Arriving in theaters this week is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which was directed by J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible, A Monster Calls) and stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Ted Levine, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Toby Jones, and James Cromwell.
Fallen Kingdom takes Pratt and Howard back to Isla Nublar to try and rescue the remaining dinosaurs from an erupting volcano, only for them to realize that there are even more threats awaiting the previously prehistoric animals back in the United States. Helping out on the rescue mission is programmer Franklin Webb (played by Justice Smith), who is instrumental in locating the creatures that are in mortal danger.
Daily Dead recently chatted with Smith about his character in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and he discussed being a part of this huge franchise, how much fun he had playing Franklin, being a part of one of the sequel’s biggest action set pieces, and more.
Nice to speak with you today, Justice. The Jurassic Park films have been this huge thing now for 25 years. So, I'm curious, once you found out that you were coming on board this franchise, what was your initial response? I would imagine, for me, I would be completely excited, but also really overwhelmed, too.
Justice Smith: That's exactly what it was. I got the call and I was in my girlfriend's room and I just freaked out, and I called everyone. Then, it hit me where I realized, "Whoa, this is a huge responsibility. I don't want to mess this up, because this story, this legacy means so much to so many people." But I was so excited.
Franklin gets a lot of really fun moments in this. I was saying this to Daniella earlier, sometimes secondary characters tend to fall by the wayside, but both Franklin and Zia get to enjoy their moments. For you, how was it diving into who Franklin is as a character and then working on that with J.A. [Bayona] in terms of figuring out his place in this story?
Justice Smith: That's a good question. I feel like I just approached it by coming to set open and ready to try anything that they wanted me to try. Besides watching or re-watching the original film, I didn't really research what it's like to be a tech guy, to be a systems analyst, or anything like that. The most important thing I could do on a film like this was just come to set, be willing to have fun, willing to react honestly to what my scene partners were giving me, and being present in all those moments. So that's what I did.
The one scene that I really had a lot of fun with was when you and Bryce are inside that control room. There’s lava coming at them from every direction, and then you have to deal with a dinosaur, too. What was it like filming that scene?
Justice Smith: What's funny about that scene is when the lava starts to pour down, on the day, they actually had makeshift lava pouring down, so that was really helpful. It was made out of this paper material, and they would set it on fire and then drip it down, so in a way there was actual real danger in us shooting that scene. But of course, we were never put in a position where we had to dodge lava or anything like that.
So, that was easy to react off of. Also, I had this trick whenever I was working with the tennis balls, where instead of imagining a giant dinosaur about to eat me, I just would imagine that Franklin was afraid of tennis balls. And if I was touched by a tennis ball, I would just react in terror, and so that was how it ended up working for me. When I saw the film I was like, "Oh, I actually looked pretty scared." So I think it worked in the end.
In Fallen Kingdom, there are serious moments and heartbreaking moments, but there are some really good comedy bits in here, and a lot of that comes from your character. Did you enjoy being able to bring some comedy into this story?
Justice Smith: Yeah, I really did. That was actually a challenge for me to play the comic relief, because I'm just not very good at being funny on purpose. That's never really come easy to me. I know how to be funny in conversation or by accident, but making a choice that I know is going to get a laugh was beyond me at that point. So I learned a lot by playing Franklin. I learned that if I played it honestly at a heightened level, that's where the comedy came from. And also, there were just a few things that I knew would get a laugh, like the scream that I do in the bunker. That was actually Bryce's idea. She just told me to go for it, so I did. But there was this whole new pressure when it came to the comedy.
Speaking of pressure, what was the biggest pressure on you coming into Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and how did you overcome that?
Justice Smith: Well, I think the biggest thing for all of us was paying homage to the previous films. For me, I didn't want to come in and be a new character in this story and interfere with what people love so much about those movies.
But Chris, Bryce, and J.A. all made the sets very open and welcoming for all of us, so I never really felt like I was out of place. It felt like I had that pressure lifted off my shoulders almost immediately because of them, which was good. I was fortunate to have that. But besides that, I had never really done stunts before. This was the first film where I had to face that challenge and I ended up loving it. I'm a huge fan of doing stunts now and I have a whole new respect for stuntmen because it's not an easy job at all.
In case you missed it, check here to catch up on Heather's other interviews with the cast of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom!