Recently I was able to sit down with two of the werewolves from The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Alex Meraz and Kiowa Gordon. Both are new to acting on the big screen, but you wouldn’t know it, as their performances are first-rate.
Alex, of the Purepecha First Nation of Michoacan, Mexico was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona. A graduate of the New School for the Arts, Meraz has since developed as a multi-faceted performer and artist. He has competed in the world of mixed martial arts, and has won numerous tournaments in Karate and Capoeira. Alex plays Paul in New Moon, a werewolf and stalwart member of the tribe.
Kiowa was born in Berlin, Germany, and at the age of one moved to McLean, Virginia where his father worked for the government. When he turned two his family moved to Northern Arizona to the Hualapai reservation, where he learned the ways of his native American culture. He later attended Mountain View High School in Mesa, Arizona. He won the role of Embry at an audition in Phoenix.
Outwardly friendly and inwardly sincere, the two actors were open to anything I could throw at them.
How did you get into acting and land the roles in New Moon?
Alex: I have always had an interest in film, and all its different components. There are so many different layers to a good film, and I always wanted to do it and try it out. I got a great role in Twilight. I mean, that is a great launching pad for a new career.
Kiowa: What can I say, this is a great way to start an acting career. The movie is going to be great all the way.
The two of you play werewolves in the film, but most of the time you are shirtless. How did you buff up for the roles of Paul and Embry?
Kiowa: As for buffing up for the role, the studio hired us a trainer. He had worked on the film 300, so he knew how to jack up people.
Alex: I do karate and wrestling so I was already in shape, but I had to gain weight back and get beefed up again. I have a hate relationship with food and lifting weights, but it was all worth it.
Some directors can be tough on a cast. What was it like working with Chris Weitz?
Alex: The director was great! In a big budget film like this there are a lot of things going on all at once, and he was able to spread things out so evenly that you did not feel any pressure. He is a very soft-spoken man. He was a man of few words, and in acting you really don’t want someone to explain too much to you in words because it takes away from what you are doing. He kept it simple. We had a really great working relationship.
Kiowa: He is the first director I have ever worked with, and it was great to get to work with someone so great.
When you work with computer generated images (CGI) as they have to do to bring the werewolves to life, you really don’t see the results of their work until you see the completed film. What was it like working with CGI?
Alex: Working with so much CGI really worried me. We know with big-budget films there is always lots of CG going on, so the actors can be treated like objects you know … like stand here and don’t move … and everything else happens around you, and you don’t really know what you are doing. But, Chris brought in an amazing special effects team that he worked with on Golden Compass, so it was really incredible, and an organically involved process. I have a transformation scene where I try to kill Kristen’s character, and I get into a fight with Taylor’s character. They showed me a composite of what it was going to look like on the laptop so I could imagine it — it gave me really good references.”
Kiowa: Well in the actual making of the scene he just kind of huffs and puffs and then jumps out of the scene, and we are working with a cardboard cut out of a wolf, and we have to pretend it is this big ferocious beast.
Alex: Kristen had a really hard time feeling it because it is just a big cardboard thing with two guys holding it. It was kind of difficult for some of the actors to feel it. That is the beauty of a film like that. It is so involved and you have to use a lot of your imagination. The end product was incredible.