Since The Twilight Saga: New Moon is all about the rise of the werewolf – in the form of its bare-chested, strapping young Quileuete Indian protectors – we seized the chance to speak with the most volatile member of the Wolf Pack. As Paul, newcomer Alex Meraz adds a hot-blooded physicality that leads to one of New Moon's best moments – a surprise showdown in which Bella (Kristen Stewart) finds herself caught between two raging wolves. Find out more about Meraz, the slap heard ‘round the Twi-verse, and how the Native American actor thinks the Twilight
films serve the Native American community.
You stand out among the Wolf Pack because of your scene with Bella – the slap heard ‘round the world, so to speak. Tell me how that scene went down.
Alex Meraz: It was exciting. Even just in the casting of it, I just really liked Paul. What happened with the casting process is, we sent in our information and through that they were going to break it down. I sent it in and started reading New Moon while I was waiting and I really liked Paul because of that scene, and I really like bad boys and he's kind of the bad boy of the Wolf Pack. I got the chance to audition and I got that role, saw the script and was blown away by it. I knew it was the first transformation you were going to see in the movie, and it's definitely a scene that stands out. There was pressure to make sure it looked good, but I knew I was in good hands – Chris Weitz is just an amazing director, and Phil Tippett who did the special effects was going to make me look awesome. So it was fun.
What scene did you perform in your audition?
They gave us stuff from the book that wasn't even in the script – there's a kitchen scene at Emily's when we figure out that it's Victoria killing people on the reservation, and that's when we set up a game plan. It was that scene.
You and Kristen have a very adversarial encounter in the slap scene. Do you think that Paul really wants to kill her in that moment?
Yes, definitely! He's compulsive, you know. He kind of goes with the flow, but he's volatile, but not in a "I like to hurt people" way; he's very proud. He has a thick sense of pride, and he really wants to protect the reservation and she's bringing nothing but trouble. So in that scene, I'm thinking in my head, "Do something to make me change, so I can kill you." Just do something, because I'm itching to kill her. She's a nuisance, a problem. That was that way I did it in the scene, and of course she hits me, and that's enough to change me.
Did you and Kristen rehearse that a lot beforehand?
Not at all. We did one rehearsal the day of, said our lines, and we were good! The next day, we shot it and experimented – one time I tried grabbing her throat, which she was not fond of – and we played around with it, the director gave us good stuff to do, and it was what it was.
Did Kristen really hit you in the face?
She started finding a home for that fist on my face. It was getting really close.
There's a nice little moment between you and Kristen again after the fight, when the Wolf Pack has reconvened at Emily's house and you turn to her and say "Sorry," with a bit of a smile.
I improvised that. I asked if I could do something because I felt that something was missing there. A little humor should be added. Luckily, Chris was keen enough to see it from that perspective, and he thought it was great. I'm glad it made it in because it adds another level to my character – not just volatile, but playful.
What can we expect to see from Paul in Eclipse?
There are some cool fight scenes with the Wolf Pack, some CG stuff but I'm looking forward to the fight with Kellan's character, Emmett. There's a little encounter.
Have you read Breaking Dawn?
How do you feel about the idea of imprinting?
It's crazy! [Laughs] It's a little creepy, but it's interesting. It's very different from the typical werewolf-vampire stories. I think it works; it's what Stephenie Meyer created.
As a Native American actor, how much of a responsibility do you feel to represent indigenous culture respectfully in the Twilight films?
It's about breaking down barriers. Even amongst the native community, there are thousands of tribes; you can't include the Brazilian tribes because they're not Native American. There are so many tribes in Central America, Mexico, Canada… I was just excited that I got an opportunity as a Native Mexican, because my tribe is the Purepecha tribe and there's so much cultural identity there that still exists. It's a different kind of Native American than Hollywood likes to portray. The person on horseback with feathers – not all natives look like that. Clearly, we see that with the Quileute tribe. I was glad that they let real natives portray that, a different mythology.
Do you think the Twilight Saga really serves the Quileute culture?
It serves them in that it takes things from the mythology and their creation story and combines it with fantasy. But it's not completely accurate. Part of their creation story is that they came from wolves, but they can't change back. That's one of the things that the Quileute are protesting. But I think it serves them because it's giving them the spotlight. It informs people of the tribe. Now tons of people are coming to La Push to see people from the Quileute tribe. I think that's great. I've talked to the other Wolf Pack members and we've discussed that we'd like to go to the actual reservation and speak with some of the council members and pay homage. That's kind of the Native way, anyways. You can't just take something, you have to give back as well. So that's something we plan on doing at some point.