Owen Teague and Kevin Durand Bring Humanity to Simian Roles in 'Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes'

Even Elon Musk and Arnold Schwarzenegger helped inspire the actors' roles

BY Marriska FernandesPublished May 13, 2024

According to Owen Teague and Kevin Durand, two actors who make their simian debut in Wes Ball's Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, the franchise's legacy wasn't something they gave much thought. If they weren't acting together, they were making music together, or they were monkeying around the grocery store in Sydney, they recall to Exclaim! while in Toronto ahead of the film's release.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is the 10th film in the long-running saga that started in 1968, and over the years several directors have aped the story, working with characters old and new.

Teague takes on the role of Noa, a young ape who, many years after the reign of Andy Serkis's Caesar, goes on a journey that will lead him to question everything he's been taught about the past and make choices that will define a future for apes and humans alike. Starring alongside him is Durand's Proximus Caesar, the ruler of a coastal ape clan who seeks to secure dominance of the entire ape kingdom by appropriating human knowledge.

"We had so much on our plate in regards to taking on this physicality and filtering through these particular apes that we play," Thunder Bay-born Durand shares. "Playing in the world, our imagination was constantly working around the clock. When we were shooting, when we were just hanging out as friends. We were all just these creative people."

He continues, explaining his process to finding his ape identity and its physicality, "I think, in order to create a character that's so distant from who you are and yet similar as well, you really need to surrender to the process and trust that all the people around you are going to help guide you through it. I couldn't even imagine doing any of the ape stuff when I auditioned, because I was trying to figure out how [to] give the most compelling and truthful version of this character."

Teague reckons that, while his journey and arc is a big one, he grew to learn more about who Noa is and what he stands for: "My first impression was that he was a kid, and so I met him for the first time when he was still figuring stuff out. And then by the time I said goodbye, he was an adult, basically."

Teague's Noa bears qualities reminiscent to a young Caesar — something that the actor says he never really focused on as he played the young Noa.

"I wanted to make sure that I wasn't just doing a Caesar impression. I didn't want the voice to be the same, or the stance," Teague explains. "Caesar has a very powerful way of standing. He's got a really specific body language, and I wanted Noa to, honestly, feel chimp-ier — at the beginning of the film, at least. He does become more upright like Caesar throughout [the movie], which was part of the Proximus influence."

For Durand, the way Proximus walks and sounds was a process to create — but still, the character's development felt organic, "I had no idea what it was gonna sound like, until I started speaking like that," Durand says. "I like to throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see if it sticks."

He adds, "We're doing this body work and moving around trying to find Proximus's body. At that point, I think we're about three or four weeks in and I was really finding the body as he's trying so hard to walk more and more like a human and use his hands in an expressive way. Even the way that he smiles, he smiles like a human."

Alongside the physicality of Proximus, the ape's voice plays a massive part in capturing the character's presence on the screen and within the world. To find this voice, Durand turned to prominent public figures with distinctive voices of their own: "I was watching Tony Robbins, he has such a specific kind of a growl, and then even Elon Musk [and] Arnold Schwarzenegger. They're so specific [with] the way they sound. [Proximus] needed his own signature sound, and it just kind of just popped out of me."

A big part of the success of the Apes films has been the humanity of the primates highlighted by the talented actors behind those characters — a tradition that Durand and Teague both dutifully carry on for a new generation.

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