A Conversation with Dean O’Gorman
On the last day of Dragon Con, I got to sit down and have a great, laid-back interview with Dean O’Gorman, who played Fili in the Hobbit trilogy and also starred as Anders Johnson in the New Zealand TV show The Almighty Johnsons.
This was was a great way to wrap up my press coverage at Dragon Con 2015, and I’m so thankful to Dean for taking the time out of his busy schedule to sit and talk with me that evening!
Tara: What was your favorite thing about being in The Hobbit movies?
Dean: The favorite thing about being in the movie was being in the movie. You know, jobs like that don’t come along very often. Even if you – I work all the time, as an actor, but that kind of scale on a project – that also, a project that people know a lot about. You know, ’cause The Lord of the Rings was obviously before us. We were walking into an area that had been well-explored by the public. So it was quite, sort of remarkable to feel like you were stepping into part of this existing sort of legacy, I guess, if you will. And it was amazing. A huge budget, so many locations, so many people. And yet it all felt very sort of familial and fun. You know, it didn’t have like an overriding, awful seriousness about it, which could have easily happened.
T: What was your favorite thing about your character?
D: I think Fili’s sort of – in terms of character – someone that you would… The traits of this character are traits that, as a person, you know, you would like to emulate or have. He’s loyal, he’s responsible, he’s fair, he’s pretty good with some swords. So it was nice to play a character that sort of had a stronger moral compass than I do. [laughs]
T: You talked about the different filming locations. I know that you were on The Almighty Johnsons while The Hobbit was filming.
D: Yeah, kind of. We did one season, and then I did The Hobbit, and then we had a break from The Hobbit, and then over that break I shot the second season. And then we finished The Hobbit, and then I shot the third. And then I think we went back, and I’d finished The Hobbit. So it was sort of back and forth.
T: So with the back and forth and everything, was that like… I can’t imagine traveling that much. Did they have to make any changes?
D: They had to write my character with having facial hair. That was, like, a non-negotiable thing. And they had to – not the third season, because they filmed over a period of time where I wasn’t working, but the second season they had to jam all my story lines into about three weeks of filming. So I sort of finished The Hobbit and went onto the set of Johnsons and did that. And then went back on The Hobbit. So I was feeling tired.
T: What’s your favorite thing, then, about being on [The Almighty Johnsons] and the character, and how does it compare to being in such a big film?
D: In terms of technically, it doesn’t really compare. But at the end of the day, once you’re in front of the camera, and you’re doing a scene, it is all very similar in its own sort of way. Except obviously the scale behind The Hobbit was so much bigger. But I loved doing The Johnsons, too, because I love working in New Zealand. I love working in New Zealand, ’cause I live there, and you know, my friends are there, and it’s a beautiful place to film. It’s a smaller cast and crew, and again, we all got along really well, which for me is kind of the most important thing. I mean, it’s great if the film that you’re working on turns out to be good, ’cause that’s satisfying in itself. But I like the process, and if the process is fun, that sort of to me is almost more important. And the process of doing The Johnsons was just great.
T: Is this your first time at Dragon Con?
D: It is, yes.
T: How are you enjoying it?
D: I’m really enjoying it, actually. […] But I did not know what to expect at all. And people were like, “Oh Dragon Con,” when I said I was going to it. And when I walked through the lobby of the Marriott at like 12:30 on Thursday night, and it was packed, it was like a frat party, and I thought, “My god, what have I got myself into?” But actually everybody’s really lovely. I don’t know if that’s just specific to Tolkien fans or what, but I find the people here are always really nice and respectful and lovely, you know? I guess if they don’t like your character, they’re not gonna talk to you. But […] there’s a real lack of haters that I meet. Which is nice.
T: Especially with [Peter] Jackson, he brought to life these books that I grew up reading, and seeing them on film – even with the differences and everything – it’s a huge thing.
D: And they definitely like to show that the filming of it was a very big, friendly… You know, we all got along, and I think that’s also part of what appeals to people. Because when they want to ask us about the job, it’s always about little behind-the-scenes stuff, or how did you get along with them. They like the fact that we all got along, I think, as well.
T: I was going to say, do you have any cool stories or anything? Especially if they involve – there are so many characters that overlap between the two. Do you have any favorite stories?
D: I have so many. So many. I mean, yeah. Tons.
T: I’ve been back and forth with press, so I haven’t been able to go to any of your panels this weekend.
D: Honestly, I’m not being flippant. It’s hard to answer those questions, because I think I did two hundred and something days on set over a period of, I think, almost three years. Or two-and-a-half years. So it’s a huge chunk of time. And you’ve got to remember that when we filmed it wasn’t like, it wasn’t like a soap opera where you turn up and you’re in the same studio or the same couple of studios, day in, day out. Every time we were on set, it was different. And the story was always evolving and we were always shooting different stuff and so there’s such a wealth of experiences. It’s very hard to sort of pick.
T: You guys filmed in so many beautiful places. Did you have a favorite place?
D: We shot most of it in Wellington. Yeah, just anywhere on the South Island. I mean you can throw a stick in South Island and you’ll hit something beautiful. It’s really, really pretty.
Did you get to meet Dean O’Gorman at Dragon Con, or attend any of his panels? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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