Like most of the Twilight cast, Edi Gathegi is a young actor on the rise. Best known as Dr. Cole on TV's House, Gathegi has been building his silver-screen presence with small parts in Gone Baby Gone, Death Sentence, and Crank.
His role as the vampire Laurent in Twilight promises to introduce the actor to a much wider audience. It also promises a more-intense scrutiny from the rabid fan base, but so far Gathegi has done a good job diffusing any doubts about his qualifications for the part.
Next year he will play his first lead role in the eagerly anticipated 3-D slasher flick, My Bloody Valentine: 3-D.
ReelzChannel sat with Gathegi recently for an exclusive interview about Twilight.
ReelzChannel: Were you familiar with Twilight when you first heard about the role?
Gathegi: I wasn't familiar in the faintest. I actually have a friend, Electra, who was telling me that her roommate, this gorgeous male model with a bit of a fan base, had an online campaign to get him cast as Edward. I remember her saying that, but then when I heard that my favorite casting director was casting a movie, I just wanted to go in.
I didn't [even] know what it was. And it was Twilight. I had no idea what this was. It was very otherworldly [material] and I'm not really a fan of that sort of thing. Despite the fact that this material wasn't my favorite type of material, I still went in and Catherine [Hardwicke] was in the room and I had a fantastic time with her. Her energy was contagious. She was so happy to be there and we just worked well.
[Then] I read the books and instantly fell in love with the series. It's not what I feared -- a cliché, trite, vampire world. It's the real world and vampires exist in it. It's really a story about the romance between Edward and Bella. That's so much more soulful than what I had associated with vampire stories.
RC: We only just start getting to know Laurent in this first movie. How did that play into the prep for your character?
Gathegi: When I was told by my representation that I was being considered for the part, I just did my research. I read the books and I got all the information that I needed. I added my own personal backstory to try to give the character as much life as possible. In the book, he's not in the story that much. They make their appearance, he turns on them, and he leaves. But within that confine, I wanted to make sure that he was three-dimensional, so I did a bunch of background-story character development.
RC: Laurent is a bit of a conflicted character in the movie.
Gathegi: He is a vampire through and through. Which is to say that he's a traditional vampire. He has to kill human beings in order to sustain himself. I wouldn't necessarily categorize him as being evil because of that. I think that's just his nature. As a matter of fact, he's just trying to get by without rustling any feathers.
RC: What was your first experience meeting Stephenie Meyer?
Gathegi: Comic-Con was the first time that I met her. We had this big dinner that Summit threw for the entire cast and I got to sit next to her and really monopolize her time. I got to know her. We bonded about me playing a Mormon character on House. I love her, not only her writing, but also her as a person.
RC: So you became such a big fan of the series. Did you wait in line to get Breaking Dawn when it came out?
Gathegi: I was going to wait in line with my sister. And then I freaked out at the last minute that people might recognize me and then I would look cheesy for being there. I think I picked it up the next day and read it in two days. Then when I met Stephenie, I was mailed a signed copy, like, the next day. I should have waited and read her signed copy. That was so much more special.
RC: How is the Twilight fandom affecting you so far?
Gathegi: I'm definitely feeling some of that heat, but then at the same time, I think I've got the best of both worlds. I'm part of this potentially big film, but I'm also wearing dreadlocks and I'm without a shirt. I look very different in the movie than I do in life, so on some level I can sort of slip under the radar. But there are people that recognize me, so I still get to interact with my fans.
RC: Are you keeping up with the Internet buzz?
Gathegi: In the beginning I was monitoring it, because I was very curious about what was being said. Then I did some damage control about people not appreciating my casting. People were upset about an African-American being cast in this mythology because everybody has pale skin and Stephenie didn't allude that there were any people of color in this. But she described Larent as being olive-toned, so I said that there are many different types of olives. Black olives, anyone?
Then the next day, the response was positive and the fans loved my casting choice. So I went, "Okay, now they don't hate me. I don't have to monitor every step of the way." They let me alone after that.
RC: Who's had the toughest time?
Gathegi: I think obviously Rob [Pattinson] has. I heard he got mobbed in one of his press junkets in Mexico. You know what, though? It's fun. How often in life do you get to feel like a Beatle? It's just sort of surreal.
RC: Tell me about playing Deputy Martin in My Bloody Valentine: 3-D and what the process of 3-D meant in terms of the production.
Gathegi: The character that I play is trying to solve these heinous murders with Kerr Smith's character, who plays the sheriff. This is my first lead role, so I'm very excited and thrilled and nervous all at the same time.
3-D means awesomeness. On set, I think it's the same as every other movie. The difference with the 3-D is sometimes you have to do very deliberate actions because this is the moment when the action on screen is going to pop out and come at you.