Justice Smith’s life and career are on a roller coaster track at breakneck speed and momentum – at least it’s easy to get that impression. Most probably know him best from his lead role in The Get Down, the surrealist kung-fu, hip-hop drama from the mind of Baz Luhrmann. But if you’re an un-ironic fan of the teenage romance, then maybe you remember him as the son of Black Santa obsessed parents in Paper Towns. Since then Smith has been catching steam. He’s in his very first blockbuster franchise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Maybe even more interesting is his role as Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman in Detective Pikachu alongside Ryan Reynolds, reportedly in the can and on the way next summer.

We started with a brief exchange I prefaced I would keep off the record. Although, Smith seemed like he wanted all the smoke. Out of professional courtesy, all I will say is that it involved bacon. If you dig deep enough in places where public opinion is shared, you may be able to find Mr. Smith’s stance on breakfast’s undisputed No. 1 hitter. But let’s leave it at that.

In Jurassic World, Smith plays Franklin Webb, an IT specialist hacker who gets removed from his comfort zone and thrust into the field among the creatures he fights to defend in the Dinosaur Protection Group. The word anxiety kept popping up in different places to describe Franklin’s character by various people attached to the film, so I asked him what part that played into assuming this character. He said, “I wouldn’t say that Franklin necessarily has an anxiety disorder. I think that he just is scared of a lot of things. So I don’t think he represents that community in any sense, because I know people who suffer from GAD [generalized anxiety disorder], and it’s not fun, and it’s not funny.” Shoutout to a young king not playing with mental health.

But what was clear is that Franklin is the everyman character that we can relate to on the fear scale. It seems like his reactions to the dinos and the intensely dangerous situations spanning just over two hours are the funniest and relatable out of all his fictional counterparts. “For the most part, I just tried to come to set with an openness and tried to respond naturally to what was happening in the scene – to improvise, to have a good time. I will say that I primed myself to be a little more sensitive to being scared. That way, when J.A. (director J.A. Bayona) would not tell me things were coming I would have a big reaction to it.”

Photo: Universal
Photo: Universal

Smith is also a big fan of horror as a genre, and, to be honest, though Jurassic Park isn’t considered a horror film, it’s pretty adjacent. This is his unique vision of what a true Jurassic World horror would look like: “A lot more of people being eaten. A lot more blood and gruesome deaths. I love horror, but I especially love gore. That’s one of my favorite sub-genres of horror. So just gorier. No character development either, just people getting eaten by dinosaurs.” Not sure about you, but I’d buy a ticket.

I ask him a few more questions: one about an Instagram post where he’s completely submerged in a tank full of water on the set of Detective Pikachu that he cannot legally answer, and another one about whether he wants to ever play a superhero, like his former The Get Down cast mate Shameik Moore. Spoilers: he doesn’t, at least not right now. And not like, I’m playing coy for the press; he genuinely seems to have no interest. Then I bring up the Sense8 finale wrap-up movie and ask if he would be interested in following the same format for The Get Down. Smith says he’s not against it, but it’s pretty clear that he’s left that character pretty far behind him, and he’d need to have some time to get back into the vibe.

Several more questions could stand answering, but that will have to wait for another chapter. This part of the saga is complete. But, for whatever reason, it feels like the pleasantries we exchange at the end of our chat are not goodbyes forever, but more of see-you-around. And after you get the chance to see Justice Smith stack up and hold his own alongside one of Hollywood’s men of the era, Chris Pratt, and the equally, if not more talented Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it should be pretty clear. For years to come, you’ll have the chance to see him around, too.

Jurassic World is in theaters now.