Feeling the Twilight Touch - Talking to Lautner and Gathegi

One could swear that Taylor Lautner and Edi Gathegi had the look of the hunted when they walked into their press conference last weekend.

Then again, one has to admit, this conference was not your typical Hollywood get-together between media and a pair of up-and-coming film stars. The waiting room was packed to the walls with girls, many admitting they hailed from their high school newspaper. Many were also dressed for the night out. At least many had brought their mothers to drive them to and from their assignment.

Then again, this is Twilight. If these young reporters let out some excited squeals when Lautner (Jacob) and Gathegi (Laurent) walked in, it gave their elder colleagues a chuckle or two.

As for Lautner and Gathegi? While they did quickly relax, it was also apparent they still weren’t quite used to this level of attention. They first started feeling the tremors of Twilight mania at this year’s San Diego Comic Con.

“That was the first taste of the potential we had with this franchise,” Gathegi recollected. “We were backstage waiting and someone said there’s like over 6,000 people waiting to see us. It’s not a big place and their trying to fit something like 6,500 people into the room, many of whom had camped overnight, just to see you guys. I don’t even know what that means. So we get on stage and the screams were just unreal. Apparently we made the loudest noise that convention had ever heard.”

That was the closest I ever felt to being a rock star. It was a phenomenal feeling,” Lautner added.

It’s not that Lautner and Gathegi are new to the acting world. For instance, Lautner may have only gotten his driver’s license this year, and Gathegi loves to call him “Double 8s” because he’s only 16 years old. At the same time he’s been a World Martial Arts champion for the last seven years (for his various age brackets). He’s also been acting professionally for the same amount of time. His first role was in a supporting role to a film called Shadow Fury starring Michael Madsen and Pat Morita. He went on to do a lot of voice work in animation while also starring as Sharkboy in the Roberto Rodriquez’s Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl. Most recently he’s been working under Christian Slater in the TV series My Own Worst Enemy.

Gathegi’s resume is getting equally impressive. Primarily a TV actor, last year he had a recurring role in the series House MD, has made more than his share of air time on the various CSI shows and just guested on Life On Mars.

“I’ve been working pretty steady for the last nine years,” said Gathegi. “I wasn’t a huge fan of the vampire genre. It’s just not one of my things. One of the reasons why I like this one is it turns the entire genre upside down. It’s created a brand new style. I mean there’s no fangs, no only come out at night. They can go out in the day, they just have to stay out of direct contact with the sun. That was fascinating to me.

“Besides, it being about vampires is really just the backdrop. Twilight is really a romance story. That makes it more human and adds a level of honesty to that. That’s what I think is really attractive to all these fans.”

“When I found out I got the part, I started dancing and singing ‘I’m gonna be in a trilogy! I’m gonna be in a trilogy!’” says Lautner. “I was actually in acting class when I found out. All of a sudden my cel phone started ringing and I was getting messages from my agent, my parents, my manager, everyone. I’ve been in the business long enough to know when you get one of those, something really good has happened. So I excused myself from class and when I ran back inside I was a total mess. I was flipping out.”

Not that the young actors aren’t finding release. It’s just not in places one would usually think of.

“Just yesterday we were signing autographs,” Gathegi recalled. “Anyway, I just looked up for a second, and it hit me that it was like a dream. It just wasn’t real. I realized that I was in a world that was very insular. If I go into a mall or any place that hits the specific demographic, the people go insane. At the same time, we had to go into a Target recently for some stuff, and you could hear crickets.”

“Then we went from there to over 2,000 people just waiting for us,” adds Laurent. “So in five minutes we walked from where we were absolutely nothing to complete pandemonium.”

“That concept is just something that’s nearly impossible for me to wrap my brain around,” Gathegi continues. “For me, I’ve never experienced anything on this level before. Until then all I did was focus on the movie and try to give the best performance that I could.”

Mind you, Gathegi and Lautner’s time on the big screen together doesn’t add up to anywhere near what stars Kristin Stewert (Bella Swan) or Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) put in individually. That doesn’t mean they’re not feeling the shock of all these young girls (and their moms).

“I personally feel a little pressure,” says Lautner. “Yes, it’s hard not to feel pressure when you’re a part of a series that has sold so many books and has fans that are so obsessed. You want it to be perfect. You really want to bring the character of Jacob to life. Even when I signed on, I had a feeling this was going to be huge. I had so many fans coming on to me. At the same time, I’m very excited. I wouldn’t turn it down. I’m very confident that everyone involved put in 110%.”

“If the true fans go to see it the way they say they are. Then hopefully there will be a sequel,” says Gathegi.. “After all, the film does have to make a certain amount of money for a green light. If they want to see New Moon [become a movie], they have to see Twilight.”

“Especially as that would require a bit more special effects,” Lautner chimes in. “To shoot New Moon, the effects budget would have to be on a much bigger scale.”

If it doesn’t, Lautner is showing that he’s a true pro, even if he’s no older than a number of the reporters interviewing him.

“Well, that’s how it happens. Back then I was doing my kiddy films. Then again, I was working with Robert Rodriguez, and how cool is that? It’s awesome! It was an incredible experience. He was amazing to work with. It was the same when I worked with Steve Martin in Cheaper By The Dozen. I had the chance to work with a lot of talented directors and actors like Christian Slater. So now I’m moving away from the family films. I’ve just worked with Catherine Hardwicke and I feel really blessed.”

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