Anton Yelchin dishes on Trek's Chekov and Terminator's Reese

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Anton Yelchin and Bryce Dallas Howard, who play Kyle Reese and Kate Connor in McG's upcoming Terminator Salvation, sat down with reporters at WonderCon on Saturday and revealed a few details about their upcoming roles; Yelchin also dished on Star Trek, in which he plays Chekov. Following is an edited version of that group interview.

Anton, can you talk about playing the iconic character of Kyle Reese and thinking about Michael Biehn from the first Terminator movie?

Yelchin: There was no way I was going into this movie and not having that Kyle Reese be in this film, you know? I think there's a tendency in stories about heroes when they're younger to see them start off weak and get stronger. I just thought that was bulls--t. Like, I was just, like, you can't do that with this kid. You can't have a weak Kyle Reese and he then becomes a hero. So he's got to be the hero from the start. He's got to be that same character. And so I thought, '"What then can I change? How can I bring the same anger and fragility, too?" You see a lot of fragility with that scene with the picture of Sarah Connor. And just that general complexity to this kid. How can I sort of stretch certain parts of it?

And what I thought was, maybe being part of the resistance has given him this foundation, you know, to consolidate his emotions and know exactly what he's fighting for. Because in our film, he's just surviving. ... His whole goal is just survival. Survival and fighting the machines as sort of this independent entity. ...So I thought it would be interesting to see, maybe he's more, even more emotionally vulnerable, you know? Maybe he gets angry a little easier, a little more defensive, because he doesn't have that target or that goal that he's working for. ...

Talk about playing Chekov in Star Trek.

Yelchin: And with Chekov I just kind of fully embrace Chekov. I just think it's a wonderful character, I think. ... There's no point to losing the potential that's within Chekov just by making him a Russian kid. You know, Chekov is ... a Cold War stereotype meets Davy Jones, you know? It's that thing, and you have to take as much from it as you can and that sort of energy he has and perhaps the comic relief that he has. It was something I think he would fully embrace. I mean, both these performances, I think it's very lucky to have them in order to use them. ...

Bryce, talk about being in a Terminator movie and taking on the role of Kate Connor.

Howard: This job for me was a wonderful surprise, when McG invited me into this, and then a few days later I was on the set. ... So everything that was written was fantastic. And then, in addition to that, obviously, Claire Danes did a wonderful performance in Terminator 3, and there was a lot to glean from that performance that could be, you know, it was kind of like the backstory was given to me. But also, McG and Christian [Bale, who plays John Connor] were always just minding the scenes, trying to find more, so there were some really incredible discoveries, just about the fact that she's now a doctor, ... the character's seven months pregnant. So they like literally and metaphorically are trying to create a future for humanity. She's second in command of the resistance force.

Anton, what's it like after having appeared in small independent films for years suddenly to be in two huge movies, coming out around the same time?

Yelchin: It's very odd. It's very odd to find yourself on a picture that doesn't take five weeks to shoot. You know? Um, seriously, I was really honored and very proud to be part of both of these films and, I think, at the same time, though, because things are different, ... I saw some things I was so amazed by. If you had brought 5-year-old me on the set of Terminator, I would have lost my s--t, you know? It's such an amazing world, and I was such a huge fan when I was younger, still am a fan, that it's really an incredible world in terms of the Stan Winston models and the effects and the guns, it's great. The character work is the same, you know, it's the same process of ... finding out who you want this person to be and developing that person. So it's an interesting balance, because on one hand you have all these things that, I have all these things I've never experienced before, and on the other hand I just fall into the familiar pattern of whatever my pattern is for working on it. ...

It'd be cool if people thought I was a gun-wielding badass, you know? ... I'd fully embrace that. In fact, I am a gun-wielding badass. (laughs) I'm going to leave it at that, actually. ...

Did you speak with Michael Biehn or Walter Koenig about the characters?

Yelchin: I didn't speak to Michael Biehn, but I did speak to Walter. Walter came on set, actually, in a Mickey Mouse jacket. I just really like that, he came in a Mickey Mouse jacket, and we talked. Thankfully it was after I had shot everything, because I was paranoid as all hell that he was going to come and hate it, but he came on set and, you know, he really enjoyed it. He was pleased with the character. He said it sounded like him, he said it embodied what he [had done]. He was very complimentary. I was really touched that he even came to set, that he was interested. ... Also, I just bugged him for all of these, like, little things about the cast and you know. He told me a lot. He told me some interesting things. He spoke very highly of Leonard Nimoy. He told me some fascinating things about William Shatner. And he just told me how well, basically, this crew got along, you know? But he spoke very, very highly of Leonard Nimoy, and we did a photo shoot, and I had the pleasure of being there for ... just a couple of hours with Leonard Nimoy, and you can tell what a kind of gentle and intelligent soul he is.