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Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief - Brandon T. Jackson interview

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief

Interview by Cassam Looch

BRANDON T. Jackson (pictured, far right) talks about playing Grover in Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief, dancing in a mock Las Vegas [in Vancouver!], working with Steve Coogan in this and Tropic Thunder and why he’d like to do a two-hander with the fellow comedian to check out their comedic prowess.

Q. The books aren’t well-known in the UK, can you tell us a bit about them?
Brandon T. Jackson: I think Greek mythology is well known, and this is set in a modern day setting taking those elements. The main character has ADHD and dyslexia, then finds out he is the son of a god… I mean that is appealing. To know that you could be something great…

Q. Bit of a change from Tropic Thunder
Brandon T. Jackson: I have never heard of that, what movie is that? [Laughs] No, it’s a big change from that obviously. That’s the good thing about being an actor, you can do more things. Not just being a comedian that’s what Chris [Columbus] allowed me to do… not going overboard but expressing myself within the confines of this film. That was very important, I watched a lot films to see how to do that. It was good to work with Steve Coogan again from Tropic Thunder as well… he’s someone who can do that well.

Q. Did you see him much on either film?
Brandon T. Jackson: I saw him a lot, we bonded on the set definitely. We chilled and went out in Vancouver, he played Hades straight as a rock star and I think he is an amazing comedian as well as an amazing actor. I actually think he’s funnier than me too, I’m looking for a nice two-hander so we can battle it out… haven’t had one of those in a while. He was asleep one time on set though! You know the scene after he gets hit by a lightning bolt? Well, there is a long monologue after that and he had to stay in the eyeline and he went to sleep right there.

Q. Where does the interest in comedy come from… you come from quite a religious family don’t you?
Brandon T. Jackson: Yeah, my family is religious. It was kind of a situation where I saw my dad speaking in front of people and I knew I wanted to do something similar to that… but I wasn’t sure what. I always wanted a voice, and I’m not your average African-American male, I come from a certain background and a two parent home… it’s not a typical ‘from the hood’ stereotypical background. I feel like a Fresh Prince story in real-life and to be an example of that I want to express my voice.

Q. Your character I thought differentiated from some of the other’s we’ve seen in fantasy type films in as much as he is just as aware as the ‘lead’. In fact, we are introduced to him as a protector… was that important to you in terms of the film?
Brandon T. Jackson: Absolutely. I mean in the books he’s a lot more nervous but I wanted to play it strong. I asked Chris that if we do another one can I please have some more action… I did it in Tropic Thunder with guns so I think I can definitely pull it off with some goat legs! Grover, in the books, is a character with a lot of heart, and in the films as well he doesn’t have his horns yet so he can’t be totally bad-ass but at the same time maybe he gets more action after his time with Persephone.

Q. When you do a franchise film like this do you read ahead in the series or do you go book-by-book?
Brandon T. Jackson: I actually read the first three books, but it changes because Chris adapts it to make more sense as a film. We’re all attached to do three films but I do think there will be more changes in terms of the series.

Q. Do you believe in the adage what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?
Brandon T. Jackson: Yeah, don’t eat those Lotus flowers either! Actually they created that whole casino in Vancouver… it was a massive set. That whole scene was really long but it was really cool. I had this great dance sequence which was like something out of The Mask, but I knew it was going to get cut. It would have made the film too long… I even told Chris at the time this is way too long, but it was such fun. They should definitely put it on the extras on the DVD. It was weird, though, to see them scrap the sets afterwards… like Camp Half-blood just went and was put into a closet. You walk around and think I’m in this mythical place and then it’s gone.

Q. What was the most challenging thing for you on set?
Brandon T. Jackson: Chris made it very easy; you know it goes from the head down. So, if you have a stressful director then you know what it’s going to be like. I felt like we were all these magical characters and Chris made it a great experience. I’m doing a move next called Lottery Ticket which is a lot smaller.

Read our review of Percy Jackson

Read our interview with Logan Lerman