical, on-set stunts in this movie than the original “Maze Runner.” Did that augment your performance?
O’Brien: Yeah, on this one, we definitely had more practical stuff to work with, and we had a lot more visual effects involved too.
Q: Did you shoot any of this film while you were shooting the first one?
Q: There is a line in this where Kaya mentions Thomas has gotten taller than her. Was that in the script?
Scodelario: You know what was cool? We wrote that. We wanted to add a moment of humanity. We just wanted to smile at each other. So much of our relationship is based on having to survive and get out. We wanted to just take a second and show a bit of love to each other and I think it’s such a beautiful way of doing it, like innocent little kids meeting for the first time.
O’Brien: And her being taller than me (from when we first arrived at WCKD).
Scodelario: So, yeah, that was us.
Q: Coming into the sequel, can you talk about the burden of leadership on Thomas and are there any parallels to your leadership role in the cast?
O’Brien: Thomas is struggling at this point. He’s still trying to lead and doesn’t want to show anyone what’s really going on with him. He’s full of doubt and regret at this point and just questioning himself. Everything was on his shoulders in his mind. He made that choice and now, the fact that he could have led them wrong is killing him, but he still has to lead. So, it’s like he still has to be strong and that’s a difficult conflict inside of him. That’s how I think of it.
As far as my leadership role within the cast, we have a great group, a great energy and a great story that we all love to tell every time out. So I don’t think there is any lack of (leadership). It comes from all directions. Everyone leads on this movie and that’s why we get it done the way we do. We’re all so proud of it, at the end of the day.
Q: Thomas, in the first movie you said you put a rock in your shoe to help with the limp. Did you do anything like that for the sequel?
O’Brien: It took me a while to remember which side my limp was on. (He laughs.) I believe it’s on the left. I had laces this time and big boots so it was too hard to stick (the rock) in, so I didn’t bother. I just acted it.
Q: How was working with Wes Ball again? What do you enjoy about working with him?
O’Brien: What’s amazing about Wes is he goes out and makes his first feature film and has success with it and coming back for the second one, he’s given more money, more freedom and a little more time, and he didn’t change a bit—his personality, to the way he talks to us and to the way he talks to everyone on set. He even wore the same hat. (He laughs.) That just exemplifies him. He’s just a regular dude who really understands and loves storytelling and films, and he’s visually a genius and an artist. He just knows how to tell a story.
It’s never a burden for him, how much he works. He doesn’t stop. As actors, his approach is helpful to us. If I could work with a guy like that every time, I would. It’s so much better than working with a guy who just wants to go home. With Wes, you’ve almost have got to rip the camera out of his hands—and that’s what you want.
Q: Did you guys have boot camp training? The rumor is the trainers made you run five miles a day.
Scodelario: I didn’t run five miles.
Q: You injured your wrist and came in to do the movie with it still hurting, right?
O’Brien: Yeah, I had injured it a few weeks earlier playing softball because that’s what I love to do. I sprained my wrist and kept reinjuring it during filming, which was annoying. I wanted to randomly punch something—with the other wrist.
Q: Kaya, you are known to be a big “Game of Thrones” fan, and you had a couple of actors from that show in the cast of “Scorch Trials.” Did you geek out on them?
Scodelario: Yes, I completely did. I was stoked. Every time they’d announce someone I’d be “Yes! Thank you.” It was cool. They’re all such cool guys, especially Natalie (Emmanuel, who plays Missandei on “Thrones” and self-reliant Harriet in “Scorch Trials”). She’s been one of my favorite people for a long time and she’s a very nice girl, so to get to have her in the movie was cool. We both started in England on similar kinds of TV shows that weren’t all that big but had kind-of cult followings, and I’ve always really rooted for her. Then, to see her get to do something like this, I was so happy for her. I already know everything from “Game of Thrones” because I forced Thomas (Brodie-Sangster, who played Jojen Reed on “Thrones” and reprises his role as Newt in “Scorch Trials”) to tell me what’s going to happen.
O’Brien: I think the fun thing is to see (the “Game of Thrones” actors) meet each other for the first time. It’s was like, “Hey, good to meet you. We’re on the same show.”
Q: What’s the most memorable moment for each of you in the film?
Scodelario: The bars breaking, for sure.
O’Brien: This is not even a moment really; it’s just what I love to do on set. Rosa (Salazar, who plays Brenda, who joins Thomas in their search for Right Arm Camp, a rumored safe haven) getting me out of trouble, and shooting all these bullets through the window at us as we’re running by. It was really scary. I didn’t understand how because the guys have paintball guns and they have these zerks that they shoot and go fssst when they hit. It’s like a paintball hitting glass.
You can only see our shadows going through and they were basically just going to shoot a bunch and miss us. I didn’t understand that I wasn’t going to get hit so it was scary for me and I remember looking at the shot afterward and geeking out.
Q: On the first “Maze Runner,” you said you got comfortable with Wes Ball touching your eye.
O’Brien: Yeah, there was one day when I was hanging on the vine wall for about eight hours, and they didn’t want to let me down because it would take too long, so I was just hanging. Wes would come over and keep me company. I kept getting stuff in my eyes because every time the vine wall shook, things would fall out. Wes would come over and pick it out for me. The first time he did it, I was creeped out but then (I got comfortable with him doing that).
Q: Anything like that for any of you on this one? How did Wes help you?
Scodelario: He knows how we individually work as actors. He knows how to approach us. He knows what our strengths are. He knows which ones of us prefer having the first shot or the last shot and that’s so valuable to have a director who just knows you. I struggle with directors sometimes. I’m so particular about a lot of how I work, and Wes just knows it. (To O’Brien) Remember, with our big scene, he was so cool? He was like “What do you need? Do it how you need to do it, and we’ll make it work.”
On huge movies like this, you usually don’t get that opportunity. It’s usually like, “Go here. Do this. Right. Next.” But Wes takes the time to make it personal. I remember him saying, “Pain is temporary. Film is forever.” That’s our motto now.
Q: Director John Milius originated that.
Scodelario: What? Oh, Wes lied to me. (She laughs.) Good, then I’m not going to get it tattooed on me now. I thought that was his and he says it so nicely.
Q: Kaya, have you finished your work on “Pirates?”
Scodelario: Yes, we wrapped a month ago.
Q: Any bumps or bruises on that one?
Scodelario: Yeah, I did. I actually broke my shoulder on that one, but that’s part of the fun. You’ve got to get into it.
Q: Was it a fun set?
Scodelario: Oh yeah!