PORTLAND, Oregon — Team Edward, Team Jacob or Team Switzerland? It’s a preference that defines Twilighters far better than boxers or briefs, paper or plastic, and Democrat or Republican. Either you’re one of the dazzled minions who long to become Robert Pattinson’s personal spider monkey , a Swiss-like non-committer caught in the middle or one of those rebels who wish that Bella would look to a different side of her love triangle.
In “Twilight,” Jacob Black is a handsome, wise-beyond-his-years teen who responds to Bella’s flirtations by coughing up key information about the town’s vampires. Sixteen-year-old Taylor Lautner is an equally handsome heartthrob who approached the MTV crew when we visited the set , eager to spill the beans on his new role. Days before the “Sharkboy and Lavagirl” child actor would begin his first grown-up performance, he made his case for Team Jacob conversions. (Head over to the MTV Movies Blog to find out how Lautner plans to buff up for “New Moon.”)
MTV: Give us the breakdown on your character.
Taylor Lautner: Well, Jacob Black is a Native American. He’s part of the Quileute tribe. He eventually turns into a werewolf, which is really cool. I love the contrast between the Native American side of him and the werewolf.
MTV: How so?
Lautner: His Native American side … he is very friendly and outgoing. He loves Bella and is very loyal to Bella and his dad. But on the werewolf side, they’re very fierce and just attacking, and they have this huge temper. So there’s a lot of stress and things going on inside him as he’s trying to keep his temper to himself. I love that part, which Stephenie [Meyer, on whose novel the movie is based] created, with the contrast between the Native American side and the werewolf side of him.
MTV: I heard you got your driver’s license recently. Congratulations!
Lautner: I did recently get my driver’s license, yeah. Thank you.
MTV: I also heard that you’ve come to set early, partially to show the producers that you’re a good driver before they put you behind the wheel.
Lautner: Yeah. I’ve got my license in my back pocket to show them I’m Ok and that I won’t kill them … hopefully. [He laughs.] I’m going to test out driving Bella’s truck and my family’s truck. One of them is an automatic, so that will be nice and easy. The other one has no power steering, so I’ll have to muscle it. That will be interesting. I’ve never done that before.
MTV: I haven’t seen Jacob’s truck on set yet. Where is it?
Lautner: My truck is back in Portland. When I drive home from here to my hotel, we’re going to make a stop there, and I’ll get to drive that one.
MTV: Will driving it help you feel like you’re officially Jacob?
Lautner: Yeah. It’s really old and beat-up, and that’s the one without the power steering. So I’m going to be driving with my [real-life] dad right next to me, and that should be interesting. We want to make sure I get used to it, so it looks natural.
MTV: Have you done any research on Native American culture?
Lautner: I actually had a meeting with Quileute tribal members yesterday! I interviewed them and just wanted to get to know them. One thing they do that I noticed is they don’t need to be told to what to do. If the trash is getting full, they empty it out. They’re always helping each other. They’re always there for each other. So I just want to make sure I can bring that part of Jacob alive.
MTV: For a little while, the Twilighters were intent on having a Native American actor play Jacob.
Lautner: I know! And actually, I am part Native American. We learned that through [preparing for] this film. I’m French, Dutch and German, and on my mother’s side, she has some Potawatomi and Ottawa Indian in her.
MTV: What else do you need to do to get ready?
Lautner: I’ve got to get used to my [onscreen] dad’s wheelchair, so [that pushing it] looks very natural, like I’ve always done this my whole life. … I believe Gil Birmingham, who’s playing my dad, is coming in tomorrow, so I will be talking to him a lot.
MTV: What is your favorite Jacob line?
Lautner: It’s not in the first book, but the quote I love the most is Jacob’s quote, “Does my half being naked bother you?” That quote just cracks me up. Because you know, that’s when he’s shirtless, not wearing a top — we’ll have to wait to see what he looks like.
MTV: So you’re eager to deliver that line?
Lautner: Exactly. I am eager.
MTV: Well, here’s your chance: Want to look in the camera and deliver that line?
Lautner: [He laughs.] “Does my half being naked bother you?”
MTV: I think you just got a lot of teenage girls very excited.
Lautner: Yeah, we’ll have to wait for that one. [He winks.]
Check out everything we’ve got on “Twilight.”
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.