Anson Mount on Playing Black Bolt in ‘Marvel’s Inhumans’

     July 12, 2017

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When Marvel’s Inhumans was filming earlier this year in Hawaii, I was able to visit the set with a few other reporters, where we watched filming and talked to most of the cast and filmmakers. I learned a lot about the upcoming show and over the next two months, I’ll be posting a lot of cool content revealing how the show came together and what fans can look forward to.

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Image via ABC

If you’re not familiar with the series, based on the Marvel comic, it’s doing something incredibly cool and unusual. The first two episodes were filmed using IMAX cameras and will premiere globally in IMAX theatres for a two-week period, beginning September 1, 2017, and then ABC will air the entire eight-episode series beginning September 29th. It’s an incredibly ambitious idea, but one I can’t wait to see.

While on set, I got to participate in a group interview with Anson Mount, who plays Black Bolt. In the comics and on the show, Black Bolt is the ruler of the Inhumans and his voice is his power. If he were to speak, his electron-harnessing ability would trigger a shockwave that could level a city. To prevent this from happening, Black Bolt has undergone rigorous mental training and does it every day. By doing this kind of extensive work, he prevents himself from uttering a sound even while sleeping. The only way he communicates is with sign language.

During the interview, Anson Mount talked about what drew him to the role, the challenges of playing someone that can’t speak, developing his own sign language for the character, what shooting in IMAX adds to the show, what’s changed for him after Hell on Wheels, and a lot more.

Finally, before getting to the interview, check out the first teaser trailer for the series followed by the official synopsis:

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“Marvel’s Inhumans” explores the never-before-told epic adventure of the royal family including Black Bolt, the enigmatic, commanding King of the Inhumans, with a voice so powerful that the slightest whisper can destroy a city. After the Royal Family of Inhumans is splintered by a military coup, they barely escape to Hawaii where they are greeted with surprising interactions with the lush world and humanity around them. Now they must find a way to reunite with each other and return to their home before their way of life is destroyed forever.

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“Marvel’s Inhumans” stars Anson Mount as Black Bolt, Iwan Rheon as Maximus, Serinda Swan as Medusa, Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon, Isabelle Cornish as Crystal, Ken Leung as Karnak, Ellen Woglom as an undisclosed character, Sonya Balmores as Auran and Mike Moh as Triton.

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The series is executive produced by Scott Buck, along with Marvel’s Jeph Loeb and Jim Chory with Buck serving as showrunner. Roel Reiné directed the first two episodes. This series is a Marvel and IMAX project and is co-produced by Marvel Television and ABC Studios.

Question: How are you doing?

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Image via ABC

ANSON MOUNT: Good, good, good.

When you speak, shit happens. So, my question is how much dialogue …

MOUNT: I’ve always wanted someone to say that to me, “Anson, when you speak, shit happens.”

How often are you actually going to utter dialogue on this show?

MOUNT: Uh, wow. That’s not up to me. (Laughs) I don’t know. I think it would be a boring show if suddenly my character started talking regularly. He can’t. I mean, he sneezes, he blows half the world away, it’s that powerful. So, I really was attracted to the role because of the obstacle of playing a character, where the lead of the show doesn’t speak. Like, when else am I going to get that opportunity. So, yeah. Jeff Lobe knew exactly… he reeled me in like a fish, man. He knew exactly what was going to prick up my ears about this, and it was that kind of challenge. So, yeah, they got me a signed consultant, but it’s ASL. I can’t do ASL. He’s not from here. He wouldn’t know ASL. So, I’m building my own signed-system, my own Lexicon. I’ve borrowed some of the underlying rules of ASL to make it work more efficiently, but I’m actually double-checking my signs against ASL to make sure there is no overlap.

Does it make it more challenging to lead as an actor and forces you to use other parts of your body to express?

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Image via ABC

MOUNT: Yeah, that’s a good question, cause so much of being prepared as an actor is getting your preparation, whether it’s your lines or whatever mechanical side of your work needs to be in the muscle memory body, but getting my- I’m going to use a real word I hate, getting your “instrument” to switch from going here to going here. It’s homework. It’s work, but I like to work. I like the challenge. Otherwise, why do it? When Raul Renee came in to do our pilot, his first thing he said to me was, “Okay, we’ve got it figured out. So, we’re going to come up with fifteen or sixteen signs you can just sort of repeat.” I said, “No, no, that’s not what’s going to happen. It’s going to be an actual language.”  It’s hard.  It’s tough.  I don’t think it’s as hard as actually learning a different language. Like, I’m terrible with languages. I hated Spanish. So, it’s not that. It’s different than that, but it is… you can’t be thinking about your choreography while you’re trying to act. I’ve worked to get it into the muscle memory of my body, like it’s a dance.

Your character is someone who has to exhibit extreme self-control or as you said the consequences are dire. What are the things or people that test that self-control? What things get under his skin?

MOUNT: Well, it’s a great aspect of the character. He can’t lose control or bad shit happens. So, I think that the character’s immediately endearing to us because he’s a leader who is aware of the power of his own voice, and that’s what makes the role work. But you have to play that as a human. If there is an arc of growth for Black Bolt, I’m thinking that it’s forcing himself to become so stoic. He’s conflated that with being emotionally removed, and you can’t affective role when you’re holding part of yourself back, because your identity as a king is the state. Right? I hope that answers that question.

What were the topics that you’ve studied more to make this body language? Did you go for dance kind of language?

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Image via ABC

MOUNT: I watched some ASL translators, but I also watched conductors, good conductors. I get a little peeks and glances at what I’m doing to make sure it’s clear.

So, is your sign language effectively going to be the new Klingon? You know a lot of people they need shows and series (laughing) … especially the fans, they take it really seriously, and also on the back of that, are you going to create any potential curses that are secrets that we’ll get to discover as Easter eggs?

MOUNT: You hit the nail on the head, my friend. I actually … one of my secret goals is for people to be deciphering what I’m saying. In terms of curses, I hadn’t really thought of that, because we’re network.

They would never know.

MOUNT: I’ll give you a hint as to some of the creative ways … for instance, this is the sign for Maximus, okay? Because it’s also frustration, headache. This is the sign for Gorgon. You know why? In the books, he has a tendency to (bite noises). Stuff like that, is fun.

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