Last summer, when The Maze Runner was filming outside New Orleans, I got to visit the set along with a few other reporters. If you’re not familiar with James Dashner’s YA novel, it centers on a group of teens who appear in an area known as “The Glade” but have no memory when they wake up. The only way out appears to be through a shifting maze of massive walls that harbor dangerous creatures known as Grievers. Only one of the teens, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), holds the secret to their escape. The Maze Runner also stars Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, and Patricia Clarkson.
During a break in filming I was able to participate in a group interview with Kaya Scodelario. She talked about being the only girl on set, being in her first big movie, her character’s relationship with the rest of the group, how she landed the role, what the cast had been doing off set, using an American accent, the end of Skins, working with director Wes Ball, and a lot more. Hit the jump for what she had to say.
KAYA SCODELARIO: It’s fine actually, they’re all very lovely boys. They’re all very well mannered. And they’ve been teaching me to be brave and manly. Yeah, they’re all really cool. A lot of my friends back home are boys so I do well with boys I like. Roughing it with guys and being sweaty and dirty, so yeah, it’s cool.
This is your first big American budgeted film. How intimidating or nerve wracking did you feel coming from a cult TV show in Britain?
SCODELARIO: I tried to go into it treating it like any other job which I think is what you have to do. I’m really lucky it’s a big Hollywood film and everyone really cares about it. Everyone wants it to be made because they want it to be a good story. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into it. It doesn’t feel as though it’s just here for the sake of doing another young adult film. If you speak to Wes, he really gives a fu*k about it! And when you have that passion and when you have that dedication, it’s the same as being as being on the low budget set ever. It’s just that there’s loads of free food which is great!
Can you talk about your character’s relationship with Thomas and your dynamic with Dylan?
SCODELARIO: I love Dylan. He’s the cutest thing ever. He’s so funny and sweet. He’s like my little brother. He’s very cool. It’s an interesting relationship between them. It’s very cool. There’s no romantic link. They’re two souls who feel a connection to one another but they’re so focused on trying to work out why they’re in this place and why they don’t have any memories and who put them there which is right. That’s what they would be feeling. They wouldn’t suddenly be like “I love you.” They’re very much focused on the story in hand and in trying to work out why these kids have been put into this situation. And it’s great working with him. He’s got so much energy. He’s so much fun. I really love him. He’s a dude.
SCODELARIO: I like to work. I feel blessed that I’m working. A lot of my friends are going through a difficult time right now. I don’t think there is enough youth employment or enough push for youths kind of do want they want to do. And I love my job. I love my job everyday. So whether it’s for four years or for two weeks, it’s still…. And when you’re working on a set, it feels like a family straight away. You feel like you’ve been working for a year with these people and you know them inside out. It’s very intense and it’s also nice to know we’ve had this intimate time together and we’re go off and do different things for a year and then we might see each other again in a year and it will happen all over again. It’s lovely to know that they’re going to be in your lives for a while.
How did you land this role?
SCODELARIO: I had heard about it. A lot of my friends told me that there is this really cool script going around called The Maze Runner and I thought it’s going to be another stupid female role where she is in love with loads of people and she doesn’t know what to do. They said, no, she’s actually a really good female part. She’s really strong and intelligent and it’s exciting. I loved the script. I found it really interesting. Then I put myself on tape because I was back in England and that was it really, it was quite strangely done in that way that I didn’t have to fly out to America. Wes told me he didn’t want her to be a damsel in distress. I totally got that.
SCODELARIO: It’s really cool! I come up in this box and I open my eyes and there’s like fifty boys. It’s great! (Laughs) But seriously, she kind of bursts on to the scene and everything starts going wrong from there. It was a lot of fun and it was actually the first scene I shot, so it was good to have that kind of energy. It was terrifying walking onto the set with all of these guys and being the only female and being English and being in America and all of these crazy things. So it was easy to be freaked out by the situation but it went really well. It looks awesome. The doors how they open and everything, it’s very cool.
Your character in Skins is pretty fearless. What is the most challenging aspect of this movie for you?
SCODELARIO: Probably the physical side. I had never done an action film where I’ve had to run around, especially running after Dylan where he’s all athletic and American and great at sport. And I smoke and drink, typically English, so for me I’ve been pushing myself to get into shape and actually exercise and try to keep up with them all. It’s been a great challenge for me. I’ve been able to stand my ground. I didn’t want to be the pansy female, I wanted to give them a run for my money and I feel like I have!
Essentially your character doesn’t have any background, did that make the role more challenging or did you find it refreshing?
SCODELARIO: I thought it was great. I love working like that. I work instinctually.
SCODELARIO: I’ve read the first book. I’m holding off reading the second and third book because I don’t want to know what happens. I think it’s great to be able to into something completely fresh and experience it. We’re so lucky to be filming on location. We camped out the first week here and all of us were like: “Oh God, this is terrifying!” The sound of nature and the snakes and spiders is really intimidating! I’m from London; I’m not used to that at all! You can feel the environment straight away; I didn’t feel like I needed to research anything which is good.
Coming off of Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes, which is a completely different picture to this, is it more daunting comparing it to a more intimate film or do you like having an ensemble cast where people can help you?
SCODELARIO: It’s interesting and I like to experience everything. As soon as I’m done with this, I want to go back to England and do an indie. I want to experience the whole spectrum of it. Emanuel was great but I was in every scene so it was completely full days and here it’s quite nice. I’ve had time to go to the pool a couple of times and sunbathed and it’s felt like holiday more than anything. It’s great to have people to bounce off and I love working with people my age. I think young actors have such energy about them and such a passion and a drive to do their best and prove themselves constantly, and to work with that is really fun and interesting. And all of these guys have that. They are all really focused. They’re here to work and they want to do their best. We all have that energy. Whenever one of us is tired or down, the others will pick them back up. It’s amazing to have that bond. It feels like the Skins days which was the first show I ever did. We all really care about each other and want to push each other as much as possible.
SCODELARIO: We’ve been going to the cinema a lot. I love that over here you can watch films at midnight, you can’t do that back home. So we’ve been going to late night movies a lot which has been fun.
And who has been cooking?
SCODELARIO: The first week everyone cooked. Everyone took a night each to cook which is amazing. We all shared the responsibility. They are all really good cooks.
What do you miss about London when you’re shooting for endless months on a set?
SCODELARIO: I think Louisiana is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. I love the culture here and the food is amazing. I haven’t stopped eating at all. I miss everything about London though! I miss not being able to watch the football. I miss the pub. I miss walking. I don’t drive so whenever I’m in America, I feel very static. I can’t really get around as much. I think London in the summer is one of the most beautiful places and I feel sad that I’m missing the summer because it’s only like two weeks long!
When you read the book was there a scene you were looking forward to shooting?
SCODELARIO: I can’t wait to do all the Griever stuff when we’re being attacked, because I’ve never worked with CGI or special effects so I’m really interested to see how that’s done. And to kind of push myself to be afraid of a guy in a lycra green suit, that’s what I’m looking forward to. And the Maze stuff, because it all fascinates me how big this whole thing is and that there are three cameras. It’s still really exciting to me, so I can’t wait to see how the big stuff is filmed.
What was your reaction when you saw the artwork of the pre-production and saw what you were really getting yourself into?
SCODELARIO: Mind blown! My mind is still blown every day! Every day I kind of have a moment of “Oh my God, I’m on a Fox film! How has this happened?” I keep expecting someone to turn around and say: “No get out! You don’t belong here!” It’s incredible and it’s great because I didn’t go to drama school, I’m not drama trained. I don’t have any family connections in the industry or anything like that, so for me, I feel really proud that I’ve shown you can come from a different background and still make it. Every day is still really cool. The artwork is amazing. Wes when he explained the opening shot to us when Dylan comes up, he stood up and he acted it all out and we were like: “Ohh, f u*k, this is really happening!” This is going to be so cool! And the pictures of the Grievers and all that sort of stuff, the effort that’s gone into it is unbelievable.
SCODELARIO: My biggest inspirations come from people that I work with. All the Skins guys, I really respect how well they’ve done coming from a show like that that had a lot of people who didn’t want it to succeed because they were scared of the message. Joe Dempsie, Nick Hoult and Dev Patel, they’ve all done so well, I really respect them.
What’s happening with Skins?
SCODELARIO: We’ve just shot a final ‘Where are they now?’ which airs in England next month and then that’s it. No more.
How do you feel about that?
SCODELARIO: I think it’s the right time. I think Skins was about teenagers and what they go through in that time and it’s such an important and complicated time and it should be about that. I’m kinda glad that they’re laying it to rest.
What scared you the most about playing Teresa?
SCODELARIO: Having to meet all the boys and me being the only girl, that was terrifying at first. But they made me feel welcome instantly so it was okay. Being the only female on a job was pretty scary. But they’ve all got their girlfriends here today so it’s been great having a girlie talk and painting each other’s nails.
Do you keep your British accent in this film?
SCODELARIO: No, I play an American. It’s been a lot of fun. I played an American in my last film so I had a dialect coach last year and she taught me a lot about it. I find it very interesting, the technical sides of it, the way you place your tongue on your mouth and all that sort of stuff. My mum is Brazilian so I speak fluent Portuguese so I think that’s why it’s slightly easier for me to make different shapes. It’s cool to kind of trick them.
What is Wes like as a director?
SCODELARIO: He’s very free which is great. He puts a lot of trust in to you. He lets you do your thing. He’s also very open to changing the script or working through a scene if it doesn’t feel right and that’s the perfect relationship. He doesn’t make us feel as though he’s on a higher level to us and we can’t speak to him. He’s incredibly open. He’s incredibly personal and intelligent and all these things a good director should be. And he has this amazing CGI and technical special effects background but he’s also totally human. He’s been great to work with.
They’ve changed your character’s situation from the book where she’s mainly in a coma, so how helpful was reading the book for you?
SCODELARIO: It’s totally reading. I love reading anyway. I wanted to read the book anyway and I found it so interesting, but yeah, we took it with a very big pinch of salt basically.
Are you concerned that the fans may not react well to that at first?
SCODELARIO: No because I think the heart is still very much in the book. James Dashner (author) has been a part of the process the whole way. I think they really respect that. The heart of it is still very much like the book, I hope they will not be disappointed.
SCODELARIO: Well sort of. I don’t know really. They’re very cool the fans. There’s a huge fan base already. It’s been really fun and crazy to watch them get all excited about it.
Were you surprised by the level of response from the fans?
SCODELARIO: Yeah. Definitely. And they’re all so nice, because you hear these horror stories of fandom being really evil and saying that you look awful, but they’ve been really nice. They make funny pictures of us all and so it’s been a good relationship with them.
How much do you check on line to see what people are saying?
SCODELARIO: I don’t check. It scares me. My mum does it and I say: “Mum don’t do that!” And she’ll ring me and say: “Do you know you did this?” And I’m like: “No, I didn’t do that mum, I would have told if I’d done that!” She kind of filters out the bad and then tells me the good stuff. But I don’t like Googling….
Do you not look at your responses on Twitter?
SCODELARIO: No, people have been actually really nice. There are a lot of Skins fans and so they’re really cool. I actually trended world wide the other day, which I couldn’t believe. I was so excited, I rang my mum! She didn’t have a fu*kin clue what I was talking about! She’s like: “What’s Twitter?” I’m like: “Don’t worry…:”
Have you prepared yourself for the magnitude of fame you could receive from the success of this film?
SCODELARIO: I don’t know how you could prepare yourself really. I think you just have to appreciate every moment of it. If this is it, then it’s still been incredible and amazing so whatever comes next is on top of that and is really nice. I’m just trying to enjoy the experience now and I do feel like I’m with a group of friends and there just happens to be a camera there, filming every now and again. So of all us are focused on that and whatever happens after, we will at least have each other.
Can you describe Teresa?
SCODELARIO: Well, I’m not allowed to say anything about her which is really shit. She’s tough. The one thing I never wanted her to be was the token female who was just scared and everyone was protecting. She doesn’t need protecting. The first time you see her she has a machete which I think is really cool. She’s tough, she holds her own and she also wants to find answers and she wants to know why she’s here.
How do you relate to your character?
SCODELARIO: I’m a bit of a feminist and I carry a machete! (Laughs) I try to be a strong female. I think it’s important. My mum is my idol in life. She’s a very strong woman. I think it’s important for women to be strong and intelligent and hold their own.
Can you talk about Teresa’s introduction when she’s throwing rocks from the top of a tree?
SCODELARIO: That was so cool! They gave me a load of tomatoes and rocks and I looked over and all the boys were there and I’m like: “I’m going to hit all of you!” And I started doing it and afterwards they were like: “Did you have more people up there?” I was like: “No, that was me!” I looked at the boys and they had tomatoes all over their faces. I loved shooting that scene. They actually re-wrote that. Originally there wasn’t any of that, she kind of just appears and they wanted to give her a really strong sort of “Here I am.” And it is very cool and a lot of fun to shoot.
After this, do you have any vision of the movies you’d like to make?
SCODELARIO: I really want to play a young Keith Richards. I genuinely do. I’m going to make it happen even if it’s me on my iPhone, I’m doing it! That’s my dream role to play a young Keith Richards. I really want to do something set in the late Sixties. I love the youth generation of that decade. I think they did so much and they had such a power behind them. I love the music. I love the Woodstock era. That or I want to do a Bond girl who doesn’t actually sleep with Bond and kills him! They are my two roles.
For more on The Maze Runner:
- 45 Things to Know about THE MAZE RUNNER from our Set Visit
- Dylan O’Brien Talks How His “MTV Hair” Almost Cost Him the Job, the Pressure of the Role, Director Wes Ball, and More on the Set of THE MAZE RUNNER
- Director Wes Ball Talks How He Landed the Job, Finding His Cast, Mixing LORD OF THE FLIES with LOST, and More on the Set of THE MAZE RUNNER
- 25 Images from Director Wes Ball’s THE MAZE RUNNER