Amazon’s upcoming sci-fi action blockbuster The Tomorrow War might be headlined by A-list superstar Chris Pratt, but the rest of the cast is populated by a solid mix of established veterans, recognizable character actors and rising talents.
There’s Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons, The Handmaid’s Tale actress Yvonne Strahovski, GLOW‘s Betty Gilpin, 24 alum Mary Lynn Rajskub and Veep‘s Sam Richardson to name but a few. Two of the more unknown quantities in the ensemble are Jasmine Mathews and Keith Powers, who play military veterans Lieutenant Hart and Major Greenwood, a pair of elite soldiers sent 30 years back in time to draft personnel for the titular battle against a terrifying alien species known as the White Spikes.
In our exclusive chat with Mathews and Powers, We Got This Covered asked the actors if there were any nerves about joining their first big budget production, how they managed to put their own spin on what could easily be one-note characters on the page, and their favorite memories from shooting The Tomorrow War, and you can check it out below.
It must be exciting after the long wait to know that The Tomorrow War is nearly here. How’s it been for the last year or so, not being able to talk about the movie?
Jasmine Mathews: Hard!
Keith Powers: It’s been hard, but it’s given us something to look forward to.
Jasmine Mathews: Yeah, I think the hardest thing actually is now, where I’m reading people’s comments and they’re guessing the movie, and trying to find holes in the plot, and I’m like, “No! You guys are wrong! Just wait until the film comes out!”. It’s hard not to type and say, “You’re wrong”.
For both of you, this is the first time you’ve appeared in a movie with this sort of size and scale, so were you nervous heading into the shoot at all, because you’d never quite worked on a massive budget blockbuster before?
Keith Powers: Yeah, definitely. I mean, for me personally, going into any project big or small, I’m always going to be nervous. I mean, it’s just a natural thing for me, but it actually makes me feel better to be part of an ensemble with so many great actors. Because, to me, acting is all about collaborating. I’m never in competition with anyone, I never once had to outdo anyone. For me personally, I just want to know how I can add on to the film, so we can create a dope movie, because I really want people to like our film. I want people to love the film.
Jasmine Mathews: I was super nervous. And like Keith said, I’m just gonna be nervous on any project, because I wanna do my part to deliver a great story to audience members. But I think the nerves kind of went away for the most part after… One of the most beautiful things about Chris Pratt, not only is he funny, but he’s super attentive to people, and he saw that I was going through a bit of a doubt spell mentally.
And he came over, and he said, “Hey, you know why you got this part? Because you were the best one for it”. And after that I was like, “Wow, I belong here. I can do this”. And after that, everything kind of started to subside, and I just found a groove Lieutenant Hart. But definitely nervous. Big movie!
Was it strange playing a couple of hardened military veterans and dishing out the orders, despite being two of the younger members of the cast?
Jasmine Mathews: It wasn’t strange for me, it gave me permission to kind of be the leader that I naturally am. Like, unapologetically, and to just stand in my power and boss people around. I’m a Virgo, so that comes naturally easy for me!
Keith Powers: For me, I’m just like, I’ve got a baby face, and if I’m playing a role like that, like a commander or somebody, or like a badass or somebody in charge, I’m like, “I hope people believe this to be real”. Because one, you know, we are younger playing in these roles, but then I’m like, “I got a baby face”. I just need people to believe.
Jasmine Mathews: I believed you!
You both manage to bring a lot of personality to the roles. Was that something you were having to make sure you could do? Because when it comes to high ranking officers in these types of movies, there’s always a lot of dry exposition involved.
Jasmine Mathews: Yeah, and [director] Chris McKay helped with this a lot. He was always saying, “What would you do as Jasmine or Keith in this role? Bring that to the character”. So it was something that we were definitely conscious of, and I think for me, the personality kind of came in with Lieutenant Hart in remembering that she’s left her entire family behind, and she’s having to draft people to be slaughtered in the future, and that sort of emotional turmoil that she’s going through. And keeping that in mind really helped bring out her inner life, instead of being so hard-faced all the time.
Keith Powers: I think that’s very important too, and I think we were seeing that more when we were filming the movie. For a long time, Hollywood would have an idea of what a character, and how a character, is supposed to be, you know? If you’re playing a lawyer, a doctor, there’s just a certain presence you gotta have on screen.
Which I feel you still do, but I do feel bringing who you are to a character and giving the character you, and more personality, is even more realistic. Because in life, we’re all so uniquely ourselves. There’s not really one set way of being, no matter what setting you’re in. It’s like, bring you into that setting and then just let people love you. Like, love you and the character as one.
Jasmine Mathews: Or not, but that’s not your concern!
It looks like you guys had a blast filming the action scenes. Was there one scene or one memory in particular that stood out when you were filming The Tomorrow War?
Jasmine Mathews: Yeah, for me it was the opening scene, my opening scene. Having to fly 30 feet in the air, I’m scared of heights! You know, I’m carrying a gun that’s heavy, and I have to give this plea to like 150 extras in order to save the world. I think having to conquer that fear and step up to the plate was very easy for me to tap into because I’m afraid of heights, and it’s my first film, and that was one of the first scenes that we shot, so it was very much realistic for me and easy to get into character.
Keith Powers: For me, one of them is fast-roping into the nest. Having them, you know, put me in a harness, and I was probably 100 feet in the air as well. And as far as shooting the .50 cal on the tank, like, on top of the big tower. But to fast-rope down into the nest that was pretty scary the first time, and then when I landed, I landed awkwardly on my ankle because I let go of the rope too early so I was like, “Oh snap!”. I didn’t tell anybody, though, so I went right back to shooting! But that was a fun memory, I really had fun doing that.
That concludes our interview with Jasmine Mathews and Keith Powers. The Tomorrow War is coming exclusively to Amazon on July 2nd.