Chris Evans is Gifted | Interview
By: Lynn Barker
In Gifted, hot actor Chris Evans of Captain America fame, is very believable as Frank, the concerned, if misguided uncle of Mary, a feisty, smart, math prodigy tween niece played by Mckenna Grace. The family is arguing over whether this kid, who has mastered calculus before the first grade, should go to private or public school. Frank is trying to protect her but, at what cost to her future?
Chris talked with press in L.A. recently about working with Mckenna who really inspired him and had to hit him, really pound on him a few times for a scene. He talks about why it’s important for him to take a break from his popular Captain America character from time to time and how he feels a big responsibility to represent that character for kids. Check it out!
Q: So Mary is a math whiz. How good are you with math in real life?
- Chris: I'm o.k. Math is certainly the strong suit. My dad majored in math in college, so my brother and I both really enjoyed math. Outside of that, though, I was a mess.
Q: There's an old adage in Hollywood that says, "Don't be in scenes with dogs and kids." What did you learn from working with young Mckenna as Mary?
- Chris: Well, I think what they say is don't try to direct animals and kids, so luckily that wasn't completely my responsibility. But we had a lot of time to rehearse and Marc (Webb) is wonderful as a director, and McKenna just brings such a level of maturity that I don't know if that old adage applies, because she really didn't feel like a kid.
Q: What did you learn from working with her?
- Chris: To have fun, that this (job of acting) is fun. She comes to set every day and she's just full of life and she's bouncing off the walls and she's saying "Hi" to everybody. She's happy to be there and even when the days are long and you're tired, and maybe you've done more takes than you'd want to do, she's still looking at this as an incredibly fun experience, which it is. It's so easy to be kind of acclimated to the experience and so watching someone so full of life go through it, you remember how lucky you are.
Q: Do you remember the day you guys first met?
- Chris: Yeah, it was during the audition. It's so tough, because I remember auditioning for things when I was young and how nervous you are. We had these young girls coming in, some of whom were really nervous; some of whom maybe should have been a little more nervous. McKenna really struck that balance, where you felt that she was nervous, but those nerves showed a maturity.
- The scenes were heavy, the scenes were emotional, and she went there. She got there. She walked out of the room and we were like, "Man, this girl just started (killing in this audition." Again, there was just a level of maturity. When you're dealing with someone that young, you want to try and harness the truth of youth, but you also need someone who knows this is a job, so it's tough to strike that balance, and McKenna just knocked it out of the park.
Q : My most favorite scene in this movie is the beach scene. How did you guys make a bond other than clicking at the audition?
- Chris: I just think she's just one of these girls that just, you can feel it off of her. If you choose to engage, you're going to have a connection with her. She's a real open vessel looking to bond with anybody, so if you actively try to hit the ball back, she'll play with you. You're going to set every day and there's like I said, tons of rehearsal, so it just felt very comfortable very quickly.
Q: But, she had to really hit you and smack you around. How was that for you?
- Chris: She went off before that scene, it's a heavy scene, so she left the room and everyone's quiet on set. Every actor's had a scene where you've had to really tap into something emotional, so we all know that environment where on set, everyone is sensitive to the experience. It's interesting to see someone so young try and tackle that dynamic, that environment.
- She was gone for a while and then all of a sudden someone's like, "O.k., we're ready, we're ready, we're ready." Then Mckenna comes on and she deploys and "ready" and "action" and she just launched into it so effortlessly, so committed. The smacking and the hitting, whatever type of social awkwardness that you may think would happen in an actual setting just melted away and you really can drop into the scene, really thanks to her.
Q : Can you talk a little bit about the differences between doing the Captain America character and then doing a wonderful, sweet, wholesome, heart-grabbing film like this?
- Chris: Well these are the movies that I love. No disrespect to the "Captain America" films. I love those, too. These are the movies that I gravitate towards as a person and this movie had the family dynamics and complexities; things that I can relate to in my personal life, as I'm sure we all can. This one just had a lot of heart and it felt like really fleshed-out characters. The real question mark was going to be, "Who are we going to get to play Mary?" The movie lives and dies on that. As soon as we found Mckenna, you had this secret hope that you think, "This is going to be it. We got her."
Q : Do you worry that the audience for you as Captain America won’t want you to do this?
- Chris: I think there's an eagerness to see the range in people. I think it's enjoyable. If you love someone in a role, it's almost exciting to see how they tackle something different and something new. If you gravitate towards someone in some arena, I don't think you only want to see them in that arena. I wasn't worried about that. And look, if there was any sort of concern about that, then it's my goal to show them that I can do that and try to show a variety of sides.
Q: Does being Captain America effect your daily life, like when young fans come up to you? Do you feel like you have to set an example?
- Chris: Well, you don't want to take your role home with you too much, but there's no denying that there is a certain maybe added responsibility to what comes with playing a role like that. You go visit children's hospitals and things like that, and you see the effect you have on kids who aren't just fans, but are in need of something more than just escape; kids that are needing hope or something like that. To some degree it truly humanizes, it makes it more than just movies, which is great and it's wonderful and it's a responsibility I don't take lightly. A lot of kids look up to that character.
Q: How have you managed to keep your life balanced?
- Chris: It’s your family and friends. In the industry you can certainly see how they always say fame makes you more of what you already were. So if you already had certain flavors inside you, fame is just going to bring that out of you. I'd like to believe before I ever started acting I had a pretty good head on my shoulders. You certainly, as a result of being in this industry, see people change for the negative. I won’t say I haven't had little hiccups and pockets where you leave a scenario and you say, "Whoa, that wasn't me." It's up to you to recalibrate and adjust and make sure it doesn't continue down that road.
Q : Are you looking for more films like this to do, these little, small, independent-ish films?
- Chris: The next thing I'm going to do is a film called Red Sea Diving Resort. It is a little bit of a smaller film. The beautiful thing is "Captain America" affords me the opportunity to taste the big budget, big thing, so I'm not necessarily seeking that out. So yeah, in my downtime or in my off "Captain America" months, I certainly am looking for smaller things that touch different chords.
You can see Gifted in theaters now!
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