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Rebecca Romijn On Her New Thriller Endangered Species And What She Liked Most About Her X-Men Role - Exclusive Interview

Beginning her career in modeling in 1991 before transitioning to acting in the '90s with a guest appearance on "Friends" and a recurring role on the sitcom "Just Shoot Me," Rebecca Romijn blazed her way into the film world with 2000's "X-Men" — and she's been onscreen nonstop ever since.

Romijn perfectly embodied the shapeshifting, blue-skinned mutant Mystique, who took sides with Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his Brotherhood of Mutants in their conflict with Magneto's old friend, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and the former students from Xavier's School for the Gifted Youngsters in the "X-Men" film series. Also starring alongside Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, and Anna Paquin, Romijn played Mystique in the first three "X-Men" films, then reprised the character in a brief but clever appearance in the prequel "X-Men: First Class."

Mystique wasn't Romijn's only foray into the superhero realm, though — she also voiced legendary DC Comics character Lois Lane across four films in DC's animated universe opposite her real-life husband Jerry O'Connell, who provided the voice of Superman. Married in 2007, Romijn and O'Connell have often appeared in both films and TV together, including the new Roku original comedy "Flipped" and the new survival thriller "Endangered Species."

Opening in select theaters and on video on demand May 28, "Endangered Species" stars Romijn and Philip Winchester as Lauren and Jack Halsey, a couple who despite family strains and disagreements with their adult children manage to gather for a family trip to Kenya. Making the mistake of not hiring a guide to travel with them on a safari in a wilderness park, the family is put into grave danger when an angry rhino attacks their vehicle. With a ferocious leopard and menacing hyenas also in the vicinity, the Halseys are in a fight for their lives as they seek help — a deadly task that is complicated by a gang of poachers who are hunting rhinos and elephants.

Romijn spoke with Looper from Toronto while filming the first season of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," in which she's reprising her "Star Trek: Discovery" role of Number One. In our exclusive interview, Romijn detailed the beauty and the perils of shooting on location in Kenya for "Endangered Species," and gave her very direct thoughts on O'Connell's role in the film. In addition, Romijn reflected on her life-changing role as Mystique in the "X-Men" saga, discussed the idea of more appearances in the DC universe, and gave a peek into what to expect in her new "Star Trek" series.

Despite what you see in 'Endangered Species,' Romijn encourages safaris

Thanks for taking the time to talk about "Endangered Species," Rebecca. Congratulations! I've seen the film, and you have convinced me to never go on an African safari!

This is the message I'm going to try and break, because that's not the point of the movie, really!

Kenya is the most beautiful place in the world. It will change your soul when you go there. The people there are the most beautiful. I mean, when this first came through, it came attached with a note from my agent that said, "Would you ever consider shooting in Kenya during a pandemic?" And at this point, we'd all been sitting in our house for six months. And I was like, "What? Kenya is open?" I'd been to Kenya before, and I knew that it was a place I had to go back to. It changes you as a person. My daughters are 12. My husband had never been there. We were all going to be able to go, and it was magical. It was mind-blowing.

Unlike your family in the film, you should definitely have a guide with you when you go on a safari.

Well, definitely. Yes. And even while making the movie, the behind-the-scenes stories were crazier than the actual movie itself. We had rangers with us the whole time because we shot in a national park in Kenya called Amboseli National Park — and it's one of the bigger national parks. Amboseli means "land of dust" in Swahili. It's where all of the elephants are. So our whole life for five weeks was a safari. We had rangers with us, firing off warning shots because we had elephants wandering on the set, or we had a hippo who wandered on the set. There was a lion who walked into base camp one night. All the river scenes, there were crocodiles in that river. So we were very, very, very aware of where we were on the food chain and looking over our shoulders the whole time we were making the movie.

That clearly must inform your performance. I mean, that scene when the mama rhino is going after the vehicle and you're all in it, the way all of you are reacting in horror feels real.

You have to layer it in. That gets layered into it. And by the way, that was the only scene where we used a CGI animal. I made the mistake of looking at some of the comments when they put the trailer out, and people are like, "Oh, they used CGI animals." I was like, "The only CGI part is the actual attack on the van." That's the only time — and the leopard attack, but the rest is all real. Those are all real animals there.

Romijn reveals how she really feels about Jerry O'Connell in 'Endangered Species'

You've acted with Jerry before in live-action and the animated realm. But "Endangered Species" is different. You're not a couple in this. You're not the voices of Lois and Superman. You're not reunited first loves like in "Love Locks." And I have to bring up the wonderfully hilarious roles for both of you playing the married house renovators in "Flipped." I mean, that's hilarious stuff.

Oh my God. Thank you.

I just watched it the other night on Roku. I'm glad they picked it up. But your character is married to Philip Winchester in "Endangered Species." And you have Jerry in the film, but he's somebody who is up to no good. That must be a strange sort of feeling. I mean, yes, you know it's a job and it's acting, but suddenly, you play conflicting characters in a way.

It's weird for me to say, but I thought he'd never been hotter. [Laughs] I was like, "Jerry looks good as the bad guy in this movie." We were a little bit bummed that it was revealed in the trailer, because obviously they cut trailers now to give up too much of the story. Jerry was like, "I wish they didn't give up who my character is so easily." Because for the first half of the movie, you think he's a pal. Right?

Right, right.

Anyway, so by the time we finally got to the camp where Jerry and his henchmen are, I was watching Jerry. I was like, "He looks really hot to play the bad guy!" That's all I got for you!

The situation in 'Endangered Species' is frightening real in more ways than one

We were talking about layers before and in the film, you're keying in on a family with real problems, which makes it really relatable to the audience. Is that what really attracts you to most of your projects, that relatability factor?

In this case, my character, Lauren, is a woman who gave up a career as a doctor in favor of raising children. And now she's an empty-nester and doesn't quite know what the future holds or what, what's the point. And interestingly enough, I feel like that's what we've all been faced with during this pandemic."What am I doing? What's the point? What am I supposed to be doing?" Also, she's a diabetic. In the movie, her insulin is shattered, and she's basically dying for half the movie and maybe, willing or not, to surrender to death because she doesn't even know why she's here anymore at this point, but that's pretty dark. I shouldn't have gone that dark. But anyway, I feel like there's been a lot of self-effacing conversations for all of us during this whole last year, of like, "What am I doing right now? What am I supposed to be doing?"

Well, I will tell you that diabetes is in my family history, so I know what ketoacidosis is. Very scary. That's very relatable.

Did I play it correctly or not?

Yes you did. I could tell you did your research.

I don't know what it's supposed to look like. I was looking up YouTube videos on ketoacidosis, and I was really trying to get every piece of information I could get.

Apart from the family strain, you key in on environmental ethics in "Endangered Species," with poaching and your husband's involvement in big oil. The story also involves redemption and sacrifice. There's a lot going on in this movie.

There's a lovely message in it about the illegal wildlife trade. My mother was a big advocate for the World Wildlife Federation. I'm a huge animal advocate — locally, more, and like dog and cat animal rescue — but that extends to our job here, which is to protect animals. It's what we do. So anyway, I'm proud of that message as well. It's raising awareness around an important issue. And also, my girls need to be aware of that as well, because I'm trying to raise decent human beings.

Romijn reflects on the makeup of Mystique (and loves that cool action figure)

Last year was the 20th anniversary of the first "X-Men" movie, and I can't help but think that was a life-changing film for you. It launched your film career, and I'm sure it created a lifelong bond with many of your fellow actors. What was the most memorable part of that franchise for you?

I guess it was the makeup application. It was no joke! My call time was at midnight to be ready at 9AM. It was a nine-hour makeup process. We did, over the course of three movies, manage to get it down to seven hours, but that was still ... It was a big deal. And I realized pretty early on that was the job. I was getting paid to be a part of that makeup application. The acting was free. The job was getting all that makeup put on!

Also, it was the most beautiful costume I've ever seen in my life. Every single time they finished, and I would look in the mirror, I would just look at it like it was a masterpiece. And I treasure it now, because hindsight is 20/20, and I don't remember how painful it was, but I really appreciate everything that came from that, really. I'm glad that I did it exactly how I did it. It was worth it. It was worth every single second of all that, of all those 11:30 wake-up calls to go to the set. I would try and go to bed at 7:30 or 8AM and just lay there, and then I would have to get up at 11:30PM and go to work, and work for 24 hours straight.

Well, hey, look, you got a cool Mystique action figure out of it last year for the 20th anniversary. It looks just like you. That must be surreal.

It is surreal, very surreal. The whole thing is surreal. It's a big honor, really. I love every second of it.

The makeup helped inform Mystique's villainy, Romijn says

With Disney and Disney+, they appear to be integrating the Fox "X-Men" characters into the new projects, at least a little bit with "WandaVision." And to me, you're the definitive Mystique. Okay? Nobody's going to tell me any different. You are Mystique.

Thank you!

Not knocking anybody else's performance of it. I'm just saying —

I'm not going to down talk about anybody. By the way, I'm honored. I'm really honored. And Jennifer Lawrence, I love her!

Well, you originated the character, you made it your own. If they ask you to reprise Mystique in a Disney+ project or whatever, it's has to be a yes. Right? Even with all the makeup?

Sure. Well, with the makeup, yes. I wouldn't do it without the makeup, because I feel like that's a really big part of the transformation of the character, is going through that makeup process. There is nothing that turns you into a colder, harder bitch than going through that makeup process. I really feel like it's a really key part of the character. Going through that process is like, "Okay, I'm angry. I'm super angry now."

Romijn hopes to return to the DC character she loves

I want to touch quickly on a lighter character, but still in the superhero realm. I mentioned you and Jerry's voice roles in DC's animated projects earlier, with Lois Lane and Superman. If you were given a pick of a live-action DC film, what character franchise would it be? And then who would you like to play?

Well, I mean, Lois Lane was really up there for me. Talk about iconic roles!

And you'd like to play her in live-action form, too?

In live-action? Yeah. In live-action form. I really enjoyed playing [the animated version]. That was a childhood dream come true, to be able to play Lois. And she's technically not a superhero, but we all know who Lois Lane is. And that was really a dream come true. So yeah. Iconic character, Lois Lane.

Absolutely. Did Jerry ever let you in on who he would like to play in DC? Superman?

You would have to talk to him. I mean, I guess Superman. Who would not want to play Supes? He's Supes.

Yeah. And he's hot in "Endangered Species," so we can't forget that!

That's what I kept thinking. Like, "Check him out! The hot bad guy!" [Laughs]

Romijn is thrilled to be exploring Strange New Worlds

About your opportunity to play Number One in "Star Trek: Discovery" — I mean, it's an iconic franchise, so was "Star Trek" on the list of projects you were hoping for an opportunity at some point in your career? And now there's more.

We are currently in production on the first season of "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds." My lips are sealed, but I am in Toronto. And we are on episode seven of 10. And we are not allowed to say anything about what we're doing.

This is the story of the 10 years on the Enterprise. We're on the Enterprise. This is the 10 years leading up to Captain Kirk on the Enterprise. So this is Captain Pike [Anson Mount] and Number One. And Spock [Ethan Peck] is a science officer. We outrank him, which is really fun, because when does anybody ever outrank Spock? I can't say anything else because there are so many Easter eggs on this show, but we are very, very, very excited to introduce this show. It's in keeping with the original series, they're standalone episodes. It's a little bit lighter. We are visiting planets. We are visiting colonies, and we are so proud of our work so far.

Directed by M.J. Bassett, "Endangered Species," also starring Isabel Bassett and Michael Johnston, is new in select theaters and on video on demand May 28.