In “The Transporter Refueled,” the fourth installment of the “Transporter” franchise, British actor Ed Skrein (TV’s “Game of Thrones”) steps in to take the reigns as leading man from Jason Statham. Skrein stars as Frank Martin, a former special-ops mercenary who is pitted against a gang of femme fatales and a Russian kingpin.
During an interview with me this past week, Skrein, 32, talked about taking over Statham’s role in the action movie series, the inaccurate information that has been reported about why he is no longer on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and the excitement he’s feeling when he thinks about the world seeing his next movie, Marvel’s “Deadpool.”
Besides you taking over for Jason Statham in the lead role of this new “Transporter” movie, what do you feel this installment brings that is different from the other three movies in the franchise?
I would definitely say it’s different because we introduce the character of [Frank Martin’s] father (played by Ray Stevenson). It gives my character a lot more back story and some indication as to why [Frank] is the way he is. Also, some of the central characters here and those characters that are driving the plot are female characters. We get to see a gang of these strong independent women in this movie. They take the control away from Frank.
What is it about this series that you think audiences like so much? Does it go beyond the action or is that really the selling point here?
I think it has a lot to do with release. In reality, life is hard and we work hard. All week long we work hard, myself included, and you want that release. Sometimes I sit down and I just want to watch a movie that is fun and takes me away from reality and shows people doing things that we can’t do in real life.
Well, on that note, how much of the things your character Frank Martin does were things you were able to do yourself? Did you get to do a lot of your own stunt work?
I love sports. I train really hard. I train six times a week even when I’m not working. I’m an adrenaline junkie, so I relish the opportunity to get into the physicality of a role. However, I didn’t have any martial arts training going into it, so I knew it was going to be a big task and going to be difficult. I knew I was going to have to work very hard and be the best student I could be. I knew my face was going to be on screen and I knew you could tell when there was a stunt double. Usually, the actor just stands up like a hero at the end of it. I like when actors do their own stunts. I think you can see in this movie that it’s me doing [the stunts]. I’m proud of what we did. These are my baby steps. This was me doing my first couple of months of martial arts ever. You’ll see a progression when you see me in “Deadpool.” After that I hope to continue to grow and continue to improve. I suppose the sky’s the limit.
Any bumps or bruises to report from doing all that stunt work on your own? I’m assuming it wasn’t easy.
Nah, I trained really hard for it and made sure everything was functional. I didn’t want to have any injuries. I wanted to have the stamina to last the whole shoot. The stunt guys I worked with were some of the best in the world. Safety was paramount to everyone involved. I kept safe and never felt in danger. It was very important to me to make a great movie and make great action sequences, but it was also important that everyone went home to their families at the end of the day in one piece. There were a couple of scratches and bruises, but nothing that we couldn’t get over.
If this film does well, would you like to start being looked at for more action roles? Is this genre one that you could see yourself doing long term?
I certainly know that I’m capable of it. I know that if I get to work with incredible coaches I’ll continue to grow and improve. I certainly have the appetite and capacity for it. However, I am born out of independent European cinema and that is where my heart is. I’m so excited because there are a couple of really low-budget projects I’m going back to after this. I’ve already turned down a number of action roles that were extremely well paid. It’s just not what I want to be doing all the time. I’m interested in characters and directors and casts I can learn from. I’m looking for layered stories that are original. I can do the action roles, but I want to apply the same principles to the low-budget independent films as well.
I read that you left your role on “Games of Thrones” to pursue this role. Is that true?
That [report] wasn’t accurate. I wanted to stay on “Game of Thrones.” My plan was to stay and develop the character. I loved the character. But there were some politics involved and I was sad I wasn’t able to continue my role. I would’ve loved to. I enjoyed my time [on the show]. I look back with fondness. But I’m also not somebody who looks back much. I try to stay positive about everything. I’m thankful about where I am today. It would’ve been great to be able to carry on with that show, no question, but I’m thankful for today and don’t look back.
Looking forward, of course, includes your role in the upcoming “Deadpool” movie. How exciting is it for you to be a part of the Marvel Universe?
I’ve always wanted to play a superhero character. I’ve always wanted to be in a Marvel movie. To be honest, “Deadpool” is a dream movie to be in. Tim Miller is a dream director to work for. Ryan Reynolds is a dream actor to work opposite of. You add in people like T.J. Miller, who is one of the funniest men I’ve ever met, and Gina Carano, who is this badass sweetheart, and Brianna Hildebrand, who is this incredibly talented young lady, and Morena Baccarin, who is a great actress and gorgeous to match, it really is a dream come true. It’s also exciting to be able to build on the skill set that I learned on “The Transporter [Refueled].” Tim Miller really pushed me and took me out of my comfort zone. He made me work hard and really got some great results out of me. I’m really excited for the world to see it. I feel we made something that hasn’t been made before in the superhero world and in modern cinema.
You brought up Gina Carano. With all the martial arts you learned for “The Transporter Refueled,” how well do you think you’d do if you went against someone like Gina or Ronda Rousey in an MMA cage?
They would absolutely flatten me. (Laughs) They would destroy me. I’m used to punching without contact. (Laughs) I’m hitting people three inches away from their face. Hopefully it looks real and looks like I’m doing a good job, but I leave it up to the stunt guys who are jumping around and doing great reactions and the sound guys who are doing great sound effects. Ronda and Gina are incredible. I learned a lot from Gina on the set. Her stand up fighting is incredible. I just love watching the way she moves. She’s such an incredible athlete. She’s another reason [“The Transporter Refueled”] was such a great project.