Interstellar star David Gyasi on working with Christopher Nolan, Iceland, space and more

Interstellar David Gyasi

In Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, a crew of four astronauts set out on what could be humankind's greatest adventure ... or its last. The team is tasked with finding out whether there are any habitable planets on the other end of a wormwhole that has mysteriously appeared near Saturn. Someone has put that wormhole there -- just as the Earth is slowly succumbing to an environmental blight that will destroy all sources of food and make our home planet unlivable.

The team consists of the pilot, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), and scientists Brand (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi). The London-based Gyasi had a tiny role in Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, but here he plays an astrophysicist whose encounter with the laws of relativity has a profound effect on his life and the rest of the crew.

Blastr spoke by phone with Gyasi, who discussed both the scientific and emotional content of Interstellarfilming in Iceland, and working with Christopher Nolan.

What was your initial response when you first saw this script? Was it on an intellectual level or an emotional level?

A hundred percent emotional. A hundred percent. I was reading this script and was an emotional wreck in the plane. The other stuff too completely came as a secondary thing for me. And still when I watch it, what screams at me are the emotional connections and ties and sacrifices that go on within this piece. That screams at me. It’s lovely to hear when people relate to the science, because there are people that are passionate about science out there and genuine scientists. But yeah, for me it was the emotional.

How familiar were you with the scientific concept? Did you ever read about black holes or wormholes? Any of this stuff ever grab your interest prior to this?

No, not really. Well, it obviously grabbed my interest prior to this, but it wasn’t something that I was up on or well-read on at all. But it was fascinating getting to know and getting to learn about these things. It was a real treat, yeah.

What was the most fascinating thing that you did learn in all this?

I think there’s a part within the film where Romilly has to describe a wormhole and how it works, and that was quite fascinating. But the most fascinating is difficult because, you know, I’m a guy who grew up in Hayes, Middlesex, London, and suddenly I’m doing a film in Iceland on top of one of the biggest icebergs in the world. And then being flown to L.A. to work with these wonderful artists and one of the biggest stages. I don’t think you can pick out one of those moments. Each of them are useful in their own unique way.

Speaking of Iceland, I can’t think of a better place I would imagine to create the sense of being on an alien landscape.

Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly how it feels. It feels not of this world when you’re there looking at it. It really feels otherworldly, which is something that I think the film alludes to. You know, the Earth is truly beautiful, and we should really think about taking more care of it, because when you get to travel and you get to see these incredible places -- I remember shooting in Rwanda and stepping on that soil for the first time and just seeing the amazing vegetation and the greenery there. I got to see the gorillas in the mountains and I was like, "Wow, everyone should get to see this." You can’t help but care about it. I think the film points towards that.

Matthew McConaughey said that the movie changed his thinking about our need to become explorers and to try and push out into space. Did you have feelings about this before, or did you have stronger feelings about this after making the movie?

I sort of grew up in the '80s. It seemed to be like this big push for space travel, and we used to learn about it in school. Then it kind of stopped and no one really explained why it stopped. It just sort of disappeared. But yeah, any time we do a movie about that subject matter or something comes out that is from another world, either Avatar or whatever, it’s fascinating and genuinely interesting. And then it makes me think actually, if you look historically, that’s what we do. My parents were born in Ghana, and they moved to England to go and explore and go and find a new world. They had children there who have now all moved and traveled the globe to study French and spend time there. I think it’s in our nature, you know, our genetic makeup to explore. I’m the sort of kid who, if I’m walking along and there’s something like a hill in front of me, I’ll climb it and get over it and see what’s on the other side. That’s how I’m made, and I think there’s a bit of that in all of us. So it doesn’t surprise me that Matthew said that. Perhaps it’s a part of what we’re made to do.

You have a moment in the film, which I’m not going to spoil, that is really profound and that touches on the human cost of the story and also the scientific expanse of it. Without being specific, because I don’t want to ruin that for anybody, were you able to get your head around that idea of the effect that this journey would create for your character?

Just like I do with any part, I just tried in some way to empathize with what that could possibly feel like and could be like, and then have that in my belly and in my soul and as I say the lines just have that effect there and see how that comes across. If, as you said, it’s perceived as profound, then that’s wonderful. So, I mean I’m very proud of how that turned out.

You had a small role in The Dark Knight Rises, but you worked more extensively this time with Christopher Nolan. What’s that experience like as an actor? He's a bit of a mystery man to people.

It was a lot more mysterious on The Dark Knight Rises. I didn’t have as much responsibility on that. But on this it was less so, and I’m very thankful that I got the opportunity to do it again, because I feel like he really helped me grow as an actor, actually. And as much as the positive feedback I’m getting about the performance, he has at least a 50 percent -- if not more -- share in that performance. So I thank him for that and I look forward to taking that into my future projects, definitely.

I get the sense from watching this film and his others that he's earnest and he really believes in what he’s making these movies about. Do you get that as well?

Yeah, yeah. Because no one could have that drive and tenacious spirit without having something burning inside. And so yeah, I would agree with that.

What’s next for you? Have you got your next thing lined up yet?

We’ve got several things lined up, but we haven’t confirmed any yet, so it’s just about working out what fits and what’s the right next move. But that’s exciting.

Interstellar opens today (Nov. 5) on IMAX screens and Friday (Nov. 7) in theaters everywhere.

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