Mackenzie Gray: How He Developed Jax-Ur for ‘Man of Steel,’ a Prequel and Not Wanting Superman to Die (Pt 1)
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Mackenzie Gray, who plays Jax-Ur in Man of Steel. The Kryptonian scientist has Krypton’s fate in the balance of his hands in the movie, making the discovery of where the Codex is located.
From Toronto, Ontario, Mackenzie and I had a fun and lively discussion while he was on his way to set for an undisclosed project. Our interview was about a half hour and was very fun. There were several moments, which come in during later parts of the interview, in which he had me laughing pretty hard!
In Part 1 of the interview we talk about how he developed the character of Jax-Ur, his interest level in doing a Man of Steel prequel focused on Krypton, and a scene between Jax-Ur and General Zod which was ultimately cut back in the theatrical release, and Jax-Ur not wanting Superman to die.
ME: Many of the fans are familiar with you from your work on the Smallville TV series in which you played a Lex Luthor clone. When Man of Steel came on the horizon, how did you get involved with Man of Steel? Was it a phone call? Was it email? What was that experience like?
MG: It was a straight audition. I was submitted. And Zack called me and—but I didn’t read to him initially, it was just a tape [submission]- and he called me and I was actually a bit nervous. So I had put in a picture of me with a shaved head from the times on Smallville. I thought well I’ll just put it in there as conversation and said I had already worked for the franchise and Warner Bros during Smallville playing Lex Luthor and I threw a picture in there- and it was just before we started [production.] And he said “Oh, let me have a look” and he loved the picture, thought it was pretty cool […]He said “What a badass picture! Oh my God, that’s great! Listen, I’d like to see what you do” and he just pitched me an idea. He liked the audition. “We’re looking at different accents for the people from Krytpon. We’re looking at Australian accents, at German accents. Can you do that?” And I said “yeah, what do you want to try?” And he said “How about German? Not heavy German, maybe Euro German. Softer.” And I said “Yeah. I can do that.” So, I thought about how would it change what I’m doing in a scene and how would that accent affect it. I want to make it gentle. I think it makes it more sinister. Like if I’m quiet, just super quiet. So I do it and at the end of the audition he banged his fist on the table and said “You are an awesome actor! I’ll see you in the movie!”
ME: That’s fantastic! Just like that, Jax-Ur came to life!
MG: It was just a perfect storm.
ME: I loved Jax-Ur. I was captivated by everything Kryptonian because we’ve never really seen Krypton portrayed like this- with all the care and attention to detail.
MG: It’s really beautiful what they did.
ME: I found Jax-Ur very interesting. You touched on it a bit talking about the accent. When it comes to playing Jax-Ur, because he’s more than just a couple of lines- he has a real physical presence in the movie-
MG: There’s actually more. We shot about 14 scenes, but only about 5 ended up making it into the film. There was a lot more with him and Zod on the ship. But, what made it in there is really good and still tells the story really well. You always hate to lose stuff. It’s well written. Concise.
ME: The movie was amazing. So incredibly well written and brilliant. From the smallest level to the themes and plot points, and those over-arching ideas that are kind of really taken straight from our own headlines in this world.
MG: It’s not sequential. There’s flashbacks. I loved the structure and it was really well done. I think it allows you to understand how [Superman] has come to be who he is now. That’s a little harder to do if you’re going to do the traditional “he grows up, he becomes a teenager… linear.” It was really well done.
ME: Would you come back for a prequel?
MG: There’s been a lot of talk [from fans.] Russell tweeted he’d put on the tights again to do a prequel because fans are saying “we want to see more of Krypton.” I’d put my tights on in a heartbeat if we did a prequel!
ME: I’m one of the fans who wants to see more Krypton and what that would be like! On Krypton they wouldn’t have super powers, but there’s so much material in the comics, so much to explore: their awareness of other worlds, how the Justice League could end up getting involved at some future time. I felt Krypton was fantastic! I want more of this!
MG: Tell them! I’m behind it. Jax-Ur- he blew up Krypton’s moon. There’s so much that Jax-Ur is part of in the comic books. Lots to draw on.
ME: Definitely. When you go about creating for yourself, in your mind, what Jax-Ur is going to be like, aside from how you would approach his accent, what else do you draw on to convey that unethical, sinister scientist type who really has no moral code?
MG: I was thinking about the people who are “science at all costs.” There’s an element of that. Krypton is thousands of years ahead of Earth. I thought he should be cool and methodical, and analytical… that would be the best.
There was a scene that was cut down. After I’ve explained that I’ve found the Codex and …. This is a spoiler… after I make that big discovery, we’ll just say that.. I go on about what a brilliant genius Jor-El was and Zod gets very mad because he killed Jor-El. So, he tells me to “shut up” basically. There was a great moment that was shot. It shows that [Jax-Ur] has an appreciation for the genius of Jor-El and certainly he didn’t want to kill Superman.
ME: Kind of getting into some spoiler territory, but there was a moment in the film I noticed Jax-Ur’s hesitation. I’m going to throw out a spoiler alert here. When Zod asks if Kal has to be alive to extract the Codex and Jax-Ur’s response is “well , no. He doesn’t”- It was an interesting moment because I saw some trepidation with Jax-Ur about killing Superman. That was a silent moment. It surprised me.
MG: I played it as he absolutely did not want that to happen.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with funny and talented Mackenzie Gray!
You can follow Mackenzie on Twitter .
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