'Deadpool 2' Star Julian Dennison on Changing Firefist From X-Men Comics

The actor chats about Taika Waititi, New Zealand heroics, and adapting Firefist for film.

Deadpool 2 is, as the Merc With a Mouth announces during the first few moments of the movie, a family film. And, what would a family be without a rambunctious, rebelling teen who needs a little bit of guidance? In Deadpool 2, Russell Collins, a.k.a. Firefist, occupies that role. As played by Julian Dennison, a 15-year-old actor from New Zealand who starred in Taika Waititi’s critically acclaimed Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Firefist gives Deadpool quite a parenting challenge and provides the audience with plenty of laughs.

Inverse chatted with Dennison over the phone shortly before the Deadpool 2 premiere and discussed how New Zealand comedy is influencing superhero movies (Waititi directed Thor: Ragnarok last year), how he put his own spin on an obscure comics character, and his true feelings about Ryan Reynold’s two biggest mistakes.

Taika Waititi knocked it out of the park with Thor: Ragnarok last year, and now you’re in Deadpool 2. What is New Zealand comedy like, and how is it influencing superhero movies?

Taika directed Thor: Ragnarok, and he was so great in that, and he just brings his own sort of humor. It’s very different, and it’s very New Zealand-y. It brings in diversity, and there’s this really dry humor, but, like, not too dry humor. It was really cool to be a part of Deadpool 2 and put a little of this humor in that. Definitely, Taika shaped me as an actor and shaped my humor. It was cool being able to act in this film and still see a little part of that.

What would a superhero from New Zealand look like?

I’d like to cast him as an indigenous, maybe he’s Māori. But we already have a superhero in our country, Jacinda Ardern, our prime minister at the moment. She’s doing a good job. She’s saving the world at the moment. [A new hero] might have a black cape like Batman. I don’t think they’ll have the mask. They’ll just put on the glasses and have tattoos. And they wouldn’t be super muscular. They’d have an average bod or a dad bod or something.

In the movie, Firefirst is a very different character than what we see in the comics, where he’s a buff dude from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Were you familiar with the X-Men before the movie, and how did you decide to play Russell the way you did?

When I knew I got the part, I read up about Firefist, because he’s not a very popular character. Physically, I’m very different, so I wanted to go in with my own twist. I got to keep my accent, but I still wanted to keep a sense of the comics Firefist there but in my own way. Director David Leitch and the writers and Ryan were so open to it. It wasn’t a concern to them, casting a person who looked different from the comics.

Do you think we’ll see him again?

I hope so. I hope they just don’t get bored of me and kill him off in the sequel. Maybe I’ve just peaked here and it’s all downhill. I would really love to see Russell and his journey. In this film, you kind of see an origin story. I’d love to see where he goes from here, and if he’s involved with X-Force or something.

Firefist turns up the heat in 'Deadpool 2.'

20th Century Fox

Were you even familiar with X-Men Origins: Wolverine or Green Lantern, the banes of Ryan Reynolds’s existence?

I think I was 8 when Green Lantern came out, and to be honest, I really liked that film because I didn’t know anything about movies. It was a superhero movie, so I probably thought it was super cool. X-Men Origins, I used to watch that movie. I liked Deadpool, how he’s dodging the bullets. Yeah, I was familiar with those movies back in the day when I was a little kid. I didn’t really care about the quality of the movie as long as it had superheroes.

Did you tell that to Ryan Reynolds?

No, I would never admit that at one point in my life I probably liked the movies. I’d be the only person ever who did in existence.

Deadpool 2 is now in theaters.

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