I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
If you favored the gladiatorial action of the first two HUNGER GAMES and disliked MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 for its lack thereof, odds are you might not appreciate PART 2’s politically charged human drama and grim tone.
PART 2 is an unusual popcorn film. It capitalizes on the idea that “war makes fascists of us all,” bringing a new perspective to the series outside the conventional young adult curve. But then again, THE HUNGER GAMES has always been such an interesting franchise that’s always been miles ahead of all the dystopian teen adapted series.
Here to comment on the franchise’s scary and fascinating turn of events in MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 are stars Wes Chatham (THE HELP) and Evan Ross (JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOMES, married to Ashlee Simpson and also Diana Ross’ son), who play two members of the squad set out to take out the domineering President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
So, you guys went to Berlin and Paris to shoot this?
Evan Ross: “Yes! That was amazing.”
Have you guys been there before that?
Ross: “Yeah, I’ve been.”
Wes Chatham: “He has, but I haven’t. I’ve been to France, but I haven’t been to Paris.”
Ross: “I love it out there. It was incredible spending that much time out there. My wife came out, too, and we ended up having an incredible time.”
Did shooting out there give them access to a lot of great architecture?
Ross: “Yeah. In Berlin, they used a lot of what was disheveled from the wars before and all that kind of stuff.”
The underground sequence, too?
Chatham: “Yeah. I think because in this movie we get more into Panem and you get to see some of the other districts. They chose these European places, because they were trying to find a timeless look in architecture that is hard to place, that’s kind of in its own world. They used a lot of the old World War II barracks. They used these mills, like bomb making mills. They used an old airport. A Nazi airport, we shot at. It was really interesting.”
How did that affect the filming? Watching it is bleak and it feels really grim.
Chatham: “We were having so much fun. It was the most fun I’ve had making a movie.”
Ross: “All of this was so much chaos that we were just having so much fun it was ridiculous. [Chatham] was always falling into stuff.”
Chatham: “[Laughs] Yeah. I ran people down.”
Ross: “He fell through! He was the smart. There’s a lot of running and jumping. He always like-”
Chatham: “I’d be looking ahead.”
Ross: “Yeah, looking ahead of time and thinking, ‘OK, am I going to fall here? [Laughs]”
Chatham: “I know you said we’re going from here to there but I have a feeling I might fall. I can’t see underneath this ground. It’s all water. Is there anything I might fall on?”
Ross: “He’s just already running. He’s like, ‘I’m fine. I’m fine.’ He’s a strong dude but he’s got pummeled a few times. He’d say, ‘Oh, we can do it again.'”
What about running from the creatures? Because, for us as an audience, it’s very creepy. Are they just like stunt guys in suits?
Chatham: “Yeah. Stunt guys in onesies.”
Which could be creepy anyway? [Laughs]
Chatham: “Yeah, it was!”
Ross: “You don’t want to get ran after by dudes in onesies.”
Chatham: “I think the closest I ever came to drowning was in that scene, because we kept doing a scene where you get tackled. The stunt guys are on top and they’re these lizards-like things that are eating you. We got really focused on like, ‘We need more violence. We need rage.’
Ross: “He was thrown so hard, dude.”
Chatham: “There was a time where I ended up on the bottom somehow. There were eight bodies on top of me. There was so much water in there. I was like, ‘Am I going to drown in a foot of water? Is this it for me? Is this the story?’ I was like, ‘Well, at least this is my last scene in the movie. They have that.'”
That seems appropriate.
Ross: “It’s crazy because I remember, ‘You sure you can do it one more time?’ This dude, he’s always like, ‘Yeah, for sure.” I’d be like, ‘I’m good. No. I think I broke my arm. I’m not doing that.’ I was worried for [Chatham].”
Is there a safe word? How do you let them know, “I’m dying down here.”
Ross: “He doesn’t need a safe word. Have you seen him? He doesn’t feel pain.”
Chatham: “I think we forgot about the safe word.”
There was no tapping out or anything?
Chatham: “Oh, I was tapping. I was like, ‘I can’t breathe.’
Ross: “I’m tapping, too!”
But the filmmakers are like, “This is good, though. This is good.” [Laughs]
Chatham: “The thing is, I’m supposed to be getting eaten alive, so I was gasping for air. It works in the scene. They’re like, ‘Good work,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I can’t breathe.’
[Laughs] That’s was the best part of the whole movie to me.
Ross: “That’s method acting.”
Chatham: “It was incredible shooting all of that stuff. We were literally in the tunnels for three weeks straight. It was intense, it was incredible– all of it was such a bonding experience. We were all in it together. We actually felt like we were in the Hunger Games.”
Ross: “Yeah. We were! Exactly. All of the sets felt so real.”
Do you contribute at all to the character traits? Chatham, you had the sides of your head shaved. And Ross, you had the bridge of your nose pierced.
Ross: “I actually asked them if I could do the real piercing. I had like, I don’t know how many. I had tons of piercings. Piercing here and here, all around my ears. They said I couldn’t do it because the amount that I would have to get in at the same time. If it got infected, it would have been really bad. My mom was like, ‘Why would you even say that you’re willing to do that?’ I wouldn’t get the [bridge piercing]. It took me like two hours, two and a half hours every morning to apply all of it.”
Chatham: “I felt bad for him.”
Ross: “I had two guys doing my makeup. I would have a prosthetic ear and a prosthetic nose. It was incredible because you would never even know.”
Wow. A prosthetic nose?
Ross: “Yeah. The problem was that we would have really early call times and certain times we get to nap, especially with all the running we’re doing. Nap and then shoot. I couldn’t put my head anywhere.”
Chatham: “It took me no time in the makeup trailer. We were always the last call. He was always-”
Ross: “I’d been in there forever. Everyday was miserable in the makeup chair. They’d walk in like, ‘Oh my God. The nose is …’ I’m like, ‘OK. I don’t even want to talk.’ [Laughs].”
That’s rough, man. What about you, Chatham?
Chatham: “Yeah. We had a conversation. We’re all from the Capitol. There’s a certain kind of look that the Capitol has but we’re rebelling against them. We want it to have an influence but different. We just had a long conversation. I wanted a full on mohawk. We talked about it and said, ‘Well, we’ve seen mohawks before but how about if it’s a half-mohawk, like half way down the head and going down.’ That’s what we ended up going with.”
That’s pretty gnarly. So after production is over, do you still rock that look? Do you let it grow in?
Chatham: “It really depends on [Laughs] the next job. My next job I had to completely shave my head. That’s how I did it. Luckily, the next job fixed it for me. I didn’t have to pay for a hair cut.”
Was there a heightened sense of emotions on set for this last film?
Chatham: “Yeah. When we, specifically for [Ross] and Elden [Henson], the guy that plays my brother, we were the new guys in school. They did two movies together. We showed up. They were very warm and very inviting but we became very close because we’re part of Squad 451. When the movie started, I was the only one that was married. They were both single. I mean, they had girlfriends but when the movie ended, we were all married and we all had kids.
We literally started working and [Ross} was like, ‘You know, I’m thinking about it. I’m thinking about it.” Then it went to everybody is married and has kids in 9 months. So, that’s a huge transitional period in our lives that we were with each other every single day. Elden’s wife was having morning sickness.”
Ross: “We were like picking out rings and doing stuff.”
That’s an incredible, monumental moment.
Ross: “It really was. We might get tattoos.”
Ross, your mom’s an icon.
Ross: “[Laughs] Yeah. She’s pretty special.”
Has she always been very supportive of your career?
Ross: “Yeah. She’s the best mom in the world. When I was younger, I always wanted to be in the entertainment business. I grew up singing and acting. She didn’t want us to rush into anything because she knew what it was. She was like, ‘When you’re ready, you’ll do it on your own.’ She’s so supportive.”
That’s so nice to hear. You know, I have to say one of the neatest aspects in the film, to me, was the idea of what’s real and what’s not real. You obviously know each other very well and have been hanging out together. What’s something that you can say about yourself that they other has to guess if it’s real or not real?
Chatham: “Oh, man. [Ross], you go first.”
Ross: “Alright. Let me think.”
Chatham: “That’s a good question.”
Ross: “I want a good one.”
Chatham: “Make up something crazy. With you, it would be tough, though. If you’re hanging out with the Rolling Stones, anything is possible.”
Ross: “I don’t have a good one that I’d like to– That I go to sleep early at night.”
Chatham: “Not real. Not real. 100%. I thought you said, the thing I’m thinking about won’t let me sleep at night. That’s what I thought you were saying.”
Ross: “Oh my God. No.”
Chatham: “That’s not real. Alright, let me think, I am a closet Taylor Swift fan.”
Ross: “That’s real.”
Chatham: “It’s real. Taylor Swift, that’s when the windows roll up.”
Ross: “I was in Nashville recently. I was hanging out with some of my friends or whatever. Taylor Swift was playing. She had a concert or a show or whatever she was playing over there. A lot of my buddies were like, ‘Oh, God. All the teenie boppers and everybody walking around.’ I was like, ‘Yeah. Who likes Taylor Swift?’ I don’t have any of her albums or anything [Laughs].”
Chatham: “You don’t have to, though. If her songs come on, I’m not going to turn the channel. It’s just in the atmosphere. You don’t have to.”
Ross: “Her songs definitely stick in your head. That’s for sure.”
MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 opens today.