Let me first start by saying it’s always a great day when you share an elevator ride with Chris Evans; it’s even better when you have an opportunity to engage in the elevator topic which was Hong Kong and offer some insight on Asian Culture, and have Captain America respond.
However, the day got even better when we all got inside the press junket for his new film Gifted, and witness first hand not just how passionate he is about this project, but how amazing the chemistry was between Chris and his mini co-star. Mckenna Grace who played his niece Mary in the film.
Q: You two really look alike!
Chris Evans: Oh good, we’ve sold it.
Q: How good are each of you with math in real life?
Mckenna Grace: I’m in 5th grade but I do 6th grade math. I’m nowhere near Mary (McKenna’s character).
CE: I’m okay; math was certainly the strong suit. My dad majored in math in college. My brother and I really enjoy math. Outside of that, I was a mess [laughs].
Q: What did you learn from working with Mckenna Grace?
CE: To have fun, that this is fun.
MG: Yay! I’m glad you learned that.
CE: [Laughs] she comes to set every day full of life and she’s bouncing off the walls and saying hi to everybody.
MG: I hope you mean “bouncing off the walls” in a good way.
CE: In a great way!
CE: She’s just happy to be there even when the days are long, you’re tired, and maybe you’ve done more takes than you want to do. She’s still looking at this as an incredibly fun experience, which it is. It’s so easy to become acclimated to the experience and watching someone so full of life go through it, you remember how lucky you are.
Q: The chemistry between you two in the film feels really organic, did you connect from the start?
CE: I was there when we first auditioned everybody and she clearly came in and had the most life to her.
MG: I think we had a very special connection.
CE: I agree. It’s hard not to, you can see right now.
Q: One of my favorite scenes is McKenna climbs Chris at the beach because it seemed like such a natural reaction. How did you two make it seem as though you have known each other for years??
CE: I just think she’s one of these girls, you can feel it off of her. She’s just so full of life, if you engage; you’re going to have a connection with her. She’s an open vessel looking to bond with anybody. If you actively try to hit the ball back, she’ll play with you.
MG: Anyways, we were kind of hanging out with each other every day.
CE: We had tons of rehearsals. It just felt very comfortable very quickly.
Q: How was it smacking Chris around?
CE: [Sighs] it was tough.
MG: I thought there was going to be a stunt person. I thought there was going to be someone there to teach me how to smack him and not hurt him. He told me, “Okay, there’s nobody coming in, just hit me.”
CE: Just go for it, and she went off. Before that scene was a heavy scene. She left the room and everybody is quiet on set. Every actor’s had a scene where you’ve really had to tap into something emotional. We all know that environment; everyone on set is really sensitive to the experience. It’s interesting to see someone so young trying to tackle that environment. She was gone for a while and someone goes, “Okay, we’re ready.”
Mckenna comes on, poised and ready, action. She just launched into it so effortlessly. The smacking and the hitting, whatever type of social awkwardness would happen in an actual setting, just melted away, and you really drop into the scene thanks to her.
Q: For the both of you, what was it like working with Octavia (Spencer, plays Roberta Taylor)?
MG: Oh that was amazing, all the weekends me and Octavia would walk to the movie theater and watch movies.
CE: Octavia’s a real sweetie; she’s got that maternal instinct. She’s just a love.
MG: She makes really good lemonade.
Q: Chris, can you talk about your reprieve from “Captain America” and gravitating to a much more like small sweet movie?
CE: Sure, these are the movies that I love no disrespect to the “Captain America” (franchise). I’ve come to love those too, but these are the movies that I gravitate to as a person. It felt like a “Kramer vs Kramer” type film. Family dynamics and complexities are something I can relate to personally, and this one just had a lot of heart with really fleshed out characters. Marc Webb was certainly the guy to navigate this ship, so it just felt like the right move.
The real question mark was, “Who are we going to get to play Mary?” The movie lives and dies on that. As soon as we found Mckenna, we had this secret hope that we got it.
Q: Chris, I imagine kids naturally flock to you, seeing you as Captain America. What does that feel like to have so many kids look up to you and know you make them smile? Also does it ever feel like a responsibility be mindful what you do in your personal life in the sense that you stop and think, “Captain America wouldn’t do that”.
CE: I can make them cry too [laughs]. You don’t want to take your role home with you too much, but there’s no denying that there’s a certain added responsibility that comes with play a role like that. When you go and visit children’s hospitals and you see the effect you have on kids who aren’t just fans but are in need of something more than just escape. (They’re) kids in need of hope.
To some degree, it truly humanizes and makes it more than just movies. Which is great, it’s wonderful and a responsibility I don’t take lightly.
Q: Does that motivate you to be more involved with charity organizations?
CE: Yeah, sure. I try to stay involved, active, and respond when I can to impact where it’s available. It’s tough because there are a lot of kids who certainly look up to the role. So you try to respect that and know there are a lot of responsibilities as a result of this character you play.
Q: Chris, you have been an actor for a long time and stayed pretty grounded. Is there a secret and what responsibility and advice if any, do you give when working with a younger actor like Mckenna.
CE: I don’t know. I guess you can get cliché answers like, “It’s your family and friends.” I’m trying. What is it? You don’t want to sound pious. God, I don’t know. It’s a tough one.
It’s tricky because in this industry you can certainly see how they always say fame doesn’t make you bad, it makes you more of what you already were. So if you already had certain flavors inside you, fame just brings it out of you. I’d like to believe before I started acting, I’d like to believe [laughs] I had a pretty good head on my shoulders.
You certainly as a result of being in this industry, you see people change for the negative. Have you had a sound compass prior to diving into this acting pool, you can identify when those shifts happen in a negative fashion. I’m not going to say every step of the way I haven’t had little hiccups and pockets where you leave a scenario and you say, “Woah, that wasn’t me.”
It’s up to you to recalibrate and adjust so it doesn’t continue down that road.
Q: What is next for you, Chris?
CE: The next thing I’m going to do is a film called Red Sea Resort and it is a bit of a smaller film. The beautiful part of acting and film is that you’re allowed to engage in variety. I think most actors I know are mercurial by nature. If you do this one month, you do that next month and the beautiful thing is that Captain America affords me the opportunity to taste the big budget big thing. I’m not necessarily seeking that out. In my downtime, my off “Captain America” months, I’m certainly looking for smaller things that touch different chords.
Q: McKenna, what do you think kids will like about this movie?
MG: I think they’ll really like Fred (cat). I love Fred; I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Fred.
Q: Did the cat really have one eye or was it CGI?
CE: No, no he didn’t. It was CGI. A CG eye [laughs]. I use that joke all the time.
Q: Chris, any more directing work in your future?
CE: I’m looking. I want to. It’s hard to find a project though, but I want to.
Gifted opens in theaters nationwide on April 7th.
For ticket info and theatre locations, visit the film’s official website at, http://www.foxsearchlight.com/gifted/
Interview by Izumi Hasegawa – @HNW_Izumi
Edited by: Jody Taylor – @RealJodyTaylor
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