Jurassic World Dominion's DeWanda Wise On Channeling Harrison Ford And Those Intense Stunts [Interview]

In "Jurassic World Dominion," DeWanda Wise plays Kayla, a pilot on the wrong side of the law. However, a certain event might make her change her mind. The sequel begins with dinosaurs as a part of the larger world, no longer being confined to Isla Nublar. They run with herds of horses, they're appearing in civilization, and the really scary ones are being traded on the black market. Kayla is a part of that. She's also the coolest new character in the film — and my personal favorite. (The shot from the trailer of Wise and co-star Chris Pratt having an icy standoff with Quetzalcoatlus, the new feathered dino in the film, is really badass.)

I got a chance to chat with Wise about who Kayla is, how she was inspired by a certain famous action hero, the little character nods in her plane, and shooting during Covid as this film was the first one to resume production after pausing at the start of the pandemic.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Bringing the swagger

Kayla is my new favorite character. Tell us a little bit about who she is.

Kayla Watts is a former Air Force pilot, and now she kind of flies freelance for whoever is paying the most money. And that's probably why you love her: Because she's a woman who knows her worth.

She has a very sort of classic action hero feel to her. Are there any classic action heroes that you used as inspiration?

I mean, Harrison Ford. It's early career Harrison Ford. There's nothing like that kind of swagger. Sometimes, I think about how Jeff Goldblum in "Independence Day," how he struts at the end of that movie. So I really did — there were a lot of cues that I thought about what it means to have her speed, what it meant to have her posture. Her posture is ... more substantial and better than mine. I'm a sloucher. So yeah, there were certain little physical markers that I really latched onto for her.

There are some really cool things in the plane. Obviously there is her parents' picture [that] stands out, but what other little character nods should we be looking for in there?

Man, some of them are inside jokes. My husband's Jamaican. There's a Jamaican flag in there. I'm obsessed with the — there were these beads, which, any Black family in America who goes to their grandparents' house, in the kitchen, there's beads that are hanging down from the things. This is horrible, but Colin [Trevorrow], he didn't realize it until the end, but one of my Easter eggs is Kayla's hair.

So Kayla has her baby hairs. Her baby hairs are gelled the entire movie. They're gelled the entire movie. She literally makes it through this movie unscathed so much so that she doesn't sweat out her baby hairs. And that's just a gift for all of us. [laughs]

I did notice that, by the way!

Did you notice?

I did! I totally did! What about working with the original actors? 

It was a gift. For whatever odd, serendipitous fortune of fate, I've worked with Sam Neill. We literally hung out. When we working on "Invasion," it was over about a month in New Jersey and upstate New York, and I'm not kidding, we went to lunch together. We were shopping together. So I already knew. It was kind of like foreshadowing, because this was the fall of 2019. And then next thing I know, it's the summer of 2020 into the fall. We're watching movies on Mondays because that's what we do on Mondays. [laughs] We're enjoying after-meals drinks — or tea, if you're me, because that role required a lot on Saturday nights. So it was really surreal and quite a beautiful and treasured and, God willing, will likely never happen again moment of cast cohesion, for sure.

On-set lockdown

Shooting during Covid — you were the first production back. What sort of crazy restrictions did you have?

We had all the restrictions. We had every restriction. You know what? Yo, we got to that hotel, and I think they waited until we were all there before they were like, "By the way, you can't leave. You're not actually ... we'll go grocery shopping for you. What do you need? We'll get it. You live here now."


Yeah, it was surreal. I think that there were productions after that where it was kind of a bubble, you know what I mean? It was a bubble, but they were in Santa Fe. We were in the middle of nowhere, United Kingdom. So they were like, "This is your family now." Laura Dern's daughter was there for a while and was like, "This is your niece now, DeWanda. Did you want a mentee? You have one now."

This was a super physical movie for you. What were the stunts like? They were intense on screen.

The stunts were as intense as they looked like they were on screen. I was talking about this a little bit, but it was only my job to execute them to the best of my ability and also to do what made sense to my body. And there are things you only learn about yourself in the moment. Apparently, I scale ladders like a dinosaur. I wouldn't know that about myself. [laughs] Why would I know that about myself? I don't climb ladders like a normal person. Apparently, I do this. [mimes climbing ladder] I don't know why. That's just what my body does, apparently, under duress and when I'm pretending to be pursued by a Giganotosaurus.

Well, since you have dinosaur skills, before we wrap, I do need to know what the coolest dinosaur in this film is.

Quetzalcoatlus, hands down. It flies. Flies. The dinosaur. It flies. [laughs]

"Jurassic World Dominion" will hit theaters on June 10, 2022.