Earlier tonight I attended Comic-Con 2012’s Dawn of the Con concert event, hosted by Rob Zombie, at San Diego's Petco Park, where I met several of the young actors who will make their Twilight debut in Breaking Dawn – Part 2: Rami Malek (Benjamin), Marlane Barnes (Maggie), and Bill Tangradi (Randall), pictured above from left to right. Here’s my chat with this new gang of vampires recruited from covens across the globe…
Can each of you describe your character in the film?
Barnes: I’m Maggie from the Irish coven. I’m an Irish vampire. I come in in the last book.
Tangradi: I’m Randall. I’m not even part of a coven. We’re just the nomads. We wander aimlessly, until we have to help the Cullens. We’re there to assist and make sure that everything goes down smoothly as they have to challenge the Volturi.
Malek: I’m Benjamin, and I’m one of the Egyptian vampires, from the Egyptian coven. In the book it says that the Egyptian coven had built the pyramids and the Sphinx, so I built the pyramids and the Sphinx! [Laughs.]
You do nice work.
Malek: Thank you. [Laughs.]
Can any of you say how your character or coven may differ from the way they’re described in the books?
Barnes: I don’t think we can talk about that… There are things that will surprise fans. We definitely have a surprise for the fans. There’s definitely going to be a surprise that they’re not expecting.
Tangradi: I think they did a really good job of staying as true to the book as they can. It’s always going to be hard. You’re always going to have fans that say, “But they didn’t do this…” But I think that there was a real earnestness in trying to make sure that they were honoring the books that everybody loved. I’m sure there were some liberties taken, but not in a way that alienates the core of the characters.
How helpful were the books in crafting your performances? Did you find yourself having to flesh your characters a bit more than the books did?
Barnes: You’re always going to need to flesh your character out more. Nothing is ever going to give you as much as you need to go off of. But I feel like that being said Stephenie writes in a way that she knows that back story, and so even if she doesn’t detail it in the book, I feel like it’s present. I feel that way about acting too. Even if you don’t specifically say all the things that you come up with for yourself, if you have those things, they come with you. So I feel like she both gave us a lot and we also kind of met her in the middle. I think like that’s how it should be.
Tangradi: It would have been cool if the Lexicon came out before we shot, because it kind of detailed everything that she was thinking, but you just have to kind of fill in the blanks as best you can to inform what you think it is. Unless they’re like, “No, that’s not it. Change it.”
Barnes: And they’ll tell you. If you’re doing something weird, they’ll tell you.
Tangradi: For myself, it was a combination of the book and then researching, based on what the book had to say, filling in the blanks.
Malek: I spoke to a lot of young girls who are Twilight fans, and tried to get their perspective, on what they would like Benjamin’s back story to be.
Barnes: You did?
Tangradi: Where did you meet these young girls? [Laughs.]
Malek: At my brother’s school. He teaches in Los Angeles, so I went to the school, and I know there’s a lot of Twilight fans there, so I asked the girls what they would love to see in Benjamin, and the world he came from, what that would have been like.
What was a frequent response?
Malek: They said that he definitely should have come from a…
Tangradi: A blue-collar Egyptian neighborhood? His parents owned a deli?
Malek: [Laughs.] They said he should probably come from the slums somehow, and got bitten one night by maybe the leader of the coven, Amun. So maybe he rescues him in some way and puts him in a basket and sends him down the Nile river, kind of like Moses.
Tangradi: Wow, did you just come up with that right now?
Malek: I did. [Laughs.]
Tangradi: It sounds really good. Own that. [Laughs.]
Did you all get to do some fighting?
Tangradi: Maybe, we’ll see. [Laughs.] I don’t want to get in any trouble.
Barnes: We’ll lay low on the action.
Aside from reading the books, was there any other prep work you did?
Tangradi: I just tried to do a mind-body-spirit, get in good shape, clear my head, be ready to go. Then of course it was like, “Okay, what would somebody who was from the South, who was fighting during these…” I don’t even know if I was in the Southern Vampire Wars. I thought I was, and then I realized I wasn’t.
Barnes: I read the books and watched the movies and looked at the fan sites, a lot of the big ones. The Twilight Lexicon was a good one, I looked at that. Because it’s pretty comprehensive. [Laughs.] Which was useful, I was glad to have it.
Did you hear anything from fans that was useful to you?
Tangradi: I approached this role like I approach any role – what’s on the page and what’s the motivation for what you’re doing, and then kind of filling in where that would come from.
Barnes: The sites were so comprehensive. They had done so much research and cross-referencing and fact-checking on the book, that it was really useful to look at the research and see where Stephenie Meyer’s world fit into the real vampire lore. That’s all very easy to find. So I thought that was really helpful.
How long did you work on the film?
Tangradi: I think we were there for about two months. I know they shot for almost the better part of a year, I think.
Barnes: Because the two movies were shot back to back. But we were just in part 2.
Because we’re still months away from the release, I suppose it’s too soon to say if there were scenes you shot that won’t be in the theatrical version, but that could find their way on to a DVD…
Tangradi: Everbody always says, “We’re so excited to see you.” And my response is, “Me too.” Because I haven’t seen any of it. Every time a trailer comes out my family sends it to me, and it’s new to me as much as it is to them.
Thanks so much for giving us some time, guys.
Barnes: It was great to talk to you. Thank you so much.
Photo by Sophia Quach