Maggie Q And Mekhi Phifer Talk “Divergent,” The Cast and Joining A Franchise

Adam Reynoso ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Maggie Q and Mekhi Phifer in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.
Mekhi Phifer and Maggie Q in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.

Emertainment Monthly had the opportunity to sit down with actors Maggie Q and Mekhi Phifer to discuss their roles in Divergent, as well the differences between working on a stand alone film and becoming a part of a three part film series.

In the film, Maggie Q plays the role of the tatoo artist Tori, while Mekhi Phifer portrays Max the leader of the Dauntless faction.

*What past roles really helped with this film?

Mekhi: When you talk about a career and a body of work, I think they all help you to the next stage. Each film, you learn something new, you deal with a whole different multitude of people on each project. That’s one thing I really love about the film and television industry, is that you get to meet so many people, so many diverse people that you would normally never come across in life, and to be able to learn from each project helps you take it to the next level. I mean, you never wanna do a repeat performance of the same character, so you always try to find creative ways of making this particular character different than this particular character and I think that us, just working. And being blessed to be able to work and to delve into different people helps us sort of find nuances.

Maggie: Yeah, and build your base. It’s really interesting. I played a mentor on my show, but I was the mentor that was willing and able and eager and my student was not so, was a little resistant to it.  This is the opposite. I’m the unwilling mentor and she’s after me, you know, trying to get information. Well then, she’s like I just do tattoos, like get out of my face. I don’t wanna talk about you, I don’t wanna deal with you, I don’t wanna be in your world because I know that world and it’s not okay. So that was interesting, to sort of be the mentor, running from your student, in a sense. It’s interesting, because, you know, there’s really a lot to build on, I think Mekhi and I both, in taking this first one, I think we both feel like, we looked at the roles as something as a base to build from to the next and that’s what makes it interesting for me.

Mekhi: Likewise.

Do you guys know what’s ahead for your characters or are you taking it one script at a time?

Mekhi: One script at a time.

Maggie: We are, because you never know. Mekhi was saying earlier, that you never know with the adaptation’s gonna be, so you really have to not get so married to the book, because, you know depending on how the film works out, some things, they may pop up, somethings they may play down, depending on, you know if we suck [Mekhi and Maggie both laughing], they may give us a dialogue [like], “Oh no, Tori dies early in the second one by this mysterious virus.”

Mekhi Phifer and Jai Courtney in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.
Mekhi Phifer and Jai Courtney in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.

So would you say that you’re pleased with the adaptation, compared to the book?

Maggie: I would say yes.

Mekhi: I think it’s a fun ride.

Was it difficult sort of balancing between staying faithful to the book for the fans and also having that creative say?

Mekhi: Well, I think there’s a certain amount of artistic license that you’re giving when you do adaptations. Obviously, you can’t quote the book word for word. I mean, we have to sort of tweak it a little bit, but I think people will be pleasantly surprised and pleased, from the book to the film adaptation.

Maggie: I think a good indication was that Veronica [Roth] was really happy. You know, she was on set a lot and she was really supportive about the process.

*Going off that, you guys have worked with this cast that’s made up of a lot of up and coming stars, specifically Shailene Woodley. She’s come a long way and is on fire right now. With that being said, how would you describe working with her?

Mekhi: It was great to work with everybody, I don’t think anybody brought egos to the table or anything like that. I think everybody was really excited and really wanting to make the best picture possible and I think Shailene is wonderful. She’s handling it all in stride, you know and like you said, she’s on fire, doing a lot right now, and well deserved, because she is good people.

Maggie: I was gonna say well deserved, good people and you know, what I love about them casting her in this is that you know, a lot of times when they do this, franchise stuff, they’re looking for the next star. There’s different things that they look at, some of them are shallow, some of them can be deeper decisions, but, in this particular case, this character was young and complex. And those are two things that never go together, generally But she is that. She’s a very old soul. I had to keep reminding myself that she was 20 or around that age.

Mekhi: Yeah. I mean, we were surrounded and everyone was so young.

Maggie: Everyone was so young! It was so fun. But I did, I had to remind myself of her age, because she’s very wise for her age and I think that, that really shows on screen. That’s really something that you can’t fake. I think that wisdom is sort of deep and rooted in something. So those roots, I think, will project when you have that, and she has that. I’m just really happy for people who are making it, that are good people and have the talent and the chops to deserve it. She certainly deserves it in so many arenas, and I think that this film, there’s no weak link. I thought it was great casting. And Theo is about to be the next big thing!

Mekhi: He’s great.

Maggie Q and Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.
Maggie Q and Shailene Woodley in Divergent. Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk/Summit Entertainment.

Going back to your characters, what did you find most challenging about playing them?

Mekhi: I think with our characters in particular, we’re establishing who we are, so we’re still finding that in ourselves. Especially in this first one, you’re starting to kind of get into who these characters are. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next one brings to the table, and then I can fully assess it. Maggie and I both talked about this earlier and this is our first time doing a film that involves sequels and all this other stuff. So, it’s interesting to see the character arc, and where it’s gonna go.

Maggie: Yeah, I’ve never looked at a script and sort of wanted to do it based on the future growth of it. You do that in television. We look at the character and look at what the opportunity is for growth in that person and can we bring an arc to this person that will matter and people will care about. So that was weird, getting this script and going and hearing there’s this, this and this and going, well, that hasn’t happened yet and having that going into making this decision.

*On set, who would you say was the most like their character, yourselves included?

Mekhi: Zoë [Kravitz] was interesting.

Maggie: Oh yeah, Zoë. Zo Zo for sure. Zo Zo, doesn’t have a filter. [Both Mekhi and Maggie laugh] I was like, perfect! But yeah, that’s what makes her so cute and fun in it. When you know her, it makes you even more smile when you see the movie. That’s so her.

Mekhi: Absolutely.

Divergent is set for a March 21, 2014 release date, with the sequel, Insurgent already locked for a March 20, 2015 release date. 

* Denotes a question asked by Emertainment Monthly

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