Interview: Nate Parker Talks ‘Non-Stop,’ Working with Lupita Nyong’o, and Being Versatile as an Actor

Interview: Nate Parker Talks 'Non-Stop,' Working with Lupita Nyong'o, and Being Versatile as an Actor

 

In Universal’s
upcoming suspense thriller Non-Stop, Liam Neeson stars as Bill
Marks, a federal air marshal whose motives and shady past are called into
question when he begins receiving dangerous threats from an anonymous passenger
on a transatlantic flight. As the unnamed terrorist promises to kill a
passenger every 20 minutes if he doesn’t receive $150 million, Marks is swept
into a wild and implausibly daring fight where everyone aboard the plane is
both a victim and a suspect.

Nate Parker and Julianne Moore co-star as flight
passengers while Michelle Dockery and
Oscar contender Lupita Nyong’o
co-star as flight attendants caught in the crossfire.

At a recent preview screening of the film, Nate Parker and
director Jaume Collet-Serra spoke
about making the movie, and Parker gave insight into what else is on the
horizon for his career.

On
filming in the contained space of an airplane:  

NATE PARKER: I wore the
same clothes every day for about a month. It was like Groundhog Day, where you
wake up in the same clothes. And every shot needed everyone, so we’d have to
just sit in the chair for days just hanging out until it was your turn. But we
understood, when it’s a confined space there’s a lot of opportunity for action
and heated moments and drama. You have nowhere to go, the camera can’t go back
into the terminal or go somewhere else. So it was exciting.

JAUME COLLET-SERRA: There was more closeness than
in a normal movie because obviously you wouldn’t want to put the camera
anyplace where it feels like you’re outside. So the actors know it’s always on
them, and they have to be on all the time.

On
using past training in the film:

NP: Liam was a
boxer when he was younger and I was an athlete in college, so we traded a lot
of stories and we had a guy come in and take us through the fight scenes. So it
was a lot of fun. And to play a computer programmer, that’s what I studied in
college. So sitting with Jaume and talking about how I would say things, he was
very open to what I brought to the table.

On
playing a bad guy:

NP: I always say
there are no villains. Everyone has their reasons. I think when you approach
material from the standpoint of “bad guy,” you start to play more of a
caricature. Everyone has ideas and passions, so I think in a [villain’s] mind, everything
is justified. So I approach it from that standpoint.

One of my biggest passions is to play Nat Turner. That’s a project that we’re working to get done. A lot
of people thought he was a bad guy, but it’s perspective. I don’t think he was
a bad guy at all, but we all have our ideas of what we want and why we want it,
and what we’ll do to achieve those things.

On
working with Liam Neeson:


NP: Something maybe you can’t see on screen, Liam is
like 6’4 and solid. So working on the scenes with him was great, it was like my
speed against his power. And it was a great joust. But yeah, he’s the nicest
guy you’d ever want to meet.

I coach high school wrestling and I travel with the
team when we compete. When I was filming this, I was missing tournaments. So
Liam found out and said, “Hey, do you
want me wish your guys luck? Why don’t we make a video?”

So here we are in his dressing room making a video for my
team. He comes in and puts his arm around my shoulder and says, You guys better win, or else I’ll find you
and I’ll kill you.”

It was really cool. My team flipped out, they couldn’t
believe it. That’s the kind of person he is. He’s a human being first and he’s
a superstar second.

On working with
Lupita Nyong’o:

JCS:  I love
Lupita and I didn’t even test her. I didn’t know that she got another movie or anything.
I just met her and she was cool and great, so I gave her the part. So she comes
to set and some of the crew had also worked on 12 Years A Slave. They
were like, “What is she doing here? This
girl’s going to be nominated next year.”

They knew. The crews know everything. So then we tried to
give her a couple more lines [laughs]. But we had a great time.

NP: She’s
beautiful and she’s humble. You’d never know [about 12 Years A Slave]. I spent time with her every single day, we had
lunch almost every day, and she never really talked about it. She just treated
everyone with respect, and here’s a woman who was educated at Yale and takes
her craft very seriously.

All I hope for her is that Hollywood recognizes her talent
and that this doesn’t become something where we see her three years from now and
say, “Remember
Lupita?”
 I want to see more darker skin, short hair, and thick lips. We
exist. We’re here. We are ingrained in the fabric of this country and we
deserve to be represented in positive ways across the board. So let’s see where
she is next year after the Academy Awards, because I know the talent, and I
know she deserves to be there.

On
Nate Parker’s upcoming film, Gina Prince Bythewood’s Blackbird, and what’s next
for him:


NP: It’s a love story about an LAPD cop and a pop star,
and I really love that project. I try to do films that I feel represent us in a
way that’s positive on all fronts. The whole idea of Hollywood is that there
can only be one. I feel like my job is to destroy that, whether it be by
creating content or choosing roles that I believe are colorless, and then
bringing the subtleties of my culture into it in a way that I choose rather
than it being through some backwards way of writing.

So I want to do action, because we can do action. I want to do
dramas, I want to play characters that are complex and people may consider
villains, because we have opinions sometimes that others may not agree with. I
want to do a lot of things. What I don’t want to do is be put in a box.

On choosing versatile roles as an actor:

NP: Anything
worth having takes hard work. When you say no to most things that don’t
represent you the way you want, you’re not left with a lot of material. So out
of 20 scripts, we may say no to 19, and then there’s the 20th script and you’re
fighting with everyone that doesn’t look like you. That’s the kind of situation
it is, more often than not.

Our job is just to be excellent every time, so when the
opportunity arises there’s no mistake about what you want and your ability
level. And I think that we have to continue to hold Hollywood accountable and push
for the material. We need to push people that are in a position to greenlight
projects to do more, and to play a more active role in making sure these
projects happen. And for certain stories, it’s up to us to look to each other
if we think the stories are important. Because a lot of times the complaint is, “Oh well, the studios don’t want to make
this movie.”

But there’s a lot of movement in the independent world. A lot
of films are being made independently. So we just have to find ways.

**


Non-Stop
opens in theaters this Friday, February 28.


 

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