From left, Alex Meraz as Paul, Chaske Spencer as Sam, Bronson Pelletier as Jared and Kiowa Gordon as Embry are the Quileute wolf pack in “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”
I’m wrapping up “New Moon” Week: The Sequel, my second week of daily coverage of the blockbuster film “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” today.
In the second film based on Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling book series, the supernatural love triangle between human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) really starts to develop.
Last week, I brought you features on Lautner, Pattinson and Stewart I wrote after attending the massive “New Moon” press day at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. This week, I’ve brought you Q&As with the three leads in the film, as well as some of the filmmakers.
Today, I’m featuring a Q&A with four members of the movie’s werewolf pack, taken from the L.A. press conference, in which they fielded questions from several entertainment journalists, including yours truly.
Oklahoma-born Chaske Spencer, who plays Sam, Bronson Pelletier, who plays Jared, Kiowa Gordon, who plays Embry, and Alex Meraz, who plays Paul, chatted about a variety topics, including coping with the cold, filming shirtless scenes and bonding like brothers. (The Q&A has been slightly edited for clarity and length.)
Q: Was there a wolf boot camp for this or do your abs just naturally look great?
Spencer: No, they made us work out. It was an hour of training, they got us a trainer. We went in, it was a guy who helped out on 300. They threw us into the training for maybe an hour and ten minutes, and it was a lot of circuit training and muscle confusion. We also ate a lot. We ate six meals a day, three protein shakes a day.
Meraz: And thanks to Chaske, we also ate a lot of apple pie.
Spencer: Yes. Dessert, too. Yeah, I was a bad influence.
Pelletier: We did strength training, conditioning, weight training, lots of cardio. It was pretty intense.
Meraz: It was definitely crucial to the bonding, too. That’s really what helped out with building the chemistry on set and even during filming, I think it really helped out a lot. We had a blast. We supported each other, we even made fun of each other – you know, like who could do the most push-ups or whatever. It really helped out with our characterizations.
Spencer: I think the chemistry, you’ll see it on the screen. We all get along, and that’s really cool and surprising, because in some films you just don’t get along with the other people, but this time around, they picked the right people.
Meraz: I love you, man! I love you, Dad!
Pelletier: Definitely like a band of brothers, that’s for sure.
Q: You guys have no trouble looking great with your shirts off in the rain and around the breakfast table. Will you talk about both of those scenes?
Spencer: The rain was pretty hard. At one point, we all huddled up together to use our bodies to keep warm. It was definitely pretty cold. We all got through it, you know.
Meraz: I think Bronson had the best explanation of it. He said we had a cutting-glass business.
Spencer: Our nipples were rock hard.
Pelletier: Yeah, definitely. And on top of it, there was the fake rain, too. It wasn’t warmed-up rain either, mind you. It was cold rain coming on top of us, blankets of rain, too. It was pretty wild.
Q: The breakfast table scene is really interesting because that’s the aftermath of the big explosion, so how about that?
Spencer: For me, you get to see all their characters. Their characters come alive. You see Paul’s character, Bronson’s, all of them come alive and they get dialog – plus, you know, I’ve got a kissing scene with Tinsel Korey, which was pretty good to do.
Meraz: To speak more on that, it’s the first time you actually see them more as humans. You see the relationship, that we’re brothers. Before then, it’s a little more ominous, there’s more foreshadowing, you see the scene before where I try to kill Bella. So that’s the first time you see the friskiness, the playfulness, which I think really helps out.
Pelletier: It shows definitely the camaraderie of us all, you know.
Spencer: The sense of humor. That’s where you really see the chemistry.
Q: Did you have to keep up all that training going into “Eclipse”? Were you not allowed any downtime between the movies? How hard was that to maintain?
Meraz: We had about four months … and it’s hard.
Spencer: It’s hard to keep that up, because it’s a lot of diet. It’s tough.
Pelletier: Mainly dieting, it’s really important.
Q: And you talk about bonding – did you guys hang out as a pack?
Pelletier: Oh, of course! I love hanging out with these guys.
Spencer: The film schedule, it’s so big. There’s a ton of cast members, so we don’t get to hang out with all the cast members, so we just ended up hanging out with each other. It was good company.
Q: And what did you do in Vancouver?
Spencer: We went bowling. That was cool.
Pelletier: Watching movies all the time. Go out dancing, you know, whatever.
Spencer: Clubs, work out together, movies.
Q: Did you live at the same complex?
Meraz: Yeah, we stayed at the same hotel. Even outside of filming, we would text each other, call each other, just to make sure we’re still alive. We were like brothers. We really care for each other, and it’s important. We got really lucky in doing a film where you actually care about your castmates, which is important. We’re committed to doing “Eclipse” and stuff, and it really helped out. I think people are going to see it on screen.
Spencer: You gotta understand, we’re all going through this. We’re not just individuals in this whole “Twilight” phenomenon, so we check in with each other and make sure everyone’s OK. The attention, it can mess with people’s heads. No one gives you a book on how to go through this, so we make sure we’re all right.
Meraz: Don’t cry for us. (laughs) Don’t weep for us!
Spencer: Yeah, we’re pretty happy.
Q: Along those lines, how is the ability to introduce yourself to somebody and say “yeah, I’m in ‘New Moon’”?
Spencer: Oh, I don’t do that. (laughs)
Q: Has it affected your lives in a positive way? When you’re meeting them, do people get really, really stoked?
Spencer: Well, what’s cool, is that we get to help people as well. When you meet certain people, it’s pretty cool. I remember when I was a kid, meeting some of my heroes, like “Oh, they’re really nice guys, they’re really cool people.”
Pelletier: I did a couple of Make-A-Wish Foundation things. You know, brightening up somebody’s day – if you have that kind of power, it’s pretty good.
Meraz: I think also, as representatives for Native Americans in this franchise, we have a responsibility not to be a bad image. We’re portraying Natives and that’s what they’re going to see. I think it’s time for us to kind of rewrite what Hollywood’s take on Native Americans was, which was long hair blowing, noble kind of people …
Spencer: Leather and feather.
Meraz: … leather and feather period pieces. So now you see something in a contemporary setting, and you see us to be humans. It’s great. I think it’s a great thing.
Q. Kind of human?
Meraz: (laughs) Yeah, there you go, kind of human. But we’re not demonized, which is important. It’s done in a very tasteful way.
Spencer: I mean, it’s going to be one of the biggest movies of the year. God.
Q: What is it you wanted to convey in the movie as far as Native American culture?
Meraz: During the process of casting, when I was waiting to hear word if I got a role or not, there was a through-line of me … I prayed every night. I was asking for permission even to represent the Quileute tribe. I was putting out a lot of good thoughts. In essence, even though we’re taking some of their mythology, their creation story and it’s mixed in a fantasy, still we’re taking from the culture. Being Native, we needed to be conscious of that and ask permission to the people of the past, present and of the future for it. It’s a very conscious thing. Native Americans, they have a right to be protective of their stories.
Spencer: We’re all Native. We’re all Natives. And we’re not just saying Native Americans. (points to Pelletier) He’s from Canada.
Meraz: Native of the Americas. It’s not a linear term.
Spencer: We try to represent well, because we’re very fortunate to be here and to represent our people in a contemporary way, and a lot of responsibility does come with that. We’re getting offers as well for roles that are non-specific for Natives – some guy that doesn’t have to be Native. We’re very fortunate and blessed for that. We’ve got a lot to bring to the table. We come from a different angle, too. We come from a different angle, being Native. We have a different outlook on life as well. We like Stephenie’s writing and she’s represented pretty well. Very blessed to be here.
Q: It seems like Native Americans are always shown as wise old men. The only sexy Native American you ever see is Adam Beach. For you guys, that has to feel pretty exciting. Also, being Native American, you have a connection with land animals. Playing a werewolf, do you find any sort of different feeling about animals – coyotes, wolves?
Spencer: Well, you have to have a balance as well. I know a lot of Natives who are lawyers and doctors who don’t always wear their hair in braids. I think that’s a misconception from what Hollywood and pop culture has on us, stereotyping. Not all of us are like that.
Meraz: Hollywood, they thought Adam Beach was the only Native American left!
Spencer: I lost out on a lot of roles to that guy. (laughs)
Meraz: Exactly, yeah, we were extinct except for Adam Beach. They were almost going to put him at the Smithsonian being the last Native American! So it’s kinda good that people did their research. A lot of thanks goes to Rene Haynes – she was kind of the Native American liaison who added to casting. Joseph Middleton did the primary casting, but Rene had cast Chaske before in other projects, myself as well. She knows her stuff. That was a good thing that Summit did. They really made sure they did it right for the wolf pack.
Q: What kind of music do you have to get yourself into to inspire yourself to kill Bella?
Meraz: A lot of rap and hip-hop.
Spencer: During the work-out sessions, we listened to a lot of Beastie Boys, Metallica, Linkin Park.
Meraz: 50 Cent! Fitty!
Spencer: Gotta give it up for Fitty. And then I listened to a lot of Mazzy Star during “New Moon.”
Meraz: (sings) “Faaade into you …”
Meraz: Dude, that’s like sappy, bro. That’s emo!
Spencer: That’s the way it had to go, man!
Meraz: I thought I saw you cry a little bit! I thought I saw a little tear, bro! Let me get that for you.
Q: Can you describe your relationship in the movie with Jacob? Because there are moments in the film where he’s scared to be around you guys, and other times he seems like he’s cool to hang out with you.
Pelletier: He’s like a little brother, right?
Gordon: He’s my best friend in the movie. It’s kind of scary to us, seeing these guys. We were just normal kids, and these guys were running around with their shirts off and we thought they were some gang going around, saying they were peacekeepers of our tribe and what-not.
Spencer: We helped him phase. He doesn’t want to become a werewolf. No one wants this. It just happens, this is what we’re dealt. When the Cullens came around, that’s when we started phasing. My character, he was the first one to phase, so my relationship to these guys – I’m sort of the big brother, the mentor, the father figure to help them. We are like a band of brothers, like a rock band, and suddenly Jacob starts to phase, and he has some choices to make and he has to join us. We surround him and tell him it’s not that bad.
Meraz: (laughs) It’s not that bad, bro!
Gordon: It’s not bad, dude!
Meraz: It’s like going through puberty is what we had to tell Jacob. It’s like going through puberty. You’re gonna get a lot of hair, things are going to change, but you’ll get through it …
Spencer: A lot of growth spurts …
Meraz: Yeah, growth spurts, but you’ll be fine, bro.
Spencer: You’re gonna feel funny …
Pelletier: Your voice is going to start changing …
Q: In the movie, you have tattoos. Do you have a real tattoo, or would you like to have one?
Meraz: We all have tattoos.
Spencer: We all have real tattoos.
Meraz: Which take about three hours getting covered up. One thing we have been talking about is maybe, depending on where this goes, by the end of the films, we’re thinking about getting the wolf pack tattoo.
Spencer: Yeah, it’s been a real experience for all of us.
Meraz: It’s a milestone.
Spencer: It’s a milestone. It’s changed our lives.
Q: Is Taylor going to have the tattoo, too?
Spencer: Oh, I can’t speak for him. (laughs)
Meraz: Maybe if he’s 18 by the time we do it!
Q: What was your first reaction whenever you first saw your role in the finished film?
Pelletier: When Paul changed, I honestly …
Meraz: He had to change his underwear!
Spencer: Yeah, he was so cool!
Pelletier: … I literally got goosebumps. I was like “Wow, that’s awesome!” It looks amazing. Chris Weitz does an amazing, amazing job, and the special effects team.
Meraz: Yeah, Phil Tippett. He did an amazing job with the special effects. For me, I’d always wanted to be in a film where it’s not so much driven with CG, but I could be something bigger than life, I could have some kind of superpower. So for me to be able to transform into a wolf and have a fight and all that, I was like a kid in a candy store. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Q: Did the wolves all suit you?
Everybody: Oh, yeah!
Meraz: There were mannerisms that Phil Tippett and his team actually did to make them all stand as individuals. You can tell the difference between one wolf and the other, and also suited it to what our characters were and what we brought to the table.
Spencer: And our eyes. Our eyes stay the same.
Pelletier: Our real eyes are actually on our wolves, so it’s pretty cool.
Q: Back to Jacob – did you guys do the same kind of thing with Taylor, ribbing him?
Spencer: Oh yeah!
Meraz: Yeah, that’s what we were talking about. Taylor was a part of all that. He took us bowling at one point. He’s an amazing bowler, by the way. A little known fact about him.
Spencer: He’s a good guy. He’s really a good guy.
Meraz: He’s fine. We had a really good time, all of us together. For Taylor, too, this was his. The first movie, it was more about the Cullens and that little family. In this one, it’s about the wolf pack, so I think he felt really comfortable and definitely wanted to spend more time with us. It was good. We all helped each other out and had a great time.
Spencer: He’s a strong actor. He’s really a strong actor, and I think this movie is going to launch him to a different level. He’s a good actor, he put a lot of heart into it. Obviously on his body, he gained 30 pounds. He’s dedicated.
Meraz: If you didn’t know!
Spencer: He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
Q: You guys are not necessarily the market for “New Moon,” but what did you guys think of the movie?
Spencer: I saw it on the plane ride over to Vancouver, because I didn’t know anything about “Twilight.” Then I got this movie, and I started doing my research, and then I was on the plane and it was on the in-flight movies and I watched it, and I got it. I was like ‘I see what it is. I get the chemistry.’
Q. And what about “New Moon”?
Spencer: No, I’m going to wait until the finished product, with the music added and everything. I’m going to wait.
Moderator: It’s finished, they saw it last night.
Spencer: Oh! So you tell us! (laughs)
Pelletier: You tell us, exactly!
Spencer: How’s the soundtrack? The soundtrack is amazing! I love the soundtrack.
Q: You’re called the wolf pack, the four of you seem to be very tight. You want to turn this into a show and take it on the road? Are you action figures?
Pelletier: I have no idea.
Spencer: I love these guys, I really do. They’re like my brothers, but I’d want to support them in different projects. We’re not a traveling circus.
Meraz: Very diplomatic, Chaske. I love it.
Spencer: That’s right, baby.
Meraz: Good man.
Q: Taylor is not primarily Native American, so can you talk about teaching what Native American means to him?
Spencer: He was very open about that. He understands. We did the best we could with him, and he’s the right guy for the part. He’s the right guy for the part, and I’m very protective of him.
Gordon: He’s like our brother.
Spencer: He’s like our brother. Nothing but mad love for him.
Q: What did you talk about teaching him?
Gordon: That’s between us and Taylor.
Spencer: (laughs) We asked a lot of stuff about the tribes and stuff like that, and we would talk to him and tell him – there are certain things that I do in my culture that I told him about, and he was really open to it.
Meraz: That’s the thing. We’re not even Quileute. The tribes we are is not Quileute. So for us to represent that tribe, it’s as if we weren’t even Native. It wouldn’t really matter, because they have different customs than all of us do. It wasn’t like we had to teach him how to be a Quileute Native, because we don’t know how to be that either. All we had was our culture to bring into the filmmaking. We just knew how to respect the mythology of the tribe, and Taylor definitely is receptive to it.
Spencer: He has his own culture, and he could draw from that.
Q: Do you guys want to talk about how you learned about the Quileutes and what you know now about them?
Meraz: During the process of auditioning, I did as much research as I could about the Quileutes, knowing that they’re whalers and they inspired the shape of their canoes to be pretty much clipper ships. They were really fast, and they were able to go from the Washington area all the way down to San Diego hunting whales. I learned about the mythology, really, the creation story. The Quileute came from wolves and transformed into people, but they don’t go back. That’s the thing, they don’t go back. That’s the aspect that Stephenie changed and took some things and put it in this fantasy realm.
Spencer: I was amazed by the storytelling, which you were talking about. I was really attracted to that.
Moderator: Bronson, Kiowa, anything?
Pelletier: That was pretty much it, finding out the whalers thing.
Q: Is it awkward to spend so much time with your shirt off in the movie, or did you get comfortable with it?
Spencer: Whatever puts the ladies in seats for the tickets! (laughs)
Pelletier: That’s right!
Meraz: That’s what we’ve been telling guys. “Guys, watch the film, because your girlfriends will be watching it.”
Spencer: The thing is though, there’s action in New Moon. So bring the boyfriends, I think they’ll really like it.
Meraz: They don’t have a choice. They’re girlfriends are going to be there.
Spencer: They don’t have a choice.
Meraz: But it wasn’t awkward. By the time we got to start filming, we had already been working out shirtless. You know, it’s like a costume. It really is. You wear it, you don it and you own it. You can’t be intimidated about your body. That’s not the time to be doing that, when that little red light’s blinking and you’re being filmed.
Spencer: It also helps us get into character as well.
Pelletier: Exactly. As soon as I got out there with my shorts and no shirt on, I felt the part, you know?
Meraz: As soon as I got the bronzing on, I felt it. (laughter)
Pelletier: Good old bronzing. That always ended up on my socks.
Spencer: That stuff is hard to wash off, too.
Meraz: I think they put motor oil on us.
Pelletier: You try and wash it out and it’s all auburn…
Spencer: It’s all brown and copper, I know. Like someone murdered a man.
Q: How cold did it actually get, and have any of you had any offers to be on a magazine or on a cover shirtless?
Spencer: Yeah. You know, this franchise, you’re going to see us with our shirts off a lot. No more taking the shirts off. It’s going to be up there, immortal, on film.
Meraz: It was in the contract. “Beware, you’re going to be objectified.”
Spencer: Oh yeah. We are the pieces of meat.
Meraz: But I did something for People Magazine shirtless. But at this point, it’s all in respect to the film. So it’s fine for this particular franchise. If I was doing something else and I had a suit on, I’m sure they’d want me in a suit for publicity or for other things. So, it’s for a project.
Q: How cold did it get?
Meraz: About 30 degrees, raining. Pretty cold. Very cold.
Spencer: Like he said, we could cut glass with our nipples.
Meraz: We had a glass-cutting company. Wolfpack & Friends.