Amber Heard on playing Mera in Aquaman: She's a badass!

2018-12-19 13:28
Amber Heard as Mera in a scene from Aquaman.

Cape Town – In Aquaman, Amber Heard’s character Mera partners with the title character played by Jason Momoa to save the world. 

Armed with her supernatural power and her royalty, the daughter of King Nereus and Princess of the undersea kingdom of Xebel – Mera is a formidable heroine.

In casting her for the role director James Wan says: “The thing that struck me was how charismatic and charming she was. Young girls can look up to Mera, who is also such a smart, strong character.”

Amber in turn says she was attracted to the role because the director, the writers, the producers did not want to create another damsel in distress. 

When you were approached about taking on the role of Mera, what was your initial reaction and what ultimately made you want to be part of Aquaman? 

My first reaction was trepidation. I was pretty unfamiliar with comic books and superhero movies at the time, so was functioning from this vague image of a ridiculously oversexualised caricature of a woman, which, knowing nothing of the genre, I thought was to be expected. But when I dove into the Aquaman comic, I was intrigued to discover that Mera is this incredibly powerful warrior queen, who is witty and independent and completely a superhero in her own right. I was like, ‘A sword and a crown? I can get behind that!’ 

So, I feel very lucky to get to play her and to be working with people who are committed to maintaining and protecting the integrity of the character as she is in the comics – which have always highlighted Mera’s strength and agency and resourcefulness – and not just shoehorn her into the damsel-in-distress archetype we’ve seen a thousand times. I don’t think I speak for just myself when I say we’re tired of seeing women in these very limited, binary roles that reduce what we are and can be. Mera doesn’t have to be saved. She’s her own person and a badass, and does a lot of saving herself.

As you were wrapping your mind around the scope of the movie, how did director James Wan communicate this huge vision he had for the world we see in the film – the Kingdom of Atlantis?

To his credit, James didn’t really try to explain to us what was in that brain of his because it would have been impossible. But looking at his notes and concept imagery, and seeing how his brain worked in organising this world, you just get the sense that you have to trust him. I couldn’t hear the song, but the notes were so powerful that I knew I could just trust the music in him.  

It’s particularly difficult to imagine what the final result will be on a movie like this because of the importance of digital effects in the storytelling.  When you’re on a soundstage surrounded by people in bright blue Lycra onesies, covered in tracking dots, wearing a harness and being hoisted up on wires, you’ve got to just take the leap and trust that your director will execute his vision and pull it off. In my case, I feel so lucky that James is James! I don’t know if I could have trusted another director in the same way.

Amber Heard, James Wan and Jason Momoa behind-the-

In finding your way into the character, where there some aspects of Mera’s nature and mindset that felt intuitive and others that felt like more of a challenge to play?  

Well, I think the real challenge for me was playing a character who is extra-human but also inherently human. It was kind of a balancing act to maintain her nature as this powerful Atlantean while allowing her humanity to come through in the same way that so many fans of the comic have connected to for so many years. So, that was a hard balance, and something I thought about a lot while we were filming. 

Can you also talk a bit about the relationship that develops between Mera and Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, as brought to life by Jason Momoa?  

Mera and Arthur have a very, very cool relationship. But it starts out with quite a bit of animosity when they first meet because they’re basically complete opposites. She’s an Atlantean princess who is fiercely loyal to her kingdom, and takes herself, her life and her world very seriously; he comes at life with a kind of boyish, goofy attitude and is reluctant to accept responsibility or any kind of place in the surface world or Atlantis – and doesn’t particularly like Atlanteans either. But she’s about to inherit this nation that she loves dearly, and would do anything to save it – and he’s the only one who can help her do that.  

So, these two very different personalities collide out of necessity, and are essentially thrown together on this journey to save both Atlantis and the surface world. Naturally, they fight almost the whole time. But as much as their attitudes, styles and pretty much everything else clash, Arthur and Mera really are like two parts of one whole. They both teach each other, and fight for each other, and save each other – and I love that. And, little by little, the walls break down and they become partners in a way that feels completely earned. 

As much as Mera goes on this extraordinary journey in the film, how has the journey been for you to bring it to the screen?

It has been a long and amazing ride! My first meeting on the project was for Mera’s cameo in Justice League, and immediately after that, I went into training for Aquaman, which lasted for many months. And then we went to the Gold Coast of Australia and I spent a lot of time in that suit, which is essentially Mera’s armour – and a lot of time prepping to get into that suit. So, along with James and the many other people who contributed to the final product, I pretty much lived and breathed this project for months and months.

Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in Aquaman.

Looking back on the production, was there a scene or a moment on set that stands out as particularly memorable?  

You know, one of the most memorable moments was when we were filming the sequence in the courtyard of this small Italian village. It’s the first time Mera has been on the surface for any real length of time, and she gets a rose and doesn’t know what to do with it because she’s not sure what it is. It smells good, though, so she bites into it – and that was completely real. I had to take a bite – a full bite! – out of a real rose, and did it about sixty times.  

So, in the scene that immediately follows, I start the shot with rose petals in my mouth, and they had to be placed exactly so to match. At one point, I even had James himself running up and placing rose petals in my mouth, and then running back to the camera to say ‘Action’ so I could start the scene [laughs].  I’m in heels too, so I’m bending over, James is feeding me rose petals, and I remember thinking, ‘This is one for the memory books.’

What do you hope audiences will experience when they see Aquaman in the cinema?

I just hope they’ll be surprised by this unique, modern twist on the Superhero movie, and that it will challenge the notion of what a movie of this genre can be. I hope that they really will be blown away by this vast, complex world they’re going to visit, and the unique kinds of heroes they’re going to meet. It’s such a complete joy and honour for me to play this character, so I also really hope audiences will dig Mera the way I did when I first read the comic.  


Aquaman releases in SA cinemas on Friday, 21 December. 

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