Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is picking up in the distant future, 300 years down the timeline from 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes, the third film in the reboot franchise.
ET’s Ash Crossan recently sat down with Owen Teague, who joins the franchise in Kingdom as a new ape, and he opened up about how the story expands on the universe introduced in the first three films — which were led by Andy Serkis playing an ape named Caesar, who evolved to learn how to speak.
“It’s a bigger world than the last three films,” Teague explained. “We’ve branched out and apes have kind of had a diaspora… and established clans that have different belief systems and different customs. It’s a really cool world.”
“Caesar has become almost like a like a kind of legend,” he continued. “He’s become kind of a religious figure for some apes, and he’s become a name that’s that’s been being used by in different ways for different purposes.”
Teague notes that some apes in this future timeline almost see Caesar as a “prophet.”
“He’s the original kind of teacher — they’ve shaped entire belief systems off of Caesar,” he explained. “And then for other apes, he’s a means to an end. His teachings have been used to help other apes take power, which I think is, you know, it’s a very timely story, because we’re seeing that happen in real life constantly.”
And just like the apes have learned from Caesar, Teague said he got a chance to learn from Serkis, who has become something of a motion capture legend in Hollywood, not only for his portrayal of Caesar, but also for his performances as Gollum in the Lord of Rings trilogy, King Kong in the eponymous 2005 film, Baloo in 2018’s Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle and Supreme Leader Snoke in the Star Wars sequel trilogy films.
While Serkis doesn’t appear in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, Teague said the two spoke at length about “the physical element of performance capture.”
“I think the most valuable, general sort of thing that he gave me was to not place quite so much emphasis on that part of it,” he recalled. “When we met, it was still very early in the process. And I remember him basically being like, ‘You’re just acting, you know? Think of the chimpanzee as a costume that you’re putting on and do everything that you would normally do for any character.'”
“On one hand, it’s super different, because you’ve got a camera strapped to your head, but you’re just acting… Andy was really helpful in sort of grounding me and just being like, ‘It’s not rocket science,'” he added.
Teague said he went to “ape school” to learn how to play the physical aspects of his character, a bright young chimp named Noah, noting that the experience was “the best thing I’ve ever gotten to do. It was so much fun. It was so cool.”
He told ET that his character, the son of a powerful ape clan leader, is still trying to find his own way in the world.
“There’s a lot of pressure on Noah to live up to his dad’s expectations,” he shared. “He doesn’t really know who he is or what he’s capable of. What he does know is that he’s essentially an engineer in chimpanzee form. He’s extremely curious. He’s intelligent.”
“One thing that I always said, in terms of just creating the character, was most chimpanzees are present tense,” Teague recalled. “Noah is future tense. He’s always thinking about what’s coming next… It’s fun to watch Noah’s brain work things out.”
Along with being extremely bright, however, Noah is also “a bit repressed emotionally,” according to the actor.
“It kinda comes with the territory of having a difficult dad,” he noted. “But the interesting thing about Noah is that he’s been so sheltered within his clan… He doesn’t really know about the world and so he’s trying to make sense of everything. And it’s hard for him to learn things that are in total conflict with each other, and work that out.”
The film also stars Freya Allan, Kevin Durand, William H. Macy, Peter Macon, Eka Darville, Travis Jeffery, Lydia Peckham, Neil Sandilands, Ras-Samuel Weld A’abzgi, Sara Wiseman, and Dichen Lachman.
Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is in theaters May 10.
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