Pom Klementieff feels the love as Mantis in Guardians Vol. 2
Pom Klementieff isn’t terribly well known to U.S. audiences, but she may be soon once everyone sees her as Mantis in both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and Avengers: Infinity War. The actress was universally praised by director James Gunn, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, and others as the breakout star of the upcoming Marvel sequel. And that’s saying a lot considering she’ll appear alongside Baby Groot. When we visited the set in April 2016, Pom was in her Mantis costume with two little stubs on her forehead that would eventually be replaced with CG antennae. As we spoke with her about her character, she had to delicately dance around spoilers. But we found her to be funny, passionate about her character, and maybe a little eccentric like her empathic alter-ego.
Q: I’ll just start with the basics. Can you tell us about Mantis and who she is and what she’s doing in this movie?
Pom Klementieff: So, she’s an alien. And she’s always with – at the beginning, she’s spent her life with Kurt Russell’s character. She was pretty lonely and then she meets the Guardians and… that’s it. She has empathic powers, so it’s connected with feelings and emotions.
Q: We heard that she has a connection with Drax in particular. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Klementieff: They get along. They just – there is a friendship going on and they just click, you know?
Q: What is your relationship like with Peter Quill?
Klementieff: Um, I don’t know if I can talk about that! It’s a surprise! It’s going to be in the movie.
Q: What kind of fighting does your character do?
Klementieff: It’s a James [Gunn] interpretation of what he relates to from the comic books. So, it’s slightly different from the comic books.
Q: Is it martial arts? That kind of stuff?
Klementieff: Hmmm. It’s different… [Laughs]
Q: Can you talk a little bit more about her empathic powers, what that means exactly and how they manifest in the movie?
Klementieff: She can change emotions…
Q: Other people’s emotions?
Klementieff: Yes. [Laughs] I don’t want to give too much. There is not a lot of things to say about that. She feels things, you know, by touching people. So she can feel things and change emotions.
Q: What’s her relationship like with Kurt’s character? I don’t mean specifically, but how do they interact? Do they work together? What is their sort of… Why is she with him?
Klementieff: She’s like his right hand. She travels with him, and she’s an ally. It’s not like she works for him, but, yeah, she’s always with him.
Q: What’s it like working with a legend like Kurt Russell?
Klementieff: Oh, it’s amazing! He’s amazing. He’s really nice. He’s really funny. He’s really professional, and it’s great to see him work and to see someone who’s done so many movies and who’s so down to Earth, it’s great. They’re all like that in this movie. I feel really lucky.
Q: Kevin [Feige] told us that she hasn’t really met a lot of other people before she meets the Guardians, and so she’s a little bit awkward.
Klementieff: Yes, exactly! There’s an awkwardness and a curiosity and… how do you say? She wants to discover new things, but, you know, she’s not an artisan but kind of, she was really lonely and by herself, so it’s a completely new thing to meet these people and to discover new things and new emotions and a new way of sharing things.
Q: How did you figure out the right way to convey that and still make her really likable to the audience?
Klementieff: To convey what?
Q: The kind of curiosity and that whole experience for her of encountering these people and learning all this…
Klementieff: I don’t know. I think it’s like a kid, you know? You discover things and you’re curious about things and you make mistakes and you say weird things or you’re awkward. And I think in a way it’s touching when you see someone do that. You’re like, “Oh! OK, you’re not really adapted to this society.” But it’s kind of cute or touching or—“What is that?” You know?
Q: So, it’s not a hostile first interaction with the Guardians?
Klementieff: Uhhhh, no. I didn’t say that.
Q: Does she get into Peter Quill’s music? It brings so much emotion out of him, I would imagine it would have an affect on her too. The music he listens to, the mix tapes.
Klementieff: I don’t think there is a connection with the mix tape. [Laughs]
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the makeup for your character?
Klementieff: Ah, the makeup! So, there is some CGI going on, that’s why I have dots on my face. [Laughs] So I’m not going to look like that. And my antennae are going to be bigger with CGI. So, I’m not moving them, it’s going to be the CGI job to move them. So, I hope they’re going to do a good job!
Q: You mentioned that James is approaching this character in his own way. She has a long history in the comics. Did you look at any of that stuff? Or are you approaching it really clean and just from James’ vision?
Klementieff: You’re going to think that I’m crazy, but I haven’t read the comic books. I wanted to and I asked James if I should and he said, “No, you don’t need to.” Because I knew his version was so different from the pictures and drawings that I saw, that, you know, it would kind of f**k up the– you know? But I remember when I had the audition, I was creating a character in my mind, in my head and reading the lines, I knew like which way I wanted it to be and it’s so well written that it was a really different flavor. When I saw the pictures on the Internet, I was like, “What?! She has to be like this? Really?! No!!” And I cried, I was like, “No! It has to be like this! His vision has to be more”- – I don’t know what to say. I don’t want the character to be, like, sexual and, like, usually they’re always like that. The girls are always like – [Acts sexy] And it was interesting because it was different. I think we’re creating something different.
Q: Kevin mentioned that the audition process is pretty long.
Klementieff: It was a first audition with the casting director and then a second one with the casting director and James, and then the third one was a screen test here in Atlanta.
Q: What separates her from all the other – because this movie has a lot of females in it. A lot of powerful females in it. So what do you think separates her from everyone else? What does she do differently?
Klementieff: There’s something more strange, maybe. She comes from a different world and she’s less… I don’t know. There’s like something less sexual, I would say. Or more awkward, yeah?
Q: So, she’s like an awkward sort of presence? Is that why she gets along with Drax?
Klementieff: Yeah, I think so. [Laughs] They’re a little bit off, you know?
Q: Is there any romantic dynamic between her and Drax?
Klementieff: You’ll see! You’ll see!
Q: Does she have a personal character journey, in addition to the big picture mission? Is there anything about her that needs to change over the course of the movie, other than just learning things? Like a personal character arc?
Klementieff: No, I don’t think so.
Q: Who’s her family? Does she have parents? Is she like an adopted sort of daughter of Kurt Russell’s character?
Klementieff: Um– [Publicist: “We don’t want to get into too much of that.”]
Q: Because I know family is a big theme in this movie, and I feel like every character has some sort of connection to something that they lost.
Klementieff: Yeah, yeah, it’s true. Yeah, there’s some like adoption and some loneliness going on, but I can’t really, like, explain everything.
Q: Can you tell us what’s happening today? What you’re doing today? Sort of, what we’re going to be seeing later on and what your role in today’s shooting in?
Klementieff: Today, it’s not really big for my character. I’m just with Kurt Russell. But I can’t really say what I’m doing, right? [Publicist: “Yeah, it’s a little bit of a spoiler. You probably don’t want to say that part.”]
Q: What’s it like joining this Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has just grown exponentially in these last few years?
Klementieff: It’s amazing! I feel really lucky and really happy. I’m really happy to work with James, he’s a wonderful human being. He has a big heart, and he created something really beautiful and really badass and fun and cool. It’s a beautiful story.
Q: With this movie being about family and the ability to experience other people’s emotions and change those emotions, how much does she become integral to the emotional growth of the characters? If they close off, does she help them connect?
Klementieff: She – I don’t know. It’s hard, all these questions. I just like go with my guts when I do things, I don’t really explain things. But I know that I have to answer your questions and I’m trying to do my best! I don’t know what to say.
Q: How does she interact with Rocket and Groot, because Rocket is a very angry character? Does that rub off on her?
Klementieff: Yes! There is a funny moment, but I can’t really tell. She’s trying to connect with him and it doesn’t really work. [Laughs]
Q: We saw some concept art of your character kicking some ass with the Guardians. Can you talk a little about that, about your character with the Guardians in the middle of everything?
Klementieff: I look really badass on it, but am I in the movie? Hm, I don’t know.
Q: What’s your character’s greatest strength and greatest weakness?
Klementieff: Oh my god. [Laughs] Greatest strength? It’s her power to be able to read people and to change them, and her weakness, maybe, would be the past. And what she accepted for a long time in her past.
Q: She’s haunted by her past?
Klementieff: I mean, haunted, we all have f**ked up things that happened to us in the past, but we just, like, go with it, you know?
Q: Two of the best characters in the movies are on set played by guys in green suits. Is it sort of hard to do a scene against Sean Gunn on his knees as Rocket? Is it weird?
Klementieff: He’s amazing! It’s funny how he can, like, fold himself and he’s great. He’s a great actor. No, it’s weird, but it’s really technical when you are in a movie. Sometimes instead of an actor, you have to talk to something that is next to the camera, because it gives a better angle for the shot. When you’re an actor, you have to imagine. You have to do “as if” and you have to imagine things, like, “Oh there is something coming here! Or, You’re in a beautiful countryside. It’s beautiful. There is a tree there. There are birds.” And then you imagine stuff, so it’s kind of the same. Sorry, I said a word in French. So, it’s kind of like an extension of that.
Q: With her powers to not only read but manipulate emotion, something from the comics saw Mantis sort of control the other Guardians in a way that kind of split them up…
Q: Does she have her own agenda in like, manipulating the other characters?
Klementieff: Hmmm. [Laughs] I don’t want to give too much.[Gallery not found]