With a splattering of small roles in film and television, Ed Skrein may not be the most popular name – yet. Each movie, though, each scene, each moment the 32-year-old British actor is striving to improve every part of his craft. That’s welcome news for fans of the Transporter series, which Skrein has taken over from Jason Statham, and especially a good sign for those rabid Marvel fans eagerly awaiting Deadpool.
In The Transporter Refueled, Skrein revives the the role of Frank Martin, a glorified courier whose discretion and service record warrants a high price. Well-dressed and physically adept, he often finds himself dabbling with shady clients, but Martin is up to the task. And, so is Skrein.
“The physical was always going to be the hardest part, always going to be the challenge,” explains Skrein during a press stop in Toronto ahead of the film’s September 4 release. The actor didn’t necessarily feel the pressure of leading his first big film, or assuming a role played by Statham, but instead was particularly concerned with the action aspect, even going so far as to wonder, “Am I just going to look like an idiot?”
It certainly doesn’t seem the case. The film opens with Martin dispatching a group of cocky thugs, and frequently puts its central character in a room with a multitude of baddies. “I went in chill and tried my best,” continued Skrein. “The only day I was nervous on stage was my first fight. It was the scene with the moving car [Martin stages a clever escape while fighting foe after foe]. It was a night shoot and I was kind of like, ‘I have to bring it.’ I had kind of been bringing it with the dialogue stuff, but all eyes were on me.”
The skills and confidence Skrein earned training with Transporter, he tells, means he is all the more prepared for his next action film, Marvel’s Deadpool. Skrein plays the villain Ajax, opposite the titular superhero played by Ryan Reynolds.
“They built the foundation,” says Skrein about his Transporter fighting team. With Deadpool, it was all about, “How can we tweak this, how can we pick it up?” Skrein trained in London with renowned martial artist Bob Breen, after which he talked to his group from Transporter, telling them, “You’re going to be really proud of me.”
“I couldn’t do what I did in Deadpool without Transporter, categorically,” he adds.
Skrein didn’t go right from one to the other, however. He plays a fashion photographer in Model, a Danish film from Lars von Trier’s Zentropa production company, which coincidentally opens at the same time as Deadpool. “It was a like a palette cleanser,” Skrein says laughing.
Ajax stands as the maniacal villain in the Marvel movie, while Martin on the other hand is the smoldering savoir; Skrein however doesn’t quite see it that way. “I always like to turn things on their head,” he explains. “A lot of the time when I was playing Frank Martin, I’d think of him almost like a villain, battling with this notion of morality, beating people up for a living, and dealing with criminals. He thinks he’s a villain.”