Being a young actor is hard. Being a young actor who suddenly has the responsibility of shouldering a huge tentpole role is even harder. But that’s exactly what Blu Hunt experienced when she landed the role of Dani Moonstar in 20th Century Fox’s The New Mutants, which is set to hit theaters this Friday.
The movie, directed by Josh Boone, is adapted from Bill Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants comics, particularly the “Demon Bear Saga.” The story of the movie revolves around five teenage mutants with dangerous superpowers who are sent away to a secret facility with the premise of helping them learn to control their powers. The facility and the people running it have far more sinister intentions than they first appeared to, however. The teenagers must navigate their new powers and learn to work together to escape the facility. But they quickly learn that something even worse and far more supernatural is stalking them.
I sat down with Hunt for a surprisingly open and vulnerable conversation about her intense insecurity when shooting the film, overcoming her intimidation on set, navigating Hollywood as a young actress, growing into herself and finding her voice, and the dream of Dani Moonstar one day appearing in a Marvel movie alongside Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Atom Tickets: You were on The Originals the same year you shot this. Was that your first gig or was New Mutants your first major job?
Blu Hunt: I got The Originals first. So I did The Originals, and then right after, literally like the Monday I got back from doing The Originals, I got the audition for X-Men.
What was it like going through that audition process as a new actress? Did it ever hit you, “Oh, my God, I’m about to do this giant superhero movie” or no?
BH: Honestly, it never stopped occurring to me, unfortunately. I don’t even think – honestly, even right now – God, my poor roommates, I’m just a ball of stress. I was a ball of stress making the movie and I’ve been a ball of stress for three years. You know, it’s just such a big to have happen. When you move to LA to be an actor, nobody tells you what to do when you suddenly land the lead role of a superhero movie when you’ve never acted in a movie at all before, you know? There’s no one there to tell you how to do that. Like, even the other actors in the movie, they’re the best cast and they’re such great friends to me, and they were so supportive. But even they got to do things, a lot of things, before they got their big roles, before they even did this movie, and I was just like, “Uhhhhh how do I do this?” It was crazy.
That’s true. You do see so often the advice to just keep trying and that actors work for a decade before they get their breakthrough. But nobody really explains how to handle getting a giant role almost right out of the gate.
BH: Yeah! I mean, it’s a lot for a person. A lot for a person’s psyche, you know? I had always imagined doing it more like a normal actor’s path, where I was getting lots of small roles and being in lots of things and being in the background and getting supporting roles – you know, doing a lot more things like The Originals before I would be the lead in a movie. I mean, even when I imagined being the lead in a movie, I didn’t imagine it being the lead in a movie like…the X-Men. So it was a lot of pressure and I was only 21 when I made it, so it was even just, like, the first year I even got to go to bars and I was suddenly making a movie and just – I’d never felt that kind of pressure or stress.
While you were making it, you’re learning how to navigate this all for the first time. Did you find that helped with playing Dani, though? Your real life kind of dovetailed with her arc in the movie.
BH: Sometimes, I think about now. I think, man, I wish I could play Dani in that movie now. Because I’ve lived a little bit more life, I’ve figured a little more out. I’m like, “Okay, now I get it.” Even the first time I watched it, I remember there were certain scenes on the day, just being so scared to shoot them and thinking, “Oh, my God, this scene is so big” and not being able to get out of my head that millions of people would be seeing it. You know? Acting is so vulnerable and I love being vulnerable acting, but then suddenly I’d be like, “millions of people, millions of people, millions of people…” And now, I don’t care. I’m 25, I could care less about it. I don’t even wear makeup anymore, I’m just like, “Whatever.”
But when I really think about it, I don’t think there’s any other way that Dani could have been played. Because who I was then and what I was going through is exactly what Dani was going through, so Dani couldn’t be any different. Dani is exactly who I was when I was making the movie, so she’s special to me in that way. I’ve been thinking of a way, how can I commemorate her? She’s just so special to me because it feels like it’s locked in time now in the movie, who I was when I was 21. People are going to see that, too. Not just Dani, but they’ll also see me – I don’t know if that makes any sense. [laughing]
It does. It’s a time capsule.
It’s one of things that, years from now, when you’re a veteran actress, you can go back and watch it and remember exactly where you were in your life then.
BH: It’s super cool. It’s a very unique part of the job.
Is there anything you’ve learned from then to now about how to deal with stress or about how to deal with walking into an unknown situation?
BH: Oh, yeah. I mean, man, I’ve learned so much. I no longer feel afraid of things before. I don’t think I really knew myself when I made it, which, I don’t think many 21-year-old girls do know themselves fully. And now that I know who I am, I feel like I can show up to any situation confident in myself and confident in my abilities. I can look back and remember, oh, these are the reasons I felt that way and now those things don’t matter to me anymore. I feel like I can walk into unexpected – I feel like I can handle anything, at this point. I’ve learned a lot. When you’re acting, you are your character, there’s always a part of you that is your character. But how are you supposed to create a character when you don’t know who you are? Now that I do know that, I feel like, yeah. I can just do it now. I mean, I did it then, and I did it well! I watched it and there are scenes that I just really love and I was really confident in, but now I just know how to, what is it? …I don’t know, I forgot the word. [laughing]
Manage expectations? Be more consistent?
BH: Consistency! That’s it! Words! It’s being able to always do it, not just do it sometimes, or to do it and then be like, “I did it, but I don’t know how I did it.” Now I know how I did it and I can always hit that mark and nail it every time.
You said there were scenes that you did that scared you at the time to shoot. What were those scenes and why did they intimidate you so much stepping into that moment?
BH: The scene that intimidated me most was probably – I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but whatever [laughing] – when Dani faces the Demon Bear. I think that was the most intimidating scene for me and it was probably because it felt like some bizarre, meta – I felt like I was in a Charlie Kaufman film or something. Where what I was supposed to do in that scene was what I was supposed to be doing in life and I’m sitting there looking at a CGI, big green bear head thing, like a big ball, and I’m supposed to have this insane, emotional, cathartic moment where I’m supposed to tell myself everything is going to be okay and everything is going to be okay from now on, but I’m just sitting there in my brain like, “No, nothing is actually going to be okay, I’m freaking.” You know? It was just like this insanely intimidating moment where I looked around – I was supposed to be looking at the bear, but in my peripheral I’m looking around – and it was the first time it really, truly hit me, “Oh, my God, you’re on a multi-million dollar movie set right now and everybody’s staring at you,” and the lights and the camera and the action. I just remember being so intimidated and wanting to sink back.
Which is so interesting, because that’s the exact conflict Dani has the entire movie, what it all leads up to. I feel like I had my own Dani Moonstar faces the bear moment every time this movie got pushed for reasons that were beyond me. I feel like I had to have that moment a lot and then finally really had it and grew up out nowhere. So when I watched the movie with the cast in January for the first time, watching myself in that scene as a 21-year-old, and remembering what was going on in my head at that time and just feeling so much older and wiser now.
So you guys got to watch it all together for the first time?
BH: Yeah, we all watched it together, in an actual movie theater, with, like, candy and popcorn and wine. It was holding onto Maisie’s arm the entire time. And she kept grabbing onto my arm and just being like, “It’s so good, Blu! It’s so good!” That’s what she kept saying to me and I’d grab her back. Because I’d never seen myself in anything like that before!
Were you a fan at all of superhero movies before this or not so much?
BH: I really loved the original X-Men movies growing up as a little girl. I watched them with my dad. Movies were kind of like my dad and I, it was our language, so the X-Men movies, we’d watch all the time. And I still watched them in high school. And I saw, you know, the Avengers, I loved the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies – I mean, I just love Sam Raimi, I think everything he does is genius – but I was a big comic fan. I have four little brothers, too, and I played video games growing up. I was really – I don’t even know if we use the word “tomboy” anymore. But I was definitely a tomboy. So being a superhero was crazy, it was like a dream come true.
Well, now you guys are in the big Marvel sandbox. If you could come back and reprise Dani someday, what Marvel character would you want her to be in a movie with?
BH: Oh, man. The one who makes the most sense is Valkyrie, because Dani becomes a Valkyrie in the comics. Yep, a movie with Valkyrie. Tessa Thompson. Dani Moonstar and Tessa Thompson’s character, that would be the sickest. Because that’s Dani’s journey so getting to do that would be really cool.
I feel like getting to hang out with Tessa Thompson in any capacity would be a life highlight.
BH: My God, right? And, I mean, Tessa Thompson did say her character is gay and, I mean, Dani Moonstar is gay, so… Ah, but Dani is sworn to Rahne. But maybe we can all hang out.
The New Mutants is in theaters this Friday, August 28th.