We all know know and love Al, the gentle giant, in Divergent. In this new Up and Comers interview Christian Madsen talks about how he related to the character he played in Divergent.
Al has a quiet and insecure demeanor Although those are considered to be vulnerable and flawed characteristics, those are also the kind of emotional and misunderstood characters that appeal to many actors. What attracted you to playing the role?
I related with him a lot in terms of his shyness, sort of not fitting in. I was that in high school or middle school, you know. I moved around a lot when I was a kid in terms of moving around to new houses and stuff. A lot of the times I was the new kid in high school or middle school. I think with Al, he had that sort of air to him. I think he just wants to fit in and be accepted.
Both the screenplay (by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor) and Veronica Roth’s novel are great resources to understand the characters. It’s little scenes — such as the one in the book where Al confesses to Tris that he refuses to see his parents out of shame — that give more depth to his character. In addition to the text, did you draw on any other sources or of past experiences in your life to create a back story for Al?
Yeah, I read certain books. I listened to some music I thought he would listen to at that time or books we would read, just certain things that would put me in that mind state to sort of connect with Al in that way.
Al may have the physical advantage of being bigger than his peers, but that doesn’t work out for him during training so he resorts to betraying Tris, which is something he later ends up regretting. How was it like to film the big scene where Al tried to apologize to Tris?
When I read the script, I knew that was going to be a challenging scene because of the emotion behind it. When you shoot a movie like that, there’s a lot of times when you are having a lot of fun because there’s a lot of action sequences. Everyone literally became so close — you know, friendships, stuff like that. When we shot that scene when I was in the dining hall with Tris, I had to really separate myself from everybody because I had to go to that headspace of Al being very, very alone, trying to be somewhat of a forgiving — It was really hard that day.
As an initiate into the Dauntless faction, Al literally gets himself into a life or death situation. If you make it into Dauntless, your life expectancy isn’t very high. But if you don’t, you get ostracized from society as factionless. As an actor, how did you capture a character who was placed in an overwhelming and heightened situation that is so far from your normal life?
Rehearsal, the script…You’re able to build yourself up to that point. Neil [Burger], the director was always very helpful with always having Al in the right place. Just be conscious of every scene and sort of where Al would be in that place is very helpful.
Check out the full interview HERE where he talks about filming on the green screen and how they trained prior to filming.