INTERVIEW: Rotimi Paul Talks The First Purge

Rotimi Paul
Photo Credit: Dave Krugman

In 2013, The Purge introduced us to a very novel concept: across the USA, for one night a year, all crime is legal. Before we can begin debating the socio-economic ramifications of such a stark piece of government legislation, the film depicted its likely outcomes: carnage, mayhem, and death. Indeed, The Purge offered citizens the opportunity to exercise their base instincts, taking revenge on those they deemed to have wronged them by horrific means, be it a competitive co-worker, unfaithful spouse, or even a smug neighbour.

The Purge has spawned two sequels that have expanded upon the first entry’s claustrophobic setting by showcasing the wider chaos created and the Machiavellian machinations at work within the government to try and preserve it. However, the origins of The Purge itself, while touched upon in the film series, have not been fully explained. This is something the upcoming aptly titled The First Purge will remedy. This franchise entry will examine the scenario that led to the creation of The Purge, depict its initial implementation, and explain exactly how it became a nationwide event.

In preparation for the release of The First Purge, I was able to chat with actor Rotimi Paul, who will be playing the influential character “Skeletor” in the upcoming film.

What made you want to be in The First Purge? Was there a particular aspect of The Purge franchise that drew you in?
My character, Skeletor, is the main reason I really wanted to be a part of this project. Before I got to know anyone that was a part of making the film, I got to read the script; that was what drew me in. It was a script that held no punches.

Each of The Purge films has a different setting or theme: the first is a “home invasion” flick, the second shows the wider chaos The Purge creates, and the third proves that no one is safe. What new themes does this movie convey?
This film examines how ‘we’ as a society got to this point of a Purge Night. We get to see what it took to get there and what the immediate fallout was.

How does your character “Skeletor” fit into the film’s narrative? What did you enjoy most about playing this character?
Skeletor fits in to the film’s narrative by providing the audience an example of what opportunity can do for someone who feels overlooked or unheard. We get to see what lengths a person may be willing to go if presented with the right opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed Skeletor, but what I appreciated most was his freedom to do and say whatever he felt in the moment.

How did you approach the character of Skeletor? Is there a particular method you uses to get into character?
I did my best to approach Skeletor with care and understanding. Needing to understand his circumstance allowed me to craft his motivations. I went into preparing a deep backstory and then paired that with a sonic landscape that I thought suited him by making a playlist specific to his mood and experience.

Without giving anything away, are there any standout scenes in The First Purge you think viewers will especially enjoy?
There are many standout scenes that I think viewers will enjoy. There are many actors in this that turned in amazing performances. I walked away from this experience with such a huge level of respect and admiration for my costars. I would watch them do their work and just be incredibly excited at the monitors. There are probably going to be a lot of gifs and memes that enter the culture because of some of the memorable scenes from the film. I can’t wait to see how right I am about that one.

With the recent shift in the horror genre, thanks to distinctive films such as Get Out, A Quiet Place, and even The Purge series, do you think horror films have entered a new renaissance?
I do, I think we are definitely in a time of smarter, more culturally significant films in the horror space. I think we are also in a time of great variety within the genre.

You have spent time both in front of and behind the camera; is there a specific part of the filmmaking process that you enjoy the most?
My love for shaping and creating characters still lives at the forefront of my being, and I will, honestly, probably always be an actor first because of what the process does for me personally. However, I definitely see myself directing films in the not-too-distant future.

Tell us a little bit about what you have coming up next.
I’m going to let my journey be led by my quest for challenging, interesting, inspiring characters.

One final, fun question: if you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Time travel, so that I could go back and talk to my mom. I’d ask her if she was proud of me.

The First Purge is released in cinemas on July 4th, 2018. Please all take time to appreciate the delicious irony there.

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