Exclusive: Jason Mitchell Talks ‘Kong: Skull Island’Posted by Wilson Morales
March 6, 2017
Coming to theaters this week (3/10) is the return of the monster genre with Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts from a script by John Gatins and Max Borenstein. The film stars Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Jing Tian, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, John Ortiz, Shea Whigham, and Toby Kebbell.
A compelling original adventure, the film tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.
For Jason Mitchell, this is his first big role since he got critical acclaim for his portrayal of rapper Easy E in F. Gary Gray’s blockbuster film, Straight Outta Compton. Since then, Mitchell has appeared with Key and Peele in the comedy film Keanu and also had a supporting turn in the indie film Barry, which explores Barack Obama’s days as a college student. Coming up next is the Sundance film Mudbound, which was directed by Dee Rees.
Blackfilm.com spoke exclusively with Mitchell about his role in Skull Island, working with fellow Compton castmate again, and how the audition process is going.
This is your first big film since Straight Out of Compton. What was the attraction to doing this?
Jason Mitchell: Obviously, the check. No, but I’m a big passion project kind of guy. Aside from this very mystic creature that we’re all in love with, that every filmmaker loves, it was good to, first of all, be able to work with this amazing cast, and second of all, be able to work with a director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts … I mean, he has all odds against him you know what I mean? He had to be very passionate in the project. That’s when the best comes out of people. That’s what what I did with Keanu with Key and Peel. When you have passion projects, most of the time it comes out amazing. That’s what drew me to it.
How would you best describe your character?
Jason Mitchell: My character’s name is Mills, Glenn Mills. He is one of the Sky Devils. We’re all led by Sam Jackson’s character, Army Lt. Colonel Packard. My character is somewhat the voice of reason. We just left the Vietnam War, and I don’t want to go to some island. I don’t want to do this. I want to go home and eat a mac and cheese burger, and that kind of thing. That’s pretty much my character. He’s a wisecracking kind of guy, who is … He’s smart. He’s very smart, because if it was up to him, he would have never been in this situation. He’s a pretty smart guy.
Why do they keep making these movies and people keep coming back to see them?
Jason Mitchell: I think, on a small scale, graphics are a huge situation. At one point in time, it was all robotics and some guy in a gorilla suit. But now it’s come to the point where we don’t even just have to use green screen for everything. CGI and all these things, they’ve come so far that they can take us all the way in the middle of Vietnam with water up to our waist and tell us, “Hey, you see that orange ball up here? Look at it. That’s Kong.” They can take that space and actually put him in there. When we saw the movie, I was completely blown away. Completely blown away.
Growing up, did you ever watch any of the King Kong, Godzilla movies?
Jason Mitchell: Absolutely. Almost all of them. I think what makes this film so different is the fact that not only is Kong younger and a lot less lenient, but he’s more of a beast. He has no reason to compromise with us at all. It’s pretty cool to see him actually be an animal, him actually be a King. So it’s intense.
How was the filming of this movie? Was there a lot of running, a lot of getting in shape? Any of that stuff?
Jason Mitchell: Man, it was a little bit of all that. Luckily for me, I’ve been playing sports all my life, and as a young guy I’ve been waiting for this my whole life, to be in an action movie with shooting guns and I’m there will Tom Hiddleson. It was just a real dream come true. Everything kind of came second nature, just really getting into the feel for it. Because filming, we average a 14 hour day anyway. But it was pretty cool because I got to learn how to fly a helicopter and just all kinds of cool stuff.
Jason Mitchell: Yeah. I actually flew a few myself. It was pretty dope.
You’re working opposite your fellow castmate Cory Hawkins. How did it come about? Did you guy know you both had the roles in the movie?
Jason Mitchell: Actually, they went back and forth with it for a while. They were like, “Is it too stupid to have two guys from Compton in this movie?” I think they were just really happy that we could morph into something different. Because we’re definitely not giving your Easy E and Dre in this. Cory, he plays a biologist and he kills it. He definitely kills. It was pretty cool. We didn’t know we had the roles at the same time, but when we did find out, because we didn’t know who was who or whatever, I just remember Cory calling me, and he was like “You got the part?” I was like “Yeah.” He was like “Yes! Fucking right!” He was like “Who you playing?” I’m like “Mills.” He’s like “Yes! That’s the part for you!” So it’s pretty good. We were pretty excited for each other.
What was it like working with Samuel L. Jackson?
Jason Mitchell: They have a term in the acting world called getting caught looking. A lot of the times you can get caught looking, basically, if you’re watching somebody act. If you’re just caught in what’s going on, you totally drop out of character, and you’re just like watching this person in awe. That happened to me twice. Good thing I wasn’t on camera and really didn’t technically get caught looking. But, man, working with this guy, you can really see why he is where he is, why they pay him the big bucks. Because he is so good. He’s such a humble, down-to-earth person. We’ve got so many cool experiences together, like being able to go to Vietnam. I mean, just a bunch of different stuff that you would never ever get to do without this privilege of being in this movie.
The last three to four years, you’ve blown up, from somebody nobody knew from New Orleans, to Straight Outta Compton, Keanu and last year’s Barry, and then you were just at Sundance with Mudbound. How’s life changed since Compton? Are you getting a lot more calls, offers, as opposed to grinding it out? Or do you still have to work at getting auditions?
Jason Mitchell: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it goes both ways, because at the end of the day I could have done one really, really good and just really messed the rest of them up. For some people, Straight Outta Compton was a great audition. They saw so many different layers, and I really got to unpeel my onion. But with some people, they were like “We want you to self-tape. We still want you to be on that grind.” I mean, I just did a self-tape three days ago, but they also have people who are calling in, making some offers and stuff. Like, Mudbound was an offer. So things are really, really, really looking up. Things are looking up.
What are you looking for when you’re going for roles?
Jason Mitchell: First of all, something that I can related directly to, with the character. Some type of pride, or anything like that, that I can directly relate to. But I also go through this thing of the character’s opinion, how do they really feel about the world about them, and can I relate do that at all. I also look at the script as a whole, as far as the material and the kind of message that the movie would send in general. Because I’m really into really controversial making people uncomfortable. That fits me well.
What do you got coming up next?
Jason Mitchell: Coming up next, I have The Chi coming out. I’ll be shooting that. I also have a film with Katheryn Bigelow coming out later this year, too, which will be dope. Like, hands down, she might be the greatest director I’ve ever worked with. Don’t say that. Besides Jordan Vogt-Roberts.
Are you really to tackle both film and the TV world?
Jason Mitchell: Absolutely. Because as crazy as it may seem, I find myself watching more TV shows than anything. I’m a real big Netflix head. Things like Breaking Bad and How to Get Away with Murder. They’re just coming with some really, really, really good stuff, some “sit on the edge of your chair” kind of things. So I’m ready to jump into that world, man. I’m ready to jump into it.
Kong: Skull Island is going to come out right after Logan and before Beauty and the Beast, and we’re going to just get a plethora of other films and TV stuff coming out in March.What’s a good reason for people to start coming to check this out?
Jason Mitchell: Because it has substance. It put a bunch of different pieces of the puzzle together. People want to know the real history of Kong. People want to know the real history of Godzilla. People want to know the history of their beef. People want to be able to fall in love with the characters. People want to be able to reason with it so much more on a human level. It’s all of that plus more.