‘Dark Phoenix’ Star Kodi Smit-McPhee on Being Nightcrawler

The Dark Phoenix is coming! And all those in her wake will tremble! However, a select few with gifted abilities will rise up to stop her. They are the X-Men!

Recently, The Nerds of Color were lucky enough to interview gifted actor, Kodi-Smit McPhee, who plays one of the coolest X-Men possible — Kurt Wagner, or as most know him, the incredible Nightcrawler! We had a chance to chat with Kodi about the importance X-Men represents in terms of conveying the themes of diversity, as well as topics like bullying, and villain/hero philosophies.


At its core, X-Men has always been a metaphor for acceptance and inclusion in society. Nightcrawler has always been that embodiment of some of the challenges of society going against people who are different. So from your perspective, what do you think makes this franchise so important today in the world in 2019?

Kodi: To keep it simple, I feel like right now as much as the world is, and has always in history, gone through turmoil and injustice, there’s a lot of respect and energy in many places that have not been acted upon. We are at a time right now of somewhat a revolution that has, I feel, begun in our industry. Which is a special thing to be a part of because movies themselves have such a conditioning effect on everyone who sees it. Especially comic book movies — they obviously appeal to children. And to have a female leading that, it’s just an analogy. Much like Nightcrawler is [an analogy for] being someone of color and anyone who meets the resistance in society of what society thinks should be the norm; as opposed to everyone embracing what they are and what’s different about themselves, and that being so great. It’s just special to not only understand that from the side that you’re expressing it, but to be a part of it and pushing it positively. I feel like, it’s only going to be a domino effect from here on out.

One of the things that you always do so brilliantly, between Let Me In and your role as Owen, Norman in Paranorman (one of my favorites of all time), and also with Nightcrawler as well, you capture what it’s like to be a bullied outsider. And it’s so sympathetic every time you act in these brilliant roles. So what draws you personally to these characters and these roles, and what inspires your performances when you bring these characters to life?

So I got into acting at a very young age. When I was 8-years old my dad got me into it… but as I went from just a normal kid in school who was probably bullied here and there to being judged as something different (“oh there’s that actor kid now — that’s the kid that goes to America”), I just kind of created my own bubble. And I started to mature in that bubble, especially when I dropped out of school. And I learned things beyond what school teaches. I started to learn things like philosophy, history, and ultimately I became extremely spiritual in seeking truth because of all the certain drama and suffering I had gone through in my own life, which came out of nowhere — [for example] I feel like I was at the peak of success in my acting career, when I found out I had an auto-immune disease, and it was causing me chronic pain throughout my whole body. But all of these things, as negative as they could sound, to me they’re only positive because they redirected me to something more purposeful. They redirected me to the bigger picture of life beyond the flecks of fulfillment that we are often overloading our senses with in this world, that stops us from questioning such things, or they force us to suppress the trauma that we are going through — I rather had to face it, because I couldn’t answer the fact why I was going through such things, while at the same time going through such amazing things with my success in my industry. So I was going through an internal struggle, like Jean is in this movie. And in the end the only thing it results in is the phoenix — if you could rise from the ashes that you thought you once were, and see yourself as something greater… that’s something that acting made me question. Because you have to portray characters. And in portraying characters you see that they are a combination of emotion that are ultimately conditioned through the experiences and environments of wherever that pure consciousness grew up in life. And so I started to psychoanalyze my own life and question what kind of archetypes I used in the majority of my life. And you get to look at the victimizing traits or whatever that’s negative that you can transmute to its polar opposite — so from a victim you go to a warrior, from being insecure you become courageous and confident. And this is the ancient pathway to enlightenment. As deep as this is going, that’s ultimately where acting brought me, and what I bring into acting.


If I can ask one last question — As Kodi Smit-McPhee, not Kurt Wagner, whose team would you be on, Xavier’s or Magneto’s?

That’s a really good question. Because one of the main things I’m struggling with in studying Jungian philosophy is the ideals of a villain and that of a hero. A hero is usually protecting and guarding what they think they’re protecting and guarding — the people and the government that’s ordering them to do so. But if one was awakened enough to see the corruption and oppression that happens through government of their people, then they would then see that the hero themselves is actually enforcing that corruption and oppression. Whereas, for example Apocalypse — an ancient deity from Egypt who would awaken every time the world resembled Babylon, which is when people fall into filling their senses with B.S. basically instead of living their higher purpose — he resets the world. Which we can’t agree is correct either. So it’s the duality of the universe and it’s something that can’t be solved one way or the other. We simply have to clash because all is one. And that’s how you keep the generations of the universe going into evolution.

As such, we learned that not only is Kodi a badass mutant superhero with teleportation powers, but also an insightful, deep, sensitive actor with a lot to say about the world around him and society today. And for that reason, more than anything else, I think he’s X-Treamly qualifed to be a perfect X-Man.

Dark Phoenix hits theaters June 7!