Last December Screen Rant was part of a small group of outlets selected visit the Albuquerque, New Mexico set of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. At long last we are able to share that experience with you, beginning with our interviews with the film’s key players. Check back later in the week for a full report of what we saw on set.
The Scorch Trials picks up right where the Maze Runner left off and before our protagonists have any time to process their escape from the Maze and their strange new surroundings they are dropped into a whole new world of danger, a.k.a. The Scorch. During a break from filming, we sat down with actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Newt) to discuss the sequel's very different setting, Newt's leadership and character arc, and how director Wes Ball's infectious energy keeps the cast inspired.
How is it the second time around? I think Newt has a really fun arc in this movie and into the third book, what are you excited about?
Thomas Brodie-Sangster: For Newt, well for me personally I am really excited to be back and get the opportunity to take a character that I have already done a film with and just have the opportunity to extend it and change it. So, a bit more of a journey with him, and now he’s out of the Glade, well so is everyone, and we are in a world that we don’t understand at all. At least in the Glade we understood it a certain amount. In this world everything is new, we don’t know what’s what and it’s kind of a travelling movie and the only thing that holds us together is one another so our relationships are more enhanced.
How did you do in the running of the sand dunes? We heard that was…
I did okay, I did alright. There was one time when I went up to the top and just had to sit down for a good 20 minutes just to catch my breath and just get oxygen into my brain. It was pretty hard , pretty tough just running up and you don’t really go anywhere so you really have to work hard to get somewhere.
Do you do all that with the Newt limp?
Yeah, I sort of decided that Newt doesn’t have a limp when running up sand dunes. It is actually a very hard thing to do, I tried it and it just looks like I am struggling and just being weird. I just thought I should get up the sand dune.
Well that sounds exhausting but what has been the most fun to film so far?
I mean, that was fun to be in the sand dunes and just see it look so fantastic. When the sun was rising and when it was setting the mountains would just light up pink and we got some beautiful shots with the the mountains in the background. And the sand dunes in the light look fantastic and they look endless especially when they are going to paint in more to make it look like they go on even further. I think it’s going to look great.
Is it hard to fake hot?
Well when we were running around then we were pretty warm anyway, but yes in general it is quite hard. And also earlier in the shoot it was quite nice, the weather was actually much nicer than it is now.
We had heard that there were a lot of stunts that you guys were doing. How has that been for you?
I mean I enjoy stunts and I like to do as many as they allow me to just because I want to play my character in any situation. I don’t want to hand it over to a stunt guy, so I mean, I am open to it and i enjoy it. I always have done. And obviously there are some things you can’t do, but I think we get away with a nice amount. I enjoy it.
How would you describe Wes as a director? Do you like his style, is he more vocal than other people?
Well he’s like a little kid, it’s great. You can see the passion sort of exploding out of him. He’s not the most talkative necessarily but when you get him going about something that he is passionate about or ask him any questions about the character or the story or whatever he just then kind of gets lost in his own world. And you watch him go and he will just start explaining everything with all the sound effects and the explosions and everything and the best way to understand is to just watch him and the way he expresses himself is a great way of understanding exactly what he means.
Sometimes its just (explosion sound effects) and just by that it kind of makes sense. I take myself back to when I was a kid and that’s how I would explain it. It’s great and he’s passionate and has an energy on set. He is always raring to go, even on the weekends watching dailies he never gets time off at all. When we’re running over he just wants to keep going and going and going on a Friday night and everyone else is tired and he still has all this energy. It’s great to have a director or anyone on set that has that kind of energy but let alone it being the director, it’s great. I love working with him.
The films and the books have a great fan base and you guys have gotten that over social media and stuff. Is there one thing that fans are excited about and expressed it on social media or asked you if they run into you about something they are curious about?
I am sure they are. I am not really on any social media, I’m not very good at it.
...Or is there one thing you are most excited to see translated from the book and into the movie for the fans to see?
I think the fans are really excited to just see how the Cranks are going to look and how the general aesthetic of the world is going to look because people had a set idea of what the Glade was going to look like and what the walls were going to look like, and the maze and stuff, that’s a big character in the first film and to get that right it is quite important. So now we have to paint the picture of what [author] James Dashner’s idea of a completely destroyed world is going to look like. I think the thing they are most excited about is to just see the new surroundings we are in.
What do the Cranks look like. I kind of imagined zombies with sunburns... is that wrong?
I suppose it’s not too far off really, they are pretty messed up looking things, they are quite scary. Which I think is great, our bad guys in the last one were grievers which were terrifying, but these are people, or were people, and they are pretty terrifying. The first day we saw them it was pretty spectacular.
It wasn’t hard to act against them then?
No, it was pretty easy.
You and the other “gladers” kind of disappear for sections of the book is that not going to be the case here? Because Kaya told us she is going to be with you guys for more of it.
Yeah, I think they try and keep us together for most of it because the dynamic between the characters and between us as people as well just works really well on film. Wes is aware of that and I think the audience enjoys our characters altogether, and I think that is important for the film as well, people travelling together as a unit and a group and supporting one another. There are sections where we kind of splinter off but we always meet back, and it’s never for too long.
We heard James was on set a couple of times in the last film. Did he give you any insights into your character you didn’t get from the books?
He came on set, yeah, a couple of times last year and towards the end. To be honest he was just more excited to see his world coming to life and being on a film set and to meet all these people. He didn’t really… Oh yeah he did come! I remember he came once this year as well. And it’s great to have him here, it’s great to have his support. I mean he is the guy who came up with the whole idea initially so it’s great to have the writer there if you do have any questions, ideas, or just to get your grounding.
Do you get any input on sort of the look of your character right now?
Yeah, when we were doing costume fittings and stuff I was very much involved in saying what colors I wanted and what jackets I wanted, and I wanted this thing, I like this thing...so I asked for that. Newt had one of these in the first one, I don’t know why but I think Newt likes a wrap. Yeah and hair and stuff, it is very open and it’s nice for an actor to know that I have a certain say in what my character looks like, behaves like, and you know that’s all a part of you know if you are in the right shoes, you will stand differently.
How would you describe his role in the group now? Especially with Alby gone?
Yeah, I mean he doesn’t have Alby and I think when Alby went in the Glade, Newt struggled quite a bit to take the shoes off him. He is a leader in some ways, but I think he is better as a support unit. He is a moral booster for everyone. He is the guys that encourages people and keeps people moving forward. He keeps Thomas moving forward and everyone’s morale boosted and makes sure that everyone has their role to play, and everyone feels worthy and doesn’t get too depressed.
On movies like this, or anything I guess, do you like to know where your character is going ahead of time or do you take it one script at a time?
I like to take it one script at a time really, it is nice to know a certain amount and other bits it is nice not to know so you are able to stay present in the moment. When I was doing Maze Runner I wasn’t at all thinking about this movie or this section of the story at all. I was purely concentrated on just being inside the glade and that whole story. So for this it is kind of the same thing. If anything I am thinking more back to Maze Runner and just your character would have that in mind, and wouldn’t know what was going to happen yet.
The first movie came out only a few weeks before you started filming this one, what was your take on the fan reaction or the public reaction of it for the next movie?
It was great. I mean it all depended on whether or not we got to make the next movie. It is always nice to do any project and have it be seen by people, let alone it going to number one and being seen by loads of people, you know being successful and making lots of money. That’s what you want when you create anything is for it to be out there and to be liked and for it to be seen. So for me that was perfect and all I really wanted it meant that we could then green light the next one to go and we went ahead and started doing it.
Is there any added pressure knowing now that people liked the first one?
I haven’t really thought of that really. I think having added pressure is really only a negative thing so I wouldn’t see it as any type of positive to concentrate on that. We are just going to do what we did in the first one. We have a good cast and a good director and got a good crew for everyone to come together and amalgamate and you know create a story which is what I aim to do on any project I do. You know that is part of the huge buzz I get from being an actor. So that is all I concentrate on.
So you don’t focus on expectations at all?
No. You know I hope that they love it, that’s my hope but I really try not to concentrate on them too much.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials will open on September 18, 2015.