Dexter Darden won everyone’s hearts last summer as Frypan in the movie adaptation of James Dashner’s novel The Maze Runner. His one-liners and dedication to get out of the Glade (the place where the characters are trapped for most of the story) were one of my favorite parts of the movie. With the sequel, The Scorch Trials, coming out in a little less than a month, I’m sure many, like myself, are wondering what Frypan is up to this time around.
I got a chance to talk to the man behind the pan myself and he’s officially my Man Crush Monday! Check out what he had to say about The Scorch Trials, his music career, and even One Direction.
It must have been really nice to be able to come back and film for the sequel. I know you guys just wrapped not too long ago, the beginning of summer I believe. What was it like filming out in Albuquerque in comparison to Louisiana?
“It was a lot tougher. Albuquerque was a lot more difficult! Albuquerque is like a mile high city so the altitude is just crazy. This movie is definitely more physical than The Maze Runner, it’s physically demanding and there was actually a lot more action required from more cast mates. So this was definitely tougher, but Albuquerque is a beautiful city. It’s just a very tough climate to manage and deal with when you’re filming. Getting in shape and getting in tune with that was difficult, but still a lot of fun!”
I’m assuming it would be safe to say that the physical aspects were the most difficult part about filming this time around?
“Yeah! Well I mean when you see the trailer and you see us running up all those sand dunes and doing all of that, like that’s us, that’s really us. We’re actually doing all of that. We’ve really trained to run those sand dunes and literally do all those things it’s really cool. It’s not like CGI or anything.”
You guys all seem really close. Did working on the previous movie have an effect on how the cast’s dynamics worked out this time around? Did you guys get closer?
“Yeah for sure! I think it’s exactly that, we all are so close and we have been since the first movie. I think what we developed is super special. It’s something that we’ve tried to carry on and portray on and off the camera. These people are really my brothers and sisters and being able to keep that friendship up and alive and well has been such a special experience. We are super close and it helps out during filming too because we know how to relate to each other. We know each others needs like if someone has a serious scene or if someone needs to laugh we know and we can help each other out. Having that family and like brotherhood completely changes the game for filming. It makes going to work every day so much easier when you’re working with your best friends.”
You guys had a few newcomers, like Rosa Salazar and Giancarlo Esposito, how was it welcoming them into your family?
“Well you know I’m not going to lie. We were all a bit nervous about welcoming in new cast members just because we were all so familiar with everything from the first movie. But being the kind of people that we are, it was really easy for them to fall into the folds, I think. We welcomed them into the family with open arms and they fit right in which was really nice. Everyone has their own little part that they play right into in the family and they sort of fell right into place immediately.
It’s pretty cool you know we lost Blake (Cooper) but Jacob Lofland who plays Aris he’s kind of assumed that little brother role in the sense. We obviously miss Blake a lot, but Jacob came right in and fell right into place. It was really cool.”
Since you all seem to have your own titles and such, who do you think is the biggest jokester on set?
“Rosa’s really funny, but by far I think it’s between me and Dylan [O’Brien]. Rosa’s a jokester and she has so much energy. She’s so much fun all the time, but on set I think Dylan and I have more fun. We’re definitely the jokesters! We’re always cracking jokes that’s for sure. Dylan’s really really freakin’ funny. He really is.”
A lot of times in these new young adult dystopian novels that are popular now, characters that people get attached to always seem to die quickly (like with Chuck). I know from the books and then watching you bring him to life in the movie, people really like Frypan. After seeing the fans’ reactions to your character, did you do anything different to approach it this time around?
“I think the cool thing about Frypan is you get to learn a lot about him. You get to learn a lot of new things about him, and the other characters too. In The Maze Runner the movie starts through the eyes of Thomas. You’re on this journey with him and the people who have so many close encounters with him. In Scorch Trials that all kind of changes a bit because there’s so many different characters that you get to learn a lot more about. This time you start with all of us like straight out of the maze, not just Thomas, so it’s pretty cool.
I think the reason why so many fans, like myself, liked Frypan was because of the comic relief he offered. Will we get to see more of that in The Scorch Trials?
“Definitely! There were so many more of those moments that we filmed in the first movie that you just didn’t really get to see because of timing and editing. If you get the DVD you can see some of those moments [laughs]. In Scorch Trials, Wes definitely tried to give me the opportunity to have my comedic moments. Sometimes he would give me a chance to just like ad lib and say whatever I feel was right for the moment. I think some of those moments made the cut.
I mean that’s what Frypan does; he is the comedic relief to the group in such a serious situation. They kind of need someone to keep everyone lighthearted and to keep the camaraderie alive.”
I actually have the DVD here at home but all I’m thinking about is the Blooper Reel, what was the deleted Frypan scene?
“There’s a deleted scene where Frypan is cooking. You get to see him actually cooking. He gives Thomas bacon for the first time. [laughs] So Dylan’s character Thomas has never had bacon and Frypan just cooks him up a big ‘ol pig and makes him bacon and he like falls in love with it.”
Have you read all of the books in the series now?
“I’m reading them as I go along! I don’t really want to get too ahead of myself in the story. It’s cool being in the movie and having the script. Some nuances are the same as the book but a lot is different too. I’m approaching my walk with Frypan more so in the “movie-verse” as opposed to the book one.
I’ve read The Maze Runner and The Scorch trials. James Dashner wrote such amazing novels for people to read, not just young adults or kids. I know so many adults who like The Maze Runner books, and that’s because the story is so well written and it captivates you. I’m definitely enjoying that walk with Frypan through the books and the movies as well.”
I can imagine it’s hard to separate the two! Even just looking at a novel in comparison to a screenplay there’s a lot that goes into differentiating them.
“Yeah! It’s interesting because there’s so many nuances in the book that just would not portray well on-screen. In the first book there’s telepathy that takes place between Thomas and Theresa and we couldn’t have it in the movie just because it ends up like Dylan and Kaya staring at each other for five minutes on-screen [laughs]. In Scorch Trials there’s some things like that that happen and it’s not that we don’t want to put them in there, it’s just there’s so many things that James Dashner gives the reader to let their imagination wander and we didn’t want to take that away.
Visually trying to bring that to screen is tough. That’s what makes it so different from the books I think. We do our best to bring those little moments and bits and pieces alive and Wes [Ball] does such a great job with that.”
Yeah I think he did a really good job creating the world on-screen. In the first movie with the Grievers, when I read the books in my head they were like the big giant pink worm that destroys Bikini Bottom in that episode of SpongeBob. So when I watched the movie I think his vision made more sense.
“[laughs] Oh no! Yeah I think his are way scarier! Although the big pink worm kind of like tears down Sandy’s whole crib if I remember right [laughs].”
At Comic Con his year they showed us a sneak peek of a scene in a cave with the cranks and it was really scary! Have you seen any footage from the movie yet? Do you have a favorite scene that you’re excited for the audience to see?
“Actually I just saw the movie the other night. Me and the cast-mates got to. Me, Dyl, Ki Hong, Rosa, Giancarlo, whoever was in LA right now. We all went down to the studio and watched it. We had a little popcorn and just sat and enjoyed the film together as a cast! It was awesome!”
It was nice to see it before we start this big press tour. We’re gonna be going all over the place so when people ask us questions like “what’d you think of this” and “have you seen the movie” we want to be able to answer honestly.
I think that’s one thing that people love about us as a cast; we’re very honest with and about each other. You know what I mean? We’re very honest about how much we love each other and how much we mean to each other and I think that really speaks in volumes.We want to be able to keep that honesty going when we talk about the film as well, and be able to answer based off of not only what we shot, but also what we watched with the final product.”
Speaking of your press tour I remember last year you guys did SO much you had like screenings in every city. Is it going to be the same this year?
“Well it’s because last year we had way more time to prepare for those kind of things you know? It’s like this year since we just finished filming and now we’re right into it. Maze Runner came out last September as well and we started shooting The Scorch Trials in October. We were really quick to get on the ball and start shooting and filming and now we have to kind of play catch up with all the press and promotions and all that stuff.
We definitely will be visitng cities and stopping by to say like “hey go see the film” but we’re hoping through the success of the first one that it will promote itself and people will go see it. Wes really made a slamming trailer and people are kind of going crazy about it, which is cool! I hope it makes people want to go see the film.
The first time we didn’t really know if we needed a lot of promo or not because it was shot kind of like an indie if that makes sense. It was shot like an independent film; it felt very intimate and close to us. We had a first time director and actors and actresses that had done stuff before. People would see our faces and go “oh that’s the kid from Joyful Noise” or We’re the Millers and Teen Wolf.” But none of us had really established ourselves on the big screen. We weren’t shot like a big budget film.
When the film came out and did as well as it did we really didn’t know it was going to do that amazing. It took us by surprise. The Maze Runner is the first movie that I’ve done that my cousins like my big cousins who don’t really go to see movies that much at all were like “yo cuz that movie was dope”[laughs]. It’s nice that it reaches out to such a wide audience.”
I saw that you went to Thomas’ [Brodie-Sangster] play not too long ago.
“Yeah and Aml’s [Ameen] birthday party too! Nathalie [Emmanuel] and I were out in London and TBS is my brother so when I was out there I had to make sure I got to see his play and spend time with him. It was really really cool. Aml’s birthday party was there also and it was nice to just be able to go and spend time with them in their area.
I had never really been to London before so being able to be there and to support them was really nice. It’s kind of hard to explain because we understand that it’s a rarity of some sort but it’s really really interesting how tight we all are. It’s something special and I have a lot of close friends and people who mean a lot to me, but with my Maze Runner family it’s different.”
The other day you posted a picture with Aml Ameen and John Boyega from the new Star Wars. I’m a huge Star Wars person and I love Aml in Sense8 as well so I was like freaking out at this picture, are you excited for Star Wars or is it not really your thing?
“Yeah of course! You know the cool thing about Aml, John and I is that all three of us are all SO supportive and respective of each other’s talent. Instead of making it like a competition we mostly just want to let everyone know about each other. John’s one of my best friends, Aml’s my big brother. These are each people who individually mean things to me personally in life minus acting. We just want to let people know that it doesn’t have to be a competition between us. We genuinely love and support each other and so that’s what we do.
John is gonna come to The Scorch Trials premiere and he’s going to be there supporting me, and I’ll be at the Star Wars premiere supporting him. It’s something that’s really exciting because aside from just being actors we’re friends. And asside from being friends, John’s the new lead in Star Wars so I’m kinda freaking out too [laughs]. It’s like wow that’s Star Wars.
I cannot wait to see that. I think Star Wars, besides Maze Runner of course, is my favorite post-dystopian futuristic science fiction thing that exists. I’m excited for John he works so hard and he’s always been so supportive of me! I want to always keep that support up for him. The goal is to like cross our fan bases together you know what I mean. Some Maze Runner fans probably love Star Wars of course but some of them are probably too young to even remember when they came out. Some of the Star Wars fans are a little too old to even pay attention to The Maze Runner so I think both of us together are going to be able to make it so that everyone can support each other! It should be cool.”
I heard you mention Joyful Noise, I really liked that movie! Do you have any more music projects lined up or are you sticking to acting for now?
“Thank you! Actually that’s what I’ve been doing! I took a little time to record something after filming Scorch Trials. I’ve taken some time to just work on music and start writing more and recording more. I’m hoping to drop a project soon, but I think you guys may get a single soon! Hopefully by the time Scorch Trials comes out!
Music has definitely been my passion for a long time just because that’s how I grew up, like singing in church and stuff. I definitely want people to hear more of my singing and music. I just want people to get the opportunity to listen and enjoy it. That’s what I’ve been doing this summer. Taking time to focus on something that I’m really passionate about.”
I saw you on “Geeks who Drink” and I was pretty impressed watching you pop those balloons on the dartboard blindfolded. Do you have any other secret talents?
“Well blindfolded balloon popping was a surprise [laughs]. I’m a big basketball fan; I love basketball that’s for sure. But I think even more secret, Nathalie [Emmanuel] will tell you, is bowling. I LOVE bowling. It’s really something that I really like to do. I actually picked it up a long time ago after I did this Disney channel movie called Minutemen. Right after that I came home and picked up bowling. Bowling is a talent I guess. It’s definitely fun.
It’s so funny because I guess I’m a competitive person and Nat is like not competitive at all so when we go bowling she’s always like “oh my god why did I do this”. The cool thing though is it’s not really about being good or bad it’s just about having fun. It’s cool because everyone can go out and like you can have a drink. When it’s your turn you go and when it’s not you’re still chilling and you’re just socializing. I guess that’s why I like it too, because I’m really all about socializing and making sure everyone’s included. Bowling does that for sure.”
You said you liked 90s/2000s pop music so this is kind of related and I know your costar Dylan O’Brien has gushed about them before, what do you think of One Direction? What’s your favorite song by them?
“One Direction! One Direction, so I don’t know if you’ve heard about us and One Direction but we kind of have a guilty pleasure about One Direction. We literally know all of their songs from Little Things to What Makes You Beautiful. We’ll just like randomly burst out into their songs. [Laughs]. It’s so funny because people who don’t know Thomas Brodie-Sangster will hear his accent and they’ll just be like “hey what’s up One Direction.” We’ve ended up playing into that now instead of getting mad about the people who are like ignorant about it. We’ll be like “yeah he’s part of One Direction he totally wrote this song” [laughs].
That’s hilarious! So then, how did you feel about Zayn leaving?
“I think he’s gonna come back to be honest. I don’t think he’s gone forever. Sometimes people need a little break to realize what’s important to them and I think Zayn, FOR ME, needs to come back to One Direction [laughs].”
I agree! But also I’m excited for his solo career too!
“You know what, I think sometimes people need to go out and create their own path. Like everyone does it, JT did it and even before him, JC Chasez left. People go on and explore different things and discover themselves. I think they’re all still really good friends I just think he wanted to do his own thing and I respect that. He’s dating the girl from Little Mix-“
Oh! Actually they broke up not too long ago.
“Oh no they did?! All kinds of heartbreak out here. Jeeze I gotta catch up on my 1d [laughs]. What a tough summer. Wow leaving a band and breaking up with his fiancé? Wow.
Ok now I HAVE to ask, do you listen to Frank Ocean?
“I do listen to Frank Ocean! I listen to everything I’m such a big music person! I’m sure you can tell that by now. Frank needs to drop some new music. He said he was dropping an album in July right? But he never dropped it.”
Yeah he never dropped it, it’s been way too long. Channel Orange has been on repeat for what feels like 5 years!
“[Laughs] yeah really! Swim Good may be my favorite Frank Ocean song. I don’t know though, Thinking About You is amazing too. He has so many. Forrest Gump is good too! I need to listen to that whole album again. This whole summer I’ve really been on J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick’s album is absurd; J. Cole’s album is absurd. They’re my two favorite rappers alive right now.
I’m just happy that they keep putting out good music. I almost had a heart attack when someone instagrammed that J. Cole, Kendrick and Drake were going to do an album together. I was like WHAT, I wish.”
I know! I saw that too! Ok I could probably talk about this forever so I’m just going to quickly ask you one last question and then I’ll let you go! What has been your favorite part about working on the movie so far? Do you know when you start filming the next one?
“It’s going to sound cliché and super repetitive but honestly my cast mates. As an actor the one thing you always want to do is like whoop ass or be an action star. That’s what I thought was gonna be my favorite thing, but it’s not. Being with my cast-mates and making these lifetime long friendships, has been my favorite. We don’t ever have to shoot another Maze Runner movie again but I know I can call Dylan at 2am and be like “hey I need a friend to talk to”, or I can go to Ki’s place at 8pm on a Thursday night and just watch TV or play UNO. I feel like that’s something that I’ll have forever.
I know that Will is my brother! He’ll stay with me in my apartment in LA and I know that if I’m in New York City or if Alex [Flores] is over here or Kaya [Scodelario], they can call me and say “I need a friend to go visit with.” That’s what it is. That’s what means the most to me.
I think that’s what means the most to everybody. Aside from working with amazing directors and amazing stories with these characters, we created these relationships that hopefully will last for a lifetime. It’s just special.
We’re looking to start filming in like February. It’s quick, but the fans are very demanding! I love it. I don’t know if you know my Maze Runner Fans but they know what they want and they want it now [laughs]. We’re thinking February, but we’re not really sure yet. I’m excited to get back into it!