This British import is on the rise and has a formidable resume to boast. Projects that include the James Brown biopic, Get On Up and starring on the hit AMC series The Walking Dead since 2010.
Lennie James can next be seen in Blade Runner 2049 a sci-fi thriller set Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. Check out our interview with Lennie after the jump.
The Knockturnal: Was it important to you to stay true to the original film?
Lennie James: There was very little mention of the original film. There wasn’t really a sense that … Obviously to me and the designers and Roger Deacon, the cinematographer obviously had conversations about the original film. I don’t think when I was there, there was one mention of it actually. We were making this film. We weren’t making the other one. And as I’ve said I was a huge, huge, massive fan of the first film and it was one of the things that I was a little bit wary of when I first heard of 2049 being made. But also one of the things that, to me, put my mind at rest about and reading the script put my mind at rest about them, it was another Blade Runner story told within the same universe as the first one. So yes, there was a sense of knowledge about the first one. We didn’t really mention yet. The fantastic thing about working with Denis [Villeneuve] was just how excited he was about performance as much as he was about the visuals, as much as he was about the sense of the world. On these amazing sets, with all of these amazing backdrops and CGI and all of that, Denis managed to focus the actors down to the bare essentials of what their job was so he didn’t let us, as actors, get lost in all the pomp and circumstance of the production. He was mindful that this film lives or dies on one level, on the performances of the actors and he was very protective of those.
The Knockturnal: You mentioned you were a fan of the original film. How does it feel to be a part of two such iconic franchises now, with The Walking Dead and now Blade Runner?
Lennie James: I don’t know, to be honest. I’m aware of it on The Walking Dead and that is one of the things that I became aware of when I joined The Walking Dead on a more regular basis, as opposed to when I just popped in and popped out. Being on the show full time, you do become aware of its status out in the world. I don’t know that I felt that yet on Blade Runner. I’m yet to feel that because the film hasn’t officially come out and I haven’t seen the film. I’ll let you know about what that one feels like. But being a part of The Walking Dead is a trip. It’s a very interesting experience. It’s not something you can plan for. It’s not something you can expect, but it’s interesting at the moment.
The Knockturnal: What was the biggest difference between the two sets? What’s the difference between shooting TV versus film?
Lennie James: TV’s much much quicker and that’s not always different to films. If you’re doing a low budget, 21-day shoot on a film, then that’s quick. You’d have a lot of set-ups in a day and you don’t necessarily get as many takes as you would like. The staggering thing about being on the set of Blade Runner was a) that the scale of it, you were never in doubt that you were anywhere but on a movie set, and b) just that they took their time. Roger took as much time as he needed to get the visuals looking and the lighting looking the way that he wanted it to look down the lens. The care of that and the time that that takes was the biggest difference between being on The Walking Dead set, being on a TV set, and being on the Blade Runner set. It was just the allocation of time was very different. We had a lot less set-ups on … per day on Blade Runner than we do on The Walking Dead.
The Knockturnal: Any interesting behind-the-scenes stories that you’d like to tell us from set?
Lennie James: Do you know what? The whole experience, as I said, was very, very intensive and very, There was a fire at one point when we were filming in the big cabin of space where all the kids are working on the little bits and pieces. I think a light must have caught on a bit of material. So it was blacking out the light and all of a sudden there was a few flames up in the roof, but it was quickly put out and no-one was in any danger whatsoever. That’s about as much as has happened. The rest of the time it was literally sleep, eat, film, sleep, eat, film, because I had a very short space of time to do all of my things.
The Knockturnal: You have Blade Runner 2049, you have The Walking Dead. Anything else we can look out for you in the future?
Lennie James: I have a British television series that starts next year on Sky Atlantic and it’s called Save Me and it’s something that I’m both in and I wrote.
The Knockturnal: Oh, wow. That’s huge, congratulations.