In a journey that has been a decade in the making, the cinematic adaptation of the immensely popular “World of Warcraft” is finally hitting the big screen. In “Warcraft” the lovely Paula Patton plays Garona, a character who finds herself caught in the battle of her life. A half-orc, half-human, Garona is fearsome as she navigates between the orc shaman Gul’dan, and the leader of the human realm of Azeroth, King Llane. Though I have not touched any sort of game console since ’97, I found myself swept away in the fantasy of the vast magical realm. Full of CGI, otherworldly creatures, dark magic and hulking orcs, this $160 million dollar film is meticulously detailed. After the screening, Paula Patton sat down with the audience to talk about becoming Garona, lessons learned and diving into “Warcaft”. Here are the highlights from that conversation.

Taking On the Role Of Garona

Paula Patton
Paula Patton

What wasn’t there to like about Garona? For me as an actress, the chance to begin the movie as the slave of Gul’dan and then have this transformation that Garona gets to have was an incredible thing to take on. I welcomed it. It was a really funny thing to be honest with you. I read the script and loved the role, and then I met with Duncan Jones our director and in the room, which rarely happens he says, “I want to do this with you!” and I said, “I want to do this with you, this sounds amazing.” I was so excited but then I got in my car and I thought, “Oh my God, what have I done?” I was so scared to take on this half-orc, half-human. I’d never played a character that people knew before. Garona is beloved by so many, so it was scary. However, playing this role changed my life. All of the challenges in playing Garona, the physical stuff, the mental stuff, all of it changed me. It scared me, but I think the things that scare you are the things that you are meant to do. It makes you grow. This is a really special role for me, and a really special time in my life.

Moving From Rom-Coms to “Warcraft”

I don’t pick movies by the genre; I pick them by the material. For example, “Precious” that moved my soul when I read the script, it made me cry. It made me want to play that teacher. I also like romantic comedies, I think they’re fun and I think they’re a great escape in that way. For me, I don’t have a math or science to what I choose, but it’s also what chooses me quite frankly.

On Physically Preparing For the Role

First it was just the way that Garona needed to look. They needed her to look like she was half-orc, so Duncan told me I needed to get yolked! (Laughing) I had to go to the gym A LOT. I went two and a half hours a day, six days a week. I ate all kinds of protein, protein shakes and steaks, for breakfast, lunch and dinner it was painful. It was very challenging. Then when we got to Vancouver and we really started prepping for the movie, it was about doing all of my stunts. I didn’t do everything, but I got to do most of it. I think that was the fun of doing a character like this. I also think it’s important to feel like you can actually do those things. I mean I can’t actually jump as high as Garona, but learning how to do the swords and the knives and the boxing; even riding a horse, which I had never done before, was an amazing experience. In doing that, I started feeling like, “I know who Garona is.” Just feeling the strength of overcoming each challenge made me feel like the warrior that she is. All of that helped the mental too. Unlike any movie I’ve ever done before, I was scared until the very moment I walked onto the set.

On Getting Into Character

For makeup and costume, it depended on the scene and how much skin was being shown, but it was about 4 or 5 hours sometimes. In terms of getting into the mental headspace, I wouldn’t know the time, it just sort of gradually happens, and then the longer you’re making the film it sort of just clicks in. The hardest part is that you always think back to what you shot at the beginning of filming and you go, “I would have don’t it so differently!”

A Life-Changing Role

I remember doing all of the makeup tests for this role, and I was scared to death. I looked like the Wicked Witch of the West. One day I was in this bathroom, and I told me best friend, “I don’t know” And she was like, “Girl you go one hundred or not!” I’ll always remember how she encouraged me. I was doing two-a-day workouts at one point, I was hungry, I was going through my own emotional stuff in my personal life, and it was like now I’m a creature?! I was like, “Where has my career gone?” I was so confused and then when I embraced it, it started to change me and strengthen me. During this movie I got separated and I’m divorced now. But I can’t change that, that’s life. It’s all love. I can never not look back at this and say this wasn’t a moment that changed me.

On Seeing the End Product

When I watch it, I don’t feel like it’s me, so I feel like that’s such an honor to Duncan Jones and his vision. You can’t know what you’re going to be in until you see it. It’s really incredible. Quite frankly I was blown away. I had no idea it could look like that. The scope of it was really incredible. When you do something like this and you give seven months of your life to something, and it turns out well, I just really loved it. I thought, “Well done.”

Lessons Learned From “Warcraft”

I would want people to understand that no matter what life you’re born into, you have the ability to change your fate. That’s the real truth. We all have a choice. There are things that are unfair about life, but we can’t spend much time on that right? I mean we can’t choose our parents, but you can choose your mindset, your heart and your aspirations. You can change your life if you want to. For Garona, her heart is what serves her, it’s not her strength it’s that her heart gets moved and because of that, she adjusts and changes. A king sees something in her as a result of that.

Parallels Between Garona and Paula Patton

So that’s the hard thing, my mind has been changing recently about a lot of things. My whole life I hated the idea of “biracial”. I found it so offensive because a lot of times when people said that, it was to disassociate themselves with being Black, which we all know, is a struggle. My mom who is white was always adamant about telling me, “You’re Black. There is no other box to check off.” I always thought of myself that way, and I didn’t like the idea of biracial because of how people behaved or things that said. But now, my mind is beginning to change because we all have so many cultural backgrounds, and it depends on where you heart space as. After all, my mom is a part of who I am. I think that’s part of what this movie is trying to say. You’re watching orcs and humans, and it’s the first time where you are feeling the compassion for both the orcs and the humans so it’s about the soul. Also, I think a lot of people can relate to feeling like they don’t belong in some way or another. I think that’s what Garona speaks to.

Respect and Honor as Themes in “Warcraft”

Respect and honor are really important to me. I’m sure nearly everyone would say that. But I guess the question is, how much further do you want to bring that into your life? Do you really respect and honor everyone? What does that mean? I guess that’s what I’ve been dealing with a lot lately. What is the truth? You might have been told one thing all of your life, but you can change your life. You can be more loving and embrace more people. I challenge myself and I challenge others to push that boundary to people that you normally wouldn’t.

On the Name Garona

Garona’s name means “cursed”, and that’s really interesting because that’s not the name that she gave herself. That was a name given to her. You can choose your own name, and you can choose to not be a victim and not to be cursed. Obviously that’s going to be more challenging when they just label you as cursed from the very beginning (Laughing), we all know that. But, I think it’s such a powerful thing to think about.

On Gaming

I’ve never played a video game (laughing). I think I may have played Pac-Man with my brother way back in the day. I have terrible hand-eye coordination. I’m just going to be honest, I didn’t even know what “Warcraft” was until I read the script. Duncan Jones introduced me to the world. (Laughing) I obviously researched the characters. I learned what people knew about Garona, and how they feel about her as well.

On Bonding With Her Son Over “Warcraft”

He hasn’t seen the film yet, but he came to set a lot. He was really concerned if I was a good orc or a bad orc. I think I will let him see it because I think he can handle it. It will be interesting to get his opinion. He always surprises me. It’s hard when you go on these journeys and have to be away. I always try to include him on them, so I hope he enjoys it and he’s happy for me because we’re on this journey together.

“Warcraft” is out in theaters today, June 10, 2016

Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami