An Interview with Actress Paulina Laurant of Triassic World
I recently got the chance to sit with actress Paulina Laurant of the upcoming Asylum films Triassic World and Megalodon. Paulina had joined the Throwdown Thursday Podcast for their episode “Danger is Rising” along with co-stars Dominic Pace, Ego Mikitas, Caroline Harris and Elizabeth Cron to discuss Megalodon but I was able to pry her away from her busy schedule to discuss dinosaurs running wild, and the occasional questions about sharks.
I asked her many questions over the course of the hour and change that she chatted with me. One of the first things I asked was if she could explain the film and her role a little bit. She plays an immunologist named Eva Nieves.
Well, Asylum is known for making ‘mockbusters’ and this is a mockbuster based on another dinosaur movie coming out very soon she says with a laugh. And this one is a lot less kid-friendly, it’s a lot gorier. I play Eva Nieves, an immunology tech and basically, we are harvesting organs from the dinosaurs, something goes terribly wrong and we’re left fending for our lives.
This is, of course, standard fare for a summer blockbuster- who lives and who dies, how much will be left of the people who do survive, etc. This brings up an interesting aspect of Asylum and other lower-budget films. Paulina mentions the fact that with Asylum films, they’ll cast six main actors and it’s really difficult to try and guess beforehand who might make it through to the end of the film, as opposed to a franchise like Jurassic World where you know that Chris Pratt is going to make it through the whole movie and most likely the next two or three because he’s the main star and the primary draw. With Asylum films, you never really know because the film is not centered around one specific actor.
My curiosity is piqued by the differences between this film and Megalodon. Preparations that went into both and the plots differ greatly. Paulina informed me that where Megalodon is more science fiction/ action, Triassic World is more science fiction and thriller with some elements of horror added in. He [Dylan Vox, the director of Triassic] wanted us all to watch Alien before we started filming. He especially wanted us to watch the one that David Fincher [Alien 3, Se7en, Gone Girl] directed because he wanted to shoot it in a very David Fincher type of style.
Which to me makes sense because that film, while taking place in a very large prison, still held a lot of the same claustrophobia from the first film, and was the first one in the series to show things from the perspective of the creature. This is another aspect that intrigues me about the film – Fincher’s style is creating tension out of not only the characters involved but also the set pieces and dialogue. Paulina elaborates, It’s a lot gorier…there’s a lot more blood [than Megalodon].
Immediately I want to know if she has seen the final product yet, to see if the amount of blood and gore was up to her standards. At the time of the interview, she had not seen it but was informed by co-star Hayley J Williams, who plays Dr. Martinelli, that it had already aired in the UK on the SYFY channel and folks were raving about it, taking to Twitter to tell Hayley how much they enjoyed it. I personally became incredibly jealous of the UK audience that was able to enjoy this film two weeks before I was. As of this writing, I am still a couple of days away from being able to see it! Now, at this point of the interview, Paulina did inform me that both the director and the casting director had seen the film and assured her that it was going to make her happy and that it was great.
Asylum gets sort of a bad reputation when it comes to their films because they specialize in, as Paulina explained earlier, mockbusters. But I feel strongly about these films. If there were a movie about a satellite in space that is used to control the weather by shooting various types of missiles into the atmosphere, and that a malfunction/sabotage occurred and massively violent storms destroyed large swaths of the planet, people would dismiss it if it was attached to Asylum. But when you throw Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, and Gerard Butler into the cast and give it a massive budget, suddenly it’s acceptable. The premises of Asylum films are no worse than the ones we see from big-budget Hollywood action moves that we’re inundated with from May to September.
I need to take it a step further and express how I strongly respect the folks who work on these so-called “mockbusters” because these films are not like the standard giant budget films. For instance, you’re not going to have a Stanley Kubrick-like 100- plus takes of a single shot because the time simply isn’t available to the cast and crew. They have to learn their lines, go through whatever training they might need, fight choreography, rehearsal and actual shooting in about ten to two weeks. Paulina shared that this particular film had a shooting time of ten days, so there were a lot of days where they were shooting for fourteen, sixteen, eighteen hours just to make sure they maximized their time. I told her and by extension anyone who might be reading this article, that I respect them in many ways, more than I do those actors who have the chance to spend six or eight months preparing for a role because it’s just not feasible for them to do so. They have very limited time to prepare and perfect their performances.
The other thing I need to point out because I feel that it gets lost in the shuffle is the fact that these are all professional actors. These are all professional directors, and writers, and producers. Everyone who works on these films takes pride in their work. These are not just random people picked up off the street and thrown into a film. Yes, people understand that they are working on films that have folks with chainsaws battling sharks in space and that can get ridiculous. But that by no means is equivalent to people who don’t take their jobs seriously or are simply phoning in their performances. It frustrates me sometimes to think about the stigma of these people who work on these films. Just because the movie isn’t being produced by a giant studio is no reason to think that it should be discounted. Warner Brothers has made plenty of films that aren’t as good as some of the Asylum films. And the Asylum films don’t have their stars sending used condoms to each other on set.
Paulina was very appreciative about this, mainly because I don’t believe that many folks, whether they feel this way publicly or privately, have actually put these thoughts out into the world. We definitely love what we do, she says. It’s also nice to see people who are indeed very busy still have an hour or so to take from their day to talk to some random podcaster/writer who loves the type of films that Asylum makes. As I mentioned to her, I reach out to people on social media constantly about doing interviews or being on the show, even when I meet people at conventions or a movie premiere. I tend to sometimes be acknowledged but it is very rare that they agree to take the time to talk to me outside of that few minutes during a public appearance.
So after I sidetracked us for several minutes to express my gratitude, we needed to get back to questions that need answering. In Triassic World Paulina plays an immunology tech, which is much different from her role in Megalodon in which she plays an engineer. I ask her to explain the difference in preparation that she had for those roles and compare that with other roles she’s had throughout her career.
I’m really blessed. I’ve gotten to play a lot of well-rounded characters that are really very different from each other. I’ve played the bitchy girl, the ditzy girl, a computer hacker…I’ve never played a nurse or a doctor before so to play an immunology tech, a scientist, that was really different for me. In the other film, I play an engineer, and I know those are two careers my dad wishes I went into in real life, she says with a laugh. And I love being able to play different characters because as an actor you really get to become that person; because I did a lot of research. I did a lot of research on dinosaurs, and I learned that the Triassic period actually came before the Jurassic period. And I did a lot of research on what these dinosaurs would look like and there really wasn’t much information on what they looked like. We only have approximations based on fossils.
Part of the reason for this, we discovered as we chatted (and I looked some things up so I would sound smart) is because there are so few full fossils that are found. For instance, the velociraptors that were so menacing throughout the Jurassic Park franchise should be, in reality, about three feet tall and covered with feathers. Some creative license has to be taken in order to create a compelling narrative. Again, because I love sharks, I address that we can only make educated guesses about Megalodons because when a shark dies, the only parts that end up getting fossilized are the teeth and jaw – the rest of its skeletal structure is cartilage, not bone. Many times there’s an archaeological find of a dinosaur and at first, there’s some excitement surrounding it as a potential new species, but it turns out that it’s just a different subspecies that science has already discovered. So in that way, Paulina explains, researching the anatomy and physiology of dinosaurs is daunting because there are just so many unknown variables, and her character is charged with harvesting organs in the film.
The aspect of the script and film that really appealed to me was that even though I’m not playing the main character, Eva still has an arc, her character isn’t just one-dimensional and there to be cannon fodder for the dinosaurs when they inevitably turn against their creators and run amok. We both agree that in a film if a secondary character contributes nothing and then gets killed or dispatched in some way it doesn’t resonate with the audience. However, even minor or secondary characters cause an emotional response from the audience, and not just a “Wait, who was that? Why did they show that character getting killed? I forget what he/she did” reaction if they have an arc.
Because this is a dinosaur film, I would greatly regret not taking this opportunity to ask Paulina what her favorite dinosaur is. I don’t want to say T-Rex, because they’re big and they’re scary, but that’s like the go-to one that everyone picks. I like the nice ones, like The Land Before Time dinosaurs…the ones that only eat plants!” [laughs]. So, of course, as a huge fan of The Land Before Time, I need to know which one she liked – Ducky? Cera? Little Foot? Oh Little Foot for sure, she responds, very matter-of-factly. And when it comes to dinosaurs– that’s really the only way to be.
I really enjoyed speaking with Paulina. She was very complimentary of her co-stars, her directors, and everyone with whom she works. She is appreciative of the opportunities she has been given and is always working to hone her craft. She is also part of the Color Collective – a live sketch comedy team which is, Saturday Night Live meets In Living Color. For you youngsters who might not be familiar with In Living Color, that’s the show that launched Jamie Foxx and Jim Carrey into the movies the same way that Saturday Night Live launched the careers of countless comedic actors from Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd to Dana Carvey and Mike Myers to Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz to Adam Sandler and Chris Farley to Will Ferrell as well as Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, among many, many others. (I had to include a range for whoever might be reading this- I don’t want to leave anyone out.)
So as I was wrap up this interview, for which I thank Paulina so many times, I have one final question that is tied to both of her recent films. What would she find more terrifying in real life, being chased by dinosaurs on the land or by a shark in the water? With pretty much zero hesitation she replies Sharks in the water! and then goes on to elaborate being out in the water is pretty much a hopeless situation because even if you manage to fight off the shark, you’re going to be tired and most likely drown. At least if you’re being chased by a dinosaur, you can hide in a small space or climb a tree or get in a vehicle and drive away.
I know I said it to her in the interview, but once more, thank you, Paulina, for taking time to answer my goofy questions and share some thoughts on both of the movies that are coming out this summer. I will be most assuredly picking them both up to add to my collection as soon as they become available. I will be following this up with a review of both films as I am able to see them. But I just want to take this time to wish Paulina the best of luck in her future endeavors and I look forward to seeing her work. Don’t forget – Triassic World premiered on June 19th so check your local listings, and Megalodon comes out August 31st according to IMDB.com. Add it to your calendars, take the day off from work, do whatever you need to do to see these films! Support these hard-working folks!