When it comes to massive movie franchises The Avengers is hard to beat, and Chris Evans as America’s favourite square-jawed hero, Steve Rogers/ Captain America, has always been in the thick of it – so playing a seven-year-old girl’s uncle and guardian in Gifted is a proper change of speed. Surprisingly, he says it’s a tougher challenge too...
RISING Chris, you’ve put your comic hero costumes to one side for Gifted, a sensitive drama about a maths prodigy called Mary – were you any good at maths in school?
CHRIS EVANS ‘I come from a family where we all seemed to have a pretty good gift for math and I inherited that ability, too. My father majored in it in university and I always enjoyed studying it. I was never at Mary’s level, but I did have a good intuitive grasp for the subject and I was fascinated by the kind of truth you find through mathematics.’
RISING So, there’s a satisfaction to be had in solving maths problems?
CE ‘There’s a constancy to math and what you can understand about existence in binary terms. That’s why I’ve always been drawn to stories about mathematicians and I have to admit that apart from the underlying drama behind Gifted, the mathematical aspect was one of the reasons I was anxious to do the film.’
‘Whatever happens, happens and I go back to living my life in a very present capacity’
RISING Playing Mary’s guardian is a change of pace – what drew you to the role?
CE ‘It was how Frank treated Mary more as an equal rather than a parent or caretaker talking down to a child. That was a very interesting and compelling aspect of the story for me and there are so many beautiful moments between them. I think adults in general should try to treat children with more respect for their native intelligence and individuality.’
RISING You’re used to working on massive Avengers sets, so how did working on a smaller production feel?
CE ‘What strikes me in particular is how fast things move on a smaller film. On a big movie set, everything takes a long time to set up, so that you're often waiting an entire day to shoot one scene or maybe only one part of a scene. With a movie like Gifted, you don’t have that luxury. Time is always running against you and you have to always be ready to shoot the next scene, so you feel like you're working much harder and more intensely.’
RISING Acting is a unstable profession and most actors never make it, but did you always know that it was something you could excel at?
CE ‘I would say that my attitude when I was at the beginning of my career was a cocktail of naivety mixed with confidence, but certainly at the time I didn’t have much doubt. A lot of that is from my parents, and I attribute it to the people I had all around me, telling me to go for it, even though it wasn’t the path most people were taking. I never had sleepless nights thinking “this is a mistake”. I was very lucky in that capacity, but again, I can’t take credit for the bravery. I didn’t know any better as a result of my parents’ support. Reflecting on it now, I think it was an insane choice. I didn’t realise that at the time because they never made me feel like it was a risk.’
‘The tricky landscape of acting is that it really tempts the ego, to believe you are something more’
RISING Did playing such an iconic character in Captain America mean you ended up wondering if people are actually appreciating your work?
CE ‘My work is not for the idea of it. I do it and whatever happens, happens and I go back to living my life in a very present capacity. So the idea of it, in the future, or the reflection of it in the past, is not relevant to me. In my opinion, it’s not just a waste of time, but indulgent in the wrong thing we should be cultivating as we grow.’
RISING That’s interesting – are you saying that your work can distract from true purpose, because it’s high-profile?
CE ‘It encourages the ego, and, not to get too theological about it, but to some degree, the tricky landscape of acting is that it really tempts the ego, to believe you are something more than what you are; or that somehow your work is relevant in a capacity beyond the thoughts in your head.’
WHAT NEXT? If you’re not sure about watching Chris Evans when he isn’t chucking an over-powered frisbee, then check out the trailer for Gifted.