At just 13 years old, Ty Simpkins has already put together an impressive body of work in a very short amount of time. After starring on the soap opera The Guiding Light for five years, he moved on to features with roles in Little Children, Pride and Glory and Revolutionary Road, before his big breakthrough as young Dalton Lambert in the horror-thriller Insidious. From there, he more than held his own on screen alongside Hollywood heavyweights such as Russell Crowe in The Next Three Days and Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3, before returning to The Further in Insidious Chapter 2. The actor takes on the role of a lifetime as Gray, a dinosaur-obsessed boy in the highly-anticipated Jurassic World, which hits theaters today (check out my full review). I recently had the chance to speak with Ty Simpkins about working with his on-screen big brother, Nick Robinson, director Colin Trevorrow, getting driving lessons on the Hawaii set and which prop he'd like to take home. Check out our conversation below.
Ty Simpkins: Oh, I was a baby, a little bitty baby, and my brother and sister always had it on, so I would just watch it.
When a role like this comes around, did you have a lot of time to prep and meet with Nick?
Ty Simpkins: I think it came instantly. We only filmed eight days in Oahu, and we were there for a month and a half, so we hung out every day, kayaking, hiking, surfing.
I know that (director) Colin Trevorrow wanted to get as much in camera as possible, and I know there are a lot of effects with the dinosaurs, but were you surprised there was so much in camera, or were you expecting a lot of green screen?
Ty Simpkins: Yeah, I was expecting a lot of green screen, but when Colin said there were going to be a lot of sets, I thought that was pretty cool. There was the original Jurassic Park center, that was a set, and everything, really. There was hardly any green screen.
Is there a particular behind-the-scenes moment for you that will always stick out when you look back on this? Moments with the cast, pranks, anything like that?
I thought the brotherly relationship between you and Nick Robinson was great. Can you talk a bit about just working with him and getting to play off of him?
Ty Simpkins: Yeah, Nick is great. We spent some time together in Hawaii and we'd get lunch together and hang out. One day we went down to the beach and there was this person, every hour they would come back, and they were trying to advertise their boat service, and we'd always mimic her because her voice was just so annoying (laughs). We also went whale watching, which was fun... but we didn't see any whales. We went snorkeling and that was really fun, but it was my first time and when I first got in the water, I freaked out and got back on the boat, but I went back and it was very calming and very peaceful.
Your character is very much into this world of dinosaurs, so was there any research on your part before you started shooting?
Ty Simpkins: No, because everything I needed to know was in the script. In the new Visitor's Center, there are all of these information cards on different dinosaurs, so I went through there and I just spent hours reading them to get to know more of these dinosaurs. I learned that the mosasaurus is a pescetarian, which is a vegetarian that eats fish.
Whenever I've seen any behind-the-scenes videos with Chris Pratt on any movie, it looks like he's just having a blast. Can you talk about working with him and the energy he brings to the set?
Ty Simpkins: Yeah, Chris is awesome. Whenever you're feeling down, he'll cheer you up, whenever you're tired he'll wake you up. If you look on those behind-the-scenes things, he's always dancing. He has like a different name for each limb on his body, and he always these different faces. He has one we call his Sherlock face, his very serious thing, and then he had his scare face. We ate together and he told his stories, and Nick and I had Nerf wars on set. We went to Target and got these Nerf guns, and I think we ambushed Chris once or twice.
Did shooting in Hawaii and having all of these amazing sets help put you in the mindset that you're actually there, at Jurassic World?
Ty Simpkins: Yeah, it did really help. The original visitors center really helped me out, and they actually did film that scene right next to where they filmed that (Jurassic Park) scene with the log, where they T-rex comes out, we filmed right next to there. Also I got to see where the original Visitor's Center was built.
If you had the chance to perhaps borrow, or pilfer something from the set, is there anything in particular you would have had your eye on?
Ty Simpkins: The original Jeep (Laughs). I really wanted to bring that home. I've been saying I really want to get a 1992 Jeep Sahara, and I'm going to paint it so it looks like the Jurassic Park Jeep. I've actually seen a guy who did have a Jeep Sahara and he did make it look like the Jurassic Park Jeep. I gave him a thumbs up and said, 'You're awesome!'
I know it all depends on how well this does in theaters, but has there been any talk yet of a sequel yet?
Ty Simpkins: I hope so. I haven't heard anything. No one has told me abut that. I mean, I've tried to make plots for Colin for the next one (Laughs), but I don't know. I hope so.
Ty Simpkins: Oh, I'm only in one scene in that. I play a kid named Bobby who... yeah, opens the movie. So, yeah, that's pretty cool.
I know Insidious Chapter 3 is a prequel, but has there been any talk of continuing the Lambert's timeline?
Ty Simpkins: No, I don't think so, maybe. I think it's shifting more into the paranormal investigators, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Lin Shaye's character. That would be cool.
Is there anything else you're developing or working on now that you can talk about?
Ty Simpkins: No, I'm still in school. I was going to be doing the remake of Stephen King's IT, but that got shut down. They didn't have enough money. I was excited. One of my number one fears is clowns.
Obviously this has a built-in audience with the original, but for kids your age who might not be as familiar with the original, what would you like to say to get them to check out Jurassic World in theaters next week?
Ty Simpkins: If you like dinosaurs, that's a plus, and if you like Guardians of the Galaxy that's another plus because Chris Pratt is in it, Star-Lord. Even if you haven't seen the original, you can still enjoy it and I think a lot of people are excited for it.
That's about all I have. Thanks so much Ty.
Ty Simpkins: No problem. Thank you.
You can check out Ty Simpkins as young Grey in Jurassic World, playing in theaters nationwide starting today. Will Jurassic World be as successful as the original Jurassic Park? Chime in with your thoughts below.