What was the sell for you when this project came to you: was it David Simon, was it Nick? Was it something else?
It was a little bit of everything. Our director Paul Haggis said a really smart thing for a director to say to an actor like myself: “I want you to do this because I have no idea how you'd do it.” And that appealed to my sense of creativity, and it's a challenge. The gauntlet is thrown down, and it’s “All right what can you do?” and obviously I read the script and thought it was interesting but it really wasn't until I saw a video of Nick, and that was basically it. I saw a video of him walking up to the microphone, and it was in front of the Supreme Court and everybody was yelling at each other and he's trying to get in, and he’s waiting to go speak, and everyone's kind of towering above him and there was just something about his energy and the way he held himself, the way he was talking, which was both fiery and heartbreaking.
What's happening with "The Promise" with Christian Bale?
We start shooting next month, and it’s from Terry George, the great writer and director. He did "Hotel Rwanda" and "Reservation Road" and this is about the genocide that happened in Armenia from 1915-1917. It follows this doctor, that I play, who gets caught up in the tide of war and Christian Bale plays a reporter from the Untied States and he’s out there trying to get the world to see what's happening there.
It's kind of great to watch your career because you're now doing both smaller films and large franchises. Are you consciously trying to have a foot in both worlds or is this a lucky circumstance?
You can't really plan that stuff out. I don’t know how you could, especially not me. I was just fortunate enough that things came around when they did, and they seemed cool enough for me to want to get involved with them. I like acting, so it was just fun to try different styles, and I definitely like a good challenge, so I look for stuff that I haven't done before.
And what have you learned and taken away from your experiences making "X-Men: Apocalypse" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"?
You use different tools, different approaches. With 'X-Men' it was great because there’s an embodiment of such big ideas, you’re not working in the realm of naturalism. And just because something's natural doesn’t mean that it's interesting — and I think Kubrick knew that very well. Sometimes it’s fun to push performance into other places that is not just about the same kind of verité thing. You can go to heightened places in a Greek tragedy or kabuki kind of way. You have these forms that express more than just an individual’s personality. And that’s been really fun to play with in 'X-Men.' With 'Star Wars' it’s similar things, you're playing in such a heightened reality that in that regard sometimes simplicity is your strength. Instead of getting out all the colors, you focus on the primary colors, and keep it simple and direct.