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INTERVIEW – ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ Star Peter Macon on Ape Anatomy, Andy Serkis and More

Peter Macon min

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is the latest from the beloved franchise. Directed by Wes Ball, known for his work on the Maze Runner trilogy, the film of course features an extensive cast of stars in motion capture action, including Peter Macon, who plays Raka. Set hundreds of years after the last film, Raka is an orangutan, who holds onto Caesar’s beliefs and has knowledge of his philosophy.  

Macon is a veteran stage actor with nearly 30 years of experience, starred in Seth MacFarlane’s science-fiction comedy series, The Orville, and won an Emmy Award for narration for his work on HBO’s Animated Tales of the World.

Last week, POC Culture was lucky enough to get to speak with Macon, about all things motion capture, learning from the legend Andy Serkis, and on-set shenanigans they got up to while filming. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes premieres May 10, 2024 in theaters. Read our review of the film.

(Left): Raka (played by Peter Macon) in 20th Century Studios' KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
(Left): Raka (played by Peter Macon) in 20th Century Studios’ KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Jorgie Rodriguez: This was my first time watching a movie in this franchise.  I thought this was a really cool introduction to the world, and a big, big part of that for me was your character and your performance. Thanks to Raka, things started to click and I understood the world. I’m curious about your experience with this franchise, and playing a character in a film that has so many motion capture actors; and the big impact he played in the journey of these characters.

Peter Macon: Well, I mean, just based on what you just said, like that’s… I did my job [laughs]. You know what I mean? It worked out! In terms of what I was attempting to do, and it’s great that this was your entry point into the franchise, because you can do a prequel, you can go back, you can go forward. And I think that’s great. With the performance capture…elements of it have grown significantly. So, you know, like I’m able to lend my own personal quirks and viewpoints. All that stuff gets recorded because of the high definition cameras that are literally inches from my face, picking up every, every cheek move, every nuance, every lip quiver, you know. And so it allows me so much more freedom in terms of how I interpret the moments that are happening. And then you give that to the animators and then they animate that. So everything is there and present. It’s really quite wonderful.

Jorgie Rodriguez: And I’m really curious to know, following Andy Serkis’ performances as Caesar and, Raka being the only one who remembers Caesar’s teachings, if you got to meet him at all and how that went?

Peter Macon: Oh, yeah no, he was instrumental in the process. You know, I had one-on-one sessions with him. We had group sessions with him, where I would be doing text analysis and script analysis. He gave me suggestions about putting weights on my ankles and in my wrists. You know, because he is the godfather of performance capture. He’s such a generous, generous man. And such a generous creative, and just so specific with his notes on things like the consonants versus vowels and, where to breathe and how much to breathe. And understanding that the apes have different anatomy than human beings.

So he was critical. I mean, just watching his work, you know, before even speaking with him. I learned a lot. I learned a lot from him. And I learned a lot from him about this particular process of performance capture. And he was readily available, which is great.

Jorgie Rodriguez: That’s incredible.

Peter Macon: Yeah. Well, he really cares about what his legacy is essentially. You know what I mean? The legacy of not just Caesar, but the legacy of the apes. I mean, like the legacy of the [motion capture] technology. He’s fully invested in that. So, yeah. It was really, really instrumental to have his help.

(L-R) Peter Macon, Kevin Durand, Owen Teague, Freya Allan, William H. Macy and Wes Ball at the Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Premiere
(L-R) Peter Macon, Kevin Durand, Owen Teague, Freya Allan, William H. Macy and Wes Ball at the Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Premiere

Jorgie Rodriguez: That’s so great that you had easy access to him to learn from him because the technology, like you said, is so impressive. I’m wondering, were there any unexpected lessons that you took away? I know you mentioned the weights, but was there anything that kind of really took you by surprise and stuck with you from this experience?

Peter Macon: I think I was surprised by how hard it was to actually shake off the anatomy of an orangutan. I’m like, I find myself incredibly, what’s the word I’m looking for? They’re really efficient with their movement. And so I find myself kind of behaving like that still. Because it’s like you teach your body something, and it’s like, “Hey, wait, this is the right way to do this. This is the right way to get up. This is the right way to sit down. The right way to reach for something. That’s the right way to hold onto something while grabbing with your foot. This is the right way.”

It’s a part of me now and I hope it doesn’t go away, but because it’s very useful. But, and that’s the thing, sometimes I catch myself walking like an ape and I’m like, “Why am I doing that? Am I tired?” I’m like, “No, this is a much more efficient way to walk!” [Laughing]

Jorgie Rodriguez: That’s fascinating! [Laughing]

Peter Macon: Yeah, that was a shocker. So, you know, we’ll see. But thank you for your question.

Jorgie Rodriguez: Yeah, that’s so funny! I do love to hear that. Watching the film, it’s easy to forget that this was all mo-cap. So it’s fascinating to hear that. The apes do have the different anatomy, which you need to learn to portray. Did that process lead to any funny moments on set? 

 Peter Macon: Well, we had like arm extensions and they’re different for orangutans, gorillas, and different for chimpanzees. And there were some times we’d be running around the lot, once we got really good at them. Like they hated to see us coming, because it was almost like a bit of like, the barrel of monkeys coming to disrupt.

Like that screeching. People just constantly wonder what was going on down in the basement of that soundstage. So for six weeks, we took over the lot and it was a lot of fun. So, yeah, yeah, there were a lot of shenanigans. And I hope that with the behind-the-scenes movie that they make, that they made, that will show up when you see all that.

Jorgie Rodriguez: I can’t wait to see that. At my screening we got to see a little sneak peek of how the mo-cap looked and I can’t wait to see more. Thank you so much for your time.

Peter Macon Thank you so much.

IMG 9987 min

Jorgie is a pop culture fan and contributor at He loves learning about visual effects, production, film, and art, and how they all come together to make films like Star Wars.

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