Let’s face it: dystopian movies are all the rage right now. Over the past five years, plenty of books (The Hunger Games, The Divergent Series) have become action-filled blockbuster tweens and adults alike are clamoring to see. One standout is The Maze Runner series: a tale of kids trying to make it out of a post apocalyptic world while keeping their entire squad alive. A major part of the group is Frypan, the light hearted cook played by Dexter Darden. As Maze Runner: Scorch Trials hits theaters this weekend, we spoke to Darden about his involvement in one of the hottest movie series out right now.
The first Maze Runner movie features some of the most brilliant cinematography any book-lover would adore. Surprisingly enough, it was shot with a pretty low budget, which makes its success all the more enjoyable for Dexter. “It was crazy because we didn’t really know what the outcome would be,” he says. “But we shot it and it meant a lot to us to a part of something like that.”
Even with a higher budget this time around, the cast wasn’t living the lavish life— extra cash was used to make the second installment that much more grand. And Darden is cool with that factor, as he trusts the genius that is director Wes Ball.
Wes has even influenced Darden to pay more attention to the visual aspect of the business. “He’s made me a visual guy,” Dexter says. “I wasn’t much of a visual guy before, but to be able to look at the shots, look at scenes and just see how valuable they are.”
With such action-intense scenes it was hard for Darden to choose his favorite. He mulled it over before settling on the craziness that was the last battle. “I was just happy to get to shoot my first gun in the movie. That whole scene was cool, getting to shoot like an action hero,” he laughed.
With all the gun-firing and electric near death experiences, Darden tells that the chemistry and camaraderie of the cast goes beyond acting. “We’re actually that cool in real life. It’s like an awesome, small family,” he says.” It’s weird and rare. Even when we’re not filming the movie, we always end up saying, ‘Oh let’s hang out,’or ‘Let’s go do this,’ or ‘Let’s go do that.’”
The bond between castmates is just as real as Dexter’s real love to cook, a talent he thanks his mother for. “I love to cook. my mom taught me to cook at a very very young age,” he discussed. “Being able to be in the kitchen and knowing how to cook definitely helped me out.”
Aside from being in the kitchen, sneaker collecting is Dexter’s other passion. His favorite pairs include the Bull Over Broadway Jordan 10s, the Infrared 7s and of course, the classic Jordan 1s. Although he loves Jordans, he isn’t afraid to mix things up a bit. He says the source of his addiction comes from growing up on the basketball courts of New Jersey.
“I’m super into sneakers! I’m totally addicted. Just from playing ball all the time,” he explained. “I was always looking for the freshest kicks on the court.”
Darden’s even spent enough time on the basketball court to earn a coveted nickname: D- Money.
Aside from the many familiar faces in the first Maze Runner film, Breaking Bad fans will be happy to know that Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Jorge, a wacky opportunist who may or may not be on the Gladers’ side.
Darden let his fandom get the best of him as he explains what it meant having Esposito on set. “He’s the man for real for real,” Darden says. “I was so happy when he got casted and it wasn’t just because of Breaking Bad. Everything he has done from Ali to all of the Spike Lee stuff. Initially you have those reservations like, ‘I hope he’s fun,’ and ‘I hope he’s cool.’ And he ends up being all of those things and more. When you meet people like him you just wonder what makes them want to work for so long and what gives them motivation, and where I can find it within myself.”
Understanding the longevity and cultural importance of Esposito’s career, Darden took the vet’s simple advice: just don’t be afraid to take risks.
“You look at Giancarlo and you look at his roles. His next role is always off the beaten path of the one before it,” Darden explains. “And after watching him do that I want to do the same and not be afraid to take risks. If you want to do something just do it.”
Despite being such a fan of Esposito’s, Dexter’s got some over-the-top fans of his own.
He recalled his craziest fan encounter back in 2008 when he was filming the TV-movie, Minutemen. A girl spray painted a huge heart on his car. As Darden’s career continues to gain momentum, it’s fair to say he can expect a lot more from his overtly supportive fans in the future.
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials hits theaters Friday, Sept. 18.
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