Nadia Hilker and Bill Skarsgård join the YA dystopia franchise for its third installment, playing two residents of the cheerfully named Bureau of Genetic Welfare who find themselves watching over fugitive lovers Four (Theo James) and Tris (Shailene Woodley), respectively.
Matthew Lickona: How did this happen for you?
Nadia Hilker: Luck. You have to have luck. My management called me one night and told me that the casting director wanted me for the part of Nita. I said no at first: “I don’t even need to put myself on tape. We all know it’s not going to happen.” But the casting director was like, “No, I really want this girl.” It’s always like that. The jobs where you’re like, “This is me,” you don’t get. And the stuff that’s never going to happen, happens sometimes.
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ML: Why were you the right person for the part?
NH: I don’t want to sound arrogant, but Nita is a very beautiful — not in terms of looks, but a very beautiful, strong, confident woman. I’m definitely very confident and strong. I’m very flattered that they saw all of that — what Nita is — within me.
ML: What could a film like this do for you?
Bill Skarsgård: It definitely gives you a lot of exposure. That’s the challenge: it’s a huge movie and a huge cast, and we’re this little part of it. What can you do to make an impactful performance without overdoing it? How can you be subtle but still make something that’s interesting?
ML: How did you walk that line?
BS: You don’t really get to know our characters in this movie, so I was playing up the mysterious aspect of it. Who are these guys and what are they up to? I wanted the audience to be curious. A lot of my scenes are very straightforward, but while my character is saying all of these explanatory things [about the Bureau], I want a sense of him maybe not believing the things he’s saying.
ML: Nadia, at one point it seemed like you were flirting with Four. That’s dangerous ground, considering the devotion that the series’ fans have for the couple.
NH: Did it feel like I was flirting? That’s interesting, because I actually had the opposite feeling. You’re Four, and you’re so cool, but I don’t give a shit. You’re assigned to me, and I’m going to show you how things work. That was my energy.
ML: I guess when he showed you how badass he was with a gun, it seemed like you enjoyed being proven wrong.
NH: Yeah, Nita was surprised: “Okay, you don’t suck as much as I thought you did.” But she’s not like, “Oh, Four...”
BS: But you can still flirt with someone without being in awe of them.
NH: It’s true that Theo and I have really good chemistry without doing anything.
ML: The fandom will notice that.
NH: Nita is not a fan favorite. I definitely read a lot of nasty things online about her, because the fans have read the books. But the books don’t really stick to the movies; they change things. I hope that when people watch, they’ll be like, “Okay, she’s not a total...”
BS: Are you concerned with playing a character that people like?
NH: Oh, not at all.
ML: Did you read the books that the movies are based on?
BS: I read the last one, just to have a sense of backstory and who these guys are. I read it and then I didn’t look at it again. That’s how I do adaptations. You have the book in the back of your head, and then you focus on the script for the movie. Because we’re not trying to re-tell the book; we’re trying to make a film that’s adapted from the novel.
ML: What separates this from other YA dystopia stories?
NH: I love that you have young people who carry out the message that it doesn’t matter what skin color you are or what religion you believe in.
BS: It’s a unique world with its own unique rules. And yeah, it has a message that your differences should actually draw you together instead of alienating you, which is a good thing. We need more of it.