What’s missing from movies these days that we need more of? That’s right, you guessed it: parkour. Running and jumping and bouncing off walls seems to be an ever-growing sport and one that should be incorporated in cinema more. The new action/thriller Tracers uses parkour as a way to tell a fast-paced story and I recently had the opportunity to speak with Marie Avgeropoulos, one of the film’s stars. Here’s how that went:
Very cool movie. You were awesome in it.
What drew you to the project?
I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and when I read the script about parkour and how that gets involved in accomplishing these wonderful heists in this dark, thriller action-packed world, I couldn’t resist.
So that’s really you doing all the stunts and parkour stuff?
We trained hardcore for two months before the film, so it was really cool to learn how to do that type of athleticism that I had never really dived into before we started filming Tracers.
Were you athletic prior to filming?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been an athlete all my life, so I’ll try anything once.
Okay, what type of sports have you done in the past?
I’m an adrenaline junkie myself, so I’m more into the extreme sports. I used to race dirt bikes. I used to race on the snowboard and play around in the park on the hills, so that was a lot of fun for me. Motorcycles, anything that gets my heart rate up, I’m a huge fan of.
Did you get hurt at all on set?
Anytime you’re involved in sort of an extreme sport activity, I feel like that’s sort of part of it, so it’s important to get rid of any sort of fear in your mind and just go for it. That’s when the best results happen.
And I understand you had a passion playing the drums. Do you still do that?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I’m currently in a band in Vancouver which is where we film The 100, so it’s really fun on the weekends to go and jam and get it all out. I find it really therapeutic. I’m a huge classic rock buff.
You’ve done a lot of different roles on film and TV. Do you have a favorite medium, film or TV?
I don’t particularly pick favorites. I just enjoy anything, whether it be a huge studio film or a wonderful independent feature with great writing where I can flex my acting muscles and try something new.
Out of all the filmmakers and cast members you have worked with, do you have any particular favorites or memorable ones?
Every project I’ve worked on has been really memorable for me. Of course Octavia in The 100 has been a really special one to my heart, mainly because my character arc on the show has changed dramatically from one spectrum to the other. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to sword fight and do a lot of sword training as of recently because my character is developed into this really kick-ass warrior. So I’ve enjoyed Octavia’s journey, and I just finished shooting a great independent feature called Numb, and ironically, the actor who plays my brother Aleks Paunovic is the bass player in my band who also did a great arc on The 100. So it’s really cool just to work with friends, and we were shooting, the film revolves around the cold and really extreme weather conditions, ironically. The film is called Numb for a reason. [laughs] That was a great time, and I can’t wait to see how that film turns out. It’s a really wonderful learning experience.
You finished shooting?
Yeah, we just finished shooting about a week ago.
Great, when’s it coming out? I want to see it.
I’m not sure. Who knows how long, I mean, I go to set, do my job, and leave, and it’s a waiting game afterwards. Good things come to those who wait.
So Chris Columbus pretty much gave you your break. What was it like being directed by him?
Oh my gosh, I’m such a big fan of The Goonies and Mrs. Doubtfire and Home Alone, so I was completely honored for him supporting me right out of the gate and just get my feet wet in the business for the first time, and I’ll be forever grateful. A wonderful man and very talented and smart and down to earth individual.
Any plans to work with him again?
Oh, I would do it in a second.
Speaking of that, are there any other people you want to work with in the future? Filmmakers, cast members?
I would love to work with Patricia Arquette because she’s been in my all-time favorite movie, since I was a young girl. So if I ever had the opportunity to be lucky enough to work with her, I would drop whatever the heck it was that I was doing and jump at that chance.
Which movies of hers inspire you?
True Romance, 100 percent. She’s definitely I feel like the spokeswoman for bravery in the face of fear.
And having an Oscar doesn’t hurt.
Absolutely. I’m so proud of her.
Are there any other actresses that have inspired you over the years?
Of course the obvious, Meryl Streep. I feel like she’s such a chameleon, completely embodies herself into any role that she takes on, and Angelina Jolie can be a bad-ass while still maintaining the grace and finesse of a action superhero, so that’s wonderful as well.
So speaking of action, what is it about that genre that fascinates you so much?
I love to do my own stunts and just really embody whatever character I’m in. I’m not scared to get my hands dirty or leave set with bruises. And just learning these skills is wonderful too. Like I said, in Tracers, becoming familiar with parkour and you know, there’s a saying, do something once a day that scares you, and anytime I can get that opportunity to get my blood pressure up, I find it really, really rewarding.
Okay, well, don’t get it too high!
[Laughs] Heart-attack high? Just high enough to get a good buzz off it.
Honestly, I’m not really familiar with parkour in detail, but is there a philosophy to it, and if so, what is that philosophy?
The philosophy of parkour is a really interesting saying. It’s like the art of movement and the movement of art all at once. It’s almost like a dance. I found the same correlation with learning how to sword fight. It’s all about the choreography and just getting the physicality on point and also having the bravery to do it and not think too much, just like anything else in life. Just go for it.
Would you say that the parkour scenes were the toughest to shoot?
Yeah, definitely. It’s a lot different when you’re doing it in the parkour gym where everything is cushy and soft and pads around you versus all of a sudden, you’re on set in New York City for the first time in your life, and there’s concrete below you. It reminded me a lot of skateboarding when I was a kid. You know, you just gotta commit because if you fall, it hurts. Do it! [Laughs] Get it done.
What was it like working in New York City? I know you’re from Canada. Was it similar to Vancouver or not really?
I’m from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, which is on the East Coast, and I found that New York City vibrates. I really fell in love with that city. The people there are so wonderful, so down to earth, but also don’t take any bull%$#^ at the same time. So I really enjoyed just feeling the essence of New York City and what the culture is really about.
So you want to work in the city again?
Oh, any excuse to go back to New York, I would do it in a minute. I’m actually thinking about next year, when I’m on hiatus from The 100, just spend a month or two there and just really get a feel for the art and the culture and music and who knows, maybe play some shows there.
What is it about acting that motivates you?
I just get motivated by so many things around me. The people around me, the wonderful artists I get to work with and the mentors around me, and fellow cast mates constantly remind me why I do this and keep my glass half full at all times. I’m a really blessed and fortunate girl to have the amazing experience to do what I love, especially coming from such a small town myself. I’m really blessed and thankful for my family and friends supporting me all the time.
Wow, you’re so upbeat, that’s awesome. So I understand that you originally studied broadcast journalism. What made you switch to acting?
Yeah, I graduated high school, and I wasn’t even 18 yet. I really at that age didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I did a few theater plays with my high school. My most glamourous, and I say this in quotes because it’s hilarious, role was in The Snow Queen, with a beak strapped to my forehead, playing a crow in a one-piece spandex suit that went all the way up to my eyebrows.
That’s, that’s quite a visual.
[Laughs] Totally strange to say that inspired me, but it did, believe it or not, because I just really enjoyed, you know, putting myself in somebody, or some animal’s – I say this with a smile on my face – shoes. Just embodying these characters is just a lot of fun for me.
Well, it’s hard to follow that. What was it like being directing by Daniel Benmayor?
Oh, Daniel’s such a wonderful man, and he has such an artistic eye and it was a pleasure to work with him. He really figured out how to capture the rawness of New York City and the grittiness of parkour and that mafia lifestyle.
Do you think there’s a future for parkour-based movies?
Parkour has been around for such a long time, which I was sort of oblivious to before I was introduced to the world of parkour, and it requires such athleticism and commitment from these athletes that I had the pleasure of meeting that helped teach me how to do it. For their sake, because they’re such passionate individuals about what they do, I hope there is.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
I hope at the end of the day that the audiences that are watching Tracers feel empowered and embodied by doing something at least once a day that scares them.
Talk a little bit more about what scares you. Where does that mantra or that philosophy come about?
I’m not sure. I feel like growing up in northern Ontario, Canada sort of gives you that tough and thick skin. All my girl friends back home are really into hunting and fishing and so am I, and they’re such brave, inspiring women. My sisters and my family inspire me on a regular basis, and I feel like you wouldn’t survive in this business for a hot second unless you develop some sort of thick skin.
And you’ve managed to do it at such a young age.
Are there any other film genres you’d like to tackle or is it just action?
No, it’s definitely not just narrowed into just action. Anything with a wonderful script and storyline where I can tell somebody else’s story in a truthful way, I’d be honored to play.
And maybe one day you’ll play Patricia Arquette’s daughter.
Oh my gosh, I would love that. I don’t dye my hair, but if there would be a time to dye my hair, it would be for Patricia. [laughs]