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SYFY WIRE Jurassic World Dominion

Jurassic World Dominion's DeWanda Wise on fighting dinosaurs with Chris Pratt & Jeff Goldblum

Jurassic World franchise newbie DeWanda Wise shares stories about bonding with her co-stars.

By Tara Bennett
(from left) Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) in Jurassic World Dominion.

It's hard to upstage dinosaurs, but actress DeWanda Wise manages to do just that in her role as Kayla Watts in Jurassic World Dominion. As one of the brand-new additions to the franchise's cast, Wise admits she also only recently watched any of the Jurassic movies because her mom didn't think she could handle them when she was a kid. Well, in the new film, Wise proves without question she can handle everything from crashing planes to dinos on ice, and even Jeff Goldblum serving up maximum Goldblum in his return appearance as Dr. Ian Malcolm.

Wise plays a former Air Force pilot hiring her plane out to the highest bidders, including some sketchy dinosaur smugglers that Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) get caught up with in their mission to stop dinosaur poachers and nefarious figures intent on discovering Maisie Lockwood's (Isabella Sermon) secrets. Getting to work alongside the OG Jurassic Park cast and the new Jurassic World cast, Wise picked the right blockbuster to get what pretty much equals a Master Class in action franchise acting. SYFY WIRE circled up with the actress to get her inside stories about earning her dinosaur stripes as part of the cast of Jurassic World Dominion.

You mentioned recently that you and Chris Pratt were the first actors called back to work after the COVID lockdowns, and that Pratt became your personal action movie mentor. Did his career path inspire you to bond?

Yes! Lest we forget, because he has been an action star for a couple of years now, but he made a very real and substantial pivot, which absolutely mirrors me. And there was no evidence that I should actually be an action star in this movie. [Laughs.] But we have a lot of overlaps in many ways, in our upbringing and in our career trajectories. During our first two weeks, the first sequence we shot was on the ice. In many ways it was such a climactic moment for my scene. It was Kayla's turning point, emotionally, where she's actually admitting a moment of regret, without giving away too many spoilers. And that was the first day!

What did you observe about Pratt when he's in action mode?

Pratt's technical proficiency when it comes to stunts and his understanding of how to nail it. Especially in terms of it being something that's technical, and also making sure that the camera's capturing what you want it to be capturing. I mean, he's unparalleled. I am not kidding. He really could teach a class on it. He might not have director ambitions in his future, but he should. That's just my personal plug for Chris Pratt as a director. It was a real gift, and honestly, a real act of generosity, because any other actor could have just been like, "Good luck, kid. Welcome to the ice!" I don't take it for granted. 

What came next in your shooting schedule and was it also just as memorable?

Directly after that, we started working on the cockpit moment. And this is when I like to believe that I gained Chris Pratt's full respect, because a great deal of that sequence was heavily improvised. [Director] Colin [Trevorrow] and I were really collaborating on Kayla and making sure that we had her foundation. But there was a moment, it was the first Thursday I was working, and Colin was just like, "Alright now, say whatever you want." It was just rapid fire. I remember finishing it, and after doing maybe five takes of just making stuff up back to back, looking over and Pratt being like, "You're funny."

Let's talk about working with the original cast, especially Jeff Goldblum. He's the king of improv and non sequiturs. Did you experience a quintessential Goldblum moment in character? 

It was Jeff eating peanuts in the third act of the movie. This is the moment in the film where everyone should just be running for their lives, right? The place is on fire. Everything's falling apart. We're formulating a plan. And I just look over and Ian Malcolm is like, "I need a little snack." Oh, my goodness. It almost took me out every time. [Laughs.] I was like, "He is really making this choice." But also, practically, yeah, when have we seen these characters eating? He found some peanuts. He needs a little snack right now.

Since this was the first production to return after lockdown, you all lived in the same hotel together as a production bubble. Did you have any moments living amongst these people where you just stopped to process your crazy reality making this movie?

Well, there were a lot of "parents" involved. Chris and I were first up, and Colin would come back [to the hotel] bragging about what a good job I was doing. And I was thinking, "I better be good in this movie because this is so embarrassing." Everyone was like, "Colin says, You're killing it." And I was just like, "No pressure. NO pressure." [Laughs.] It just made me so nervous. I don't think I told Colin that yet. But like, I'm an introvert. I just like to do my job and go home, so being forced to be there that's to Colin's credit.

And then some actors were watching dailies more. Some got more of the process than others. But it really was an opportunity for all of us to be really excited about the work that we weren't even a part of. Dichen [Lachman] and I don't really have any scenes together, but I know what was happening with her. I know how her day went. I know how Scott Haze's day was going. I know that he smashed an action sequence because I got to see some footage of it and I know who he is as a person now because we're all living together. It's that level of cohesion and morale while we were making it. Knowing that we were all a part of something really special, and that everyone there was enthusiastic about it, was really, really remarkable.

Jurassic World Dominion is in theaters this Friday, June 10.