Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes actor Owen Teague has revealed how Andy Serkis – who played the iconic character of Caesar in the 2011-2017 rebooted trilogy – passed on the torch to the franchise newcomer.
In an exclusive interview with GamesRadar+, Teague explained that he had a number of virtual meetings with Serkis before the cameras started to roll. That advice from the veteran performance capture actor helped the 25-year-old embody the spirit of Noa, the ape character he portrays in the upcoming film.
“To start, I spoke to Andy on Zoom for an hour and a half in my apartment,” reveals Teague. “And then, he ended up meeting with the rest of the cast in ‘ape school’ over Zoom, where he would have conversations with us. He was really, really lovely and generous. He’s somebody that I have looked up to since I was six years old.”
“He passed the torch,” Teague confides in our interview. “Andy helped me feel good about going into this because he's done it for so long. One thing he said was, ‘It’s just acting. Approach it the same way as you would anything else. This is no different. You're putting on a costume of this ape, but you still do all the other work that you normally do.’ That was really good to hear.”
When it comes to being the new face of the blockbuster franchise, Teague admits there’s a ton of pressure on his shoulders. “It's terrifying,” he says with a smile on his face. “But it’s also amazing. It’s totally surreal. I never thought I would be leading a franchise that Andy Serkis previously led. That’s ridiculous to even say because one of the reasons I'm an actor is because I saw Andy doing Kong as a kid.”
Talking about the stress related to his important new role, Teague adds, “There’s definitely a lot of pressure. Fortunately, I didn't think about while we were actually filming, but now I'm feeling it. I hope he likes it. I hope he feels like we did a good job.”
During a trailer launch event in Los Angeles attended by GamesRadar+, director Wes Ball also revealed that Serkis served an advisor on the new movie, being happy to impart his advice to the cast and crew. And early on, the British actor was indeed considered for a role in the upcoming trilogy, even going in to read some lines.
“We thought, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be cool to bring Andy in to play another character,’” explains Ball. “At one point, he came in and read some lines against one of the actors – and you could just hear Caesar. We asked him to help, but it felt wrong [to add him to the cast]. We decided not to do it, but I talked to Andy a lot.”
Speaking further about Serkis’ behind-the-scenes role in the upcoming film, the director adds, “I showed him the script and I told him what the ideas were. I showed him the concept art and I would ask him, ‘Am I getting this right?’ Andy was crucial in sitting with us and talking about how we could stay true to the spirit of the previous movies while still carving our own path.”
Serkis, of course, has a long history in performance capture. “When he made Apes, he’d already made Gollum, King Kong, and [Captain Haddock] from Tintin,” explains Ball. “He is a veteran of mo-cap, but all of our actors had never done this before. This is totally new for them. I said, ‘Andy, could you come in and talk to the gang and give them some pointers?’ He replied, ‘Absolutely. Say no more.’”
“Andy is seriously the nicest freakin’ guy ever,” Ball continues. “He's so generous, kind, and supportive, so he talked to all of the actors and told them about what he had learned.”
When it comes to the important lessons shared with the actors, Ball reveals, “You can't pretend to be an ape, you have to be an ape. That’s hard for our actors. I mean, they’re walking around with these silly suits. They look ridiculous. How do you get past that and just be?”
“That was a real journey and struggle for all the guys at first – but they went for six weeks of ape camp where they just improvised and they frickin’ loved it,” concludes Ball. “I’d go and check on them and as soon as I walked into the room, they would start to act like apes around me. It’s intimidating as hell! They were in it. It was a fascinating process.”
For more films coming your way, check out our guide to the other biggest upcoming movies.