X-Men: First Class (print)Exclusive Interview with Edi Gathegi
By Wilson Morales
May 27, 2011
Edi Gathegi, who after playing Laurent in ‘Twilight’ and ‘New Moon,’ will next be seen in ‘X-Men: First Class, which also stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Kevin Bacon, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Caleb Landry Jones, Lucas Till, Jason Flemyng, Oliver Platt, Morgan Lily, Zoe Kravitz, and Bill Bilner.
The 31 year old Kenya native plays Armando Munoz, also known as Darwin, a mutant who has the power of adaptive evolution. His power automatically gives him various abilities based on his environment.
With Matthew Vaughn directing, ‘X-Men: First Class,’ following the classic Marvel mythology, charts the epic beginning of the X-Men saga.
Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.
With appearances in two mega-franchises, one would think that life is pretty good for Gathegi, but he begs to differ. In fact, he didn’t work for 1 ½ years and had to keep his confidence from slipping.
In speaking exclusively to Blackfilm.com, Gathegi talks about his role in ‘First Class,’ life after ‘Twilight,’ and his current projects, which includes doing theater in Los Angeles.
How did you go about getting the role in this film?
Edi Gathegi: A long, long time ago I saw ‘X-Men II’ in the movie theater and I distinctly remember saying out loud to myself, ‘I want to be in that.’ I just thought that it was extraordinary. I thought that it was a great re-imagining of a comic brought to life. It was based in good story and good character, but the action was just extraordinary and I wanted to be a part of that specifically. So, I told my representation anything ‘X-Men’ I wanted to be in it. So, I got an audition for the role of Agent Zero in the ‘Wolverine’ movie and I didn’t get it and I sort of lost my hope that I’d ever be a part of the ‘X-Men’ until they announced the origin story which is the one that’s coming out on June 3rd. So, I got my audition for it and this time they liked me.
Did you know what role you were going in for?
EG: I did know what role I was going in for. I actually read for Banshee and I thought that I was going to be Banshee until I read the script, basically a few days before I started shooting.
Darwin is a black character in the comic book, right?
EG: Yeah, Darwin is black in the comic books. Banshee is Irish. I was a fan of the comics growing up, but my extensive knowledge to every single character was limited to the characters that were on the TV show and Banshee wasn’t. If he was I don’t remember him, and so I didn’t realize that he was Irish. That’s what I read for in my audition and so I assumed that I was going to be playing him.
After ‘Twilight’, I take it that you didn’t hesitate at all to be a part of another franchise?
EG: Not only that, but it’s ‘X-Men’, you know.
How would you describe Darwin?
EG: I’d say that Darwin is in a constant state of evolution. His body adapts to whatever harsh environment is presented in front of him. So, if he gets thrown into water he grows gills. If there’s a fire in the building his body turns into a fire proof body. If the lights go out he’s got twenty/twenty vision. The list goes on and on and on depending on what he needs to survive at the highest level.
Is there anything that you did physically to get into shape for the role, or did you just follow the script and wear the costume?
EG: I went on a strict eating regimen. I had the proper foods that would help me achieve the results that I wanted to achieve for this character. I took up kickboxing. I would do that everyday while I was shooting, and then I had a cardio routine and a weight training management, and yeah, so I put some time and thought into that, absolutely.
What role did you read for in ‘Wolverine’, and why do you think the ‘X-Men’ franchise is still living on?
EG: Well, I think it’s because of people like me. Even if it’s going to be bad I’m going to check it out because it’s got a soft spot in your heart and it’s even better when it turns out good. So, you could my elation that this film actually turned out to be the kind of ‘X-Men’ movie that I would love to watch. I think that if I was to see this movie, however long ago it was that I saw ‘X-Men II’, I’d have the same reaction. ‘I want to be in that.’ So it’s really a blessing that I actually am in it.
Had you read any of the comic books?
EG: I read the comics as a kid. And I read every single comic that my character appeared in. My character is relatively knew to the franchise, or to the comic books. So I had to do my research and I read all the comics that he appeared in.
This is the second franchise film that you’ve done with a big ensemble. What was it like working with this cast?
EG: It was great. I think the casting director, Lucinda Syson and the L.A. casting office, cast incredible actors which makes this movie so special. They wanted the talent first, and everyone in it is a stand up person and a great actor and human beings. Matthew Vaughn has a great aesthetic and is a master at what he does. The sets that he created were perfect and spot on, and yeah, it was a dream.
When you’re in movies like ‘Twilight’ and ‘X-Men’, what are your fans like? Are you able to walk around quietly without being recognizing?
EG: Yeah, when I had a wig and dreadlocks and I was pale. If you were really a hardcore fan or you’ve got a good eye then you know who I him, but I transformed into that role. So, in ‘X-Men’ I was like me, and so I’m curious to see what’s going to happen now. This might be different this go around. I don’t know. Maybe not.
How’s life been for you as an actor since you did the first two ‘Twilight’ films? With your character killed off, were you able to get more roles?
EG: I didn’t work for like a year and a half after ‘Twilight’. So, in many ways it’s not really rational because I’m an actor through and through. I went and did regional theater to fulfill me because inhabiting a character and performing is why I do it, but I definitely didn’t work for a year and a half and I questioned whether or not I was going to have the opportunity to do it at that level ever again. I went through a roller coaster of emotions after my character didn’t come back from the second ‘Twilight’ film, but I think that everything happens for a reason. It’s just great to be a part of something else, something that in many ways is a childhood fantasy. I feel very fortunate. I feel very blessed.
I read that you’re doing a pilot for a USA TV series called ‘Wild Card’. What’s the show about and what’s your character’s role?
EG: The show takes place in Vegas and the basic concept is what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but only if you have a good lawyer. People go to Vegas and they misbehave and maybe they get thrown in jail when the sun goes down at nighttime. Our job is to get them out of jail before the sun comes up. So, it’s a dramedy. It’s an hour procedural where two lawyers and an investigator are out trying to help out these heathens. I play the investigator.
Who else is in the cast with you?
EG: They’re looking for the girl and Ben Lawson, a wonderful Australian actor is in it with me. And they’re going to find the girl and we’re going to shoot this show in New Orleans in July, I think, and hopefully it gets picked up and the audience responds to it. I believe in the material. It’s very well executed. Stephen Godchaux is the creator of the show and the show runner and he’s amazing and it just seems like it’s going to be a really fun time. I’ve got to live in the moment. Right now I’m doing a play at The Geffen. It’s a wonderful play and the cast is extraordinary. I’m going to have this experience and then have another great experience hopefully doing a TV show.
Were you ready to do a TV show?
EG: Yeah, I was, but I wasn’t ready to just do any TV show. I didn’t want to do a network show and have to do twenty four episodes. I wanted to do a cable show where I’d have half my year free to continue doing film and or theater and I just didn’t want to do any role. I didn’t want to do a role where I was basically bringing information. I don’t thrive in those types of environments, but rather I like to sink my teeth into something and be able to make choices and in different moments. So it needed to be the right role and it needed to be the right show. I was blessed with both of those things falling into my life with this show.
I see that you are getting ready to do a play in Los Angeles?
EG: It’s called ‘Superior Donuts‘ and it’s written by Tracy Letts who’s out of Chicago, The Steppenwolf. He’s also the author of ‘August; Osage County’ which got nominated for a Tony and I think it even won. He’s got a Tony. He’s got a Pulitzer Prize. And this play is his comedy and it’s about a donut shop owner who doesn’t even realize that he’s slowly wilting away and doesn’t really have anything to live for. My character comes into the donut shop and wants a job and basically brings new life into this other character’s world. It’s about our friendship, the play.
How has that been working out, doing theater everyday?
EG: It’s real good. It’s challenging. It’s vulnerable. It’s raw. To be out there every night. We haven’t opened yet and so we haven’t had an audience, but you’re really putting yourself out there and I believe in preparing myself in that way. We’ll see what happens and nothing lasts forever. So, if it’s bad it’ll be over and if it’s good I’ll really enjoy the experience.
With so much going on what keeps you grounded?
EG: Knowing where I came from. My career hasn’t been an overnight success story. I’ve definitely paid and continue to pay my dues. I just feel lucky everyday of my life, but I don’t dwell on that. I definitely move forward and try to make my life better everyday. Staying grounded is actually just the realization that I’m fortunate to be in my position. I don’t really forget that.