Freya Allan on Evolving Her Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Character

Each Planet of the Apes reboot has featured a central human in the conflict between the hyperintelligent apes and what remains of the human race. For the newly released Kingdom, our human proxy is Mae, played by The Witcher’s Freya Allan. Though she initially seems like a regular feral human—who can’t speak, as previously seen in War for the Planet of the Apes—it turns out Mae’s not what she seems: she’s intelligent and can talk like a modern person would, something Noa (Own Teague) has never seen before.

Talking to the Hollywood Reporter, Allan opened up on a number of topics, including that reveal of Mae’s intelligence. In the interview, she admitted that she’d been fully prepared to lie about that aspect of her character, something director Wes Ball also wanted to be kept secret. Having that reveal come in one of the newer trailers was a “shame,” she remarked, but one she still hoped would catch viewers off guard like it does Noa and his companion Raka.

For those early moments where Mae seems like a regular ol’ feral, Allan drew upon moments from her childhood of pretending to be an animal. The intent was for Mae to strike a balance between not being a “too perfect” mimic of ferals she heard about in stories growing up and “a rabbit in the headlights” so she wouldn’t draw suspicion. With help from movement coordinator Alain Gauthier, Allan gave Mae a physicality similiar to other feral humans, but not entirely. “She’s not feral, and she doesn’t know that much about them. She hasn’t actually seen one [until early act two],” she stated. “So you need to see those small moments where you go, ‘She’s not the same as other humans.’”

In the second half of act two, it’s revealed that Mae isn’t just not feral, she was part of a small group of humans looking to destroy human technology locked in a vault in the heart of ape monarch Promixus’ kingdom. She achieves that goal by flooding the vault before escaping, but when she and Noa meet again at his home, it’s eventually revealed mid-conversation that she’s armed with a gun and is fully prepared to use it on him.

Allan called that scene “so different” from how it was originally shot: initially, Noa turned around and while he’s talking, she would’ve pointed that gun at the back of his head. “You think, ‘Oh my God, is she about to shoot him?’ And Mae is crying as she’s doing it, like, ‘Am I about to shoot him?’” Allan recalled. “And then she doesn’t. The minute he mentions Raka’s name, she puts the gun down.” It was changed in the editing to feel “more subtle,” a choice she advocated for since it makes for a murkier dynamic in future films.

“Mae was going there to kill [Noa] because he scares her,” she continued. “His intelligence scares her. She doesn’t want to kill him, but she feels she has to. And in that moment, she can’t. She’s done so many brutal things, but she can’t pull that trigger. So it becomes a very emotional goodbye, one with tragic, lingering doom. So that’s what I shot, but that’s the amazing thing about editing. You can change it and make it more up for interpretation.”

To Allan, Mae’s actions throughout the film were an even split between careful planning and thinking on the fly. Following Noa around and eventually speaking were planned, she said, but getting cornered by Proximus’ men accelerated that last part sooner than expected. In other moments, Mae knew her mission would be easier if she got Noa and his clan on her side, she just needed to keep her full intent close to the chest. There’s glimpses of genuine camaraderie between them that could speak to how humans and apes could co-exist, but at the end of the day, “she has her own motives, and they’re not on the same team. […] What else is she supposed to do? Just tell him instantly that she wants to reconnect the humans of the entire planet? Obviously not.”

The modern Apes movies don’t bring back their human characters, but it sounds like this new run of films will continue to have Mae as a central character (if they get made). Allan hopes to keep portraying Mae, if only to see where she, Noa, and the other characters go next. “There’s such a theme of everything that they’ve ever known being completely challenged,” she said, “and I really want to see what they then do with what they’ve learned and where that takes them and how the things that they’ve gone through affect them. I would love to return.”

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is now playing in theaters.


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