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Samaritan's Javon 'Wanna' Walton And Dascha Polanco Talk Hopes For Audience Reaction And More - Exclusive Interview

Almost 50 years since Sylvester Stallone first knocked out audiences with "Rocky," the Oscar-nominated actor is still working hard on having a lasting impact on movie fans. For his latest film, the gritty superhero adventure "Samaritan," he has enlisted Javon "Wanna" Walton and Dascha Polanco to help him give the material an emotional punch, and the duo said it's an experience they won't soon forget.

Both actors have plenty of high-profile experience. Walton — who was 13 when filming began three years ago — has been featured in roles in "Euphoria" and "The Umbrella Academy." Meanwhile, Polanco has appeared in such acclaimed series as "Russian Doll" and "Orange Is the New Black." In "Samaritan," Walton plays Sam, the only child of single mother Tiffany (Polanco), who is working hard to keep the bills paid and pulling her young teen out of trouble at the same time. Despite his mom's best efforts, Sam is caught up in doing jobs for street gangs, his only saving grace coming from his hobby of trying to prove that the one-time savior of Granite City — the superhero Samaritan — is alive despite his reported demise 25 years earlier.

Sam believes Samaritan is actually a local garbage man, Joe Smith (Stallone), and eventually, he gets Joe to admit he indeed has superpowers. The revelation couldn't come soon enough: Crime is running rampant in Granite City, and it's about to get worse. A menacing gang leader, Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), is close to unearthing the powerful tools of Nemesis — Samaritan's brother-turned-adversary who faced off against his sibling in the fatal fire a quarter-century ago — and once he does, the metropolis will be under the control of the crime lord and his minions.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Walton and Polanco talked about their work with Stallone on "Samaritan" and their hopes for the way young audiences view the film. Walton said he was particularly excited to work with the "Rocky" legend, since apart from acting, the teen has taken part in 80 boxing matches to date.

Talking banana splits and old-school boxing with Stallone

What surprised each of you the most about working with Sylvester Stallone? For example, I was so surprised at how naturally funny the guy could be. You don't see nearly enough of that in his movies.

Dascha Polanco: I must say, I have to agree. He definitely has a sense of humor, and he definitely loves banana splits. I was just saying how he introduced [them to me]. I never had a banana split, and he loves banana splits. That's surprising to be able to have that conversation with Sylvester Stallone. It was very unexpected. I would have never thought as an actress [I'd be] thinking, "I'm going to work with Sylvester Stallone. We're going to speak about banana splits." It's not something you prepare for.

Wanna Walton: What surprised me most is I knew he was educated on boxing, but he knew a lot about old, old boxing, and he's a historian on it. Even going to his house and seeing all the old-school gloves and all that was really interesting — old boxing gloves were made with horsehair or something like that. It's really interesting. I even picked those up, and it was cool to be able to see that, and he notices stuff. 

He was telling me about these boxers [and how they would] fight. [He also told me about] one guy — he only had one eye and I forgot the guy's name — but it was interesting, man. It shocked me how much he knew.

Samaritan proves there's a hero in all of us

Dascha, your character and Sylvester's character are both great about trying to steer Wanna's character, Sam, in the right direction in this cruel, hopeless environment. What do you hope young people take away from watching "Samaritan" apart from the fact that it is great action-wise?

Polanco: I hope that people take away the perspective that ... you don't necessarily need magic powers for being a hero. There are qualities in heroism that I believe we can all have, and one of the things that I noticed in the film was the way it was written for [Wanna's character, Sam]. I'm playing his mom, but you see how Sam has this belief in this iconic figure and this void that he's filling. We could all relate to that regardless of the age — whether it's youth or old, you can all relate to filling that void. The only way we do that is by being resilient by facing adversity, by being fearless, and you get to witness that throughout the film.

I love that for me, playing across Sylvester Stallone in a thriller was something that was on my vision board. I believed in it, and I manifested it. It goes to show that me, myself, I am my own hero. It doesn't take for me to control time or anything like that.

Walton: I really want the younger audience to take away from this that you're your own hero in your own ways, and everybody has their own special ability, depending on what it is. Some people are very creative. Some people are amazing athletes. There are all different kinds of people. There are certain things that make you special, and you really want to hone in on that. You need to realize how amazing and special you are in general and that you're here for a reason.

Directed by Julius Avery, "Samaritan," the screen adaptation of the Mythos Comics graphic novel, is streaming exclusively on Prime Video.

This interview was edited for clarity.