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Deadpool's Ed Skrein Reflects On Playing A 'Free Soul' In Mona Lisa And The Blood Moon - Exclusive Interview

At first, when the title character of "Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon" (Jeon Jong-seo) escapes from a psychiatric hospital and into the nearby city of New Orleans, it seems like she'll have to use her ability to control people's actions with her mind to survive. It turns out far more often Mona Lisa finds herself relying on the kindness of strangers to get by than her considerable superpowers. There's no one she ultimately relies on more than Ed Skrein's Fuzz, a tattooed drug dealer she meets outside a convenience store.

At first, Fuzz is a little hard to get a read on. Are his intentions pure, or is he out for something else when he brings Mona Lisa back to his car after buying her a snack? In the end, Fuzz is willing to give Mona Lisa the shirt off his back, literally, and becomes the ultimate symbol of the film's ethos that you can't judge a book by its cover.

Skrein has forged a varied, unpredictable career in film and TV, starring in everything from "Game of Thrones" to "Deadpool" and from "Alita: Battle Angel" to "Midway," however, he seemed to be having a particularly good time playing Fuzz in "Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon." In an exclusive interview with Looper, Skrein explained why he wanted to be part of the film and discussed what made the experience so creatively satisfying, and he also reminisced about "Deadpool" and reflected on where he wants to go from here.

An unusual look and voice in an unusual film

Your character in "Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon" is very unexpected, but very entertaining. Plus, this is an unusual movie. Why did you want to play this character?

I suppose, for the exact reason that you just described, that it's an unusual movie and he's an unusual character, and an unusual person like we all do in real life. I feel like [director] Ana Lily [Amirpour] is speaking for the outsiders in this movie, and everyone's on the periphery of society and things are not exactly as they appear. I think about that. These are themes that I contemplate a lot in my normal life. It's interesting — this is a stylized and psychedelic piece in a way, but feels more like reality to me than a lot of the things I've been a part of.

Fuzz has a very specific look and voice. How did you go about developing both of those?

The most beautiful thing that can happen when you're creating art is to collaborate with people that you trust, respect, and who make you better. Pretty much all of it came from Ana Lily. She is amazing. [Fuzz is] written as street New Orleans, so we knew he was going to [sound like] Louisiana and New Orleans, [which is] in some ways a city like London.

What is London as an accent? If you look at the intricacies and nuances, every accent is different [in] these international places with a lot of influence. It was open ended and Ana Lily had this street casting guy called Brett, and she said to me, "You know what? There's this guy and I feel like his voice is Fuzz's voice." I said, "Yeah? Let me get a recording."

We got him to record some Charles Bukowski poems, and he sent over this stuff and I was in love with this voice. It's uncanny when I listened back to the recordings — we really did copy his voice and I met up with him while I was out there. I tried to get him to be in the movie to be one of my homeboys so that there would be two Brett voices, but he couldn't do that because [of] union stuff. I met up with him and it was the most surreal thing to be speaking to this guy who I've been studying his intonation and audio frequencies in such depth. He's not Fuzz, but his voice is Fuzz. It is really interesting.

In terms of the style and the look, that was a collaboration. She had ideas, but there was this whirlwind costume fitting that I did where I went in the first night and it was electric. We were trying everything on, putting on the candy ring. I'm like, "Give me those chokers." We're trying on all these glasses. From the beginning, I was like, "You need a stone." I was saying, "Amethyst is a stone, maybe an amethyst earring." We had that amethyst earring hanging down. We really expressed ourselves through Fuzz in every way. We had a lot of fun. We love Fuzz, man. Me and Anna Lily, we're trying to be more like him.

Playing with stereotypes through Fuzz

Initially, I had a hard time getting a read on Fuzz. I wasn't sure if he was a predator or if his intentions were good. How did you understand his motivations?

For me, his motivations were always good. As you realize in the end, he's actually one of those rare people in life that will help you and not expect anything back. Fuzz is the only one in the story that exists outside the human struggle. Everyone else is trying to find their place in it, and he's out of it. He's like, "Nah man, I do my thing and this is how I do it," and he navigates it in his own way.

Actually, when I first started playing [his first scenes] in the first couple takes, I did it like how Fuzz was later on, fuzzy Fuzz, likable Fuzz. Then we were like, "Let's try some where I turn it on a bit more and make people second guess. Play with stereotypes." As soon as you see someone with tattoos, and they're selling drugs outside the place ... life is [funny.] Your knight in shining armor is not always wearing shining armor. We wanted to show that you have to give people a chance and see what they're about.

It's an extreme when he's saying, "Come to my car? Can I have a kiss?" I understand that is predatory and that's artistic license in a way on the moral code, but he's a free soul. We love Fuzz, and genuinely, after I wrapped, I was like, "I need to be a little more like Fuzz, I need to be a little more like him." Not in every way. I haven't got all the tattoos.

'A roller coaster of creativity'

It seems like you're having a blast in your scenes in the film. Was there something that you enjoyed most about your experience with this movie?

The collaboration with Lily was a true collaboration. We were buzzing off each other. It was like some psychedelic trip where we went on it together and it was like we met and we only shared 11 days in New Orleans, and it was this roller coaster of creativity and excitement and enthusiasm and we were so gung-ho, and we buzzed off each other. She was buzzing. I was bringing Fuzz to life and having such fun with it and bringing my own things to it. I was buzzing that I had someone who's pushing me to be more subversive, more interesting, more out there.

We weren't bad meets evil. We were like crazy meets crazier, and I was sober the whole time. I didn't even have a beer [the whole time] in the whole in New Orleans, and I didn't need it. Fuzz is like in the Asterix and Obelix [comic book] story, Obelix is not allowed to have magic potion because he fell in a pot of it when he was a kid, so he doesn't need it. With Fuzz, it's like that. I was buzzing off Fuzz. It was 11 days of tripping off Lily. It was awesome.

Remembering playing Ajax in Deadpool

You played the villain in "Deadpool." What are your memories of that experience?

That was a wonderful experience. Tim Miller, the director, became a good friend. I was like, "I can't believe, first of all, someone's even asked me to be in a Marvel movie." I've been a comic book fan since I was  10 years old, going to the comic book fairs and I have a crazy collection and my Ninja Turtles and Mum-ra figures and everything. That they even let me in, that was just amazing. 

Secondly, [I couldn't believe] they were letting me say all this crazy stuff and do this crazy stuff. I was like, "This doesn't feel like the movies I've seen so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe." That was amazing. Ryan [Reynolds] taught me a lot of how to lead a set with grace and humility and manners and as a true gentleman and as a generous actor. Even from his position where he was in his career and where I was in my career, he was a mensch and led by example in showing how an actor should lead a movie.

Keeping his career eclectic

You've played so many different kinds of characters. Is there a character you haven't played yet but are hoping to play sometime soon?

There's a million. I don't really like to get locked into things, and I don't think about, "Next, I want to do a Western or I want to do a rom-com..." I want to do one of those Disney movies where it's just my voice, for the kids. I would love to do some proper kiddie s***.

To be honest, I would do that and halfway through I'd be like, "Man, I need to get back to the underground." I'd go to the underground and then I'm like, "Man, I need to do something big and silly." I'd do something big and silly, I'm like, "I need to get back to Europe." Kike American presidents, I'm reactionary. I go from [one extreme] to the other. Hopefully the next one's an interesting one, but stuff I've got coming out is even more varied and new things that you've never seen from me before, so that's cool.

"Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon" is available in theaters, on digital, and on demand.

This interview was edited for clarity.