Hypable had a chance to speak with Chris Sheffield about his Maze Runner character Ben, plus his upcoming television show with David Duchovny, Aquarius.
The Maze Runner hits theaters in the U.S. tomorrow, September 19, and no one is more excited than the people who worked so hard to put the movie together. One of those lucky guys is actor Chris Sheffield, who will be portraying Ben in the film.
In the movie, Ben is a Runner in the Maze, whose task it is to help map the layout of the labyrinth. This is a dangerous job for many reasons, but mainly because of the Grievers, which are terrifying beasts that come out at night and wander the winding pathways.
Interview with Chris Sheffield
When did you become interested in acting?
As a kid, I was always so full of this creative energy and an overactive imagination. I remember I would always run around the house pretending to be everything from a secret agent superhero to a bus driver. I would put on skits for my class in fourth grade, pretending to be a terrible news anchor. I started in the industry in Dallas, TX doing commercials, and then one day I asked my parents if I could take an acting class and they said “Absolutely!” So when I was 10 years old I took my first acting class with Nancy Chartier, who is still one of my close friends and mentors. My first gig was when I played the King of Hearts in a production of Alice in Wonderland at my local community theater. Just thinking about that makes me laugh!
What was the process like auditioning for Ben?
I was the very last one cast in the film. Wes Ball and the producers were already in Louisiana prepping the film, so I actually never met them before filming. I am so thankful and lucky to have a wonderful relationship with the casting director, Denise Chamian, and had been in for her before. I love her. I went in, got a callback, which was on tape for Wes and the producers, and a few days later I heard that I got the job and was heading to Louisiana! I remember my audition very vividly. It was a hybrid scene of the chase/banishment/changing and I remember imagining Chuck in that moment looking at me being banished and thinking, “You’re going to let this happen too? Please help me!…” and that really affected me.
Had you read the book before you auditioned?
I actually had not read the book before filming and got the appointment for the audition the night before so I couldn’t read it in time for the audition. However, I did my research and went straight out to buy the book and started reading it before I heard I booked the gig. I still can’t believe I was given the opportunity to bring such a distinct character that readers know, and hopefully love, to life. So grateful.
Director Wes Ball mentioned that a backstory for many of the Gladers developed naturally as filming took place. What sort of things were discussed for Ben’s past?
What was so interesting as an actor with this role too was that when we arrive in the glade our memories are wiped except for our names, which eventually come to us. So all we know as these characters are the experiences and people in the Glade and as a runner in the maze. All we have is each other. I do remember Wes talking to Ki Hong [Minho] and I about the true friendship and partnership that Minho and Ben have as runners, which really affects us both come banishment time. It was the true friendships that formed with all of us that developed naturally during filming.
In the book, Ben was a Builder, but in the movie Ben became a Runner. Did you get an explanation for why that happened? Do you think it brought anything different to his character?
Yes, I do think that brought a bit of difference in the role and especially the story. In adapting the book to film, Ben is strategically used to truly establish how dangerous, unpredictable and dark things can and will get within this place. In order to accomplish this successfully, Ben became a runner. The runners are the strongest, fastest individuals in the Glade and making Ben one and seeing what happens to him is more powerful. It also helps Thomas enter in the film because he steps up and fills a void that is left after the banishment. Plus, I loved those bits of running and action that I got to do with [Dylan O’Brien]! We had fun.
There have been a lot of fun stories from set about how close the Maze Runner cast has become. Did you have a chance to bond with everyone? Do you have any favorite stories you can share?
Honestly, no lie — we are all friends, no — FAMILY for life. I always say, I feel so lucky to even be associated with this group of great actors, but more importantly these are the kind of human beings I always want to be associated with. We genuinely have such a bond for life. My two favorite moments are when I met everyone and when I had to leave them. I was the last to arrive at the hotel and they were all in the lobby and they didn’t know I was there for filming, so I just walked up to them (kind of nervously) and said, “Hey…I’m Chris…I play Ben…” They all ran up to me and hugged me. I was also the first to wrap on the film. After an all night shoot, we all got back to the hotel around 6:30 a.m. and they all stayed up to hang out with me until a car came to take me to the airport at 7:30 a.m. As the car pulled away, they all mooned me and yelled to me! I have it on video and it’s the best goodbye ever.
Why do you think fans will be happy with this adaptation of The Maze Runner?
Fans will be happy with this adaptation of The Maze Runner because of Wes Ball. He is the only one who could make this film come together the way it did. His passion, skill, kindness, childlike enthusiasm and imagination are unmatched and crucial to tell this story. Working with him and this cast and crew was a dream and all that hard work and passion shows in the film. Also, James Dashner approves and he is THE man! Love that guy. Can’t wait for all of the Maze Runner fandom to see it!
What can you tell us about your new project Aquarius?
Aquarius is a new series for NBC with David Duchovney starring as a detective in the 1960s tracking down a serial killer who we come know as Charles Manson before his infamous Manson family murders. The show is so well written and quite gritty. On the show, I play Walt Hodiak, the son of David’s character. I can’t say much about my storyline, but I will say that our relationship is very complicated and causes a lot of issues for David’s character. I have been having a blast on the show and working with David is great. Aquarius will premiere on NBC in early 2015.
Need more ‘Maze Runner’ in your life?
We also discuss our five favorite book scenes that made it into the movie, and will have plenty more coverage as The Maze Runner hits theaters this weekend!