Meet Dink Meeker! Khylin Rhambo co-stars in this sci-fi adventure, in theaters this weekend
Summit Entertainment's upcoming sci-fi adaptation Ender's Game features an immensely talented cast of both respected veteran performers (Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis) and young rising stars (Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin). Among all these well-known names, young and old, is 17-year-old Khylin Rhambo, who makes his feature film debut as Dink Meeker, one of Ender's few friends during his Battle School training. I recently had the chance to speak with Khylin Rhambo over the phone about his experiences on such an immense production, working with some of the biggest names in the industry and much more. Take a look at what he had to say.
Can you talk a bit about your familiarity with the (Orson Scott Card) book before you signed on?
Khylin Rhambo: Oh, I never even heard about the book until I auditioned for it. Once I figured out I was going forward with it, I made a point to start reading it. I was actually instructed to do so, and after reading it, I could really understand why someone would want to make a movie out of it. I heard about it from an English teacher of mine, but other than that, I had never even read it. I loved it.
This story has been such a classic and so beloved for so many years. Did you feel that that they had a good version of this story for modern-day audiences, after reading the book?
Khylin Rhambo: Yeah, I do. The book still has some things that are relevant today, like the technology and all of that stuff. I definitely do think that they made it a lot more modern. The visual effects have definitely improved. They're showing the technical things that Ender goes through, with his battle simulations and all that. It's a very visually stimulating movie, I think.
Can you talk a bit about your character? He's one of the few who becomes friends with Ender. Did you have a lot of time to meet with Asa on the set before you started shooting?
Khylin Rhambo: My character's name is Dink Meeker, and he was in the Battle School before Ender. They kind of come together because they have the same goals, to save the Earth. Dink sees the potential in Ender, and Ender relates to Dink in their views, so that's how they kind of form this friendship. Actually, me and Asa are really friends outside of this. There's no faking involved, chemistry-wise. It's going to be a pretty cool dynamic to see both characters interact with each other, because it's real.
Coming from a TV background, it must be kind of overwhelming to step onto these massive sets. What was it like taking all of that in for the first time, seeing the world they created on the set?
Khylin Rhambo: When I first arrived on the set, it was still being built, so I saw the beginning. Once it was completely developed, it didn't even feel like I was in the same world, to be honest with you. It was definitely overwhelming and surreal, because they worked so hard to create this environment. It required less work for us. We had to use our imagination with the green screen, of course, but other than that, we were definitely in the world of Ender's Game.
I imagine you had a good idea about what these special effects should would look like on the set, but can you talk about your reaction to the finished product, and how it compared to your experience on the set?
Khylin Rhambo: If it wasn't for (director) Gavin (Hood), I don't know what would have happened. Everyone has a different imagination, and we all don't see the same thing in our head, but Gavin built the foundation and knew exactly what was going on, and got us completely in the zone. With Gavin's help, we were all kind of seeing the same thing. Once I actually did see the trailers and the sneak peeks, I realized, 'Wow, that's what we were looking at.' It's almost spot-on, and it was amazing to see our imagination come to life. That was awesome.
As a young actor, getting the chance to work with legends like Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis, was there anything in particular that you took away from their work ethic, or how they conduct themselves on the set, that you'll always remember?
Khylin Rhambo: You know, it's not anything specific that I took away, but it was more like their energies, their vibe on set. It literally rubbed off on me and the other actors as well. They brought this maturity to the set that I had never experienced. I have never worked with people of that caliber before, so being around them definitely helped me become a better actor. I just saw their professionalism and how serious they took it, and it made me want to do the same. I'm totally blessed to be able to work with such legends.
I read that you and your family used to act out movies in the living room as a kid. Is there anything that you still take from those early days, when you were still discovering your love for cinema, that will always stick with you?
Khylin Rhambo: Ever since I was younger, I always loved sci-fi films. I've always wanted to be a part of something that cool, or be a superhero or something. It's kind of crazy that I've already accomplished one of my life goals already, to help save the world in a sci-fi film. It was surreal because I grew up loving this stuff, and I still love it.
Is there anything you can say about Gavin's style on the set, and how he works with actors your age?
Khylin Rhambo: He's like the guru. He meshed everything together. When we were filming, if we were unsure of ourselves or had any questions, after we spoke with him, there was a sense of confidence he gave all of us. For the young actors, he knew exactly the right words to say, the right energy to give off. Sometimes, he was really nice, sometimes he had to be firm, sometimes he was gentle. He was very strategic in the way he interacted with all of us, and he brought the best out of every individual actor. I think that's a tremendous skill, because he didn't interact with everyone the same way, because everyone isn't the same. He kind of conformed to each of our individual personalities, and it took a lot of genius to do that. I have a lot of respect for Gavin, because if it wasn't for him, Ender's Game wouldn't be as big as it's going to be.
On a set like this with so many cool props, there might be a temptation to walk away with a souvenir after production wraps. I'm not saying you did, but if you were to lift something from the set, what would you like to take with you as a memento?
Khylin Rhambo: Oh, yeah. The flash guns. Those are amazing. There's a scene where it's me and Bonzo (Moises Arias) and Fly Molo (Brandon Soo Hoo), we're all sitting at this bunk and undoing the flash guns. The prop master taught me how to take apart the flash gun and put it back together, how you do in the Army. That was amazing because it's so intricate. It's not just a prop. They really have magnets on there and it was so real. The only thing that was missing was the electrical current that shoots out of the gun. That is one thing that I would have loved to take home, that and the flash suits, because those are just amazing in itself.
Is there anything that you're working on now or that you're close to signing on to, that you can talk about?
Khylin Rhambo: I filmed an episode, a guest star role on Ironside, and that should be coming out at the end of October.
As far as what you want to do more of in the future, are you more drawn to a film like this, or the TV side? Or do you like having a balance and doing both?
Khylin Rhambo: I enjoy both, I will say. I love to act in general, but being a part of that film set the bar pretty high. If every film is going to be like that, I would love to do just strictly film. I know every film is going to be as great an experience as Ender's Game, but I do prefer movies, because that was a great experience and it has a lot of character development. I have a great appreciation for film. I've been watching movies as early as I've been able to comprehend them, so I'd love to be in just movies.
I read that you have a three-picture deal for any possible sequels. Would you like to just jump right into the sequel as soon as possible?
Khylin Rhambo: That would be absolutely amazing, to just jump straight into the second one. Actually, right now, I don't know what's going on here. We have to wait and see how Ender's Game 1 does, but in a perfect world, that's what we'll be doing, going straight to the sequels. We'll see what the future holds.
What would you like to say to anyone who might be on the fence about going to see Ender's Game, about why they should check it out in theaters November 1?
Khylin Rhambo: Aside from the breathtakingly beautiful visual effects, there's also more to the story. Those who want to see not just the action and the explosions, people who want to see depth and great performances, Asa did a tremendous job in portraying Ender, and there's a lot of depth to this film. There's a lot of leadership qualities, there are things about who to trust and who not to trust, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. It's going to be a cool film for all those kinds of people, people who want to see depth and more than the explosions and visuals. It's also for families. It would be a great movie to see with your parents and cousins and all that. I want everybody to see it.
That's about all I have. Thanks so much. It was great talking to you.
Khylin Rhambo: Thank you.