It’s time for a new edition of Unsung Hero, a feature dedicated to bringing attention to actors, directors and other folks behind our favorite films who might not be in the spotlight as much as they deserve. This time around that honor goes to a newcomer, Maggie’s Bryce Romero.
The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Wade, a father who manages to track down his daughter (Abigail Breslin) during a zombie outbreak only to find out that she’s been bitten and has just weeks left to live. Even though he knows it’s a risk, he decides to take her home so that they can spend whatever time she’s got left together. Romero steps in as Trent, a guy Maggie once had a relationship with who’s now infected himself and struggling through the very same thing. As Romero explained, “They were the only ones in each other’s lives that understood what [they] were going through.”
The Maggie promotional campaign has been all about Schwarzenegger for obvious reasons and he does deliver solid work, but I wanted to take a moment to recognize Romero, who gives the most powerful performance in the film.
Who he is …
Romero’s been interested in acting as long as he can remember, but with no friends or family in the industry, he never really knew how to break into the business. However, soon after entering the Performing Arts program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (a program which he’s actually set to graduate from next week), he scored an agent and started booking gigs, the first of which was actually the 2014 hit, The Maze Runner.
Where you’ve seen his work …
Romero only appears briefly in The Maze Runner as one of many Gladers, but you can certainly spot him in some pivotal scenes. “There’s this big speech that Dylan O’Brien gives before we decide to go into the maze to try to escape and there’s some shots that feature me in them.” He joked, “I’m the youngest looking one probably.”
Why he deserves your attention …
The Maze Runner is quite the first feature to have on your resume, but being a featured Glader in a franchise-starter is still nothing compared to the work Romero delivers in Maggie. Romero originally auditioned for Mason, a smaller role within Maggie’s group of school friends, but he wound up receiving a callback for Trent, a character that Romero knew he connected to on a far deeper level. Romero noted, “It was really kind of the first time that I felt really protective over a character.” And Romero certainly had the right to be. Even though Trent only gets a couple of scenes, they’re undoubtedly the most memorable of the entire movie.
After spending a good chunk of time at home with Maggie and Wade waiting for what’s to come, Maggie’s best friend Allie (Raeden Greer) insists on taking Maggie out for the night to a bonfire. Not only is it fascinating seeing Maggie try to interact with a group of uninfected friends, but then there’s Trent who winds up adding a whole new layer to the situation. Whereas Maggie is making somewhat of an attempt to enjoy the night, Trent’s floundering in a more serious stage of the infection. He’s a goner, he knows it and you can see it in Romero’s eyes, beautifully foreshadowing what’s to come for Maggie.
From there we get one of very few hopeful moments in the entire movie, a private conversation between Trent and Maggie during which they recall better days. Even though there are some smiles, Romero and Breslin expertly ensure that you never forget what’s about to happen to them. You want to enjoy the memories, but thinking about happier times only winds up serving as a reminder that those times are long gone and that Trent and Maggie will never get them back again.
If you’ve read my review of the film, you know that Maggie was a little too grim for my taste, but I suspect more of Romero could have changed that. The large majority of the film is set in and around the house with Maggie and Wade just waiting for her to deteriorate. There’s something intrinsically upsetting about a father watching his daughter fade away, but it doesn’t strike as deep of a chord as it could have because director Henry Hobson never shows us what they’re losing. We don’t get any cheerful flashbacks between Trent and Maggie either, but Breslin and Romero have absolutely no trouble conveying how happy they once were together through their conversation alone, and that’s something Breslin and Schwarzenegger just don’t do as well.
I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll keep this vague, but it’s also well worth noting that Romero delivers big in his next scene as well.
I do think Romero’s scenes are some of the more well-written moments in the movie, but it’s also abundantly clear that Trent doesn’t make a lasting impression due to strong writing alone. Just like Romero said, he connected to this character and felt protective over him, and that genuine passion serves Romero extremely well. If he’s this dedicated to future roles, there’s no stopping him.
Where you can see him next …
I suspect Romero won’t get as much screen time as he deserves in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and I know he doesn’t in The Final Girls, but it’s still nice to see him building a resume with quality features.
Romero is credited as “Mean Kid” in a short flashback in The Final Girls, a movie I absolutely adored and can’t wait for everyone to check out in October. As for The Scorch Trials, Romero’s Glader will have a bigger presence than he does in the original film. Not only are there far fewer Gladers this time around, but Romero also teased a certain scene in the mall that should be well worth keeping an eye out for.
Romero also noted, “There’s no specific role that I’m after right now, just whatever roles that I believe in and scripts that I believe in.” However, he did isolate his interest in working on more independent films. “Everyone that works on them, they’re not there for the money, they’re just there for the product because it means something to them, you know? That’s what I loved about working on Maggie.”
You can catch Romero’s outstanding work in Maggie in select theaters and on VOD on May 8th. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trial hits theaters on September 18th, The Final Girls is expected to come out in October, and Romero also has a small role in this week’s new release, Hot Pursuit.