ENDER'S GAME Exclusive Interview With Khylin Rhambo
Gavin Hood’s adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game will reach theatres on Friday. The part of Dink Meeker is played by actor Khylin Rhambo, and Comic Book Movie sat down for an exclusive chat with this rising star.
Things have certainly changed for Rhambo; rather than liberating a communist filled Vietnam, he’s helping to save the whole damned planet.
Alright, you’ve got us. The commie-bashing Rambo is one of Sylvester Stallone’s cinematic alter egos, whereas actor Khylin Rhambo, playing the part of Dink Meeker, is the guy trying to save us from some pretty nasty aliens.
In ENDER’S GAME, the International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth. For his part, Rhambo’s Meeker plays an integral role in helping Ender through military training, thus preparing him for his ultimate role as humanity’s savior.
Rhambo is the first to admit that he views ENDER’S GAME as a something of a game-changer for him. Up till now he has had a few guest star roles on television and was a regular on the sitcom The First Family, but hopes are high that this film will elevate the kind of roles he will be able to read for.
In the following exclusive interview, the actor reflects on his being cast and the experience of shooting ENDER’S GAME.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: For being cast in Ender’s Game, is there an interesting story or was it just a straight audition?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: It’s actually pretty interesting. I auditioned for it first. I knew it was a huge film and could be a very important one for me. One of my acting coaches worked with me to prepare. I went in there, I performed and I didn’t hear anything until about three months later. When I heard the news it was right around the time when I had just gotten a callback for a McDonald’s commercial. My dad called me. He was out of town and he called and said, “Hey, Khylin, are you sitting down?” I knew it was good news, but I thought it was that I had booked the McDonald’s commercial, which wasn’t THAT big a deal. I didn’t know why he was being so dramatic by asking me if I was sitting down. He said, “Remember a long time ago that film ENDER’S GAME?” As soon as he said that, I freaked out. It was such good news. He told me the director wanted me to be a part of the film, and the next thing you know I’m out in New Orleans going to Space Camp and military training and filming ENDER’S GAME.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: For someone who thinks they’re booking a McDonald’s commercial, what is the feeling to be cast in a film like that instead?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: Honestly, it felt like there had to be a catch. Like, “Alright, I booked it, but the catch is I’m an extra.” I just never believed. This is my first film. To be a part of a $130-something million film that’s been in the works for 20 years, I just felt completely blessed. That’s the best way I could put it.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: You look at the trailers, and it just feels like it’s got that giant, epic scope.
KHYLIN RHAMBO: Oh yeah, we put a tremendous amount of work into it.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: As far as you’re concerned, who is Dink Meeker?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: He was kind of the sophomore. He’s been in the battle school for quite some time, so he knows the ropes and he came across as a gentle character, yet he’s in this environment where you can’t be too gentle. You have to fight other people, you have to be competitive…there’s so many things going on. I liked the way he interacted with Ender, because the Launchies – which are basically the freshman – are not supposed to be treated with any kind of respect, they have to EARN the respect, but the thing is Ender was completely different. I liked that Dink saw that in him and was able to see the big picture and when Ender becomes a leader, follow behind him and try to win this battle. I liked he was a big picture thinker rather than just in the society and making fun of the Launchies. Just a really honorable character.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: In reading the script and forming the character, what was your subtext? Did you add much to him in your mind even if we won’t see it played out in the film?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: Yes, I did. Moviemaking and writing a book are completely different art forms. I had more information in the book rather than the script, so I used the book as a foundation for who Dink was. And then as an actor I was able to kind of create my own back story that was still true to Dink. I wrote a lot of journals as him and his days before he went to battle school, and after and his motivation and why he is the way he is. There was a lot to it. It was more than me just saying my lines, I had a whole story in my head at the time. I’m really proud that I did that, because I wanted to stay honorable to the essence of ENDER’S GAME rather than just play a character. It was more than that.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: That journal idea was a pretty cool one.
KHYLIN RHAMBO: And it was SUCH a big help, to be honest. It was a lot of pressure. I realized I am doing this, I am going to be in this movie, I better come and be prepared and show them they made the right choice by taking a chance on me. I worked really hard on those things, and I think it’s definitely going to show. Even if it doesn’t, I know I did that kind of work.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: You never know what’s going to end up in the final film.
KHYLIN RHAMBO: Exactly.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: You mentioned that you had gone to Space Camp and boot camp. What was that like?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: That was amazing. When the whole cast arrived at New Orleans, we didn’t know each other, but we had to form a brothership that had to show in the movie, because that’s how these kids were in the battle school. They’re family, basically. What [director] Gavin Hood did was he sent all of the boys to the space camp, and that’s where we all just broke the ice. We knew then it was going to be an amazing film. The fact that we’re actually experiencing all of this, they’re going the extra mile to teach us the laws of anti-gravity and all of these things, was very cool. That was the moment where everyone bonded. I think it was two weeks. We did military training during space camp, but it really picked up once we started filming. We had that every day, which brought out a lot of leadership qualities and a lot of qualities that would make you better as a person, not only as an actor. It was just an all-around amazing experience.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: How would you describe this world that’s been created?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: Aside from all of the visuals, there’s going to be really cool holographics, the new age version of the iPad tablet. There’s a lot of that stuff. I don’t want to say that this future is dark, but if you really think about it, these are kids fighting for the world. They have literally the world on their shoulders right now. That’s a lot of pressure. These adults are allowing the kids to bear this kind of burden and it shows that kids aren’t as weak as people may perceive. In the future, kids might have more power than they have today. That was a cool thing. It was kind of promoting kid power. It wasn’t done in a cheesy sense like, “Oh, these kids are going to save the world.” It was believable at the same time. These kids actually have the pressure of saving the world, but it was plausible.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Think of ancient societies where kids are raised to be part of the military.
KHYLIN RHAMBO: Yeah, exactly. Way back when, like in Jesus’ time, you were considered a man at age 12. So who knows, the future may go back to that.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: What was the experience like of working with Gavin Hood as a director?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: Gavin was like the guru through this whole film. We were all just pieces but he pulled it together and made it work. He brought confidence out of everyone. If we weren’t sure of a scene, even though it may appear as Gavin just talking, it was so insane because he was like a magician. Sometimes I wouldn’t be getting what he was saying until right after he said, “Action!”, and it just completely changes the vibe and everything comes together. He had such a passion for this film like no other. When you have that much passion and dedication, you can’t help but bring out the best in people.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: Do you see this film as a platform to expose you to more casting directors?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: Most definitely. I want people to see that I can be multi-dimensional. I’m also on a series that’s a comedy, and this is a complete opposite character. I would love to get some exposure from this and, wishful thinking, I would hope I would. This is hopefully just the BEGINNING of my career. I definitely view this as an opportunity for more work.
SCIFI MEDIA ZONE: What do you feel the connection this film is going to make with an audience?
KHYLIN RHAMBO: I do think there are multiple things that specific audiences might relate to. Visual effects is ome. Young kids who just want to see the cool action, explosion visuals, are going to get that. The people who want more substance of a story, they’re definitely going to see that between who to trust, what is the best form of leadership, the whole child soldier aspect, kids are stronger than we think idea… There’s SO many elements to it, I think it’s definitely more than just a sci-fi explosions-alien film. It’s way deeper than that. Audiences are going to choose what they see, but there are many layers to this film.
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