'Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes' Stars Open Up On Misconceptions And Making A Modern 'Apes' Movie

Freya Allan and Owen Teague talk differences in the new film, misconceptions about their work, and more.

20th Century Studios

There’s no denying the profound impact the Planet of the Apes franchise has had on both cinema and modern entertainment. Since its inception in 1968, the massive IP has captivated audiences through its groundbreaking special effects, thought-provoking narratives, and poignant social commentary.

After seven years on the shelf, the storied universe is getting a fresh start with Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, helmed by Maze Runner director Wes Ball. But with any major film franchise comes lofty expectations, not only to uphold the story’s rich and enduring legacy but also to exceed its predecessors. 

“There was obviously a lot of pressure following Andy Serkis and the franchise itself,” says Owen Teague, who plays the lead ape, Noa, in the film. “But you can't really think about that too much.”

The 10th entry into the franchise marks a new start following the Caesar era, with a host of young talent breathing fresh life into the world of Apes. It’s a new world and a new story, full of entirely new adventures to embark upon.

“The two central characters are young, which I think adds a whole different feel and is a whole different journey,” Freya Allan, who plays the lead human Mae, tells Complex. “It's almost like a coming-of-age story, which we haven't really had.”

It’s a markedly different world than the one fans are familiar with, but that hasn’t seemed to faze moviegoers. In its debut, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes secured the third biggest domestic opening weekend of the year ($56.5M), behind only Dune: Part Two ($81.5M) and Kung Fu Panda 4 ($58.3M). 

We caught up with the stars of the film to talk about the misconceptions surrounding their work and the franchise, working with Andy Serkis, adding to the Apes legacy, and much more. 

(This interview has been edited in length for clarity.)

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Surely there are a lot of expectations in joining a franchise as iconic as Planet of the Apes. Were you nervous about anything in particular, and how did you get through that? 

Owen Teague: There was obviously a lot of pressure following Andy Serkis and the franchise itself, but you can't really think about that too much. I certainly felt a lot of that through ape school. In pre-production, there were a few weeks where I was like, “Oh my God, I can't do this.”

Carrying this on from Andy is an insane thing to think that I get to do. But once we got into it, you just kind of forget all that and it's just like you're making a movie with your friends.

Freya, I’ve read you enjoy method acting and really wanted to–

Freya Allan: NO. I keep getting this. It's freaking me out because everyone is like, “So we know that you love method.” I'm like, “No, I fucking don’t.” I just went home dirty a couple of times.

Oh? Set the record straight. 

FA: Yes. I'm not a method actor. I just went home with dirt on. I just couldn't be bothered to take it off. Listen, I get the feet washed, right? Because that's ugly. And then I get the face washed because, you know, skincare. And then I get the arms, because that was just a bit too intense. But the legs, I had holey trousers and I just left the patches on. 

"I'm not a method actor. I just went home with dirt on."

OT: See this is how you know she's not method; Mae wouldn't be worried about skincare.

FA: Exactly. She [Mae] doesn't care about moisturizer.

Freya Allan wants people to know she is NOT a method actor. 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/C2ZyXiCkvI

— Complex Pop Culture (@ComplexPop) May 15, 2024
Complex Pop Culture

Was it actually messy on set, though? Were you ever rolling around in the mud? 

FA: Yeah, yeah. Pretty much [chuckles]. 

But no, I'd go into the makeup truck to be covered in makeup dirt. I just remember having this image of Beth and Jen, my two makeup artists, every morning manically being told, “You got five minutes.” Just brushing my feet, squeezing blood around the toenail. Like it was hard. 

Woman in prehistoric attire looks alarmed with others in background. Scene from a film

How long would those sessions take? 

FA: Quite a while, honestly, hence the reason I went home with the dirt on. My sheets looked rancid. 

Sometimes in the week I wanted to take a beach trip, and I would just be constantly, subtly putting the sand over my toes because they still had black dirt around them and a little bit of blood. It just wasn't good.

Owen, what was your first interaction with Andy Serkis like? 

OT: It's the only time in my life that I've been starstruck. It was on Zoom because he was in London working on a movie and just physically couldn't be in Sydney. But he was so generous and was basically like, “I'm here for whatever you need.” 

He was just so helpful not only giving me advice on how he approaches performance capture and his process, but also just calming me down a little bit and being like, “Look, this is just acting. This is not rocket science. There's no mystery. You're not doing some different thing.” So he was fantastic.

"It's the only time in my life that I've been starstruck."

Owen Teague reflects on meeting Andy Serkis for the first time for @ApesMovies:

"It's the only time in my life I've been starstruck." pic.twitter.com/PggGtVOuwf

— Complex Pop Culture (@ComplexPop) May 16, 2024
Complex Pop Culture

I feel like motion-capture work doesn't always get the credit it deserves. Are there any misconceptions you hear often? 

OT: That it's somehow a kind of pantomime thing, that you're impersonating or doing something extra performative, over-the-top.

I literally just had an interview with a journalist who was like, “I was amazed how much emotion you could get through the CGI,” like, you could overcome that as if it were some obstacle. And I think that that's what people don't understand. 

It’s not like we’re acting through something. It’s not like prosthetics where you have stuff covering your face. 

A lot of times it's actually more freeing and more true to what I see acting to be. It's more about the character. Nobody's going to see me on screen. They're going to see Noa. So it makes it easier to shed myself and become something else, which is what I'm always looking to do.

"A lot of times it's actually more freeing and more true to what I see acting to be."

As one of the only human actors in the movie, how does it feel to watch everything now after filming with all the effects? Is there a disconnect in your mind or anything? 

FA: You know, what? I expected to feel more weirded out by the fact that it's now just technically my face and they've been made into apes. But like I say with the posters, I just see them. It's bizarre. 

I really did not expect to feel that as much. And yet it doesn't feel like I'm in the movie on my own at all. Because all the performances I saw in front of my eyes.

Well, luckily for both of you, the Blu-ray version will include the version of everyone in their mocap suits. How do y’all feel about that?

OT: I think it's really exciting. That's the version I really want to see. 

FA: Yeah, I also hope they include me on my own, having to do weird stuff. Hugging the air.

OT: I hope it helps people understand what performance capture really is. Nobody's ever seen a full [motion] capture movie with no effects, so I think it'll be really helpful to educate people.

Caesar and Maurice from "Planet of the Apes" with a woman on a shore, looking determined

What do you think is this movie’s secret sauce to reintroducing Planet of the Apes?

FA: What’s the secret sauce? Wes [Ball, director], he's just a visionary and so smart. He has such a clear vision. Wes's brain is a mental place to be and a quite beautiful place. 

OT: I think the secret sauce to this one is we've never seen this world before. This isn't the world from ’68. That's a different Planet of the Apes. And this isn't the world of Caesar, which was very similar to our world, but just darker. This world is generations after Caesar. Humans are basically not a factor.

FA: This is really an adventure movie. And I don't think we've seen a Planet of the Apes adventure film yet. Also the two central characters are young, which I think adds a whole different feel and is a whole different journey. It's almost like a coming-of-age story, which we haven't really had. 

OT: The key words for Noa were wonder and curiosity. He’s got this mission to save his family, but underneath that there’s always this sense of like, “What’s out there?” And this desire to learn and see the world, that’s the feeling of this movie for the audience. I was just in awe of what I saw on screen, and I think that’s new. 

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