Mortal Kombat: How YouTube Helped Jessica McNamee Play Sonya Blade

“There’s a lot of pressure from the fans, from the studio, I’m sure a lot of chefs in this kitchen.”

Jessica McNamee is no stranger to the big budget Hollywood scene, but Mortal Kombat could be one of her high pressure gigs thanks to the massive Mortal Kombat fan base and the studio’s high hopes for the potential franchise starter. The film casts Lewis Tan as Cole Young, an MMA fighter who didn’t believe in the dragon markings he’s had since he was born – until he meets a Special Forces Major named Jax (Mehcad Brooks) who urges Cole to visit Sonya Blade (McNamee). Then Cole learns that his marking actually means that he was chosen to fight the champions of Outworld to save Earthrealm.

When Mortal Kombat hit theaters on April 23 and HBO Max, McNamee joined us on an episode of Collider Ladies Night to recap her journey from idolizing Julia Roberts to Hollywood star herself. Stay tuned for the full interview to find out all about McNamee’s experience working on standout indie horror film The Loved Ones, how she starred on The Vow, memories of the set of The Meg, and more. But how about we give you a sneak peek at the Mortal Kombat part of our conversation now?

Jessica McNamee in Mortal Kombat

Image via Warner Bros.

What’s the first thing you do when you play the role of one of the most iconic characters in the video game franchise? This is how it went for McNamee:

“I just googled Sonya Blade. I read all of this and went into fandom. I mean it’s endless. And then I found it really helpful for me to see YouTubes from people playing the game and I got a real eye for what was going on and I learned more about the world. ”

For McNamee, it was less about delving into the character of Sonya and more about freshening up the whole world of Mortal Kombat. She laughed and admitted, “I was a Mario Kart pro, not so much a Mortal Kombat pro, so there was a lot to learn.”

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Simon McQuoid on the set of Mortal Kombat

Image via WB

When the prep work was complete, McNamee was able to bring this knowledge to a set under the direction of Simon McQuoid. Yes, McQuoid is a very accomplished commercial director, but Mortal Kombat is still a mightily ambitious first feature. So what was it about McQuoid that gave McNamee confidence that he would make the transition well? Here’s what she told us:

“I can’t say enough great things about this guy. He’s just such a good guy and he’s on set with him too. You wouldn’t even say it. And he’s not a first-time director in the sense that he’s staged some incredible things – amazing commercials and worked with some of the best athletes in the game. He’s been under a lot of pressure in his career and this was a letterpress film. You know there’s a lot of pressure from the fans, from the studio, I’m sure a lot of cooks in this kitchen. ”

Not only did McQuoid manage to keep his pressure under control, but he went out of his way to help his cast members do their best job. McNamee put it this way:

“We also all fought to be the best we could, and that sometimes meant fighting for – not against each other, but for ourselves. He struggled to find our voices, and he just did it with such grace. I never saw the guy ever lose his temper. It was wonderful. He was just always so cool, calm and collected. ”

Jessica McNamee in Mortal Kombat

Image via Warner Bros.

McNamee then further elucidated the type of “fight” she had experienced while working on Mortal Kombat:

“I shouldn’t say ‘fight’ because the great thing about Simon McQuoid is that he lets us play all the time. Even if I wanted that, be it a line or a look or whatever, he would always say yes. There never was, “I know better.” He would say, “Yeah, let’s try!” And then that was what looked best at the end of the day. So, no, there was nothing to fight for. I could ask, “Could I try this?” Or I’ll just try and he’d say “great” or “let’s try something different”. ”

If you’re looking for more of the Mortal Kombat star, stay tuned because Collider Ladies Night has it all! Keep an eye out for this full episode to learn about some of McNamee’s favorite Mortal Kombat set pieces, what it was like to work with Emma Stone and Steve Carell on Battle of the Sexes, and more.

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About the author

Perri Nemiroff
(2581 articles published)

Perri Nemiroff has been part of the Collider team since 2012. She is the co-host of Collider FYC, The Witching Hour, and host of the Collider Ladies Night interview series. Perri is a proud graduate of Columbia University’s Film MFA program and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Perri divides her time between Los Angeles and New York, but devotes every waking hour to her cat, Deputy Dewey.

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