Not too long ago, dystopian young adult novels were the hot ticket in Hollywood. Between adaptations of The Hunger Games and Twilight, they were seen as the next big thing. The trend has seemingly come and gone, but through it all, The Maze Runner franchise has managed to be a pretty solid success. It may not have been on the level of The Hunger Games, but it’s still, far and away, a profitable film franchise for the studio.
After facing almost a full year delay after its star, Dylan O’Brien, suffered an on-set injury, its final chapter, Maze Runner: The Death Cure is finally hitting theaters. LRM had a chance to hop on the phone with one of its stars, Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Jorge in the film, one of the few adult allies the kids have. In the interview, we talk about his journey through this franchise, how capable of driver he is on set, and the potential for an adaptation of The Kill Order.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is in theaters now!
Can you tell me about your character, Jorge?
Esposito: Well, I play Jorge who came into the series of movies in the second book, you know these are all based on six books by James Dashner, the young adult title Maze Runner. He’s such a brilliant writer, and he brings in Jorge in the second episode. Jorge is a bit of an enigma to begin with, you know, you don’t know if he ever worked for WICKED. You get a feeling that he’s smart enough to have done that, but he’s created his own universe in his own protected world, and has decided he didn’t want to be a part of the establishment.
Well, these young adults they come flying through the desert. He spots them and knows that they could be enemies, they could be spies, and he puts them through their paces and finds out that they really art fighting honestly and truly against WICKED. They convince him to join with them. During this sort of discussion, all hell breaks loose and WICKED is right on them, and so Jorge has to go to his ultimate plan B. He is a guy who is well-read, he is a guy who is musical. He’s just a guy who knows about the world and has decided he doesn’t want to live in a world controlled by people who want to control others.
I find him to be a fascinating character. He gets involved with, he has a girl with him who you don’t know in the beginning whether it’s his daughter or his lover, it turns out to be his daughter who he protects and helps. He gets close to our lead character and starts to really believe and get convinced of their passion to find a safe haven and a safe place for humanity to renew itself. I find him to be one of the only adults who is on the side of these young people, and believes and listens to their plight.
Yes, definitely. Your character does show you’re like a noble, somewhat trusting person at the beginning when you’re protecting your daughter. That definitely, right away it’s like very bonding, and you’re making your character very likable.
Esposito: Yeah, I feel like the films are so action-packed that it’s really important to try to find characters within them, and I really applaud the director Wes Ball for really allowing my character to flourish and supporting that. Jorge’s not only lighthearted at times but he’s also deathly serious and he’s good at what he does, so it gives you the idea that he’s a well rounded human being. But, the fact that he listens to Thomas and starts to believe that Thomas is really passionate about what he’s talking about, they become friends. In the beginning, he’s very suspicious, but then, of course, he comes around and understands that he too wants a free world, and joining forces with these young people the possibilities are that they might not die. He might help them live through it (Laughs).
Like you said, you were in the second “Maze Runner,” now on the third, did you, even to start, did you have to do any special training? You know you had to deal with like weapons, you drove that fun truck, it looked like you had fun maneuvering it.
Esposito: So much fun, and so rickety. I know the kids went up for about four weeks beforehand. I’m always in training, I live my life in the gym either gaining or losing weight for roles, and lifting weights or whatever. They didn’t quite put me through the paces they put the kids through. I’m a runner, which is one of the reasons why I was so happy to get this movie. I don’t run as much as the kids do, but I run about eight miles a day and I bike as well. We did have training camp and we did have to sort of condition ourselves. Luckily I came fairly conditioned and did very little of that on set.
The driving was also very interesting. The stunt guys always ask me, “Can you do this?” I said, “Well, you look back to my movie Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man I drove a pick-up in that, spun it around and kicked it to the side, and did all that.” A lot of actors say that, but when I got there they put me in that truck and I think their mouths dropped, because it’s very important and very critical to be able to drive that thing 60, 70 miles an hour, but then to stop it on a dime because of the camera and equipment in front of you, and people. Of course, they took me out in the field and they put up cones and they did all the safety checks. They filmed me doing it, and you know, very few times would I ever miss the mark because I knew how important that was.
I’m very good with vehicles, thank goodness, and the stunt guys learned to rely on me, but then it changes the game. First day on set in South Africa for The Death Cure, the truck was not just me and the truck, it was me and the truck and five actors, who I adore. Hanging off the truck and in the back where they could bounce out, and I told them all, “Look, let’s just all focus. Focus on me and I’ll always say what’s going on.” Then, we’re not in a dirt field, we’re on a road and a curve where if you miss that curve and that turn, you’re over the hill.
It’s not lost on me the safety precautions that the stuntmen are always speaking to me about, but I get even more careful when I have people I’m responsible for in the truck. Luckily, you know, everything went beautifully and I hit the marks and there were no accidents, but it’s something I’m very, very proud of actually having me drive the truck and not a stuntperson.
Speaking of commanding vehicles, are you a natural pilot, too? Because you were piloting a plane too in the movie.
Esposito: Yes, I’m piloting the burg. Yes, I’ve taken a number of flying lessons. I haven’t got my certification yet. Of course, that’s very different, a plane is very different than that huge burg, but I do have some experience in that area. Not as much as the experience I have in a vehicle, but I was excited. That’s really the moment that you, I think the film, that you realize oh, Jorge is more than who you thought he was, because where would you learn to drive that vehicle other than with WICKED, those enemy forces. It’s an interesting reveal that he’s behind the burg and knowing how to pilot it immediately.
Yeah, right away it makes you, oh he was part of WICKED maybe at one point, right, with all that training?
So how did you come across to get involved in the Maze Runner to begin with?
Esposito: Well, I got a call. I’ve been doing another film and I got a call. I came back to where I live and then they asked me, “Can you come to Los Angeles to meet Wes Ball about this series of movies called The Maze Runner, and it’s a young adult title.” I immediately, because it was a young adult title, I called my — I have four daughters — all whom I really adore and they’re readers, and so I called I said, “This sounds very familiar, why does this sound familiar.” I called my daughter Syrlucia who is now seventeen, at that time I think she was 14, 13, 14. I said, “Hey, have you heard of this young adult title called The Maze Runner, these books and the first one is Maze Runner, the second is The Scorch Trials and then The Death Cure.” And on and on.
She said, “Oh my gosh papa, um, are they asking you to do this movie?” I said, “Well, they’re inquiring.” She got so, so, so excited. I said, “So tell me, tell me about Jorge.” “Well, oh, he’s fun, he’s the only character with all the kids.”
You’re like, “Prep me.”
Esposito: Yeah, she got very excited. I got a prepped before I walk in the room to meet with Wes, I knew so much about it from her, and I also knew that it was something I wanted to do because my daughter’s read very highly intelligent stuff, and exciting stuff, and she immediately said to me, “You’ve gotta do this movie.” It all worked out (laughing).
Especially something you can have like relate and have, share in common with your kids.
Esposito: Yeah, you know, when we have children it’s exciting to do something that you know that they admire, and that they may go see, and it was a real crowning moment was to have this daughter, and all my daughters at the premiere. They got a chance to meet [author] James Dashner. Again, my third child had read every book, so it was really wonderful to be at the premier and have, you know, honor her, because she is the reason why I took the meeting. Well, I would have taken the meeting, but she got me excited about the material, and you know that’s really what it’s all about for me, because in today’s age we have the millennials who kind of really tell us where we’re supposed to be and what’s cool and what’s hip. Then, we have our future millennials who I think are even cooler and hipper, who are teenagers now, who I think really have their pulse on what our future should be.
Part of this series really expresses the concern about where our world is going, and certainly, this movie does. It expresses that concern, it addresses it as well, and it’s well done and intelligent. I mean, our movie is an analogy for our world. We hope that something like this never happens, but the Scorch could happen, and who is going to have the courage to bear it out, and to not only bear it out and just try to survive but try to help others. That’s what I love about this film. It’s about family, and all of us in the film become family as we made it, and it really feels like that’s the one saving grace of family, is that we look out for each other and we look out to be honest with each other, and to also fight the good fight to have our world be the way it should be. It deserves to be. I love that about this film.
I agree, it shows, it reflects a lot of unity, regardless where you come from or background, and that’s what it’s about and believe, and just fighting for what you believe in. You’re right.
Esposito: I absolutely, I believe that. I think it’s so well done. This third movie it’s just a heck of a lot, I think it’s more of a ride than the other two, but I still think it’s humanity is expressed within it. I think it’s more than our reason for trying to get Ava and trying to really shut down WICKED is more than just revenge, it really is about saving a world that deserves to be saved.
Has your daughter by any chance asked you if there’s going to be a “Maze Runner: The Kill Order”?
Esposito: Yeah, you know, they have and I don’t know if that’s going to happen. I would hope so. It’s all up to our illustrious director and our studio to see if they feel like that would be advantageous to continue telling stories in this world. I would hope and pray that it could happen. I know that after doing three, you know, our, the studio and the director have to really consider logistics of doing a fourth. I would really love to be involved in a fourth if it really happens.
It may be an interesting subject matter to tackle after we finish opening this movie and seeing how it does, but I would love to be a part a fourth movie.