'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' Star Justice Smith On Terrifying Stunts And More Terrifying Dinosaurs [Set Visit Interview]

In June 2017, I traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to visit the set of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. This week, we have been running a ton of coverage from this visit. It began with interviews with producers Frank Marshall and Pat Crowley, director J.A. Bayona, and stars Bryce Dallas and Chris Pratt. Today, it continues with new star Justice Smith.

This roundtable interview was conducted alongside Eric Vespe from Rooster Teeth.


What can you tell us about your character in this movie?

I play Franklin, an anxiety-ridden young man who is also a computer genius. He graduated top of his class at MIT. He's the antithesis to Owen, essentially. He brings out all of Owen's masculinity and strength and heroism by being so fragile and not that.

We've been told that your character is pretty comfortable in front of a computer and not anywhere else, so naturally you have to go on a dinosaur adventure. That's gotta give you a lot of room to play a little more broadly than you usually get to.

Right. He also has a clear arc throughout the movie. He's deathly terrified of going to this island, encountering these dinosaurs. Throughout all of that he toughens up a little bit because he has to.

You're teamed up with Daniella [Pineda], right?

With Zia, yeah.

What can you say about the relationship between your two characters?

They have a fun back and forth with each other. They like to make fun of each other. She picks on Franklin for being a wuss. He doesn't really pick on her. She kinda just picks on him. I think he tries. He's just not equipped with being social. He tries to give it back to her and she always ends up shutting him down. That just represents the bond that they have. They've worked together for so long trying to save these dinosaurs.

Would you say it's a brother/sister relationship or more romantic?

No, it's not romantic. Not at all! Not in the slightest.

So, you've been trying to save these dinosaurs for so long, but have never met a dinosaur. When you finally come face to face with one, what happens?

Exactly what you'd expect: screaming and yelling and pissing your pants.

Do you have a lot of action in this movie?

I do a lot of stunts in this movie, which is surprising because my character... I think it's set up like that intentionally because my character is someone who you would think is not physical at all and then is kind of forced to be in the movie.

It'd be funny if Chris doesn't do much of anything in the movie and you get all the hero stuff.

[laughs] Just doin' rolls and stuff.

We just saw the animatronic dinosaurs and if I was in the movie, my favorite part would be interacting with those on screen, but what was the thing that makes you go "Holy shit, what an awesome job I have!"?

That's kind of how I feel every day. I'm always doing weird stunts that I never thought I'd be doing and also just being with the cast. They're all so fun and witty. Chris is one of the funniest people I've ever met and Bryce is, like, the nicest and smartest person I ever met. Being around all these great people and working on something, trying to make it great. Is that a cheesy answer?

No, it's a good answer! We hear you have a pivotal role in trying to find Blue. What can you tell us about that?

Franklin knows how to hack into the tracking system in order to find the dinosaurs. When he goes to the island I think that's all he's expecting to do, but as with every Jurassic Park movie things go wrong! He's in a safe, enclosed room... I mean, he doesn't feel safe ever, but yeah. He expects to go to this island, do his job and just fly off, but that not how it works out at all.

Bryce Dallas Howard: [On the other side of the tent flap] No, Justice, he expects for everything to go wrong and everything DOES go wrong.We forgot to tell you that Bryce can hear everything you say. Sorry about that. Good thing you said very nice things about her.Bryce Dallas Howard: Justice, I'm listening to my book on tape, I swear.

[laughing] Okay, that's awesome.

Bryce told us that J.A. plays music during some takes. How's that?

J.A. loves to scare me. My character is perpetually scared, so I guess he wants an authentic reaction, which I respect as an actor, but as a human being I hate it. He plays loud music when I least expect it. He won't tell me! He'll have things explode in my face and things explode around me just to freak me out so I'm really scared on camera.

I think that's just what he's telling you. I'm pretty sure he's just fucking with you.

Yeah, "I'm not using any of that..."

Camera's not rolling, buddy. Sorry to tell you.

I can't wait to see the movie and all those scenes are cut.

J.A. always cuts to the core of a character emotionally and it's always exciting to me when people like that do one of these giant movies because then I know there's going to be some meat to it. Have you found that to be true with how he's working with you on your character?

J.A. knows exactly what he wants, which I love because then I know exactly what I have to do and there's no mystery about I have to do. I find myself trying to keep up with him sometimes because he'll have an idea for a beautiful shot and he really wants to fulfill it and all his movies are so beautiful and so intense I'm like "I don't want to mess this up!" I'm trying to do exactly what he wants, but I love how specific he is technically and visually.

When you auditioned for this role, did you know it was going to be Jurassic World 2 or were they hiding it?

Well, they hid it, but they don't hide it well. [laughs] The sides I auditioned with were like "Oh my God, there's a grizzly bear!" I was like "This is a T-Rex." It wasn't that inconspicuous.

What was your relationship with the Jurassic films before this?

I'm a big horror movie fan. Have you see J.A.'s movie The Orphanage?

Yeah, it's awesome.

I love that movie. When I was a kid I used to watch all these crazy horror movies and my family would take road trips to Vegas – I'm from California – and we had a built-in DVD player in our van and we'd always watch all the Jurassic Parks in order on our trips to Vegas. Those are more suspense movies, but as a kid you're like "This is a horror movie!" People are dying and dinosaurs were eating people. All my siblings would be too scared to watch it and I'd just be sitting there entranced. That's my personal experience with them.

You're right, that first movie especially plays like a horror movie. I remember watching it in the theater when it came out and people were screaming when the Raptor jumps up and barely misses Lex's leg when she's in the vent.

Yeah! Or with the T-Rex and they're in the car...

How's it like working with Chris? He's improvisational and, you know, a little funny...

Just a little. He's one of the funniest people I've ever met on and off camera. Most of the time I'm just trying to keep up with him. I think it's similar to the way Franklin and Zia are in the movie. Franklin's trying to keep up with Zia and off-camera I'm trying to keep up with Chris and his witty banter.

I'm seeing a pattern beginning to emerge here. You seem to be trying to keep up with a lot of people.

I'm trying to keep up with a lot of people. I'm really running, sprinting behind trying to keep up. I just try to give myself over to anything he does on-camera so I can make the shot work and be there for him. He's an incredible improvisor and most of the time I end up breaking because he just makes me laugh. But yeah, I'm just trying to keep up.

I know we're trying to avoid big spoilers here, but do you get to have any big scenes with some dinosaurs?

A few times.

Can you talk as much as you can about those moments?

Franklin gets into a lot of shenanigans. He gets into a lot of trouble and he has a very specific reaction to that trouble.

What's it like doing those scenes on a technical level? I know some of your interactions are going to be with CG creatures, some with practical. How's it working with each one?

It's hard because they don't really teach you in acting class how to act with a tennis ball, you know what I mean? Sometimes I like to pretend that my character is deathly afraid of tennis balls because it's hard to fully picture the dinosaur, so I'm like "What if I make my character have this weird psychosis where he just hates green sticks and tennis balls?" Working with the animatronics is a lot easier because those things are so lifelike. They genuinely frighten me. Sometimes the guys operating it... there's usually, like, 16 guys operating this thing and they all scare me, too. Everybody's out to scare me and I don't know why! Everyone likes messing with me!

We were disappointed that the T-Rex wasn't here. We were told it's huge.

I haven't seen it.

You haven't?

I wish, I wish. I hear great things about it. I'm in the same boat you guys are.

Well, I think you answered all our questions. I'm excited to see this scene you're about to shoot. You've got an Indiana Jones scene coming up: you're hanging off the back of a truck!

I know. I had to do this stunt earlier where I'm running an I had to jump onto this van and it's the scariest thing I've ever done in my entire life. I only did it two times and my body went into shock.

So you're saying they cast the right person to play this scaredy-cat character.

[laughs] Right!