SS_D51-15484.dng

Jeffrey Wright may not be the lead of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, but as with so many of his other projects, that doesn’t stop him from making a huge impression. His Beetee brings a thoughtful, mature vibe to the series that helps balance out the more volatile energy of his younger co-stars. It’s no wonder this tech geek has become a fan favorite.

At a recent press day in New York, I got a few minutes to chat with Wright about the Hunger Games series. He told me all about his love for Beetee, why he preferred the Catching Fire shoot to the Mockingjay one, and his plans (or lack thereof, rather) for Bond 24. Hit the jump to read my Jeffrey Wright interview.

What attracted you to this role? What about this character specifically connected with you?

I liked that his primary weapon was his capacity to think, and that he was less a fighter than a tinkerer. I thought that was interesting in the first movie, in Catching Fire, that among all these warriors there’s an inventor. It just seemed contradictory and curious to me. And then I think I was attracted to his sense of responsibility to his fellow citizenry, to the cause, and his loyalty to the ideals behind this rebellion. Because I think he, like everyone else, has a personal engagement with this and his commitment to this is driven by personal damage as having been a previous participant in the Games. But unlike Katniss, who I think is purely driven by personal concern, which makes her resonant because she’s apolitical really, he, I think, is highly political and is driven by — maybe I’m romanticizing, but driven by moral outrage at the society that he finds himself within. And I like that. I like that. That’s the sense I get anyway. Maybe I’m overlaying it, but that’s the sense I get.

Whereas Katniss, you know, throughout this, is I think more accessible and kind of universal in her response because it’s only about — the impulse for her to join this rebellion is largely about protecting the things that she loves, protecting her love, and her home and her family, and trying to recreate a sense of personal security. She’s not caught up in all the political aspects of it but it’s really about protecting the sense of home, and I think that’s incredibly noble and also why her story is so easily translated to people, because it’s things that we all can relate to.

In the last one, you spent a lot of time being the oldest person in a group of young people, and in this one you spend more time among other grown-ups. Can you talk about how this one felt different?

If I had the choice of spending my time with younger people on the beaches of Hawaii or older people in a pretend subterranean laboratory in suburban Atlanta, I would take the former every day. I’ll take Hawaii with the younger people on the beach. [Laughs] Surfing on my days off… I prefer that.

The Hunger Games is considered a YA book, but it also seems to resonate with adults. What do you think is it about the story that rings a bell with people who are outside the YA target audience?

They’re books told from the perspective of a young girl who is operating in a very mature world, a world that, as drawn by Suzanne Collins, doesn’t pull punches on the complexity of the themes that she’s exploring, which are themes around class division and war and the consequences of war on society and on warriors particularly. I think these themes are obviously, maybe too resonant for us now. She’s managed to craft a very accessible cosmology. What I think is fascinating about what she’s done is that she allows space, even though the books have political undertones, she’s allowed space across partisan lines for participation. Some people read these books and they take kind of a “99% versus the 1%” class inequality tack on it. Other people read these books and find a Second Amendment argument in it. You can slide yourself in no matter where you lie on the political spectrum. So that opens up the audience.

And as well I think there’s another aspect to this, at least for me and for some other adults, is that they’re books and films that you appreciate as parents because they are examinations of these relevant themes, but filtered through the lens of a young reader. That’s healthy for our kids and so I think there are some adults who — it resonates more on that level as well. At least I’m one of them. There’s one adult, at least.

Before I go, I have to ask: Bond 24? Any chance you’ll be in it?

No. Felix is going to be playing Beetee next fall or whenever it comes out.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: