Like many Millennials, Hannah John-Kamen grew up immersed in the cinematic worlds of Steven Spielberg. Now her immersion in his canon of stories is a little more permanent.
The British actress, who has appeared in “Black Mirror” and “Game of Thrones,” is one of the stars of Spielberg’s big budget sci-fi flick “Ready Player One,” adapted from Ernest Cline’s 2011 book. John-Kamen, a self-described “huge fan” of the book even before the movie was on her radar, auditioned for a new character created for the film. After sending in a tape, she flew to Los Angeles to meet with Spielberg himself at Amblin Studios.
“I was shaking, I was so nervous,” John-Kamen recalls of her first meeting with the acclaimed director. “I went to the washroom and I called my dad — nobody even knew I was in L.A. meeting Steven — and then I told my dad, ‘Hi, Dad, by the way I’m in L.A. about to meet Steven Spielberg,’ and he’s, like, ‘OK. Just look in the mirror, be calm, just enjoy yourself and just be who you are.'” She found out she had the role during that first meeting.
“He’s a legend; I’ve grown up with the magic of Steven Spielberg,” John-Kamen says. “A big part of [my childhood] was the imagination and love that Steven Spielberg has for his films.”
Apparently, he lives up to the hype.
“As an actor getting on set, nothing’s like that first moment when you hear Steven Spielberg say, ‘Action,'” she adds.
She was given the role of F’Nale Zandor, an associate of the film’s main malefactor Sorrento, who is played by veteran villain Ben Mendelsohn. “We both have a similar work ethic: we come on set, we’re there, we just go for it,” she says of her costar. While much of “Ready Player One” takes place in a virtual reality world, John-Kamen’s character is unique in that she is rooted in the reality throughout the film.
“In terms of preparing and knowing F’Nale Zandor, it starts with who is she, what does she do? OK, she’s in the real world, she works for Nolan Sorrento. He’s seen as the baddie in the film — OK, she’s an associate of the baddie in the film, but as a villain, you never see yourself as the villain,” she says. “She’s doing her own job, she’s loyal, she’s determined, and she’s really good at her job.”
John-Kamen will continue her villainous ascent onscreen in the upcoming summer Marvel film “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” in which she’ll inhibit the character Ghost. Although she’s tight-lipped about the Marvel project, as par for the course for those types of films, the actress notes that her approach to the antagonist is by flipping the script.
“You gotta get into that role with some degree of what you’re doing is right, and there are reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing,” she says. “You have to as a villain play it like you’re the good guy, and everyone else is bad.”
Despite bouncing around the world for press — and filming; she’s currently in Toronto for the next season of TV series “Killjoys” — John-Kamen adds that one thing that hasn’t changed is where she calls home. “I always consider home London, always,” she says, not missing a beat. “No matter how far I’m traveling, no matter where I’m traveling, no matter how long I’m away for, I always go, ‘Yup that’s my job, I’m away for that, but I come home.'”