Chiwetel Ejiofor on a 'Strange' Trip, Starring in 'Z for Zachariah' and 'The Martian'

By Lowman, Rob | Pasadena Star-News, August 25, 2015 | Go to article overview

Chiwetel Ejiofor on a 'Strange' Trip, Starring in 'Z for Zachariah' and 'The Martian'


Lowman, Rob, Pasadena Star-News


Chiwetel Ejiofor thought the post-apocalyptic world of "Z for Zachariah" would be a way of examining the raw ways folks can behave.

"People can come up with a lot of mischief on their own," says the actor, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in "12 Years a Slave" (2013).

In the historic drama, Ejiofor played Solomon Northup, a free African-American musician who was kidnapped and forced into slavery in the 1840s. Now in Craig Zobel's "Z for Zachariah" - as in the last man - Ejiofor is John Loomis, a scientist who developed a radiation-proof "safe suit" when nuclear war broke out. He is stumbling around in it when he happens upon a sheltered and religious Southern farm girl named Ann ("Wolf of Wall Street's" Margot Robbie), who until their meeting had believed she is the only human on Earth. Their relationship is uneasy as the two go about creating a new world. He's an atheist, while her father built the church near her home.

Based a 1974 novel by Newbery-winning young adult author Robert C. O'Brien, the film takes a different direction than the book by introducing a third character, Caleb (Chris Pine), a mine worker who has survived underground. Caleb immediately finds himself in competition with Loomis for Ann's affections and the story becomes a bit of a cat-and-mouse game.

"It's kind of fascinating watching these two guys try to outmaneuver each other, with Loomis thinking because he's more cerebral he has the upper hand," says Ejiofor, whose first film was Steven Spielberg's "Amistad" (1997). "But he finds that he's being bettered by a guy who is living in more a front-foot way."

Other factors soon come into play in the three-way relationship. For instance, like Ann, Caleb is religious, and he is white, which puts Loomis in the minority.

"As in life, there are some circumstances where these things can be quite subtle when it comes to race and religion," observes Ejiofor. …

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