While waiting around on the set of TWILIGHT, I got the opportunity to interview a few of the supporting cast members. Michael Welch is fairly unknown but that may change after TWILIGHT. Heís done a lot of TV stuff with his movie credits including DAY OF THE DEAD and ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE among others. Justin Chon is also a fairly unknown actor, having a regular role on the TV show JUST JORDAN along with roles in flicks HACK! and the upcoming CROSSING OVER. Jose Zuniga is undoubtedly the veteran of the bunch, having numerous roles in loads of action flicks and TV shows. The three actors gave us the lowdown on their characters, what the fan base is like, and their opinions on TWILIGHT among other things.
So whoís playing who?
Justin Chon: Well I play Eric Yorkie. Heís a human. (laughs).
Go humans. So youíre the first one that really makes friends with Bella?
JC: Yeah, yeah. So Iím kind of am the first person Bella becomes friends with, or tries to be friends with at school. Iím just like a normal, kind of teenager. Kind of like a real social ladder climbing kind of kid. Thatís why I feel like I kind of befriend Bella before everyone else. Because I want to kind of see if she can help me with social stature or whatever. I feel like, you know heís kind of, I guess nerdy. Heís on the debate team and heís the head editor for the newspaper and I think thatís kind ofÖ he uses his skills to try and get in Bellaís good graces by offering to make her a star in the paper or like.. you know, random things. Like I could try and sneak in her music at the prom. But ultimately Iím no match for Mr. Chisel-face. (laughs) Yeah, thatís my character.
Michael Welch: (leans forward and speaks into the recorder) Hello. This is Michael.. (laughs) Nah Iím kidding. I play Mike Newton. Who, Iím actually growing to like more and more as we shoot. I think heís athletic, but heís also incredibly awkward in ways too. I think heísÖ Iím really coming from myself a lot in this role, because Iím very familiar with the high school experience of trying to Ďget the girl that you probably wonít get.í I actually had a very similar experience where there was a girl in particular and the guy, the other guy who was clearly better looking than me, and clearlyÖ you know. Itís funny because I have a sceneÖ I should probably complete sentences since this is a print thing. I have a scene where I ask Bella out to the prom, and it actually started to get kind of painful after a while because I really did sort of go back and relive that time in my life. I never really actually had the courage to have that moment, because it probably wouldíve ended up as awkward and strange as it did for Mike Newton.
Well thatís good acting too.
MW: (laughs) Sure sure. So itís been a lot of fun. Itís been a fun process. I think, you know Mike, heís a small town kid and I think heís smart but, you know, still probably pretty naÔve and just trying to find himself. I think again, it does sort of make it easy to come from myself because how Iíve sort of been playingÖ You know, Kristen Stewart has a very naturally interesting thing going on that you canít really put your finger on. She has something very interesting behind her eyes that you almost want toÖ itís like she has a secret or a mystery and you want to just figure it out. So Iím sort of coming at it from that angle, just Iím fascinated by this girl and I just want to get to know her better. So yeah, thatís.. did I leave anything out?
Your character takes a big liking to her. Whenever thereís another guy talking to herÖ he really hates that guy.
MW: Absolutely. Yeah, it wasÖ
A little bit stalkery?
MW: Itís a little creepy. (laughs) No yeah. Right off the bat, as soon as she hits him off the head with a volleyball, as soon as he sees her. I think he sort of knew about her and knew that she was going to be coming and was maybe excited about the prospect of the new hot girl coming to school. But when he actually sees her, I think those connections really do happen in life, particularly when you are in high school and you really donít have perspective yet, really. So you can kind of trick yourself into thinking ĎWow, I couldnít imagine anyone that I could like more than this person.í And I think that sort of happens to Mike. And Edward, who we sort of have a similar haircut and look the same, heís basically just the much more chiseled, better looking version of me. And a vampireÖ (laughs) you know heís got it all. Heís got it going on that guy. So itís very easy to tap into that sort of insecurity for me.
Jose Zuniga: Well Iím also a human. Iím Mr. Molina. In the book I was Mr. Banner, so Iím now Mr. Molina. Which is interesting to me because it implies that, for reasons unknown to me, the movie is moving in a more open direction, still keeping the soul of the book, but adapting it in a way tooÖ the fire and creativity of this director, Catherine [Hardwicke] and using people maybe in the sense they need to show that kind of marriage, which is cool, of like when books and movies can work. So anywayÖ as a character I love this guy because heís real earthy and he wants to save the world and heís got this true message to giveÖ you know, like Ďgreen is good.í And itís very innocent in a way, because heís an adult and he really loves these kids and heís really opening up. But thereís this vampire thing happening around me that I donít even know of. So thereís almost this energy of good and bad and bad and good. Itís very, very interesting. As an actor coming to this role, I love it! I almost have all the freedom to be as silly and goofy as I want and I never get this opportunity so I feel like someoneís giving me jet propeller things and I can just soar. Itís just these little moments, but they feel so free. Iíve had to kill and Iíve gotten killed MANY times in movies (laughs) So to just not do that alone, to even just to connect to people and to have this kind of energyÖ I go crazy even thinking about it before I get to work. And then, the reality of it is that itís all part of this really interesting picture, which is The Cullens and these guys [Mike and Eric] and your little world with her. Itís quite, quite fun.. more complicated than I realizedÖ and also as innocent as I could ever imagine. You know what I mean? I donít think I said anything about Molina though. Heís just a biology teacher whoÖ Yeah this is an interesting thing and Iíll stop. As being older than these guys, itís interesting to be able to act out scenes where I can say or act like Iím this older being but in reality I can still feel the connection and I can also feel the time difference. Itís this cool life thing to just kind of be old and young enough to connect. You know what I mean?
MW: I think a really, really good point too. Which is, the fans are obviously going to want it to be very close to the book, and it is very close to the book, but it does feel like the book is just kind of being used as a blueprint and thereís a lot of room for us to sort of bring life to it. So itís not just likeÖ people arenít going to be watching going Ďoh yeah, that little quirk, that was in Chapter 4.í Itís not like that. We have the blueprint of these characters, and with Catherineís vision and Elliotís vision. And by the way, I donít even know what theyíre doing visually, so it could just look incredible. These, what I consider to be, great group of actors, you know basically bringing life to this piece. You know, in a way that I think is important in reaching the audience outside of just the people who read the book, but also pleasing the hardcore fans as well. I think it has, I think you said it much better than I did, sort of a nice blending thatís happening there.
JZ: It feels natural you know. It feels natural from everyone. Kristen, sheís very kind of unique and fragile and Robert, has that darknessÖ but itís all very organic to everybody. These guys, look everythingís so organic. You never know. Films are very outside of the actorís world. Weíre in a very small world, but I can feel all that energy and itís coming together in a very nice way. So I donít know.. weíre feeling good. (laughs)
How familiar were any of you with the books before you got this job?
JC: Well one of my best friends... he actually read all three of them. He told me about the first one, TWILIGHT, so I read like a little tiny bit before getting the part, and then once I got the part, obviously I read it. Itís definitely an awesome book and itís definitely a very interesting take on the whole vampire story. Itís like a cool new hip way to tell it. Itís very inventive Ö and I think itís a good book.
JZ: The one thing I noticed about the books, knowing nothing about them before I knew about them, once I knew about them, how much there is to know about them and how much itís around me. So thatís a very fascinating thing. In different generations too, not justÖ itís several types of people relate to the book and it works on several levels. Adults could read it and can beÖ itís quiteÖ is tension. And young people can definitely use it as a guidepost. Itís Ö again a complicated sort of book.
MW: Yeah, I was not familiar with the book or the series at all before auditioning... which seems to happen to me for the most important projects. I was like young Jack OíNeal on STARGATE SG1, which ended up being the most, pretty much the most important role of my life as far as getting any sort of following. Thatís another one where I just had no idea what I was getting myself into. I like that approach, I like not knowing before stepping into a project because it just kind ofÖ it takes the pressure off. I feel like I can come from a more genuine place and a more natural place if I just donít know. If I had known how popular these books were before going into the audition, I donít know how it would have went, how it would have gone.
JZ: I think we all share itÖ. Of all the people weíve talked too, itís kind of the same thing.
Thereís this really intense and devoted fan community. Now that you are sort of dropped into that, how is that different than other roles you might have had? Thereís a huge STARGATE community as wellÖ but I imagine you were just playing Young Jack, you werenít quite in the center of it there. Here youíve gotÖ Have you been paying attention to the websites?
JZ: Thatís a good question. Iíll just say really quickly that Iím really excited that Iím one of the characters that can kind of be there but not be picked on. Thatís all I have to say. (laughs) Theyíre going to focus on other people and Iím like ĎGo ahead.í
MW: I actually have a pretty funny story. I have been sort of blogging on different websites and Iíve been having a lot of fun with the fans. Theyíre fun peopleÖ you know because I couldíve sort of taken the more serious route of just ĎYeah guys Iím excited to be doing this.í Which I was, and which I said, but I was reallyÖ. I decided to have a little more fun, be a little more dry a little more sarcastic, just to have fun with them. And they responded and seemed to appreciate it. In one of the blogs, I made some kind of reference to the fact that IímÖ well ĎIím about to take a road trip and I need to pack and Iím low on socks. I donít have any socks. So I need to pick up socks on the way.í So the Twilight Lexicon picked this up, and on one of their daily posts, the title was something with Stephenie Meyer and ĎSocks for Mike.í And people literally started sending me socks to my PO Box. Theyíre starting to arrive now. SoÖ I really appreciate these fans, I like them a lot already, and I have been sort of involved in the internet world.
Your going to be set with socks for a while.
MW: I am going to be set with socks. I mean Iím getting sent joke socks, I mean I got little baby pink socks here.
JC: Man Iím going to say Iím low on gold coins. (laughs)
MW: (laughs) .. It goes to show, for me that theyíre very serious, but they also have a sense of humor and they donít seem to be taking it so seriously to the point of being crazy. They strike me as a group of people who just really enjoy these characters and really enjoy this story.
It seems like theyíre very happy with the way this is turning out. Like everything is going the way they had planned for it to be.
JC: That makes us feel really good, you know.
MW: Yeah, theyíve been happy with the cast for the most part. As far as I can tell. .. You know I worked on the remake of DAY OF THE DEAD and they were not pleased. (laughs)
How was that experience for you? As one of the first kind of horror things youíve done?
MW: It was a great experience. We shot in Bulgaria. It was my first time ever being outside of North America. Steve Miner was the director, he directed LAKE PLACID. It was a fantastic experience and a lot of fun. I think part of the reason why people were disappointedÖ (at this point someone drops into the room to pull the three actors back to set.. so Mike finishes up his statement for us real quick.) When they had a lot of the test screenings they got really hardcore horror fans and I think the kind of movie that Steve Miner wanted to make was more of an action movie with zombies as opposed to a horror movie.