SECRET HEADQUARTERS Interview With The Movie's Villains Michael Peña And Jesse Williams (Exclusive)

Secret Headquarters stars Michael Peña and Jesse Williams talk us through their villainous roles in the movie, revealing the downsides of wearing a super suit, a rivalry with their kid co-stars, and more.

Interviews Opinion

In Paramount+'s Secret Headquarters, Charlie and his friends discover the headquarters of the world’s most powerful superhero, The Guard, hidden beneath his home while hanging out after school. However, when villains attack, they must team up to defend the headquarters and save the world.

The movie is a lot of fun, and we can now premiere an exclusive clip from the action-packed superhero adventure starring Owen Wilson, Walker Scobell, Jesse Williams, Keith L. Williams, Momona Tamada, Michael Peña, Abby James Witherspoon, and Kezii Curtis.

Earlier this week, we caught up with Secret Headquarters stars Michael Peña and Jesse Williams to discuss their villainous characters in the movie. Along the way, we learned where they looked for inspiration, why they gave the young cast members a hard time (jokingly, of course), and their own fanny pack experiences.

Williams also shares his thoughts on why an original project like this appealed to him, while Peña reveals whether wearing a super suit was as hot as his character claims. 

Check out our interview with the duo in the player below:

Michael, no spoilers as we’ve seen in the trailers that you get to suit up in this film, but what was that experience like and was it really as hot as Argon claims? 

Michael: It’s very warm. It’s very, very warm. First of all, we’re shooting in Atlanta. Hot-lanta. Already, it’s warm. The walls are warm. When you get out of the car and you have AC on and let it sit, it gets fogged up. It’s super hot. Then, you toss on a layer, and another layer, and another layer, and you’re like, ‘What did I sign up for?’ That was a real easy improv to come up with while we were filming. 

Jesse, Irons gets something of a potential villain origin story right at the start of the film, but what do you think stops him heading down the darker route we see Argon, for example, embark on in his quest for power?

Jesse: Well, I think because Irons…his quest is not for power. His quest is actually for this source energy to be of service to the whole world. He has been pursuing the confirmation of this level of information and technology for so long and wants to put it to use for people and not just have it hoarded for one guy to be a hero. It’s not about him harnessing it for himself, it’s about him getting it and distributing it. It’s more about the source instead of [Jack]. It’s less of a personal rivalry. He wants to distribute the Bernie Sanders of villains. That’s what I was going for. 

Michael: The Bernie Sanders of villains…

Jesse: [Laughs]

Both of you give these kids a pretty hard time as your characters, but do you end up feeling bad about that or are they giving you as good as they get? 

Jesse: Yeah, exactly. They were giving it back. They deserved it, honestly, these kids. You know, they look nice and cut, but on set, they had it coming. 

Michael: Tough kids. Tough, tough kids. You know, they had their tutor and if they wanted any food, it was brought right up to them. They have a good life. The first scene I shot with them, they were all being super mean because they had the upper hand. That set the tone. Then, I was like, ‘You know what? No holds barred.’ 

Jesse: They’ve got to learn somehow. 

Argon is a very ruthless, oddly charming guy, but in terms of tapping into who he is, did you look at any real-life CEOs or business figures for inspiration? 

Michael: I did. We talked about the Pharma Bro, Martin Shkreli. I watched a documentary about him, and even when he was trying to humble brag, he was still not cool. Even when he thinks he’s super cool, and I didn’t try to imitate the guy, but there’s definitely a way of thinking where you have a justification for all of your actions, good or bad. He’s so used to it, that muscle is exercised so well, he can justify anything. That’s how he sleeps at night. 

I loved the Spy Kids meets superheroes vibe of this film, but having both been part of big properties - whether it be Ant-Man or Grey’s Anatomy, for example - is an original property like this something that instantly jumps out at you? 

Jesse: Yeah. For a variety of reasons. First, I thought it was something my kids can watch and be excited about. It falls into that genre which is beloved to me of coming of age adventure films in the 80s and 90s that are so fun to rewatch and experience. You remember them. Then, the directors Henry and Rel are so passionate and creative and funny, that they were people I immediately knew I wanted to work with and felt comfortable with. They’re fired up and believe in their work. Being able to work with this group of actors too like Michael and Owen. It’s Bruckheimer too. You’ve got quite a mix of wonderful ingredients there. 

Fanny packs are a big part of this film, so I have to ask: have either of you guys been guilty of owning, or still owning, one? 

Jesse: I own one. I used to wear one a lot when I was riding my bike everywhere in Philadelphia in college and afterwards. That was my transporter because your back gets sweaty with a backpack on in the summer. I wore it cool. It wasn’t on the front. It wasn’t a front butt, as I think you [Michael] say in the movie. 

Michael: Oh, they kept that?

Jesse: Yeah! You wear it off the right hip which is the sweet spot. There’s cool on the pie chart, and that’s the cool spot. About 4 o’clock. 

Michael: It’s 4 o’clock? I never…I grew up, like, in the hood. I don’t think they sold fanny packs in my hood.

Jesse: I feel like there was a brief early 80s…like a dapper Dan, Chanel vibe.

Michael: Was there? I probably couldn’t afford it back in the day because a fanny pack is, you know. 

Jesse: It’s an added item. It’s not one of the basics.

Michael: But it’s an accessory, right? I’m gonna rock a fanny pack now!

Secret Headquarters premieres on Paramount+ this Friday, August 12.

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