Ed Skrein describes the “complex cocktail” that is ‘Naked Singularity’

Ed Skrein as Craig in 'Naked Singularity.'
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A naked singularity is a hypothetical gravitational singularity without an event horizon. For most people, that probably doesn’t make perfect sense, but it can be compelling.

The same can be said about “Naked Singularity,” which comes from director Chase Palmer and is based loosely on the book written by Sergio De La Pava. The events that unfold in the book and the movie involve a legal drama, a heist escapade and some conspiracy theories sprinkled in with a bit of quizzical elements. The story, although complex, is bound together by compelling characters.

John Boyega takes on the role of the protagonist Casi, a public defender who is trying to right the wrongs of a corrupt legal system, but he faces lot of pushback. It’s through a friendship with a woman, Lea (Olivia Cooke), trying to right her own wrongs; a street guy with big ambitions Craig (Ed Skrein); and Casi’s own best friend with an even bigger agenda (Bill Skarsgård) that Casi is able to make an impact on the world.

Skrein’s character is introduced as the “bad boy,” one who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants, although he has a charm that makes you think otherwise. In his world full of conspiracy theories and life or death, he forges his way through this narrative that he describes as a “complex cocktail.” Just like a stiff drink, it hits you hard and you feel the effects long after, which makes it one interesting watch.

Skrein sat down to talk more about what went into making “Naked Singularity.”

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What was it about this role or film that made you want to sign on?

I’ve never read a script that was anything like this, as I’m sure you can imagine from watching it. I was like, what is this? What movie is this? Is it a heist movie? Is this a legal drama? Is this “Jackie Brown” or is this season two of “Serial?” There were lots of things which I found interesting about the kind of social commentary on the so-called justice system. I love when things have a message, but I [also] love when they don’t beat you over the head with it. That was what was interesting about it to me was, if we can get the tone right on this, this is something new. This is something I’ve never seen before and this is something I would love to watch. Obviously, the three other cast members were also people I could learn from and people I respect. I was looking forward to spending that time with them. I spoke with Chase [Palmer], we had a Skype straight after I’d read the script because I wanted to kind of work out what this was, and he was such a sweet, delicate, humble, intelligent, kind of analytical brain. I found him really interesting too. Then there’s the cherry on the ice cream, which is New York City. [It’s] a place which is so close to my heart, the only city in America which feels like home. It’s like London’s cousin, and to spend that time there in spring, that was just a joy. I brought my family over and [we were] really connected with the city.

What can you tell me about your character, Craig?

He was great fun, he was a riot. Working with the costume designer on his silver, Jordan space boots and his jeans tucked into his socks and bandana hanging out of his back pocket with the keys in it, the douchey hair— we had all of these props that added to the physicality of the character. It was a real riot to explore that, I’ve never had a character like him before. Of course, he’s from Staten Island and I’m not, but he’s a street guy and that I understand. He’s a character that I understood and I know that people like him. And obviously, it was kind of fun to dive into the conspiracy theories. It’s interesting that in the years since we filmed it QAnon and these conspiracy theories have really got legs, so someone like him actually is not as isolated and underground as we kind of felt he was when we were shooting it. Interestingly, I wonder if we would have made different decisions if we shot it now off of the experiences of the last year. I don’t know… I suppose if you shot every movie a different year, it would be different—that’s kind of the beauty of it. But he was just so much fun. Every day I’d be on set and I would just say, I have the [most fun] character, this guy is brilliant. In his own douchebag way, he’s great. The [uninhibited] characters are the ones you want to play, especially at this stage in my career.

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None of the characters in this film are really all good or all bad, they all get their hands dirty even when fighting for the good. Where does Craig fall into that sphere of everyone?

I think he’s the baddest out of all four—I don’t think he’s entirely bad, I think we can see that. I don’t know whether I’m being empathetic or pretentious by saying there’s clearly good in him and he’s a victim. His conditioning would have led him to this position and predicament and train of thought. He’s not all bad, but the kind of the trick with him was let’s make them [the audience] think he’s kind of good for as long as possible because once they find out what he did, I don’t think there’s much of a leg to stand on for him in terms of good versus bad, you know? He’s a troubled individual with a sprinkle of innocent charm. These are the characters you don’t want to meet in real life, but you want to watch on screen.

This film examines the legal system and its downfalls in our country. Being someone from the UK, what was it like to delve into this narrative and what are your takeaways?

Well, I’m glad you call it the legal system rather than the justice system because I don’t see too much justice. I’ll say it like this: I think it’s really interesting coming from an outsider’s lens. Some of the American characters I’ve stepped into, I’ve had to really try to understand emotionally, politically and sociologically what’s happening before I get out there to try and express it. With “If Beale Street Could Talk,” I was representing institutional racism 50 years ago. It was something I really had to look into… the institutional racism that we have in Britain is a really different dynamic. With “Midway,” I had to understand the American military. My grandparents were in the British Air Force, which is very different from Ford Island. But I suppose coming in and looking at the US legal system, I would like to think I come with no prejudice or judgment—it’s probably not true. But, I would like to think I’m able to come at it from a kind of neutral, analytical point of view and a somewhat objective point of view, if that is even possible with my conditioning and my sociological upbringing over here. I suppose I sum it up by saying I think sometimes it can help to get outside with analyzing.

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What are you hoping that audiences take away from the film?

I think the nature of the movie, it’s not one thing. It’s a complex cocktail. I kind of want people to come away  how I was when I first read the script saying, wow, what was that? I enjoyed that. I have no clue what that was, but I enjoyed it and I want to watch it again.The complexity of it, it’s kind of like a trifle: You’ve got the jelly layer, the custard, the fruit, and so they enjoy all the layers from it. I hope they feel sad and that we give some belly laughs and I hope they also enjoy Andre’s beautiful cinematography and that they enjoy my favorite character in the movie—New York City.

‘Naked Singularity’ opened in NYC August 6th and will open wide in theaters and hit On Demand August 13th

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