Thursday, August 22, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: 'Mortal Instruments' star Kevin Zegers on Alec and his co-stars

Kevin Zegers, who plays Alec Lightwood in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones walks the red carpet in Toronto.
I'll admit when I first read The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, I really didn't  like Alec Lightwood. I think the words dbag, meanie and a-hole came across my mind. But, after following through to the end of the book, and going on into the remainder of the series, I learned just how complex and loyal Alec really is. It's funny that while thinking about what I had originally thought about Alec, I was sitting beside Kevin Zegers, who plays the Shadowhunter in the film adaptation. Kevin, who I'd met on set in Toronto last year, was completely unlike his character: gracious, humble and a really very funny guy.

I sat down with the girls from Mundie Moms, Fangirlish and TMI Movie News to hear what Kevin thought of his role and what's next in the series.

Katie, Mundie Moms: You as Alec... we were telling Jamie that my favorite scene with you, you’re not even saying anything. You are looking at Clary when she’s in the library like you’re gonna kill her and you’re looking at Jace like I love you but you don’t know it. You brought a-hole Alec to life from the book.

Kevin: Right, we had this, there’s this instinct to sort of go, “but he’s the good guy,” and to sort of like stay away from him being too snarky. I was like if you can establish a reason why, it’s like why I love some horror films that involve the bad guy being the hero. Like you don’t always have to be nice, if you’re the nice guy, if you’re the good guy. People are sympathetic to people as long as there is a reason behind it. Like my favorite show is this, Ray Donovan show. It’s like he’s kind of an asshole, you know what I mean? He says some really bad things, but because you have sympathy for this guy and you understand where he’s coming from, you can sort of get away with doing whatever. So Harald and I had that conversation early which was to say let’s not pander to the fact that like he’s a Shadowhunter so he’s good so go easy on the him being a little unlikeable because it’s like, you don’t always have to be likeable. I think that’s like a cop out, especially in these kinds of films because the characters are so well defined. He doesn’t have to be the likeable gay character just because that’s where he ends up going. Like, there is so much other stuff to explore especially because we knew, we didn’t know, but I mean we’re certainly going back to do the second film so, there’s such a huge arc of where he starts and where he goes that you don’t need to pander to the audience and like, make him sort of one noted.

Katie, Mundie Moms: I think Alec is the most misunderstood, when I first read I thought he’s kind of a jerk, but then you realize, like one, he’s protecting the Shadowhunter secret. He loves Jace but then there's just so many layers to him and I felt like you brought the book to life perfectly, his mannerisms, you know those looks spoke volumes. I like that they didn’t make you in every scene like that’s the way he talks his whole mannerisms towards what was going on…

Kevin: Even in the script, there were scenes that my character wasn’t in, in the script, and Harald would sort of say it might be nice if…, we had this sort of running joke that some days I felt like an extra, because you know he’s [Alec] sort of hovering. It’s sort of like he’s there observing, and I love characters that are sort of a little enigmatic and a little sort of, you know, misunderstood, so there was a lot of stuff that I wasn’t intended to be in, but that I ended up in. That scene where we are bringing her to the library I don’t think in the script I was in. So once we got up there and we were sort of looking down at her, Harald sort of improvised that Jamie and I were like brothers anyway. It was sort of like it started out as a one line, and then in post, we sort of just became a scene which was like built out of the fact that Jamie and I are so close, and it seemed like a conversation we would have, and based on the stuff that we had shot with Lily, that it seemed like it fit in there at that moment. So, again, it was a lot of us priming it while we were filming, which is part of what you do when you make a film. You have to be flexible about what dynamics work. The dynamic between Jamie and I, we established was not one of like, I’m not goo goo gaga over Jamie, just like I’m not in person. We love each other, but like a mutual affection that we have and he would be someone that I would run across the room and go hug, but it doesn’t come from a physical place. Once we established that, it wasn’t like Alec was a creepy guy who wanted to jump Jace’s bones, he was just like, he loved him and there was a little more behind his love than met the eye but it wasn’t so overt, and it wasn’t so stereotypical. Once we found that stuff, and Lily and I have a good, even when we are sort of barbing with each other there is this understanding between the two of us, and Lily and I have that too. Those were the two central relationships I had in the film and the two people I remain closest with personally. We do have this good back and forth between the three of us. I think when we were on the mall tour we noticed it even more. There is like 3 very specific personalities with the 3 of us that are very distinct and very, we play off of each other well. So I think that as that relationship grows in the story there is so much room to explore. Even with talking with Harald about the next film, like such a great opportunity for, you know, put me and Jamie in a scene together and there’s, weird shit’s gonna happen.

Katie, MundieMoms: When we were talking too, the on screen chemistry, because you know with some movies you get fake chemistry or chemistry that doesn’t work, or even within a cast not all chemistry seem real, but the cast chemistry was phenomenal with everybody. When you were in a scene, we felt it. We could see the relationship they really had, and it really brought the movie to life.

Kevin: Right. I think Robbie is so good. There is the stuff with those two…there is this sort of, I think people are like “Oh” because we don’t have the script yet for the second movie and with us, this central group of people who are playing off of each other, there’s a really good foundation of…you can throw Jemima and I in a room together with a scene and we will figure it out.

Katie, MundieMoms: Your chemistry together was awesome.

Kevin: Right. No one is faking anything, there’s not this sort of manufactured, no one seems off kilter when it comes to this stuff. I think it is because A, we get along, and B, we have he same script motive, does this serve the movie? If it doesn’t serve the movie for me to be in a scene, I’m going to go to Harald and say “yo, it’s kind of weird that I’m here. Alec should be down the hallway.”

Katie, MundieMoms: Jessica (Postigo) asked us last night what we thought about the movie, and what we could do for City of Ashes. That was one of our things, give Jemima and Kevin more screen time because the brother/sister relationship is so crucial with the series.

Kevin: She is so good. She’s such a good actress, and I think Harald has…the best thing that he did was focus on the people. Because I think the external, I watch some of these movies, and it doesn’t really matter which ones, but they are so focused on the stuff, you don’t really care about the people, therefore it’s like “why would I want to go see another one when I can go see another movie, or another story, and just see the same stuff.” The only reason to go back and see a movie is to see the same people again. I think that is what makes these sort of things work like, I would go see The Hunger Games again because I love Jen Lawrence, and I’m interested to see what she is going to do with that character. And like with The Dark Knight, I’m interested in the characters of those movies, I’m not interested in the big car chase scene or the big fight scene. That’s great stuff to have, and I’m glad we have all that stuff, but that wasn’t the sole focus. We’d spend more time shooting these scenes and sacrifice other stuff. Always when you’re making a movie, you have to choose between one or the other, it’s just the nature of the business. Harald would always make sure we got the scene before we would go to something else.

Erin, Fangirlish: We told Harald you all brought the book characters to life, and then you made them relatable.

Kevin: There is a lot going on. There is a lot of characters. Part of what I think was fortunate about me, I didn’t find out I was doing this until like two weeks before, so I didn’t really have the time to sort of ask people, not that I would have, what everyone thought Alec should be. To me this was just a script, it was just a character that…when Harald and I first spoke about it, and read the book, we just talked about this character, and how me as a human being could bring this character to life, which is really all you do in a director meeting anyway. So I didn’t really have the consideration of what who people think Alec should be like. Is this the way…well I’m a little older than Alec is supposed to be. I’m maybe a little more of a dude than Alec is intended to be. You know what I mean? The way it’s written in the script he’s a little bit more effeminate, a little bit more, you know there’s a lot of things. Part of what I think was to my benefit was that I didn’t read into every sentence of the book because is doesn’t translate into a movie.

Erin, Fangirlish: Coming into that, and now a fan base who follow your every movement, is that a lot of pressure? Has it been a weird thing?

Kevin: It’s weird that it’s me. If I were to remove myself from the situation I would go “oh that makes sense, there’s fans of the books and…” It’s not weird to see a billboard for The Mortal Instruments, like 40 stories high on Hollywood and Highland, it’s just weird that I’m on it. To me that’s the only strange thing. So once you get used to that, um, but again we’re just making a movie. So to get wrapped up in this whole thing which is great and it gets people to go see the movie, and the fans of the books expectations, are all great, but the only thing I have any control over, like complete control over, is what I go do in the next movie. That’s it.

Kristen, TMI Movie News: You’ve set yourself up beautifully in the City of Bones, because you’re like a ultimate package, really. You’re going to come out in the next movie, with much more involvement I’m hoping.

Kevin: That’s for sure.

Kristen, TMI Movie News: Talk to us about your preparations for that, what are you honing into?

Kevin: I think part of what works, and what I liked about him, is that I don’t think you should totally ever get Alec completely. Even when he opens up I think there’s always something withheld. There’s a lot of stuff, certainly I’m in a lot more of the second movie. There’s a lot more fighting, there’s a lot more training, so physically for the last month and a half, I’ve been going sort of like, okay, I need to, because I didn’t have any time before we started this first movie so, I knew there was physically a different place I want to get to because I know there’s a lot more physical stuff to do. Also, I started defining the plan as to, again, I’ve read the book now, so I know what the template is going to be. I don’t know what is going to end up in the film, but there are things, specific scenes, that I’m sure will end up in the film that I’m a little more wide open in terms of the exposure of Alec that I think I will close down a little bit. Because I think the audience is a lot smarter than actors give them credit for and I don’t think that you…nobody is an open book, no matter how like, you know how Lily seems like she would be an open book and it’s her personality, she’s a very open, warm person, but there’s other stuff. You know what I mean? We all have these sort of like, and I think Alec is just, he does have these moments of really opening himself up, but I don’t think he opens up quite as much as you may expect.

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