Wonder is Daveed Diggs’ first ever film role; in the inspirational Jacob Tremblay-Julia Roberts drama, he plays Mr. Browne, the kind, ideal teacher of Tremblay’s Auggie Pullman, serving as a calm constant in a troubled young boy’s life. Diggs gives a rousing performance, although it’s really little surprise. Just because this is his first time on the silver screen doesn’t mean he’s had a quiet career; perhaps best known for being the original Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton, he’s got a history on stage and TV.
Screen Rant recently talked with Daveed about his approach to the film, how truly personal it was to him, and also got a brief update on his next exciting project: the Snowpiercer TV series.
You start the movie with a big inspirational speech in your introduction, which is so hard because inspirational speeches can always be very trite and eye-rolling. How did you go about making it so fun, so enjoyable?
Well, I think it was written that way first of all. A lot that is lifted from the book and then Stephen [Chbosky, director] also adapted it in this way that is fun. I also… that is what you do when you’re teaching middle school – I used to teach middle school and I think, like, so much of making those classrooms successful is about management of energy. It’s actually the same thing you do in a rap show, right? You have a series of things you have to get through and a bunch of things you have say and a bunch of things you have to do, but your real job is to manage the energy in the room. And so I think for Mr. Browne, for me, it was really important to have him come in in this way that sort of started the energy off in the classroom in the right place. That’s what I was trying to do.
When you were a teacher, were you a Mr. Browne type? What was your teaching style?
I hope so.
Stephen allowed for a lot of… he would sort of ask me about things I would do when I teach and we would start shooting, [and] for a lot of the montages he would let me run around the class working with kids. So it was good in that sense. I think if you’re a teacher, Mr. Browne is the teacher you hope were or you hope you are, and he’s the teacher we all wish we had.
School is obviously a tough place, so seeing a teacher like that almost made me… the movie made me look back on my time at school so much more positively than you typically would as an adult.
I think it did for me too. I think it has that effect on adults in general. That’s one of the things it does so well – it really draws you right back into that world and makes you appreciate all the victories that happen every day just by showing up.
Exactly. And it must be wonderful to present that to kids. Because the movie will play to kids, but working with those child actors: you have a full class and a very different dynamic between each of the kids – how was it managing that and how was it working with them? Jacob especially – he’s wonderful.
They’re all such pros and this was my first movie so it was mostly me asking them what do you do during a break and what is a honeywagon. It was, literally, they taught me everything I know being in a movie – I learned from 11-year-olds. It was an incredible experience. They’re all such talented actors. Jacob, obviously, from the things he’s accomplishing in this film, but really all of those kids. I mean, when you watch those performances you like… they’re so honest, they’re so grounded and they’re so alive. There’s, you know, it’s a thing we all go to school to figure out how to do and just approach things with that kind of honesty.
One final question. You’ve got Snowpiercer, the TV series with Scott Derrickson coming up. What’s the status of that? Because the cast is growing now. Whereabouts are you with that?
I don’t know how much allowed to say but it’s dope. It’s really good. I’m very excited about it. The cast is amazing, Scott [Derickson]’s obviously amazing and shooting has been, like, a truly wonderful experience. It’s very cool.
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