Last November, I got to visit the set of Resident Evil: Afterlife when the movie was filming in Toronto. I was there with a few other online journalists and we got to watch some filming and also interview the entire cast working that day. Overall it was a great set visit and you can read my report here. Anyway, late in the day we got to sit down with Ali Larter and during the interview we talked about how her character Claire has changed since the last film, filming in 3D, working with the rest of the cast, how she trained, and a lot more. Hit the jump to read or listen to what Ali Larter had to say:
As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here. And if you haven’t seen the trailer for Resident Evil: Afterlife yet, I’d watch it first.
Question: What are some of your more physically challenging scenes in this film and how did you handle them?
Larter: The tunnels is definitely one of them. I think Paul, one of his fantasies was getting us as dirty as humanly possible and putting us in the worst situation ever. So that was a bit of a, it definitely pushed us to our limits. But at the time time, it’s exciting because this movie is his vision and we’re really excited to be a part of that. Whatever he wants, we’re here as the players in his game.
How has your character changed from the last film?
Larter: When the film opens, you’ll see that Claire has only made it through by her own survival instincts. That’s an interesting way of bringing her into this film. You’re also going to see her reunite with her brother and, I think that one of the great things about that is, within specially a Sci-Fi movie, to be able to bring the depth and dimension of a human relationship is very important. I think that, little glimpses of it… This isn’t some weepy, weepy reunion. The way that Paul has come up with us to meet up is actually a really great sequence. But I think that it brings a human element to it and a way that you can relate to these characters. You invest on their journey. I think that’s a great new dimension that’s in this film.
What’s your dynamic with Milla?
Larter: It actually flips a bit because she takes the place of taking care of me for a little while while there is some stuff that I’m going through. By the end though what you see is that these girls have each other’s back, period. They’re survivors and they’re not… You know one of the things that I love about these movies also is that there’s room for two strong, powerful women. There doesn’t have to be any bitchiness, there doesn’t have to be any cat fights. It’s just, these women are going to survive and, whether it be a man or a woman, it just happens to be two women. And you kind of see them, that they have a couple moments where it’s like, what they’ve gone through with the apocalypse of the world and the pain of it, it gets recognized a little bit in this movie and that’s important. You can’t just be kicking ass and have the world coming to an end and not take a breath sometimes and not have a moment with the gravity of what’s happening with these people.
You have that big fight scene coming up with Wentworth and Shawn. Have you been practicing?
Larter: We did. We did some stunt rehearsal for that, which is great. I think that a lot of the fan boys are going to be thrilled because it is beat by beat from the video game. It is drawn directly from it and I think, with this movie, one of the most exciting things is that this is the most like the video game. I mean, I’m dressed in the outfit that Claire wears. You see me in Chris in this fight sequence, it’s really beat-for-beat.
Can you talk about these 3-D cameras. As an actor, it’s a lot slower going. Can you talk about maintaining energy in that environment.
Larter: It’s definitely been the biggest learning curve for me. As an actor, whenever I start on a movie, different things that I perform in ask for different skill sets. And this one is definitely the technological side of it. You have to hit your mark. You can’t weave back and forth because your nose is jutting at you in 3-D. It’s really been learning how to do that and also it’s exciting to be on the forefront of this technology. This Phantom Camera is incredible. Have you heard of the Phantom Camera? I’ve watched some of the dailies. It is just, it raises this tension. It makes everything so sensorial and, it’s just thrilling to watch. The payoff is we can see that it’s worth it. Within that, you’ve got to hit your mark. I defer to whatever the cameraman or Paul needs within the shot. And you always, you do, you keep your energy up and know that the outcome is going to be worth it.
We’ve heard that, in some of the fight sequences, you can cheat some of the hits in 2-D that you can’t in 3-D.
Larter: Yes, there’s tricks around that too. (Laughs)
Can you talk about that a little?
Larter: Yes, you can’t connect on a punch. I don’t know how you’d write this, but instead of doing a punch like this, you start it here and just do that. That way you’re still going to see the connection and then cut into it. On the other, we get to do more flips and spins and all that, so you know, you lose one but you gain another. I have a very exciting sequence with the axe man, which is so cool. It’s in the torrential rain. It’s just really exciting. I get to run up, flip on the wall, and he’s, you know, a character that so many people love from the video game. So to Claire and the Axe Man go head-to-head should whet everyone’s appetite.
Was there any hesitation on anyone’s part to come back, to reprise Claire?
Larter: And I think that’s part of this, but in the end this is Paul’s vision. He’s written all of them and, when I ran into him about a year and a half ago, going to this charity event, everyone was like, ‘Paul wrote this amazing role for you again and it’s got this amazing journey.’ I was just really honored that they wanted to bring me back and, specifically, to get to play a video game character that so many people love, to be able to bring her to life, and to show that they want to bring me back. I guess that the boys and girls are enjoying me in this role. That to me is a great compliment.
Are you getting good feedback on the role from your fans?
Larter: Yeah, they love it. Mostly that they love seeing the girls as bad-asses and that they love the red hair and they love having her back. People are really excited to see what’s going to happen with her reuniting with her brother.
Do you guys ever talk about Part 5?
Larter: No, for me I’m excited to be working on this now. You never know where things are going to go. I think this is going to be the biggest and the best of all the Resident Evils because of this 3-D element. For me, what excited me about coming back was that Paul was here to direct it. He directed a few scenes in the last one, but I didn’t get to have that experience with him. This world, he creates this world in his head. For me it’s like, I’m showing up and I’m a player in his game. It’s really about, he gets to rise and fall with this because this is his creation.
Can you talk about working with Wentworth?
Larter: I love Wentworth. I was thrilled when they cast him. Me and him are actually really similar. We get along great. It’s another thing with this movie. There’s no catty bullshit. There’s no girl drama. There’s no ego. We like each other. Me and Milla have a blast. We talk all the time. And we support each other within these scenes. If one of us feels like we need something and, you know, we support each other’s point of view. And I also watch her. I think she’s incredible at this and I learn from her. With Wentworth, he’s coming into this from the first time and it’s like open arms. If you come into this with a desire to portray these characters in a way that the fans are going to love them, know what this is and really bring your A-game within that world, then it’s going to go down well and he’s done that.
There’s a lot of creatures in this movie. Do you have a favorite and can you talk about these dogs?
Larter: I haven’t worked with the dogs yet, so that’s a little bit more of Alice’s gig. But it is cool how they did that opening of the mouth. I heard Paul the other day saying, “These teeth are too symmetrical. They need to look more gnarled.” It’s fun.
Do you have a favorite of some of the other stuff. There’s a lot of different zombies.
Larter: For me it’s the Axe Man. I think he’s incredible. When you see this axe, it’s extraordinary. It’s intimidating and it’s huge and the way that they shoot it looks so great.
How large is the guy himself? I heard they got a boxer to play him.
Larter: He’s huge. I think he’s like 6 ft. 9 in. He’s huge. And then the way that they shoot him makes him seem like he’s 8-feet tall. You throw the camera down here, drop me over here and it’s just, this huge image.
You mentioned Claire’s journey. Where does a missing K-Mart fit into that because you were very maternal towards her in the last movie.
Larter: One of the things you’ll see when you find Claire, the only way that she survived is coming back to her survival instincts. And against all odds she’s made it through. That’s one of the things about Claire, why I love playing her, is that she’s a fighter. You put her in any situation and she’s going to fight her way out of it. There’s not time for weepy or what am I gonna do. She’s by nature a fighter. You’ll pick her up and as the movie ensues they’ve come up with a really interesting journey for her as she is rediscovering about her past. When she comes back together with K-Mart, you’ll see that, um, I can’t talk about so many things. (Laughs) I can’t say this and I can’t say that.
How would you react in some kind of plague-ridden zombie apocalypse?
Larter: I hope like Claire. I’ve been in this business for a long time and, as a woman, it’s difficult the pressure that you have on you on a physical level. The rejection, the competition. There’s so many elements that make this not the easiest thing to be a part of. For me it’s about finding a way to go inside yourself and really remembering what’s important and keeping things in perspective and living in the present. I think that’s how Claire survives and I think that’s how I survive in this business. Staying in this moment and being very thankful for everything that I have in this world. I think that, with her, she’s just, there’s no time to worry or get caught up in the drama of it. She stays in the moment and she’s going to survive.
So you’re saying that being in Hollywood is good training for dealing with flesh-eating zombies.
Larter: Yes. (Laughs)
You are filming this along with Heroes. Were you ever nervous it might not work out?
Larter: I was actually. Especially when I heard that Paul had written this role for me and I was really excited to be able to come back and do it. The other end is that Heroes is something I’m so proud to be a part of and I think that what everyone’s realizing, especially in network television, is that there’s room to let the actors out for a couple episodes to do these movies. They feed each other. And I’m very lucky that on the show we have such a large cast that you can let me go for a couple and I’ll be able to come back and the show can stand on its own.
This is Day 35 of 55. Are you up for the whole shoot?
Larter: No, I’m going back. I wrap December 2nd. I came up late, I wrap the 2nd and I’m back on Heroes, like, I’ll be in the salon for a couple of hours, like, going back to Tracy Strauss and then right back on Heroes to shoot the, I think we have a two-hour finale.
You haven’t been flipping your hair color back and forth?
Larter: No. But that’s what’s fun for this two. It’s a new look. The red leather jacket that’s in the video game. I mean, she’s a bad-ass. And it’s fun and she’s tough and, you know, it’s so different form the role that I have on Heroes.
Did you receive any particular training for the role?
Larter: No, Rick, our stunt coordinator, is so great. We go in and we learn and, for me, so much of it is being fit. These aren’t people that would be able to survive if you weren’t in shape. So, for me, I run all the time. I am working out like crazy. I’m taking care of myself so that, when you do these things, it looks real. When you’re shooting these guns, I mean, if you’ve never done it before, you’ve never lifted a weight or played a sport, it’s not gonna look real. That was one of the things I was hearing from the producers is that he’s so thrilled by this. You believe it, you go on the journey with us. And that to me is one of the elements in a film like this. It’s not just creating the character. There’s a physical element of that’s essential.
You’re going back to Heroes in December and don’t they wrap in December?
Larter: Yeah, we wrap in the end.
Are you already thinking about upcoming stuff?
Larter: I am. I was just hearing that some scripts were being sent up. For me, it’s like I’ve gotten my dose of this, I’ve gotten to do some great dramatic stuff, especially working on Obsessed, which was an incredible experience for me. Now, maybe a little comedy or, I don’t know. Maybe a love story. Who knows? We’ll see what’s next.
Do you see Heroes going beyond this year?
Larter: I really don’t know. People speculate about it. One of the great things about our show is the international audience that we have. You travel abroad and people all over Asia, when you go to Europe, love the show. Now how much that impacts whether we’ll stay on the air in the U.S., I don’t know. And also the climate with network television is changing with the DVR numbers coming in a week later and all that. So, you know, I don’t know what it takes to keep something on the air right now, but I know that I’m proud to be on the show and as long as they want me to be a part of it, I will be there.
The genre stuff like that seems tougher to keep on the air. Joss Whedon’s show just got cancelled.
Larter: I saw that, I saw that. Well, you know, you also see when you go onto cable and they allow the creators to have their vision. You look at Mad Men and he’s like, in every, they don’t come shouting down. There’s not ten studio heads screaming at them, they have to rewrite this or rewrite that or overwrite it to over explain it. For me, we’ll see how long I’m on the show and if I do go into television again, it will be in a situation where, whoever the creator is, has the power to keep their vision clean. And that’s to me what I think the greatest problem is right now on network.
You’re a fan of Mad Men?
Larter: Oh, who isn’t? It’s so spectacular and, you know, I’ll laugh with my husband when we watch it after because you just thinking, “Three minutes have gone by and no one’s said anything.” Isn’t that amazing. You get to live and breathe with these characters and as an actor, that’s one of, at least for me, one of the most thrilling things is being able to discover things in the moment and there’s not a lot of room for that in a lot of movies. So, that’s one side of it. Maybe I’ll get to do a little breathing after this.
But having said that, you’re happy with where your character is.
Larter: Absolutely, yeah, definitely. I’ll always be sad what happened with Nicky Sanders. I loved playing her the first season. The first season will always be one of the best times of my life creatively. I was learning to work the hours of a show, learning about the cast, learning about what it’s like that you don’t know what’s happening four episodes in the future which, for me, that control was crazy because I had come from film. That was a very, very new thing for me. I’ll always be sad that that didn’t work out, but I wasn’t in a place to have any input on the direction of that. So if I ever do get back into it again I’ll get myself in there was well.
Do you want to do more in the horror genre as well, coming from the Final Destination franchise?
Larter: I like it all. For me it’s about the character, not as much about the genre of it. And whatever speaks to me and. (noise in background) The zombies! (Laughs) Yeah, I’m excited that I get to work and play interesting characters and I’m not just the girl who gets to play the girlfriend or the wife. I get to play real women who have struggles and troubles and passions and that’s always what I hope to do no matter what format that lies in.
We didn’t get to see you in any scene. Can you talk about what you wear in the film?
Larter: Yeah, it’s straight from the video game. I have the red vest, which she wears. Instead I’m wearing some black jeans, kind of keeping it within the mood of Paul’s world. It’s bad-ass and it’s tough.
What’s your weapon of choice for the movie?
Larter: I have a knife to gut you with. No, it’s little, but it will gut you, strip you down. (Laughs)