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 today (Aug. 12), 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.
On the set of The Maze Runner sequel we had a lively chat with star Dylan O'Brien (Thomas) who at the time of our interview, had just come from filming a trippy, drug-enhanced sequence that required him to kiss two of his co-stars: Kaya Scodelario (Teresa) and new cast member Rosa Salazar (Brenda). The conversation below touches on those moments, as well as what we should expect from the sequel and how it differs from the books.
Dylan O'Brien: Hi.
Hi, how are you?
Good. Good to see you.
Good to see you.
Tough day, kissing girls...
I know! Two of them.
I know. We got to talk to Kaya right after that so it was hilarious.
Did you really? How did it go? What was the report card?
Like kissing her brother, apparently.
Oh, nice. Cool.
Yeah. That's like the worst review you can get.
We didn’t actually ask for a rating, we just asked-
It was like kissing my blood relative, it was interesting. Kissed both the girls. Dex, [speaking to co-star Dexter Darden (Frypan) who's also sitting in the room with us] I kissed both of the girls today.
[Laughter] A lot of new challenges on this movie and a lot of people ... what for you, and for Thomas, has been the most fun and strange to explore?
Character-wise just figuring out this arc, I guess, for myself. The way I look at it is like the first one, Thomas is the reason, he kind of holds all the responsibility for them getting out and he thought that was the answer, he believed in it so hard. Now that he's gotten these guys out and they've lost more than they have and Chuck especially, all that is weighing on him now that he's not so sure that this was actually the better choice. Maybe this wasn't the best thing.
It's kind of fighting that thought while having to still believe it himself and remain strong for these guys. Physically I'm sure these guys have been telling you, we are at like in a new place every week and that's what's really great and cool about the movie. I never thought this one will be more tiring than the first one but it is so far, which is really funny. But it's great, it's really cool, because it's like each week is a new energy.
We started out in the sand dunes and that seems like a year ago to me, it's so funny. Every week we're at this really cool new place and it's almost like a new chapter. There's like five movies, almost, in one. It's really cool. Physically challenging and cold as opposed to the heat on the first one. That's good.
How do the action and stunts compare to your stunts on Teen Wolf?
[Laughs] What's funny on Teen Wolf is like they'll never get me a stunt double because… it's a money thing and it's not like I'm ever doing a wolf flip or anything, so they'll just be like, "Fall down the stairs." On this one it's similar. I have a stunt double but it's always, again it's never really anything extreme it's always something that would work better if I do, because it's like you want to see the kid doing it, we don't want to look like action stars and I think that's really important to the spirit of the book and the entire story.
I believe in that so hard, so it's no problem for me and I also love doing stunt stuff and action stuff. I'm not flipping off helicopters, that would be insane.
Yeah right. Next week they're like, "Hey, we're going to have you backflipping off a helicopter." But there's a lot more of it here. Here, it's like every day I'm doing something most likely. Teen Wolf is every now and then I'll have something to do and we won't even realize that I planned for it on the day and I'll just be like, "Oh, I guess you fall here."
Can you talk about this scene and the importance of it, overall in the movie? You guys really focused on that line, “You’re not her.”
Yeah. In this one, it's not a love triangle and everything I love about this story line is that it's sort of so unromantic and that's what makes it so romantic. There really is no romance going on. There's kind of just something there, connections there for the audience to root for and I think that's stronger without just throwing it in your face. I always like to cultivate that stuff myself as a viewer, you know, like I want [people to be like] “Oh! They're amazing together.”
In the first one, Thomas and Teresa, what I love about their relationship is that it's a connection. It's familiar in a world that's completely unfamiliar to these kids. Literally just being like rebirthed essentially. They to one another are the one piece of memory that they have and it makes me feel safe, and I think that's beautiful. It's not necessarily like stop and kissing in the woods, that never happens, and that's what I love too, it's so authentic.
We really want to make it real because these kids are in the situation where they'll never be just like making out. They're trying to survive and that's the other beauty of the story. It gets tossed aside without being tossed aside, it's still really present and it's still really there and again, something for the audience to grab on to and root for and love.
In this movie, I know book readers will know that the Thomas and Teresa relationship in this movie is very interesting. They kind of butt heads in a sense. They kind of have a disagreement. It's like I don't know what I can say here because I don't know what-
It's all right, we’re embargoed.
There's book readers and then there's people who just watch the movie and have no idea what's coming. For me, in the book, what I noticed, the spirit, we're not doing it entirely because we don't have the telepathy thing, but they're distant. All of a sudden that connection isn't there.
In the book, Thomas spends the first act not even trying to call for her and they're separated and she's not even responding and that's the first time that that's happened. We're doing that here, definitely without that telepathy thing, there's a disconnect and there's a reason why and you find out and it's going to be a really interesting thing for the two characters to experience together.
And then at the same time Brenda comes into Thomas' life and they're such a team and they get thrown into this situation together and I think, again, that brings people together in a way, not necessarily like in your face, like how we're saying. Again, that's what I love about it. She's almost like mean to him, it's such a different dynamic, I love that, but again I feel like that's my favorite kind of stuff.
She's like really sassy with him, and at first he kind of hates her too and I love that. They go out on this adventure together and they save one another and start to understand one another and I think that's really cool.
Do you encounter the crank that wants your nose? We're dying to know this.
Yeah, we tried to put that in and I know Wes was saying he's not sure if it's going to work or make it but we do ... There's a bunch of things that we do try to at least, you know, I think this is going to be great for the book fans. This, at least, is going to be really, really fucking cool. I always curse during these things.
This is great.
How do you like Rosa?
Every cast member that you've brought seems to gel so well.
Yeah, and she fit right in immediately and Jacob [Lofland, who plays Aris] too and I just feel like we keep getting so lucky. I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's us or what, but we just have a great group. Rosa is hilarious, she'll keep you laughing all day long, she's got boundless energy and she's a fantastic actress. I don't know how we keep getting these talented people with also great personality. I hear that it's rare but I feel like we just keep striking gold and it's great. She's going to be so killer as Brenda.
I could never really picture Brenda, I don't know why I always had a really hard time picturing that character and visualizing that and having it come to life for myself. And as soon as I read with Rosa I was just like, "Wow, there it is." The hair and everything, I just love it. I think it's perfect.
Did you read ahead in the books? Do you know what ultimately happens?
Because a couple people were saying they didn't want to know.
Yeah. Funny enough it's getting to the point where I only remember specific big things because I read them over a year ago now. I'm really bad with reading comprehension.
But you read the whole series at once?
Yeah. In a span of four months, I guess.
That's pretty good.
Well, it was literally like the only piece of homework I've had in the last five years. You know what I mean? Like in high school you would have read 100 books but I've done papers on them and everything.
Is there anything about the fan reaction to the first film that you took to heart and you might have incorporated it here at all?
That's really interesting. I guess it's “no,” because I've never thought of that. I don't know. I've always loved what we've been doing and I love our cast, I love our crew and just the essentials of that crew too. The guys that we carry over to this movie, Wes, our producers, I feel like I've always really, really been in love with what we've been doing.
For the fans, and then also it expanded a bit. When the film came out I think we got a lot more fans who didn't necessarily know what the books were and kind of just loved the movie for what it was. It just made me feel proud, I guess, and I guess fueled me into going into this one. I guess it's just the passion that I and we all have for this story. I think even if the movie bombs, it will still be a piece of work that we're also proud of and that we'd all remember the experience of so well.
That did not matter to us at that point. Obviously it did because we wanted to round up again and do the second and third movies. But you can't ... If you're proud of something and you're proud of your work, at the end of the day the experience walking away you can feel good about it. That's what you have to focus on. You can't let box office numbers be like, "Oh man… how shitty." That will just take everything that we experienced on the first on out of it.
Is there any pressure coming back for a sequel? The first one you guys had the pressure of just the book fans, you guys wanted to make a great movie, now you have the sequel, studios getting more money, and there’s already a release date, so is there any pressure there?
No. Funny enough, the only additive is like now I kind of get asked that all the time. [laughing and tittering] Yeah, on the first one it just wasn't that, it was a lot more under the radar and that’s kinda the way I always prefer it to be too because we weren't that movie that was kind of really pent up for success. I really believe that the success that we have netted from it, the success the movie has experienced is all of our hard work put into it from every angle and everyone's passion for it and just how much we put into it.
I've always been really proud of that and for that reason it still feels really intimate. To be honest, speaking frankly we don't have the budget of Divergent or Hunger Games. We don't have the marketing of that, it's not in everyone's face like that. I think the only reason we caught some people's attention was because it's cool. We made it really special, I think. I hope.
I still feel like we're under the radar. To even be mentioned with those other movies just means that we've done a really good job with it, so I just focus on that and be proud of that rather than feeling pressure of being like, "Oh no, now there's eyes on it." That can get into your head sometimes but you just have to fight to not let that happen. It's human nature for that to enter your mind, I guess, especially if you're asked about it a lot and you just don't, you just focus on your work and the people around you and really socking up the experience too, because I'm going to be really sad when all this is over.
Is there a scene in the book that you love reading as Thomas and realizing and have been really proud of that you can share?
Yeah, I was really scared for the Chuck's death scene, I'm so glad I can say that now without getting yelled at at Comic-Con by a crowd of people.
That was so sad.
Yeah, that was horrible. What are my most shining moments? That one I was really A) from reading the book into then going to shot the movie, it was always at the back of my mind. I've never done something like that before and also I really knew how it needed to be right, because I'm such a fun of the story too and I think that helps as a actor because I felt that death so hard when I first read it. Then the fact that you have to perform that and you have to do that justice, I guess, can make you nervous a little bit, especially I've never done that before.
I remember the first time I saw it I couldn't even look at it. It was really weird. It's like the heart is just like racing and you feel really weird watching it. But going back and seeing it a couple of times I am proud of how that came out. I think it worked out really well and obviously there's always things you think you can do better.
What about in this movie?
I can only feel good walking away, I guess. But while we're on the topic, this stuff was something that I was really concerned about. I had no idea how it was going to look and didn't really have a clear vision of we were going to be doing it and I've walked away completely in love with how they've shot it, how it's kind of formulated. Everyone has been thinking they were shooting on 48 frames or something like that. And we’re not. It's really just like this really slow, kind of sexy vibe and creepy and then it gets horrifying and I think this is going to be amazing for the fans.
I had no idea how this was going to go. And again, I can't wait to see it come together. I haven't seen the final product, but at least walking away I could be confident that the fans of the books are going to be like “Yeeeeah the party!!!” and that's great and it looks cool, it looks fuckin’ cool.
Well, going back to when Kaya was joking about your kiss - Was it also like kissing your sister?
No, it's not like kissing your *sister* because she's not my sister but she's my good friend. For us, I mean no, I don't know, kissing on screen is just, funny enough you're acting so you're distracted by that more than anything. At least I am. I'm actually always coming away from those things going like, "I wonder how I kissed just now." Because I have no idea, I'm just thinking about what's happening. It was more of that. I wasn't like [grossed-out noises] weird.
She was joking about it, she did not at all-
I know, I know. I get what she means because we're such good friends, but I would never do that with my sister. There's one big difference there.
[Unit publicist announces one more question]
Dylan O'Brien: Nice! Good chunk of time. [To Dexter] Sorry you had to sit there for all that.
Dexter Darden: It's just like kissing my sister.
Dylan O'Brien: It was not! I would never do this with my sister!
You guys are a really fun cast. What's something fun that's happened while filming?
Dylan O'Brien: I don't know, we do a lot. This year, literally stuff like this all the time is great. It's just being with each other every day and our chemistry is so effortless. We're literally just a big group of buddies, good, good buddies, like lifelong friendships and it's really cool. It's like we're family. We've done, what have we done? Early on we went to fun little hayride, haunted house type thing, went paint-balling a while ago. They all went to the college basketball game this weekend, I slept through it.
Chick-fil-A Saturday, something that we started on the first one, because Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays and it rhymes. Mario Kart has been a huge thing this year, we all do the Wii Mario Kart and it's actually really funny because we play it so concerningly much that we're all so good now, that among out group it's like we're all in this elite level of Mario Kart-ing and then it gets divided from there and it's always mixed up, like who's at the top of the standings.
I feel like now when we go back to our lives, if any one of us plays Mario Kart in a group of people we're just going to be like amazing at it. Yeah, people will be just like, "What." We notice it anytime we have someone come in, like a boyfriend or girlfriend, comes in and they play with us and they have no idea what we're doing, we're just experts at it. It's really funny.
Who's your character?
We do our own characters, which is what's great about it too. We literally created all of ourselves. Like there's Dex, there's me, everyone. We went through it specifically as a group saying how they should look and stuff.
The eyes and everything.
Yeah. My guy, weirdly enough, ended up 7 feet tall and fat and with a huge beard, because when we made it I had just gotten rid of my facial hair for the movie and I missed it so much so I was like, "Give me the beard." But I looked like Matisyahu on the video game. Like a fat Santa Matisyahu.
Who's always giggling-
Yeah, yeah. I was like hahaha. It's great. It's really fun game.
Get the Zelda downloadable content.
Dylan O'Brien: Really, is it awesome?
Dexter Darden: That's the new one. That’s 8.
Dylan O'Brien: Doesn't Thomas Brodie-Sangster really look like Zelda?
Oh my God.
Isn't that great? There should be a Wes Ball, Zelda film starring Thomas.
That will be a nice idea. Go pitch it to the producer.
I know, I will. Thank you guys very much.
The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opens in theaters September 18, 2015.