When one is fully committed to the improvement of their craft, then the opportunities will come. Mostly known for his roles as the musically talented Walter Hill in Joyful Noise and his continued role as the brave Glader Frypan in the Maze Runner series, 26-year-old Dexter Darden has been able to obtain these opportunities by always improving his craft and being the best that he can be. After starting as a talented singer, Darden transitioned into acting in his teenage years. Since then, he has gained many opportunities, such as working with Queen Latifah in the 2012 film Joyful Noise, Giancarlo Esposito from Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, and Forest Whitaker in his upcoming 2018 film Burden, which will premiere at Sundance Film Festival. Darden is surely making a name for himself by bettering his incredible talent and obtaining remarkable opportunities.
Cliché: When did you first have the passion to start acting?
Dexter Darden: I started singing and dancing a lot when I was a kid. I used to compete in the school choir and one year, I attended this camp. Paul Newman used to run a camp for kids with special needs and blood diseases, and they would do fundraisers for the camp and do live shows. So, I started to do those live shows when I turned 16 and Paul Newman ended up pulling my mama and I aside. He said I had talent and that acting was something I should try to do for real. That’s kind of how it all got started for me.
Who are your greatest influences in acting?
Will Smith was a big influence when I was growing up. From his comedic timing to being able to do comedy and drama, he’s definitely one of my favorites. There’s also Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, and Robert Downey Jr. Those are people I just can’t help but watch and want to be. I pay attention to their performances and just take notes about how they do it and the level that they do it. And you know, people just can’t duplicate that. It’s commitment and it is hard work.
I was actually able to work with another one of my idols, Forest Whitaker. He has this subtlety and greatness behind every moment; he does everything so quietly and subtly, but also so powerfully. Working with Forest was just a life-changing experience for me and something I’m going to cherish for the rest my life. Getting the opportunity to work with a guy like a Will Smith or Denzel would really help me transition into who I really want to be.
What first made you interested in joining the Maze Runner films? Did you know it was going to be as popular as it is now?
I’m going to be completely honest: Going into Maze Runner, none of us had any idea what it would become. I was really, really excited to book the job. I auditioned just like everybody else; Will [Poulter], Ki Hong [Lee], and I all auditioned for our respective roles and when it came down to the opportunity to be able to get them, we took it.
While we were filming the first one, we weren’t really filming on a large scale. It was very indie, very set in one place, and only had to deal with one location. Because of that, we became such a close family and friends and we still all love each other and keep in touch with each other to this day.
How much has your character changed since filming the first Maze Runner?
I think he’s grown a lot, to be honest. When you’re in a movie like this, you end up having a little bit more responsibility because characters are going or passing on, and some roles end up getting switched because people are leaving. For Frypan, his character growth happens the most in the third movie, which is why I’m most excited for people to see it. He gets put in a position of leadership with Minho gone. Now, it’s kind of only Newt and Frypan that can be with Thomas throughout this journey because he lost Teresa and other people he has trusted in the beginning. It’s cool to be able to have a little bit of growth and maturity in my character in the way that I play him and the things that he has to accomplish.
When being in an action film of this size, how physically demanding are the stunts?
Very demanding. Since we were shooting in Albuquerque, it’s a mile high city, so it’s really hard to really get oxygen and adjust to the environment that you’re in. So we did about two weeks worth of just some cardio and running, really trying to get our bodies into shape and get adjusted to the area that we were going to be shooting in.
What has been your favorite moment off screen while shooting The Death Cure? Were there any pranks or shenanigans off set?
Yeah, there were a ton; there were plenty of jokes anytime we were all together. There were no pranks per se, but whenever we’re all together, especially me and Dylan [O’Brien], we kind of set the tone in the comedy aspect.
What type of characters do you tend to look for when picking films? Who do you hope to play in the future?
My favorite movie of all time is Rush Hour and I think it blends comedy and action great, so I would love to do a movie like that. I would love to be in a film that will continue to create conversation points, whether it be drama or whether it’s in action. I want to pick people’s minds and take them to a place where they can just get away, escape for a bit, and fall in love with the scripts and the characters.
Was there one experience or person that made you realize you loved acting?
It’s not just one actor, but there are moments, like working with Forest Whitaker, or making memories with my castmates on Maze Runner. It’s those kind of moments where you’re just being able to find things that you can cherish for the rest of your life. For example, meeting Usher on Burden was a big thing for me because he’s one of my greatest inspirations. It’s great to have those kind of moments with people you really love, appreciate, cherish.
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Photographer: Ted Sun, Retoucher: Alexander Silkin, Stylist: A Gentleman’s Journi, Groomer: Loui Ferry @Opus Beauty, for Oribe & Tom Ford