DeWanda Wise has entered the Jurassic World chat. Like moving to a new high school during senior year, the actress joined the Jurassic World franchise on its third and last installment. For this final film, the legacy cast from Jurassic Park was brought back, including Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum—but while she respects and admires their long-lasting careers, Wise came clean and told Complex she really wasn’t a fan of the movies growing up. And that actually helped her when she took on the role.
Wise plays Kayla Watts, a former United States Air Force who now freelances for companies like Biosyn, smuggling all sorts of things for them, including dinosaurs. When she sees that Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and in a bind trying to find their daughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), the fearless pilot joins them on their mission. Wise adds a fresh layer to the story that’s perfectly sandwiched in between the original and the current cast and delivers one of the most exciting performances in the film. “A great gift that I wasn’t expecting is that it was immensely collaborative,” she tells Complex about working on the film. “I didn’t anticipate that my first blockbuster would be that kind of experience but it absolutely was.”
The Jurassic World franchise has The purpose of reboots is not just to appease the original fans from 30 years ago. Another goal should always be to bring younger fans on board that will fall in love with the story and its characters, both old and new. Adding more characters to the story like Kayla is part of the fun, too, and the only downside of that is that fans won’t have the chance to learn more about her since this is said to be the final movie in this Jurassic World universe.
Wise has a long list of projects on her resume but this is her first major blockbuster action film. During a recent interview with Complex, the actress shared that Pratt was instrumental in helping her build her character and showing her how to be an action star. While the actor is no stranger to action, Wise tells us that the funny guy fans met on Parks and Recreation years ago is always still within reach. Check out our interview with Wise below, where she shares all about her experience on Jurassic World: Dominion and why she thinks the Jurassic movies keep finding success over and over again.
Were you a huge Jurassic Park fan growing up?
DeWanda Wise: I was not, girl. [laughs] At this point, the other day, I said it all day, and now my shame is gone. Now the shame of not having grown up a fan is gone and I can just keep it real simple and say “No, I wasn’t.” I had to crash course it. Thankfully, these movies play all the time on TV so I was able to catch up very quickly but I’m happy to be here now, and isn’t that all that matters?
Exactly, and you were more than prepared. Was it nerve-wracking for you to join a franchise that was so successful both times around?
DW: Because it wasn’t so precious to me, because I didn’t have any weight on it, I think that took a lot of the pressure off for sure. It’s a number of things: One, it wasn’t precious. Two, because I love some homework, I love being prepared. I met on this film in March of 2019 and really I didn’t get to work until June of 2020 so I had more than enough time to get through that period of intimidation so that I was like actually ready to work. Three, the star of these movies is the dinosaurs. OK? I know we have megastars, I know everybody is a megastar, and I respect them. I respect their amazing, accomplished careers but let’s be real.
You and Chris Patt have such intense scenes together. What was it like working with him on this? He looks like he’s so focused when he’s doing these action movies.
DW: That’s so funny, that’s great. He’s very focused but he’s a lot of fun, like the Chris Pratt from Parks and Rec is never far off. I think what was beautiful and unexpected, in between the laughter, of course, is that Chris and I have a lot in common. We both grew up very comparably, we both come from parents who are grocers, very working-class backgrounds and so maybe because of the moment we were filming in but we had some really fantastic conversations. He was a true action hero mentor for me on set, making sure that Kayla was as cool as she could possibly be and I tribute a whole lot of her to him.
What do you think Kayla added to do the third installment of the Jurassic World films?
DW: I think she added absolutely the lens of the audience. It’s like watching yourself being dropped into one of these scenarios so that’s a lot of fun. I was just really conscientious, as I am a performer naturally, like, what’s missing? What energy is needed in this space? I don’t think in terms of being like, “I’m going to go in and do everything.” It’s like playing sports even though I don’t play sports and I’m not really actually athletic at all—you know, it’s like how can I be of great service here? So it was just it was very clear to me in that sense what who she needed to be.
We’ve seen you in She’s Gotta Have It, Fatherhood, and Someone Great, but what do you think you learned as an actor from working on an action film?
DW: Everything teaches you something else. The privilege of this and a great gift that I wasn’t expecting is that it was immensely collaborative, all my work has been. Working on Fatherhood with Paul Weitz, I was like, “How do you like to work?” You always have that conversation before you enter into a project and he was like, “I like to be surprised.” I work well with directors who enjoy being surprised and so I didn’t anticipate that my first blockbuster would be that kind of experience but it absolutely was and it was just one of those things that as you can imagine, added a major sense of buoyancy to my process. It was very affirming, it was immensely affirming that there was a space for me and a space for performers like me on these larger platforms.
What do you think has made Jurassic World such a success?
DW: It’s timeless. The themes of the movie are always prescient. Even if you take away the kind of themes of, like, the undercurrent of climate change, wherever you stand on that issue, it’s still called, “Dominion.” It’s still about how we take care of each other and how we take care of this one Earth and one planet. The responsibility of being given dominion over the animals, like what does that mean? Even if the animals are a quetzalcoatlus.
Jurassic World: Dominion is now in theaters.