Exclusive Q&A: Taylor Kitsch Heading For a Big 'Bang'

Taylor Kitsch
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Taylor Kitsch's career is about to go bang! And that's a good thing.

The "Friday Night Lights" alum has parlayed his gig in the critically acclaimed television series into a number of big-screen roles, including that of Gambit in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." But in "The Bang Bang Club," which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival, he's getting deeply serious.

Kitsch trades his football and beer for a camera and substance of a decidedly stronger nature in "Bang Bang Club." He's the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Kevin Carter, one of a quartet of snappers who dared to capture the fall of apartheid in South Africa in 1994. Although Carter died shortly after winning the coveted prize for an image depicting a little girl starving to death as a vulture looked on, Kitsch clearly felt a deep connection to his real-life counterpart.

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Kevin faced a real moral dilemma upon winning the Pulitzer – people questioned whether or not he should have acted and saved the girl rather than just snapping the picture. What do you think he should have done?

It's an endless debate. Obviously, I'm biased. I feel incredibly close to him and this story. You never know what you're going to do in those situations… You don't hear about the time that Kev did save someone... or that Joao [another of the photographers, played by Neels Van Jaarsveld] did something that wasn't photojournalist-like that brought them out of a fire. There's so many other things that they did positively as well, you just never hear of that.

We were debating this on set, believe it! Joao [the real guy] pointed out that you have to understand that there's a sense of being a photojournalist and doing your job and being honest to that and, yes, you're very conscious of your surroundings. But you've also got to be conscious about not turning into that vigilante guy that's grabbing the gun, reaching for the first aid if someone's hurt – you can't do it all. You've got to have trust in your surroundings and let the professionals do that. If you start taking that role upon yourselves, you're probably putting everyone else in more danger.

Ultimately, Kevin is torn by the dilemma and commits suicide less than a year after winning the Pulitzer. How did you handle this?

He's an empathetic guy and was incredibly affected. We're all human, so I think we'd all be affected one way or another, it's just a matter of how we deal with it, our coping mechanisms, and if we can.

His thing was night terrors and the father that he wanted to be and just wasn't. With the drugs and looking up to Ken Oosterbroek [another of the photographers, who dies on the job] the way he did and losing Ken. I think all these things that just came together into one last thing, which was his suicide.

Personally, I don't know.

With this film and with "Friday Night Lights" – you seem to be taking on these roles that are in these smaller stories that speak to a bigger picture of who we are. Is that something you look for?

Absolutely. Playing me would be boring. Believe it. As an actor, I think it's all about the escape. It's all about really enveloping yourself with someone or something and telling a story. That's why I get into it. This is a dream role. I hope that people really see Kev for the full spectrum – I hope you're on my emotional ride. And that's my challenge. It's a very fulfilling thing, as taxing and wrenching as it can be, it's a very fulfilling to have to opportunity to play. The worst feeling in the world for me would be walking away from this and thinking I could've done more.

Looking forward, your upcoming drug cartel drama "Savages" really seems to be coming together – what can you tell us about it?

I'm really excited, to be honest with you. Just to engage with Oliver Stone is going to be amazing and we've got a killer cast and there's a lot going on with [my character] Chon, so I can't wait to dive into it.

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Chon's a pot grower, Kevin had a drug addition, Riggins was a boozer – I'm sensing a theme here. What do you do to get into those kinds of headspaces? And, no, I'm not asking if you sample their drugs of choice.

[Laughs]. No, I'm not that method. Losing weight was enough for Kevin. And smoking – I'd never smoked a cigarette until I played this cat.

I don't really research the drug, I research why they do it. Same with Riggs – why does he drink? Yeah, he drinks, but why? Why does he go to the fridge every time there's something going on? Why do you need to escape? And once I really get that, which is an incredible amount of research and work, then you can put me in anything.

With Chon, it's like, why is he as jaded as he is? Why does he only trust two people on this planet? That's the homework. That's going and living with Navy SEALS and enveloping yourself with that whole lifestyle and then creating something. Chon's fictional, so I have some good things I'm going to definitely put into him.

Any news on a Gambit movie?

Nothing at the moment. Down the line, maybe.