Actress Karin Konoval discusses blockbuster "War for the Planet of the Apes", and the motion capture process
By: Rachelle Henry | PHOTOS COURTESY Twentieth Century Fox
Doane Gregory, and Gordan Dumka
- Los Angeles, California
Actress Karin Konoval discusses playing Maurice the ape in the blockbuster "Planet of the Apes" series, and clues us in on the motion capture process for Warner Bros. Also Karin talks about training for "Planet of the Apes".
I read a review that says, "thanks to an evocative story and the most realistic anthropoids you'll find outside a zoo, this third Apes is the strongest yet." Congratulations on playing fan-favorite, Maurice in the last three "Planet of the Apes" films! I also read that you almost didn't go to the audition for the role. What changed your mind and what was the audition/callback process to play a mature male orangutan? You went and studied orangutan behavior, specifically studying Towan from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA. How did Towan influence your role as Maurice, and how did he impact you personally?
The first audition call-out for the film was "Untitled Feature Film Casting For Mimes." I thought: I'm not a mime so I'm not going. Then I was told it was for actors to play chimpanzees, and I thought, now I'm REALLY not going! But then I decided I'd be a good sport and go to it, nothing would come of it and that would be that. But after the first audition I was called back to a lengthy ape movement session under Terry Notary's expert guidance, and after that I was called back to audition for an orangutan. I knew nothing about orangutans and did a lot of research fast. It was at the third audition that Rupert Wyatt, the director of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", told me that the character he wished me to play was Maurice. Once I was cast, I did a great deal more research - books, videos, sound recordings - and the training and practice for quadrupedal walking was intense.
On my own time I travelled to Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle where I observed Towan -- who in turn chose to come and study me. It was in the twenty minutes that we were eye to eye on other side of a window that gave me the heart and soul of Maurice. I didn't meet him again until after "Rise" opened, when I was invited for a personal introduction to him and the rest of his orangutan family. I went, and that was the beginning of a personal journey for me that continues today. How did Towan impact me personally? The answer to that could fill a book! In brief I can only say that his name translates as "Master", and for the six years I was privileged to know him he always was that to me.
This franchise uses a lot of motion capture and Vogue magazine just did a feature about why you and Andy Serkis should be Oscar nominated for your roles in this instalment. You bring such a powerful and brilliant performance and it would make Oscar history. How did you train for such a physical role? What kind of preparation did the studio provide vs what preparation you did for yourself? What are some of the biggest differences you find between motion captuure and regular live action roles?
The physical training to portray a mature male orangutan has been intensive and necessary both in advance of and throughout all three films. Not just to gain skill and ease with quadrupedal movement on arm stilts, but flexibility, strength, etc etc. My personal practice has included gym and weight training, cycling, yoga, many things on a daily basis. This is all stuff I have done on my own, intensively and extensively throughout. Also a great deal of vocal research and practise to achieve as much resonance as I could for the sounds I make as Maurice, to achieve the depth of voice, to get as much of an orangutan "long call" into my voice as possible. Terry Notary originally trained me in quadrupedal movement and has been a great support to me throughout all three films in terms of being a second eye -- reminding me to keep heavy if I was getting too light in my movement, things like that.
The studio provided a month of daily horseback riding training for the third film which was very helpful for me in particular, as we needed a level of horsemanship on "War" that I didn't have, and I'm very grateful to have had that time under Danny Virtue's guidance. In answer to your question about mocap and live action roles: there is absolutely no difference. None. I approach and play Maurice in the same way I do any other live action role. What's different between playing Maurice and playing other roles is playing a mature male orangutan in all of his psychological, physical and vocal integrity.That's one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges as an actor I've ever had.
You are a published author and painter. Your work has been featured in solo gallery exhibits. Your first illustrated children's book "Jeffrey Takes a Walk in December" was published in 2015. What is the inspiration for your literary work and painting
I simply love to tell stories, whether as an actor, a painter or a writer. All of my solo gallery exhibits are full stories or series in paintings --- the story unfolds from canvas to canvas around the room. While I had short stories published before I began painting, I've really enjoyed the journey of painting and writing coming together over the past years. Whether the words or the artwork come first changes constantly, but always towards a singular storytelling.
You've had such an extensive career in TV and film, and have received numerous awards for your work in theatre, performing lead roles in over fifty professional theatre productions. What type of roles do you find challenging and why? Do you have any dream role you'd love to play?
This is quite easy to answer: the more challenging and interesting a role, the more I love to play it. I've had the opportunity to play a wide range of roles both onstage and in film and television. I've never been type cast in any particular way, and that has proved to be a great blessing, one that keeps growing. Do I have a dream role? No. To have the opportunity to work on a well written script, in an interesting role, with an excellent director and cast -- that's all I wish and dream for as much more of as possible!
What are you working on right now?
I'm currently filming a recurring role in the BBC series "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency." It's a delightful role and a great show to be part of through season two!