I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Kaya Scodelario, who played Carina Smyth in the new Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (along with 24 of my fellow bloggers). This spoiler-free interview was part of the Pirates red carpet premiere and press event. Travel and accommodations were covered by Disney but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
**Note: Interview photos are courtesy of Louise Bishop of MomStart.com. Movie stills are courtesy of Disney.**
When a gorgeous woman like walks into the room and the first thing she does is admit she’s got a “really good pair of Spanx” underneath her beautiful dress, you can’t help but love her. Kaya was instantly relatable, as was her character, Carina, in the newest Pirates movie. Carina is a headstrong and smart girl – a unique combination for her time, which makes her stand out as odd. In fact, the movie starts out with Carina in jail for witchcraft and scheduled for execution. It’s impossible for the men of her day to accept her intelligence and curiosity and independence as anything but sorcery.
For those of you who have not yet seen Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead men Tell No Tales in the theater, I’ve left out any specific plot spoilers so that you could enjoy the movie surprises just as much as I did. Here are just a few of the things we talked to Kaya about.
Did wearing period costumes make you feel any different or help motivate you for scenes?
Kaya responded, “Yeah, there’s something really cool about a corset, it does feel quite empowering actually, because you have to sit up strong. The first day is awful. I’d get my husband to secretly loosen it up at lunchtime so that I could eat. But it does feel very strong and I like that Carina’s dress, it isn’t perfect, it’s actually tattered and old and ripped up and dirty as that helped me understand a bit of her back story. think this is a dress that she’s held onto because it’s the only one she has, and she’s managed to make it as practical as possible to her.”
What is it like working with a male-dominated cast (again!)
Pirates of the Caribbean is not Kaya’s first male-dominated cast. She agreed that she’s been very lucky. She said, “The guys have never made me feel like the only woman, especially on Maze Runner and again with this. They always treat me exactly the same. I’ve never felt like, you know, I’ll walk on the set and they’re like, ‘the girl is here, we have to stop farting.’ They continue to do that anyway. I’ve grown up with guys; I love them. My best friends are guys and I like that energy. I think that once they get over you being a woman, it can actually be kind of bonding and nice. But yeah, it was interesting.”
We then asked her what it was like coming in as a brand new character for the franchise and as a really strong feminine character. It was refreshing to see a woman that could hold her own among the Pirates!
Kaya responded, “With every role, I look for a woman that I would have liked to have seen at thirteen on the big screen. It’s a huge responsibility because people forget in blockbusters that we’re not simple, there are multi layers and there’s a lot going on and Carina has a lot of that. I mean, she’s an orphan, she’s a survivor. She’s also stubborn and argumentative and she’s also funny and flirty and there’s so much to her. And I’m grateful that they wrote her this way.
Because usually with a film this size, unfortunately there isn’t time to layer out a character too much. Because there’s so much going on. I made a real effort with her to try and hit all those beats. It’s something that I hope my son grows up watching and respects in women and understands in women, that we aren’t just the Disney princess or the love interest or the damsel in distress; and Carina’s certainly not any of those things.”
There was a lot of action and stunts in this film; do you do your own stunts?
Kaya actually does a lot of her own action and stunts. She said, “I do; I really love to do all that stuff. Because they’re not things you do every day in life, you know. If you get the opportunity to do it, especially when you have a great crew where you know it’s going to be safe and it’s going to be done the proper way. But I actually injured my shoulder…I popped out something in there on the Black Pearl of all places. And so afterwards it was kind of tough; we had about four weeks of filming still so I had to wear a sling in between takes and I had to go quite easy on it.
“But I did all the swimming; I swam in the Australian ocean with the sharks and every other thing that can kill you there. It was a lot of fun; I love having the opportunity to do that stuff.
What tips would you give kids or young adults with dyslexia that are interested in theater?
Kaya shared a little about being dyslexic and how her struggles could hopefully help and inspire other kids with dyslexia to not let that stop them in pursuing their dreams. I think her advice is helpful for kids pursuing anything, not just acting.
She said, “The biggest thing for me was just knowing that I wasn’t the only one. I remember when I was twelve and I was diagnosed, I was really freaked out by it because I didn’t understand what it was. For me it meant I’m dumb, that’s all I knew, I thought, ‘Well this just means that I can’t ever achieve what other people can.’ And then they had a poster up in my school saying Tom Cruise has dyslexia.
“And that instantly to me was like, ‘oh okay, well he’s doing all right. Maybe I’ll be okay.’ It’s just about having an open conversation about it. There are great resources out there; my school was wonderful, they gave me extra time in exams, I had a one to one teacher in classes for my reading because that’s where I really struggled. I recommend having an open conversation about it and then finding support groups and making sure that the school also understand what it is. Because it’s kind of a taboo subject, we don’t really know much about it. So the more we can discuss and the more resources we can bring into schools, I think the better.”
Kaya said that she only had about 3 weeks between being cast and starting to film, and her dyslexia makes it harder for her to learn lines, so she didn’t have as much time as she would have liked to study up on astronomy for her character. She would actually like to continue to learn more about astronomy now that the movie is over.
Carina and Jack Sparrow have a lot of fun scenes together, what was it like working with Johnny?
Kaya smiled and said, “It’s wonderful. I mean when you watch the movie, you get to see the one take that’s selected. We get to see the fifty five other ones that he comes up with on the spot. He’s just a genius; he really is. There’s a reason why he’s so successful. And he’s good at what he does. And his improvisation is just- I mean my first day on set with him, I had to be really serious in a scene, and I just laughed and laughed and laughed and I was like I’m going to get fired, there’s no way they’re going to put up with me. He just brings it every single time.
How much input did you have into your character? Any improvisation?
Kaya said, “What’s on the page is always the best thing possible and we have these incredible writers that know what works for these movies. But I am very instinctual, and that’s how I like to work, I like to improvise and I like to make sure that the dialogue fits my voice and my character’s voice and they were really great about it. The directors are really open; every morning we’d sit down, run through what we were going to do for the day. They’d ask if I had any issues with any of the dialogue, if there’s anything I felt would work better. There was a day where Johnny actually came into my trailer beforehand and reworked an entire scene with me, which I was amazed at, that they still do let you have that creative freedom.”
What do you hope movie goers take away from the film?
Kaya said, “I hope that they understand that this is an adventure for the whole family and it’s something that should be seen on the big screen and the best technology possible. We spent six months making this and two years in post production for a reason. That’s how it should be seen and that’s how the whole family will enjoy it at its best.”
I agree! Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is in theaters everywhere now. Make plans to see it in the theater soon (and I highly recommend seeing it in 3D or IMax!). Be sure to check out the rest of my Pirates posts (more coming!).
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