It’s rare these days to spy Andy Serkis on a movie set when he’s not in a motion-capture suit and/or performance-capture rig. His most famous roles in recent years have been the mysterious and powerful Supreme Leader Snoke in the recent Star Wars films, the impressive leader Caesar in the Planet of the Apes film series, and, of course, as Gollum in The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings films. The last time a sizable audience got to see Serkis in his own skin was back in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron as the villainous Ulysses Klaue, a.k.a. Klaw, a mercenary who ended up on the wrong side of that film’s murderous robot. He survived (barely) and is now back to antagonize the heroes of Marvel’s Black Panther.
During a set visit just about a year ago, our group of gathered journalists got to see Serkis in action opposite co-star Martin Freeman in an interrogation chamber while Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira looked on from behind safety glass. Their interactions were cut short by the explosive arrival of Michael B. Jordan‘s character Erik Killmonger, followed by an action-packed sequence that became clearer once it was all edited together and revealed in recent trailers for the upcoming Marvel film. But once the dust cleared and everyone’s heart-rates settled back down, we had a chance to chat with Serkis about his return to the MCU, the personality traits the make up Klaw, and just what his relationship is with Wakanda and the family that rules over it.
How long have you known that you were going to be part of this movie?
Andy Serkis: Klaw appears in Age of Ultron, and the way that all happened was, they were working with The Imaginarium, which is my performance-capture studio. We were all working and consulting back on Ultron, working with James Spader and Mark Ruffalo and initiating them into the process of motion-capture because they were both using performance-capture. We were providing services for that.
Then, Joss Whedon said, “Hey, this is crazy, why don’t you come and be in the show?” And I thought, “Oh, alright, that’d be fun.”
So that happened and then, of course, when this came along, I knew that he was part of the Black Panther story. It’s just really great being back.
What has Klaw been up to since Age of Ultron?
Serkis: Well he’s just basically been causing mayhem in the world, on minor and major levels. He’s a smart guy in the sense that he’s a businessman as well as an arms dealer. He manages to cover his tracks. He has a mercenary army that works with him in different locations all around the world and he’s able to go down rabbit holes and appear in other places. He’s got the smarts, but he’s also a little whacked out.
Is there a different level of connection that you’re able to get with this character? Is there a difference from motion capture?
Serkis: No, I think everyone knows now really that, at the end of the day, it’s just acting and it doesn’t really matter what you’re wearing, it’s just another costume. You’re looking into another actor’s eyes and you’re communicating with them and you’re playing the role that you’re playing, whether it’s an ape or a human or whatever.
How did you come to that particular voice?
Serkis: We decided that Klaw, we would make him South African, a very strong Afrikaans, quite bullish, in a very … edging towards not being a politically correct person. [laughs] He’d fit in the White House quite perfectly. [laughs] I didn’t say that! … or, in fact, in Britain at the moment.
No, it was quite a smart decision, I think. It gives him a real edge. Also, because of the relationship to Wakanda as well, a misunderstood African nation, it fits very well politically that he was of South African descent at a time when, of course, he grew up through Apartheid.
Are Klaw and Killmonger working together against T’Challa?
Serkis: Klaw doesn’t really trust or work with anybody; he is his own man. He does deals with people, he interacts, but he doesn’t form allegiances or alliances with anyone. Ultimately, he’s a lone wolf. He has these pop-up groups wherever he happens to be in the world. So he and Killmonger aren’t working together, as such.
Are we going to see a closer iteration of Klaw to the comics?
Serkis: We’ve established the character and our version of Klaw in Ultron. He obviously had his arm chopped off and he has a weapon, which we will discover.