Ed Skrein swears he's a nice guy, despite appearances. The British actor and rapper steps in for Jason Statham in "The Transporter: Refueled," the fourth film in the fast-car franchise, and he'll soon be seen in the dark comedy "Kill Your Friends" and doing battle with Ryan Reynolds in "Deadpool" as the villain Ajax. But for all the violence and mayhem he gets up to at work, Skrein insists he's a teddy bear.
When you're stepping into a franchise role like this, what sort of hesitations or trepidations go along with that?
That doesn't play into it for me. It isn't really a factor, you know? And when taking on a role like this, I have the same preparation I would have normally taking on a small European independent movie with a character that's never been played by anyone else. You find the character, you find the wiring and you work out how they make decisions. You sort of find their shoes and get comfortable in them.
Did you watch the previous films to prepare?
I did. I'd never seen them before, and it was so important for me to watch them, to know what the fans expected and what had come previously. I think it would be ignorant of me to have not. And after that it was important for me to just move on and focus on my own approach.
These films, the making of them, are so technically specific.
It's fascinating, and it's why I love my job. I finished "The Transporter," and a week later I went onto a Danish independent movie, which I think the budget was 3 million Euros and we had a crew of 26 people. We shot it all Dogma-style, Danish style — very little makeup, very little lighting, one camera — and it was fascinating to see the difference in approach. For me, that's the blueprint going forward, and that's the joy of this craft, is to be able to have the yin and the yang and to balance between the two.
You're also in the darkly comic "Kill Your Friends," which debuts at TIFF.
It's an incredible book. Quintessentially dark, British humor. I would've cleaned the toilets on set, I was so excited to be a part of it. Also, it's a different role for me. A lot of the stuff that I've done has been pretty heavy, pretty dark. People tend to gravitate towards me when they want dark stuff. I can't think why. Even when I do comedy, I do it dark like "Deadpool" and "Kill Your Friends."
If you were to speculate as to why people think of you for these darker things …
I think my bone structure suggests that I am a violent person. (laughs) But in real life, I'm a teddy bear. I'm a pacifist in every sense. I think even when I do a neutral face I look like I'm going to stab you in the eye. (laughs) Darkness is something that I enjoy exploring in cinema because I don't have darkness in my life. My life is very light and just about my family, very calm and ordinary. Maybe the cinema and this craft is my therapy. I get to kill people and beat people up and be immensely horrible and evil on camera and live my days nine to five as a sociopath, and then I go home and I've got it out of my system.
That sounds very healthy, actually.
You should try it.